We got quite a few Robo 3D updates after touching base with Braydon Moreno at this years CES. Robo 3D unveiled many new features to their 3D printer platform to include quite a handful of helpful apps that integrate with their 3D printer system in a way that many other companies just do not have.
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Robo 3D Kits with Braydon Moreno of Robo 3D
We’re going to take a deeper dive today into our conversation at CES with Braydon Moreno, who is the CEO of Robo 3D. They’ve gone through a lot of changes in the last year. They’ve had a pretty busy year. Of course, they had this huge booth at CES 2016, a year ago. They won this award for their booth, the design was incredible. We really liked it. It was the most impressive booth last year. This year, they’ve got a smaller square booth on a corner. Not quite the same presentation but there was really no difference in the level of traffic that they had at their booth.
Robo 3D, even last year, was showing their R2 and their C2 3D printers, which were their new printers. The C2 is out now. The R2 is coming out in a month or two. The C2 is out and it’s shipping. They are sending us a C2 by the end of January. We’ve already gotten communication from their department that handles that. We’re definitely going to be one of the first to get that printer. We will put it through the paces and do a review and tell you all about it. As it was running, it was really an impressive machine. I’m not going to obviously review the machine here, but right off the bat, it was impressive. It’s a direct drive feed filament so you’re not pushing it from the back of the machine like a lot of Bowden 3D printers, you’re pulling it in, which I always find works much, much better for quality.
They have developed these apps for your smartphone and your tablet. They have something that I haven’t seen anybody else do before. It’s really impressive. First of all, one part of it that others do have is that they have onboard slicing on this printer. You can just send an STL file directly to the printer and print it, it’ll slice it for you. If you have a lot of models and you save them on your Google Drive or your Dropbox, their app is integrated directly with both of those platforms. For communicating of STL files with others, whether it’s other people within your company at different locations or just friends or within a school situation, it’s awesome.
Their market materials say they connect to cloud libraries to download 3D print models. That’s what they’re talking about. They’re not talking about online, big cloud libraries of other models from other people. They’re talking about your own cloud library. I think there are combinations of things they’re trying to do. What I was certainly talking about was just as a way to communicate to your own printer or to share files with other people that you know or that you’re working with. You can use Dropbox and then their app integrates right with it, or Google Drive, to be able to take the file WiFi from Dropbox or Google Drive directly into the printer, slice it and print it. That to me is a significant difference from any other app that I’ve seen. There’s a lot of good apps out there to integrate with 3D printers for setting the printer up and doing different things. To me, this is functionally relevant to the workflow.
I was surprised. The printer seems big for a five by five by six print size. I just thought the overall shape of it, it was bigger than I expected it. There’s a lot of body to it. The funny thing is though, I have to say, I was flipping to their website and they show this, I’m sure it was somebody’s set idea but it has such the wrong message. They’ve got the printer on a bedside table. It’s right next to a bed. I know you love 3D printing, but if you tried to put one on our bedside table, considering it’s actually today, our 25th anniversary. I think it would be all over right now if you put a 3D printer on our bedside table.
I just thought that was hilarious and that they let some photographer or creative director to do that. It got my attention, but not in a good way. Anyway, nobody who’s been married for any length of time would be dumb enough to do that. I think whoever would do that is single. It wasn’t that quiet, it’s not that quiet of a printer. It has a door and everything so it’s quiet but it’s not that quiet. It could be white noise, maybe.
Anyway, the thing is, we mentioned the size of the C2 printer. Certainly, that’s the smaller of the two printers. That’s a trait of Cartesian 3D printers. I think it’s no different from really the MakerBot Mini. That’s the same situation. They talk about it fitting into your home and looking really good in your décor. It could be on your countertop just like another appliance. That’s how they talk about it and the marketing language of it. I think when you’re going to get to that stage and that point, I think that you have to be more streamlined in the machine that you offer and the way that it looks. I do get that it’s the Cartesian necessity of you have to have that much material around it and everything like that. At the same time, wow, it feels a little bit small in output when it seems so big in footprint.
Before I get into what I thought was the coolest thing I saw in the Robo 3D booth, I want to talk a little bit about my conversation with Braydon Moreno on Robo 3D updates and what has been happening over this last year for them. That is that they were acquired essentially. There was this Australian company that essentially bought the majority of stock in the company. They had a different company that had invested in them and that company is now out, the Australian company has taken that over. Really this is, according to Braydon, doing great things for them. They have the backing of a much bigger company.
They are going public is what I understand. That this is a path to going public in Australia, on the Australian exchange. I think in reality, in some ways, they already are public. It’s a backdoor because that company is public so therefore they’ve been acquired by them and therefore they are public. I think that’s how it works. Honestly, I don’t claim to be the Wall Street wizard of business structures, especially with a company in Australia that has a whole another system that I don’t know about. There’s got to be a lot of complexities to that.
