July 17, 2015 | By Alec

While new 3D printers sometimes seem to appear out of nowhere, two established names in the making community have recently joined forces to develop a very impressive new machine that will doubtlessly turn quite a few heads. The machine in question is upcoming BigBox 3D printer, a fully hackable machine that is as large as its name suggests, and is the result of a collaboration between high-quality hotend manufacturer E3D and laser cutter designer LittleBox.

Now a combination of two established names like E3D and LittleBox is usually enough to draw attention in the making community – especially with more than 15 years of 3D printing experience between them – but this time we are more drawn to the 3D printer’s specifications than to the names behind it. ‘The BigBox is no-compromises high specification 3D printer, combining immense print resolution, over huge print volume, an extrusion system capable of almost every material on the market, all wrapped up in a neat clutter free package with an easy to use toolchain,’ the developers say, and that doesn’t seem like an exaggeration at all. And as it is also fully open-source, fully hackable, and features a basic model costing less than £500, the BigBox 3D printer seems to have everything it needs to make a big splash.

Let’s get straight down to the specifications of the BigBox 3D printer (above), as they are what matters. However, a closer look at features also reveals quite a few qualities that are of interest to the desktop user. Perhaps most eye-catching is its impressive resolution, which should result in some rigid, smooth and accurate layers. ‘The BigBox motion system provides around double the positioning resolution of other printers on the market. We use a combination of mechanical reduction, and higher resolution motors to achieve twice the standard positional resolution,’ they argue.

That seems to be somewhat typical for the entire build of the BigBox, as they’ve used high quality components on just about every crucial (moving) part of the 3D printer. ‘Some might say that the bed is over-engineered, but the performance doesn’t lie.There are a lot of printers out there with wobbly unstable build platforms, having a big impact on print quality. We went all-out overkill to ensure our bed was not going to suck. Our moving print bed uses a total of four precision shafts with long bearings on each corner of the bed, with two Z axis motors and leadscrews, one on each side. This results in a huge amount of constraint and stability eliminating any chance of flex or wobble,’ they say of their machine.

The excellent auto leveling mechanism in action.

As for hotends, they have obviously used the excellent all-metal E3D-v6 HotEnds that can be used for a large variety of materials. Stronger industrial plastics like Nylon, are thus no problem, though the classic PLA and ABS filaments can obviously also be used. ‘If you want to further increase the capability of BigBox E3D HotEnds have interchangeable nozzles. For extreme resolution you can easily fit a 0.25mm nozzle which will allow you to resolve the finest of details taking full advantage of the high resolution motion system,’ they add. The Volcano hotend, for instance, can definitely increase print speeds and material strength.

But of course that large heated print bed is enough to draw in the crowds at 300 x 200 x 280 mm, enabling you to print multiple components simultaneously. ‘Crucially it achieves this high print quality over a huge 18 litre build area giving you the freedom to print objects that are both huge, and high quality. The build volume has been arranged to not just be large in one direction like many other plus-sized printers, but is balanced in all directions and has a large usable bed surface,’ they say. ‘BigBox has not just a large build space, but a well-proportioned more useful build space.’

However, the hackability of the BigBox must be its largest quality. ‘For the more advanced and adventurous users we’re keen to enable as much hacking and modification as possible. The printed parts, laser cut parts, bill of materials and firmware will be open sourced after the kickstarter is completed,’ they say. The whole machine is also easily opened to enable you to tinker with electronics, while open-source equipment has been used for all electronic components. In short, a perfect situation for tinkering.

Really the only problem with the BigBox 3D printer is that it hasn’t yet been made available. To finance production, a Kickstarter campaign is set to begin today or tomorrow. If all things go according to plan, shipping is set to begin around Christmas 2015. But with the light version costing just £475 (less than $800 USD), it wouldn’t at all surprise us if the BigBox 3D printer becomes a huge success.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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