Lumifold's low-cost portable 3D printer exceeds crowdfunding target

This backpack-sized 3D printer has already smashed its $1,500 target on Indiegogo – so can we really expect it to take off?

The LumiFold photopolymerisation 3D printer is small, affordable and on Indiegogo. Photograph: Indiegogo

Most desktop 3D printers aren’t small or portable, but a new LumiFold claims to be both – a compact and affordable crowdfunded 3D printer available for $400 (£247).

3D printers, such as the Makerbot and Ultimaker cost upwards of $1,000 and operate similar to inkjet printers laying down each layer by squirting a polymer down on the object from a nozzle, the LumiFold 3D prints using light.

Easily fit in a backpack

The LumiFold is made from an aluminium frame that folds down small enough to easily fit into a backpack and can print objects up to 90mm cubed, using pretty much anything as a polymer vat, including simple plastic cups.

The printer itself can be battery operated, but you’ll need to supply your own computer – Windows at first with Mac OS X, iPhone and iPad support coming at a later date – as well as a projector.

The designers claim it’s the smallest foldable 3D printer available, with a printing resolution of 0.01mm, and consumes just 5W in operation, although that will be dependent on your projector and computer.

The LumiFold is currently looking for support on Indiegogo for upwards of $15, with a $400 pledge securing you a full set of LumiFold parts for building your own photo-activated resin-based 3D printer.

Printing using light

Using a small tub of photo-activated liquid polymer and a DLP projector, the LumiFold prints using photopolymerisation, where each layer of the object is hardened and fixed into position by exposure to UV light from the projector mounted above the vat.

A tray then moves downwards in small increments, exposing the next layer of the object to light, laying down layer upon layer until the object is fully rendered.

A UV sensor on the LumiFold detects the intensity of the UV light emitted from the projector, allowing the open source software to automatically calculate the length of exposure time required to set each layer.

The LumiFold 3D printer uses light to build layer upon layer of an object.

Why it might not work

The problem with the LumiFold is that you have to bring your own projector, which keeps the cost of the printer down, but it also means that it’s not entirely self-reliant.

The photo-reactive polymer is also not as common as the polymers used for extrusion 3D printing and costs around $149 per litre, which is currently around three times the price of extrusion materials.

Why it might take off

However, the LumiFold is affordable, at about half the price of even the cheapest desktop extrusion 3D printers, and is small enough to be truly portable.

It’s also very easy to set up, connecting and being ready to go in minutes from storage, and it allows you to recycle an old projector into something useful.

The LumiFold could make a good first-time-buyer’s 3D printer, should be simple to use, and could be great for the occasional prototyping project.

Overall: a four-star rating.

Source: The Guardian