ELECTRONICS RETAILER Maplin became the first high street shop in the UK to start selling a 3D printer for use in the home last week, announcing that the Velleman K8200 would ship in the UK for a penny short of £700.
The INQUIRER went along to Maplin's Monument, London branch to have a closer look at the 3D printer in action, which enables buyers to print out objects at a maximum size of 20x20cm.
While £699.99 sounds pretty expensive for a printer, the Velleman K8200 is the first commercially available 3D printer in the UK. According to Maplin, objects will take around 30 minutes to print, with the printer capable of creating things such as phone cases and chess pieces.
The K8200 has a printing plate that is heated in addition to the extrusion nozzle heating the polylactic acid (PLA) or ABS plastic filament that is used to build up objects.
The K8200 works quickly, and produced the object shown above, which stands about 10cm high when finished and comprises over 5,000 layers, in about half an hour. Some rival 3D printer models would take several hours to build up the same object, according to Velleman.
The picture above shows a sample of various objects produced using the K8200. The filament is available in ten different colours, but the printer only takes one filament reel at a time and you cannot switch reels during printing. Objects with more than one colour are possible, but need to be produced in separate runs.
Quite complex objects can be produced using the K8200, including this container, which has a screw-fit lid. The two parts are produced separately, but printing is so accurate that the parts fit together without any difficulty.
Each filament reel holds 1kg of filament, and so the number of objects you can print from one reel will vary depending on the weight of each one.
However, the container shown in the second image above weighs about 5g, meaning that you should be able to produce about 200 of these before using up a single reel.
The Velleman K8200 is controlled using software known as Repetier Host, which runs on Windows, Linux and Mac systems. The Dell laptop shown below is in the midst of producing the container shown earlier in the second image. The cube outline around the 3D shape marks the maximum size object that can be produced using the K8200.
The printer itself is fitted with a Sanguino derived controller board, which is itself apparently compatible with the Arduino single board computer popular with electronics hobbyists.
Maplin believes the Velleman K8200 kit has enabled it to introduce 3D printing to the mass market. At the moment, only pre-orders were being taken for the printers, with deliveries expected by the end of July. More information about the Velleman K8200 3D printer can be found at the retailer's website. µ