Oct.22, 2013

Missoula, Montana based Acuity Design has launched a Kickstarter campaign for their new fused filament 3D printer, Helix. Helix is crafted from high-end components and is feature-rich with a large build volume and dual print heads. It is more designed for professional and institutional use with a focus on versatility, durability, and precision.

"Our vision was to create an affordable, professional-level machine capable of creating short-run production parts and functional prototypes quickly and reliably." notes the team.

Here's what Helix offers:

  • A large 30-liter (300mm x 300mm x 300mm) build volume with heated bed
  • Dual Exact Retract Extruders
  • Dual all-metal, actively cooled E3D hotends
  • Machined billet aluminum x/y gantry with precision anti-backlash lead screw actuation
  • Multitude of material choices including ABS, Taulman nylon, PETT, PLA, PVA, HIPS, polycarbonate
  • Autonomous micro-SD card printing with ViKI panel and Azteeg X3 control board

According to the team, their innovative Exact Retract Extruders addressed and virtually eliminated the causes of print failure, slipping and stripping filament by spreading pressure on the filament over a greater area on custom-cut filament drive gears.

The most interesting is what the Helix team calls Precision Additive Fabrication Technology, or PAFT. PAFT was developed specifically to improve mechanical precision, enabling better calibration, and greatly improving reliability. PAFT starts with a precision lead screw actuated aluminum gantry, and is complimented by their Exact Retract filament feed system for powerful and precise extrusion, and a convenient tri-point bed leveling system. Helix can be operated with any of the open source printer hosts and slicers, but it will ship preconfigured for use with Repetier/Slic3r.

280mm tall Twisted Gear Vase in ABS


Physical Dimensions: 560 mm W x 520 mm D x 750 mm H
Weight: 28.5 kg


  • X/Y linear actuation speed: 200 mm/s optimal, 350 mm/s maximum
  • X/Y linear actuation resolution: 4 microns
  • Z linear actuation speed: 60 mm/s
  • Z linear actuation resolution: <1 micron
  • Stepper Motors: 1.8 Degree Step Angle with 1/32 Micro-Stepping
  • Frame: Anodized 6063-T5 Aluminum Extrusion
  • Build Platform: High-Temperature Borosilicate Glass with Heated Aluminum Bed on Powder-Coated Steel Chassis
  • Print Bed Leveling: Tri-Point System (TPS)
  • Enclosure: Powder-Coated/Brushed 5052 Aluminum with Polycarbonate Window

Printing Properties:

  • Print Technology: PAFT (Precision Additive Fabrication Technology)
  • Print Layer Height: High-Resolution Setting: 100 micron Standard-Resolution Setting: 200 micron
  • Extruders: All-Metal Hot Ends with Cooling Fans and Built-in Heat Sinks
  • Build Volume: 30 L (320 mm W x 300 mm L x 310 mm H)
  • Filament Diameter: 1.75 mm
  • Filament Material Options: ABS, PLA, Taulman 618/645 Nylon, Taulman T-Glase (PETT), PVA, Polycarbonate, HIPS

User Interface and Software:

  • Control Board: Azteeg X3 with Repetier firmware
  • Display: ViKI LCD with Rotary Click Encoder and Micro-SD Slot for Autonomous Operation
  • Software Compatibility: Repetier (recommended) or PronterFace with Slic3r (Cura, KISSlicer, Skeinforge also compatible)
  • Recommended Supported File Type: .stl, .gcode
  • Supported OS: Windows (XP/7), MAC OSX (10.6+)

Large ABS print of University Hall at the University of Montana

In true startup fashion, the team works out of a tiny office and built the beta unit in one of the partners' garage. With the money generated from the funding campaign, Acuity Design will be able to purchase necessary manufacturing equipment and move into a more suitable production space. They will also have the resources to refine multi-material printing profiles, write and assemble quality instruction manuals, and build a comprehensive website with a parts store and support forum.

Their no-compromises approach pushes Helix's price point above that of most consumer grade printers, but still well below that of the entry-level machines from larger manufacturers. The team is building 10 pre-production units - for $4,850 you can get one Helix Beta unit, assembled, calibrated, and ready to print.

The Helix Kickstarter campaign will run for 30 days. Helix shipments are slated to begin in February 2014. Find out more info here on Kickstarter.

Posted in 3D Printers



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Ben wrote at 10/23/2013 6:34:47 PM:

some of the best looking prints I've seen yet from FFD. Encosure, new extruder, and z axis only bed.

Eddie wrote at 10/23/2013 2:54:31 PM:

I guess it depends on what you're comparing it to. Doesn't look like they're after the consumer market.

Drakon wrote at 10/23/2013 3:24:31 AM:

Good specs, but price really high!

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