The Microfactory is designed for small spaces and can even work on a desk. All images courtesy Mebotic.
Enter a making/hacking space in most parts of the world, and you're likely to find a wide variety of tools and machines to help you realize your creative vision. Given the cost and size of equipment, it often makes sense to visit a maker's space to run your prototype idea through their 3D printer, hammer something together or basically tinker and make.
The Microfactory is a new project out by Mebotics LLC in Somerville, MA. Concocted at the Artisan's Asylum maker space, the Microfactory is what it sounds like: a smaller, more portable 3D printer and milling machine in one self-contained unit. It's networked, quiet and—with a simple model starting at $3,195 through their Kickstarter campaign—vastly more affordable than more standard models. The machine even contains a computer within, complete with USB and Ethernet ports, and it cleans up after itself with a built-in vacuum.
"We believe the Microfactory would be equally useful for maker communities and individuals," noted co-founder Jeremy Fryer-Biggs in an interview with Core77. "But one thing about the Microfactory that's particularly great for individual makers is its networkability, which allows people working in garages or collaborating remotely to share equipment and ideas—bringing some of the benefits of a maker community home."
If it sounds like a dream, well, it's halfway there The team has built a few prototypes but they're taking it to the next level over the course of the coming year. This includes bringing in a team of up to a half dozen engineers and finalizing the supply chain and assembly process. But in the true spirit of making culture, it will also be adaptable and ready for tinkering.
"Importantly," continued Fryer-Biggs, "the Microfactory is also customizable and designed to be modified, so it works not only for people who need the specific tools we're selling it with. Just like a prototyping project might purchase several specialized tools, they could purchase a Microfactory and customize it to be whatever tools they needed, in a portable, self-cleaning chassis." He likened it to a "3-D sketchbook," a way for industrial designers and anyone working with three dimensional objects to quickly prototype and sketch.
Detail of objects that could be produced with a Microfactory.