This 3D printer is also a scanner and laser engraver

It’s a pretty awesome time to be a maker. There are desktop CNC machines, circuit printers, laser cutters and 3D printers, plus all kinds of microcontrollers to cheaply turn anything into a functional, connected device. The new FLUX machine, which went live on Kickstarter today, attempts to group some of those desktop devices into one without making you pay more.

FLUX’s trick is a modular head that can be switched out to adapt it to different jobs. It can convert from a 3D printer to a laser engraver to a 3D scanner. And more applications are in the works, including food and ceramics 3D printing and unnamed ideas being worked on by FLUX’s partners.

The FLUX printer's head is modular, allowing it to be swapped out for different applications.
The FLUX printer’s head is modular, allowing it to be swapped out for different applications.

I noted last year that combining 3D printers and scanners is an inevitable step. Few of us are qualified to scan a broken object, import it into a CAD program and stitch it back together before exporting it to a printer. But if a user can just set their broken object on the bed of a 3D printer and it takes care of the rest of the process, the technology becomes a lot more accessible. Scanning and 3D printing just go together.

Integrating laser engraving into the mix is a bit more unusual. But it’s pretty useful to have both technologies at hand, as there are plenty of jobs better suited to a laser than a 3D printer. Last year I 3D printed a chess set and opted to make the board with a laser cutter, for example, and it saved a whole lot of time. It’s just another awesome tool to have available.

An apple scanned and then 3D printed by FLUX.
An apple scanned and then 3D printed by FLUX.

FLUX has some other neat features too, most notably its software. The company is advertising a 3D modeling system that allows you to create a 3D object by drawing a 2D picture. That’s a simple way to get your ideas onto the 3D printer without knowing much at all about 3D modeling.

A FLUX machine will run you between $499 and $1,999 — not bad considering plenty of consumer 3D printers will run you several thousand dollars. They are expected to ship next summer.

Photos by FLUX.