3D printing or additive manufacturing is the process of melting a solid to the point that you can ooze out a layer of that material from a nozzle and using multiple layers physically print in 3D as opposed to 2D on paper. The technology that has allowed this to become possible in the last few years had to be refined commercially but the first patents for stereolithography go back to 1984. This technology is the first to challenge the standardized practice of milling, CNC or otherwise.
CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) milling or milling otherwise was the process of carving out an object by the process of reducing excess material. A whole block of material was revolved over a plate and sharpened heads would carve the excess material to produce the finished product. Before the said patent and advancement of its application base, the general notion was that objects could only be produced by milling. 3D printing is the alternative to milling techniques.
AIO Robotics & Zeus
AIO Robotics was founded in 2013, with their primary and only product the Zeus All-in-one 3D Printer. The company is based out in Los Angeles, California and in my personal opinion has done the job right. If they waited this long to produce a commercial 3D printer because they wanted to put out the best product of its type, then they did a bang up job. If you have had a look at the printing technology that has come out over the past 2 years, you’ll know what I’m talking about. And that calls for an introduction for The Zeus 3D Printer.
Read on for what all the hype is about.
The Zeus All-in-one 3D Printer, is one of a kind. It’s difficult to talk about it because it’s difficult to start off right, there is just so many features to set it apart. One thing before we move on, is the title. Even though the device is marketed as a printer, the all-in-one label is used because not only does The Zeus print, it scans and faxes as well. In random order, I’m going to talk about all the features.
First off, it’s completely “Plug and Play”. No software installation is required. And that is because it has been designed to be stand-alone. You do not require any external hardware for the device to operate because even if you don’t have an STL model already in place and ready for printing, you can create one on its LCD. Unlike all the rest of the competition, The Zeus has special hardware and software specs (well go into details later.)
Second, it is internet enabled meaning you can browse a CAD warehouse and download an STL model for printing. Third, the calibration techniques have been tweaked for maximum comfort and efficacy. Fourth, all modelling parts have been developed in modules so they are easy to take out, clean, troubleshoot and put back in. Let’s talk about all these in detail.
It is internet enabled. With Wi-Fi capabilities. Whether you have a wired connection or wireless you can connect and browse the internet on the 7” touch-screen display available on the front left top corner of the body. Two USB slots allow you to print files from flash storage and a power buttons powers the machine on and off.
The scanning technology is called “Swiping Laser Triangulation” technology, their proprietary version of laser triangulation. Basically a laser is beamed at the object for the detection of the surface which in turn generates Point Cloud data. The Zeus can scan anything within a diameter of 9” and a height of 4.4”, ample space for a personal 3D printer or scanner. The data can be saved to its 8GB of internal memory or a memory card if not a USB drive. The scanned data can even be faxed to a different device over the internet. Scanning can take anything up to 30 minutes with factors such as scan resolution and object size.
The Zeus 3D printer runs on a 1.7 GHz Quad core processor and hence requires no other hardware or computer connectivity. A built in customer support button also allows you to report the problem you’ve having back to AIO HQ.
Scans can be committed on a 150 µm resolution with color and the non-proprietary filament system with 1.75mm diameter gives you the ability to print at 200 µm of resolution. The printing technology used is Fused Filament Fabrication allowing you to actually create products with a wood-based fiber and conductive materials. More than 10 different filament brand’s filaments are supported for printing.
With Zeus you literally don’t need a computer. That’s because not only can you download STL files off the internet (“My Mini Factory” & “Thingyverse” are 3D warehouses whose databases have already been linked to the firmware), you can edit the models, slice them, scale them and much more with the onboard editor. All this can be done on single as well as multiple axis. Slicing a model has been customized with 3 different modes that you can choose from, those being standard, advanced or off-board (with external software). You can even add multiple models to the same job.
