The jury's still out on the growth of 3D printing this year, but recent reporting suggests that the industry will extruding, fusing and sintering way towards the proverbial tipping point yet. A new "Low-Cost Desktop Personal Fabrication Device" (LCDPFD, anyone?) strikes a nice balance between price, practicality, and sheer versatility for the maker on a budget.
It's not quite as slick as the previously-seen PopFab, but if its success thus far on Indiegogo is any indication, the FABtotum is a few steps closer to becoming a reality. Competitively priced at $1099 for the fully assembled machine, the personal fabricator was nearing its $50K funding goal as of press time, with nearly six weeks to go in its 50-day campaign (a build-it-yourself kit comes in at just under a G; a $699 conversion kit allows a savvy DIYer to convert their old 3D printer into a FABtotum).
Where the likes of FormLabs and Mike Joyce offer higher-end stereolithography machines at prosumer prices, we're also seeing several interesting new developments in low-cost 3D printers (i.e. the $300 Printrbots used in the SAIC summer intensive) to multi-functional solutions such as the FABtotum:
Finding the right conditions where you can have both decent subtractive and additive manufacturing in one small envelope is no easy task. we think we reached a good compromise between speed precision and strength thanks to unconventional movement transmission methods and structural solutions.
It's name, of course, is a reference to fabricating everything, and the FABtotum is duly capable of the full range of multi-axis CNC functions: adding, subtracting and scanning. The interchangeable print head allows for a variety of applications beyond Fused Filament Fabrication. (Fun FFFFact: FFF was coined by the RepRap community because FDM is trademarked by Stratasys.)
FABtotum can accommodate another subtractive or additive head on top, such as a more powerful motor, a small laser diode module for paper cutting, a pick and place clamp or a syringe for scientific applications, a multi-color printing head. FABtotum could be even used for complex coil winding. Laser-cut parts, mill a double sided PCB or even do some 4-axis plasma cutting... and more! It's up to you to experiment!
Furthermore, the FABtotum offers a relatively large build volume for its footprint, 366mm3, with more than double the build-volume-to-printer-size ratio of the Replicator 2. TechCrunch reports that "[founder Marco] Rizzuto names the main direct competitor devices to FABtotum as Microfactory's workshop-in-a-box hybrid machine and Aio Robotics 3D-faxing Zeus printer... but says FABtotum will be undercutting both rival hybrid machines on price, and will also support customisation via third party 'heads' so users can expand its capabilities to suit their needs."
Rizzuto and fellow co-founder Giovanni Grieco are currently based at the University of Politecnico di Milano's incubator district "POLIHUB," where FABTotum is "currently undergoing evaluation to become a university Spin-off, allowing access to academic expertise, R&D facilities and more." They'll spend the final days of the campaign in early October at the first European Maker Faire in Rome, from October 3–6.