Jan 23, 2015 | By Alec

If you can’t a afford a 3D printer right now, but can afford to put a few (British) pounds away every week, you can always try the 90-week partwork magazine released by Eaglemoss publishers in late December 2014.

We first reported on it two months ago, when the concept was first announced. Though we were somewhat sceptical at the time, the partwork 3D printer is receiving quite a lot of media attention across the UK, and both the designer and publisher are even looking at widespread educational applications. Could a partwork be the key to making 3D printers commonplace after all?

For those of you who have no idea what a partwork is, remember all those commercials and advertisements for 'Build your own…' or 'Collect…' serials. You might have completed one or two of them yourself. In an exchange for a commitment of several months or even a year, those magazines will send you a part of a scale model or a part of a collection once a week, along with information and a guide to assemble it.

Usually, these involve model ships, galaxies or rock collectibles, but last December the British publisher Eaglemoss Collections has released on for assembling your own, actually working 3D printer. In total, it's a 90-week serial priced at £6.99 per magazine, resulting in a basic 3D plug-and-play FDM printer. Of course, you will definitely be able to find a starter-level 3D printer for less than £600(or about $900), but the Vector 3 (the printer you slowly assemble) has some good qualities too.

For starters, the printer features an excellent-looking design, as has the perfect size for a classroom or desktop at 400 x 295 x 356 mm. Its print bed, at 140 x 140 x 135 mm, is fairly decently sized. Furthermore, it weighs 8 kg, has a maximum print speed of 10-100 cm3/h and is capable of extruding either PLA or ABS, thanks to its heated print bed. Finally, its enclosure means it’s also a relatively quiet machine. Eaglemoss even provides a modified version of Repetier-Host software. All this suggests that it's a very decent starting-level 3D printer, though there are cheaper models available for the same price.

The machine itself was also designed by someone with plenty of 3D printing experience himself: Sebastian Conran, of his own London-based design studio Sebastian Conrad Associates. He has expensive design experience (also from a teaching post at the University of Sheffield) himself, and developed a machine that should take technology out of the laboratories and place it in the hands of the people itself. ‘People do research and it stays in the academic ecosphere. I try to get real products out of it, and transform science and technology into experience, lifestyle and culture.’ The Vector 3 3D printer is therefore intended for both children and adults, and features like the enclosed printing space are intended as extra safety measures.

Remarkably, both the designer and the publisher have also expressed their ambitions to make this 3D printer a truly educational product that can find a place in every classroom. As Conrad explains, he envisions schools teaching 3D printing modules where technology is explored and building projects (like this serial) can teach children valuable new skills. ‘3D printing is a logical next step for children. It gives them an idea of what making things in the future is going to be about. There will still be the traditional stuff, like cutting and gluing wood – but things will also be built through digital fabrication.’

And that, he argues, is what his work on this partwork has all been about: education and the inevitable widespread adoption of 3D printing. ‘We want to create a community of 3D printers and set a new standard as it becomes a benchmark machine. I also think it’s the best-looking printer in the category: we’ve designed – or de-geekified – the machine to make it a domestic, rather than geeky, product.’ As he told reporters from The Guardian, ‘We wanted it to actually look like a domestic accessory. We chose a vaguely kitchen-appliance look in terms of the visual language, with white and grey so that it doesn’t look toy-like.’

And to their credit, publishers Eaglemoss have been working on several initiatives that support the designer’s educational ambitions. Speaking at the Bett 2015 technology convention that is currently being held in London, senior VP of Eaglemoss Maggie Calmels said: ‘In launching this printer Eaglemoss plays a role in equipping pupils and teachers with an understanding of an exciting new technology that is increasingly transforming the way we teach as well as the world we live in. The 3D printer allows for innovative and creative approaches to teach STEM and design subjects and it is great to be among those that are paving the way in making 3D printing available to a wider audience.’

To support those educational goals, Eaglemoss is also developing a multi-printer pack consisting of up to six Vector 3 3D printers and supplies to specifically suit an educational program, including design projects and a basic design course for classroom teaching. Design software aimed at students, as well as specific 3D printer offers for schools and classrooms, are also available through their website.

Eaglemoss is even launching the 3D Design Challenge 2015, with the aim of promoting 3D printing design creativity amongst children. through various age-categories and three design categories (a game, a wearable accessory and a utility category), students can win a Vector 3D Printer for their school or donations to their technology department.

All this suggests that the partwork series for the Vector 3D printer is about more than selling magazines, as both Eaglemoss as well as its designer are specifically pursuing educational ambitions. That itself is something to applaud, but why on earth did they have to release a 90-week partwork to do? Fortunately, plans to but a complete, pre-assembled Vector 3D printer are also in development, as are plans to release their device on the Russian and Japanese markets. We’ll have to see if this catches on.


Posted in 3D Printers


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Very satisfied V3 Owner wrote at 4/1/2017 12:42:18 AM:

Some of the parts supplied are really poor quality but with a little research you can find much better replacements for very little money. I've had to contact Eaglemoss about two damaged parts and they were very good saying they will replace the parts but this means they send out the particular magazine related to that part rather than just the part itself. The worst thing is it is a three week turnaround if that issue is in stock, longer if it is out of stock. The software they provide is basic but it does work. It's not the best software out there but again, with some research you can get MatterControl and Cura to control the printer. I tend to use MatterControl as one of my problems was a warped print bed which makes it impossible to level the print surface. Matter control has software levelling which adjusts the Z axis to suit the build plate. I needed to use their 13 point levelling because the plate is so badly warped. I can now get very good prints from this printer. Why people are complaining so much because it doesn't work when they try it out is beyond me. This is a build it yourself project and most of the issues are because you didn't take enough care when building it. Take it apart and put it back together making sure everything is level and square. Tighten all the screws properly and if necessary invest in some threadlock. Spend as much time as needed to calibrate it and use the right software and it's as good as it's rivals in the same league.

Mr Paul Tracy wrote at 11/10/2016 2:56:35 PM:

I am trying to get a fault fixed. If I had bought this from a shop RTR I would have taken it back and got my money back. Very poor and very expensive. Very poor customer service. Might be talking to a solicitor soon.

Frustrated V3 owner wrote at 7/31/2016 10:42:06 AM:

And its crap, the software for slicing and controlling the printer is really buggy and keeps crashing on me. After hours of fiddling about calibrating the print be and the belt tensions and guide rods I have succesfully printed 2 items with mine. The rest have been a waste of filament.

Dean wrote at 6/13/2015 6:18:00 AM:

Australia just launched it too

Jay wrote at 2/18/2015 9:45:13 PM:

Tom - you can use Sketchup on Mac. Jay

Tom Anslow wrote at 2/13/2015 1:32:02 AM:

I have started to build this. I've got the first 3 issues. But I was just wondering will it be compatible with any 3d design apps on android and Apple? Thanks.

FBW wrote at 1/27/2015 6:32:17 AM:

Unfortunately it´s UK only

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