Jan 7, 2016 | By Alec

While just about everyone agrees 3D printing could be a very useful addition to science classes in schools everywhere, actually implementing it with the right tools and programs is another matter. Japanese startup Bonsai Lab might have just the solution educators are looking for: a talking educational 3D printer called the FabPod that can talk children through the entire process and responds to voice commands. What’s more, this sleek machine is expected to be priced at less than $500, making it a very interesting option for schools. The talkative 3D printer is currently being showcased at the ongoing CES convention in Las Vegas.

If Bonsai Lab sounds familiar, that’s because they’re one of those startups that is especially focused on bringing low-cost 3D printing solutions to the mainstream public. They became famous overnight for being a huge crowdfunding success on the Japanese equivalent of Kickstarter, where they managed to raise over $100,000 for the development of their BS01 Mini 3D printer (W150 x H100 x L130mm). This 3D printer was launched back in April 2014, so a follow-up machine was definitely to be expected.

And with the FabPod 3D printer, they seem to have delivered again, especially with its competitive price of less than $500 and its specific focus on the STEM education market. They especially have their eye on the US, where Obama has made a budget of 10 billion dollars available for STEM education development and the demand for low cost, entry-level educational 3D printers is growing. The FabPod, developed in collaboration with top tier Japanese industrial machinery component developers THK, Minebea, and Mitsuboshi Belt, could be just what they be looking for.

So how does the talking work? Well the entire concept revolves around freeing users from the burdensome operations for calibrating and prepping the 3D printer. The FabPod is therefore intended to be a smart machine that can be voice navigated – which is a the first machine capable of doing do, as far as we know. The machine is also very compact in size, and features internet connectivity to make 3D printing easier than ever before. While little is known about how the voice command structure works exactly, the concept is nonetheless very intriguing.

But the software it comes with seems interesting enough in its own right. FabPodUI has been developed in collaboration with Interactive Laboratories, which has an excellent reputation in game industry. FabPodUI has been developed on Unity, a well known game-development platform. The result is a software that can develop realistic renderings to give users the full experience of 3D printing in virtual reality. Its interface is intuitive and easy enough for beginners to use, its developers say, while advanced settings are also available for experienced users. Future integration of AR and VR, and combinations with the Microsoft HoloLens and the Oculus Rift are also on the agenda, all with the goal of making 3D printer smarter and easier to use. The software will be released for free.

All in all, the FadPod is a very intriguing 3D printing package that will doubtlessly attract some attention when released in the spring of 2016. If you’re interested and happen to be at CES, be sure to check out Bonsai Lab’s stand. Also on display there is an upcoming 3D scanner, featuring an intriguing high function visual data analysis ability – so there is plenty to see.



Posted in 3D Printer



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