Sep 10, 2015 | By Alec

The 3D printing community is continuously being flooded by new, bigger and smaller, cheaper and more expensive desktop 3D printers, and it’s no wonder that makers are switching to 3D printing at a tremendous rate. But is it really necessary to forget about the making equipment you already own? That question is asked by a Californian engineering house, who came up with a very clever solution for 3D printing without a 3D printer. Called FASTRAX, they have developed a 3D printing attachment that can be added to many CNC mills, without sacrificing the milling function itself. What’s more, they say that the quality is amazing.

The company in question, FASTRAX, is a family-owned businessbased in El Cajon and as leader Dante Duby explains to, they are primarily a contract engineering house for a variety of applications (mostly military). ‘However, we've since transitioned into a custom product development house wherein we design, fabricate, test, and manufacture our own products,’ he adds, in which CNC milling and making have become very common. What’s more, they are absolutely sold on the potential of 3D printing, but have been disappointed by the quality of some machines currently on the market. ‘I took a first step at improving FDM 3D printing by designing and building this product for our own use. We have a lot of product designs in the works and 3D printing is great for the rapid prototyping we need,’ Dante says.

They therefore decided to see if they could do better, and came up with the 3D printing attachment for the CNC mills they commonly use. ‘It's for a fully functional plug-n-play touch-screen 3D printing attachment to use with CNC mills. It was designed to be extremely easy to use, so a CNC owner can run 3D prints using their own CNC software, which they already know how to use,’ Dante says. ‘This design seems pretty reliable so far, as we've run print jobs of over 40 hrs with no problems. I can't say the same for some of the other 3D printers we've purchased (to remain nameless). Our print results are also better than what we've gotten with those other FDM printers too, which is nice.’

What’s more, it is also very accessible, especially for experienced CNC millers. ‘It attaches as easily as any end mill or drill bit for your CNC … You can start printing 2 minutes after opening the box! Why waste your money on a 3D printer when you’ve got the ultimate hybrid CNC/3D printer already?’ Dante explains. It doesn’t require any driver software (because it comes with a touch screen controller with everything built in), nothing is permanently attached, and the CNC isn’t damaged in any way. ‘You’ve just turned your expensive CNC into an incredibly high precision 3D printer!’ he states.

What’s more, Dante claims that this setup is far more accurate than virtually all desktop FDM 3D printers out there. ‘We’ve taken lessons from the past and incorporated them into a high quality tool which should last for years,’ he says. These include non-leaking and non-jamming safeties, a stable heating control, fire protection, an alarm, threaded sensor mountings and even a filament filter.

While you’ll have to judge that quality for yourself, the concept itself is very intriguing. What’s more, it works on just about any 4-axis (or more ) CNC milling machine out there, and relies on typically sliced 3D models the rest of us use. ‘It is intended as an accessory attachment for your CNC mill to be used like any other accessory tool. To simplify things further we'll even include a model converter which will convert g-code models originally intended for 3D printers to run on your CNC with your normal CNC software,’ Dante says.

The only problem is that this attachment – which has been under development for more than 10 months now – isn’t completely finished yet. 'We still need to clean things up a bit for production, so the final products may look slightly different than shown here, and we may refine a few things, but that's about it,’ he says. In the mean time they have already launched on Kickstarter to raise the funds to take this fantastic concept to production. Depending on the type of CNC mill you own, you could get an attachment for as little as $200; now that’s a cheap 3D printer. The FASTRAX team is also already dreaming about follow-up attachments such as laser engravers, 3D scanners and even DLP and other 3D printing attachments, so we will doubtlessly hear more about them soon.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Peter Syster wrote at 9/16/2015 7:09:56 PM:

It's totally silly idea. My table CNC for milling pcb boards has 30 gk allone. The moving platform mass is huge compared with my 3D printer heated bed. The most industrial made CNC machines are made from heavy metal. They are NOT intended to move tools fast as we do with 3D printers. This thing makes no sense at least not for doing fast prints.

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