Q1: What is your design process from concept to build and how long does is that process?
Our first model, the MAKEiTⓇ Pro, was introduced in 2015 after two years of development. In early 2016 we introduced an updated design and used many of the updates as the basis for the larger model. Since we had plans to introduce a larger variation we needed to change our naming to reflect that, hence the Pro-M and Pro-L nomenclature. At the initial design stage, our chief engineer, Salomo Murtonen, resolved that MAKEiTⓇ Pro printers needed to be simple in design, rich in features, easy to make, easy to use and easy to service. The result was our modular design. Our printers are made of three modules: the extrusion module, X-bar module, and chassis module. Every single module can be assembled and serviced independently. This helps us improve our assembly and development time as well as reduce our customer’s machine downtime. If their machine is down, we can replace the troubled module quickly. Our industrial designer, Russell Singer, created the exterior design theme of the Pro-M and Pro-L to reflect our design principles.
Making a high-quality 3D printer is not simple. In addition to the mechanical and electrical engineering, the process also involves material science, firmware and software design, and design for manufacturing. Our design process for the first product started a few years ago with the initial concept, which later led to multiple ideas and sketches. Several feasibility studies were conducted on critical component choices, such as whether to invest in linear bearings. We went through multiple design iterations on the computer using CAD to test the functionality, fitting, etc. When we were confident in our design, the first physical prototype was made and tested using real materials. Our full design process for the Pro-L took about 6 months to get to product launch.
Q2: How does the MISUMI configurability model help your design process?
MISUMI’s website provides us with lots of useful information. It is easy to make selections. We love it. The configurability model allows us to complete our designs easier and faster. It’s all done online. We provide customized cutting specifications for aluminum extrusion parts, then download the 3D model parts, and validate the fit in our own CAD design files. Once all parts fit, we place the order online. Within a couple of weeks, we get our parts delivered.
Q3: What modeling platform do your engineers use? SOLIDWORKS? Inventor?
We use SOLIDWORKS to visualize the design, and pre-test functionality before building a physical prototype.
Q4: What industries can use 3D printers such as yours?
3D printers are beneficial for companies in almost any industry involved in physical goods. Our printer has been used in a wide variety of industries, such as aerospace and defense, automotive, education and research, engineering, health care, fashion and wearables, mining, robotics, printing service, transportation, etc. Professionals use MAKEiTⓇ Pro printers to make prototypes, custom tooling, produce end-use parts, and printing marketing materials.
Cover photo from MAKEiT, Inc.