As expected, the printer is pricey. While 50 people managed to grab the “early bird” version for $1,999, the real price will be $2,499. That’s less than MakerBot’s top-of-the-line $2,799 Replicator 2x (especially when you add in the $1,400 cost of the Digitizer 3D scanner), but still ranks it among the most expensive consumer-oriented printers.
“We are 30 percent cheaper than the Makerbot plus Digitizer combination,” said Kai Chang, co-founder of AIO Robotics, the company behind the Zeus. “We know there are a lot of low-cost 3D printers on the market. We do not try to compete with those low-cost printers. Those are focused on small maker groups and we are focused on the more general public. We spent a lot of resources and attention to improve the user experience. Anyone can use our machine.”
If AIO Robotics, which delivers on its promises, it could be an impressive product. It’s meant to “just work,” which would make it ideal for the beginning 3D printer user. For example, its creators say they have developed a print bed that levels itself automatically. Print bed problems are generally a major reason print jobs fail, which can be frustrating to users who aren’t prepared to tinker with a machine or just don’t have the time. Its on-board computer’s software also looks intuitive and could cut down on some of the confusion of working between computers and printers.
AIO Robotics has nearly 100 backers as of midday Thursday, 55 of whom bought a Zeus. The printers are expected to ship starting in July 2014.
I’m still not convinced that faxing a 3D printed object is the next big thing, but 3D scanners certainly are. As I noted in an article on the Zeus last month, it’s inevitable that 3D scanners and printers will merge into one device. The technologies are just too complementary to keep them separate.
“We looked at the development of 2D printers. Back in the day, everything started out as a 2d printer and then over time 2D scanners entered the market and after a few more years you pretty much were only able to purchase these multipurpose printers,” co-founder Jens Windau said. “We thought we could predict that also with 3d printers. 3D printers will have more and more functions.”
Radiant Fabrication, a 3D printing startup based out of Wisconsin, will also launch a combined printer and scanner on Kickstarter this month. Like the Zeus, its Lionhead printer is built to “just work.” It is expected to ship in October 2013 and cost $1,649, meaning it will arrive earlier and be cheaper than the Zeus. It is likely we will see many more over the next year.