There’s a lot of good things. Braydon’s a pretty young guy. I don’t know if you realize this but Braydon was named one of the 30 under 30 for Forbes this year. I didn’t realize the guy was under 30, he told me this at the show. I’m like, “Dude, you’re under 30?” He’s like, “I actually just turned 30. At the time, yeah.” I was like, “Whew.” He’s a mature looking guy. I’m not saying he looks old, but he’s a mature looking guy. I guessed he was in his mid to late 30s. I didn’t know he was just barely 30. Good for him. He and his partner that started Robo 3D, they’ve been bootstrapping it for a long time. They got some investors and then even though they had investors, they were really operating this company doing a great many things. Now he’s getting a lot of support is what it seems. He’s getting more support with this company that’s behind them.
Actually, the branding all around the booth was actually Robo. While the company is still called Robo 3D, the logo really doesn’t show the 3D. It’s Robo in general. Actually I really like the new color. I think it’s a really smart choice in color. This would’ve been my pick for Pantone Color of the Year, not the greenery ugly color that they actually chose this year. I wrote another article about that one if you’re interested. Because I think it’s really smart, I think it’s a very consumer retail color, which makes a lot of sense for them. That combined with the white and the black, it does have a nice look. Absolutely nothing wrong with it, except like I said, it just seems a little bigger than the output. You want a satisfaction level. That was the only thing.
We also talked to him about, did they have more 3D printing kits out? They are working on many kits and they certainly are selling kits in Best Buy, among other places. This is where Braydon showed me what has got him really jazzed and excited and where they’re going with some of their kits now in the future. He showed me, and I have a photo of it, a lithophane is what they’re calling it. What it is, is they have this software that can take a photograph, any graphic image. Then it reduces it to about, I would say maybe a three millimeter to maybe four millimeter at most thick 3D print where it’s printing in very fine layers and the software interprets the light areas and the dark areas of the image and creates almost like a topographical map print, a three dimensional print of the image.
When it’s printing, it really doesn’t look like much. I think the one I got is maybe, it’s bigger than Christmas card size, a little bit bigger. Maybe a little bigger than a credit card size thing. Not even a three and a half by five photo size, a little smaller than that. When it was printing on the machine, the advantage of it being that small and being only a few millimeters thick is that they print very quickly. This is not a 20 hour or more type of print. This is like under an hour. It doesn’t look like much. When you pull it off the printer and you hold it in your hand, it really doesn’t.
But then when you hold it up to the light, wow, this thing pops and comes to life. You can really see the engineering that must’ve gone into this software that interprets it. It’s like it’s etched or something. It has that etched quality. It definitely is an etch quality. Speaking of the one that you have, which coincides with the passing of Carrie Fisher, is a Princess Leia, which our daughters just went nuts over and wanted to both hold it and keep it because it was Princess Leia. Our youngest said, “Where’s Ray?” Because her favorite is Ray. Anyway, we will now have to have a Ray one made so we’d have two of them. We will have to do that.
It’s a really cool thing I think. We featured things like that over the course of last year. Many of our design galleries that we feature monthly, this month we featured fitness products. There’s a whole blog post on all the different fitness products that are 3D printable or things that go with your Fitbit or things like that. In the past, we’ve done a few gift giving episodes. When we’ve done those, a lot of these picture frames, these light up picture frames where you can set these on the top of them and use that light to show an image of … There was one at one point an ultrasound. It was the ultrasound shot being lit from behind. It was printed that way. There was another one that was actually a whole lampshade but all four sides were that same lithograph quality to them.
It had four sides and that one in particular was printed as a square so it was printed from the bottom up and not a flat piece, which putting four flat pieces together probably would’ve been a lot faster. It personally believe that the accuracy or the high tolerance, the fineness with which you can print in thin layers when you print a lithophane flat instead of on its edge, the accuracy of printing all these depths to be able to get that really high quality image when you hold it up to the light, I think it would work better laying it flat than on edge. There’s just not enough preciseness in the XY movement of a nozzle to achieve that.
With it being our anniversary and us just talking about that lithophane, I’m going to tell you what your anniversary gift is because it’s not here. It’s not here so I can’t give it to you today. What I did was, I took a print from our wedding of the two of us coming off the dance floor. I’m laughing, you’re laughing. It’s a cute picture that we’ve had for a long time. It’s one of the candids. I took it and I made a text layer over it. Imagine that. I basically turned it into a black and white and made a text layer so that the text itself is in the dark areas and it creates this quality. I’m having it etched in a piece of silver because it’s our silver anniversary. It’s being etched by a local company right here in Lake Forest. I don’t know when it will be ready but it should be soon. Unfortunately, it won’t make this blog post to show you because I don’t have a picture.
We’re telling everybody about it and they’re going to want to see it. They’re not going to be able to right away. That is what I came up with for our silver anniversary, is one of my favorite pictures of the two of us much younger with a whole lot more hair on both of us I think and a whole lot less weight on me in that particular shot. One of my favorites. But I will share with you in private the text of what it actually says.
These lithophanes, that’s where Braydon sees a lot of their project kits going. I think it’s a really practical thing that would appeal to a lot of different people. He has some plans for the kits beyond just being able to make the lithophane that I’m not going to I guess reveal because I don’t know that he wanted to reveal that. I didn’t have a chance to ask him before this recording on Robo 3D updates. I don’t want to hurt his business. Anyway, I think he’s got some interesting plans. I think that Robo 3D and what he’s planning, the content, is what we always say is so important. I think that this is a good step in the right direction for project kits that would appeal to a great many people.
