Portabee in the Broadsheets

Portabee has to thank Ricardo Bilton for an interview and a writeup on Venturebeat.

We conducted a short interview and Ricardo asked some very pertinent questions about 3D printing and the Portabee. It was a great interview and we thought to share the transcript with you.


R: The price seems to be a pretty big component of what you’re trying to do with the Portabee. Other printers like the Replicator 2 are four times the price. Can you tell me more about how big price will factor into consumer adoption of 3D printers?

P: We think that price is the vital factor when trying to get 3D printers into the hands of consumers. I’ve found when people hear of, or come to understand, 3D printing they get extremely excited about the possibilities. However upon hearing the price of a basic entry level machine, their reaction is obvious, it remains simply a fun idea, nothing more. We want to get this revolution moving, we need mass adoption and we believe that this hinges at the moment on price.


R: Related to the above: I’m curious if you think price is the only factor. What about user experience? Does the Portabee give people more reason to invest in 3D printing in general?

P: The Portabee aims to provide an excellent printing platform that is simple, robust and portable. These are the three areas that we worked towards during the engineering phase and we beleive we have improved upon the state of the art in these areas.

In terms of improving on existing machines, the RepRap Mendel and Prusa kits on the market are extremely complicated and very bulky. We want a machine that is minimal and elegant.

The Makerbot class machines are brilliant machines, and Bre Pettis is a personal hero, however these machines are simply out of reach of the average person who gets excited about 3D printing. We want machines in peoples hands today, it has to be cheaper.

Such machines as the Makibox and other cheaply priced printers are more similar to the Portabee, we actually share design heritage with the Printrbot. The Makibox and similar machines that have been Kickstarted lately occupy the same price point as the Portabee. However, these machines don’t include a full feature set and are missing important elements such as a heated bed. We want a fully featured machine, full capability for your $500.


R: Why is it important that the device is portable?

P: Portability is something new in the 3D printer space. Most machines are semi-portable, meaning you can pick them up and transport them in the back seat of your car, however we thought it needed to go much further.

When you start printing things you get really excited, and start showing them to friends. It’s really great to be able to open up a laptop satchel and produce the actual machine that made such marvels. You can take it into a meeting, around town, just in a shoulder satchel. Try doing that with your Makerbot or RepRap Prusa.

We consider our machine the first ‘laptop’ of the 3D printer era.

The clipping mechanisms of the Portabee allows you to take apart and re-assemble the machine in seconds, while maintaining the machine calibration. If you want to remove the bed platform of any other printer on the market, thats going to take you quite a while.


R: Whats the max size of printed objects? How long does it take to print them? Why is there no outer casing? (These things get hot!)

P: Max Size

Our machine build volume is 120mm x 120mm x 120mm this can build objects roughly the size of an oversized mug. In terms of build volume, we get beaten by the new Makerbot which has quite a huge build volume, however maintaining a 120mm build volume lets us retain the portability of our machine.

Printing Time
Objects generally take from 30mins for a small model, to 2 hours for a larger more complex object.

Outer Casing
We are really going for minimalism and engineering efficiency with the Portabee. We looked at range of other printers that covered the axis with extra casing, however this really just adds to the bulk of the machine.

(addded post interview)
Printing with the common 3D printer material PLA, the bed does not need to be heated to extreme temperatures, and yes the aptly named hot-end does get hot, however it is a small point on the machine and is contained within the centre of the frame. But do watch out for the hot-end, its the ‘stinger’ of the bee so to speak, and it does generate a high specific heat.


R: What does the software end look like? Does it plug in to AutoCad?

P: The software we recommend is a combination of the following:

Printer control software:
http://daid.github.com/Cura/ (free and open source)

3D Modelling:
Sketchup (low barrier for entry, free)

3D Model Source:
thingiverse.com (of course)

In terms of autocad and other modelling software, CURA simply accepts STL files (the file format for thingiverse). Most CAD software can export to STL, or has plugins that can do it for you.


R: More basic: How long have you been working on the Portabee? Why did you create it? Whats your goal?

P: The team has been working on the Portabee since June of this year. We have been very active and interested in the 3D printing ecosphere for many years, and we think it’s high time that people really start to get their hands on these machines. They are just so much damn fun and we feel its our responsibility to push them out into the hands of the world. We took all the best bits of the machines we have seen, and really the community effort from the past decade, and got to work.