The firmware also updates itself automatically on connecting to the internet. Auto bed-leveling and auto-camera calibration techniques make it easy for the user by taking over all the back end and technical stuff. A self-test is built in for detection of problems and troubleshooting aid. The Smart integrated Notification System (SiNS) allows taking snapshots and during the print as well as after for notifying you through email and other services about completion of your print jobs. Mobile support, which is listed as a “coming soon” on the website, will further extend this notification system apart from allowing you to remotely activate jobs and download files etc. Everything that you can do on your printer, you will be able to manage and manipulate from your smart-phone app.
The proprietary software running on the back has many features completely new to this market. The ability to scan a 3D object and then print an exact replica is one of the most popular features due to the lack of pre or post-processing required. The firmware also has a file manager that can sort all files and models located on the internal memory or attached flash storage. The filament tracker is another nifty and much awaited industry need. This is because in almost every other product the filaments end cannot be detected which leads to a break in the supply, hence a break in the model. With Zeus, the filament’s end can be detected early on and the auto-pause feature will avoid damages, breaks and clogs. Your prints are guaranteed to come out smooth, if not, at least the print job won’t automatically cancel out of failure.
|Print Technology||Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)|
|Build Volume||8.0 x 6.0 x 5.7″ / 20.3 x 15.2 x 14.5 cm|
|Cubic Build Volume||274 in3 / 4,526cm3|
|Layer Resolution (XY Axis)||80 microns / 0.08 mm|
|Number of Extruders||1|
|Extruder Nozzle Diameter||350 microns / 0.35 mm|
|Print Speed||Minimum: 40 mm/s|
|Maximum: 160 mm/s|
|Positioning Precision||X: 12.7 microns / 0.0127 mm|
|Y: 2.8 microns / 0.0028 mm|
|Z: 2.4 microns / 0.0024 mm|
|Filament Diameter||1.75 mm|
|Filament Spool Storage||Internal|
|USB 2.0 Ports||2 x Type A|
|Ethernet Ports||100 Mb/s|
|Supported Wi-Fi Standards||Yes|
|Printer Supported 3D File Types||.aio, .stl|
|Software Supported 3D File Types||.aio, .obj, .ply, .stl|
|Mac OS X Compatibility||Yes|
|Power Requirements||100 to 240 VAC, 50/60 Hz|
|Dimensions – (WxHxD)||21.6 x 14.8 x 15.3″ / 54.86 x 37.59 x 38.86 cm|
|Weight||46.3 lb / 21.00 kg|
|Package Weight||56.5 lb|
|Box Dimensions (LxWxH)||22.0 x 20.0 x 18.0″|
The design of the 21” x 14” x 15” device is perhaps the only thing that resembles other products in the market. The front makes it look like a microwave oven with a lifting door to the right. But the color scheme with interface goes well overall with the corners, edges and lines making the design look streamlined and well packed. In my personal opinion the position of the touch screen display should have been different but the fact that they somehow managed to squeeze 7” onto the front is pretty awesome. The form factor and design are certainly one of the best that the 3D printing industry has witnessed in the past 3 years.
The left side paneling has slots for ventilation and can be opened up to view the scanner body, situated right behind the display. The right panel has a different ventilation design and cannot be opened. The whole unit sits on top of four very short legs or even without them, as per the users own choice.
The machines parts are designed in a modular fashion and hence can be taken out, cleaned and placed back in with relative ease, something new to the 3D printer market.
Let’s get one thing straight. Or two for that that matter. The Zeus 3D Printer is not just a printer. It is the most complete and flexible 3D printing and scanning solution the market has had since the conception of the technology around the 3 years ago. AIO Robotics have even added the kind of customer support that you usually get with 20 year old giant software or other development corporation. Customers have literally posted about how the CEO called them to update them about their complaint tickets and followed up with them (Now that’s something). The other thing I want to get straight is that the price and the extra options that you get with the package (student or otherwise) are an amazing deal. So go ahead and order your very own 3D printing solution and let us know how you find it.