Had it been our year one and it was plastic, I certainly would have printed it that way. I think you’re not wrong in this. I think it’s really an interesting idea. I’m interested to how it’s going with them for the retail side of things. I just get the impression overall that retail on the retailer side isn’t going extremely well. It’s not moving very fast or anything. They seem to have a very large presence. I’m really glad to see that they have a bigger support for a company because you got to last it out here. We’ve seen this go wrong for so many companies because they didn’t plan to be this type of company. The delivery structure, the financial structure, all the things you need to support a good retail business isn’t really there, wasn’t there before. I’m really looking forward to this change for them, making that viable because I wasn’t, I’m picturing that they were going to be able to make it without a bigger structure underneath them.
They’ve certainly got a lot more power behind them. As a company, as long as we’ve known them, we’ve seen them really invest in some really smart areas. We talked in the CES recap about companies that aren’t building any kind of eco system and aren’t investing in certain things to support the printers. We’ve seen Robo 3D invest in creating curriculum for education and getting involved in the education market. I think the C2 printer is going to be a really good fit for schools for sure. Obviously, with the lithophanes, those could be great projects where students can not just make something that’s cool looking, but learn about the realities of the layers and how thin they are and then all the intricacies of creating a photo.
Another way to look at it though is that it may not be educational for students. Because I don’t think you learn anything when the software does it all for you. But you learn about how layers can be interpreted to produce an image. That is not a connection I think a lot of students, a lot of young people make. We could be underestimating how much they do understand how 3D printing works. I just think when the machine does it for you, I think it just makes everything easier. I certainly don’t think I need to sit around and worry about how to make the different thicknesses and mess with it. It should be something a computer does for you. You shouldn’t have to think that hard on it.
Trust me, as I went to go do your gift, it was extremely hard to get it to do what I wanted it to do. If I could’ve found a software to do it, I would have. It’s just one of those things though that I don’t think you learn a lot about 3D modeling or 3D printing from that. I do think it’s a great use of the machine. I don’t think you learn a lot about 3D modeling because the software does it. But I do think you learn about the physics. Because one of the interesting things is the darker colors are the thinnest layers and the lightest colors are the thickest layers. That’s really opposite to what you might think it would be. That has more to do with the light and less to do with the printing. Anyway, there could be an interesting educational opportunity there. Certainly, these images look really cool. If you have the right images, the right content, you’re going to interest a lot of kids in this stuff.
Robo 3D Updates – Final Thoughts
I think to wrap up our discussion on Robo 3D updates, I think we’re starting to think about the maybe half a dozen players that are playing in the retail consumer market. Not just eCommerce straight because there’s a ton of little players out there doing eCommerce, selling kits and then little printers and other things like that at a price war kind of idea. The ones that really have a retail play with a presence in a store where you can go check it out, you’re talking about XYZ, MakerBot, Robo, possibly HP coming up, Dremel still in the mix although I don’t know for how long. I question on that one, whether or not they’re going to be sticking around. There just aren’t a ton in that world right now. Robo’s got a nice position with a nice looking machine that has moved from looking like early maker version to looking like an appliance.
It really is a well-designed, professional looking product. They’ve made more advancements. They have a flexible build platform with a texture built into it that sticks right to it, no blue tape and all that stuff. We’re going to get into all that details when we do the review and experience it more from our perspective. I think they are a serious player and they’re going to be around for quite a while. I look forward to seeing what they do. My one upcoming one on the list too is the Mattel 3D printer. Even though it’s a toy one, we’re looking forward to that. I think the Mattel one’s going to be a good retail player as well. There’s still some others that I want to review and others that have said they were going to send review units. I think they’ve had some technical challenges and haven’t been ready to send them yet. That’s part of it.
Speaking of Mattel though, tomorrow’s episode is our toy episode. That’s going to be a fun episode with Mark Trageser who I totally love talking to. He was so energized. He does more than Mattel of course, he does all kinds of toys. It is such a fun episode. He’s a professional toy designer, he’s about our age, he’s been in the industry of designing toys about as long as we have doing consumer products. He’s had some great experience and now he’s independent and uses 3D printing integrally in his design work and has some strong opinions and a lot to say about it. It’s going to be fun. A lot of passion. We really enjoyed talking with him. Actually I got to meet him in person after we recorded that interview, which was fun. You’re going to want to stay tuned for that one tomorrow.
This has been Tracy and Tom on the WTFFF 3D Printing podcast on our personal anniversary episode. 25 years being married. I can say, podcasting together has been one of the highlight fun of our last five years. I really enjoy it. I love doing it with you. It wouldn’t be the same without you. When I had to do the occasional episode by myself, it doesn’t feel quite the same. I think it’s definitely better with the two of us. Thank you for the anniversary gift. Thank you to our listeners for putting up with the two of us as we disagree on air and sometimes get overly passionate about things. Anyway, we really appreciate you making what we enjoy doing together possible. I thank you all for that as well. Until next time. This is Tracy and Tom on the WTFFF 3D Printing podcast.
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