3D Printing & Imaging
The Idea Builder: Dremel Releases a Mass-Market 3D Printer

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With a combination of accessible features, smart packaging, and a $999 price point, it’s obvious that the Dremel 3D Idea Builder is a machine aimed squarely at the mass market.

The Idea Builder, announced today at MakerCon in New York City, is the first 3D printer to be released by a major tool manufacturer, and represents further maturation of at-home additive manufacturing. With initial sales being handled by traditional tool-sales outlets Home Depot, Amazon, and Canadian Tire, it promises to help expose 3D printing to a new range of users.

The Idea Builder itself is a single-extruder printer in a self-contained package. Lightweight with a solid feel, it has a sleek plastic exterior, a detachable blue lid, and two removable panels on each side (presumably in case things get too toasty inside). Its build area measures 230mm x 150mm x 140mm (9” x 5.9” x 5.5”), with a clever removable bed to simplify model extraction. There’s no heated platform, so this machine is PLA only.

The molded interior of the machine includes a recessed semi-cylindrical filament spool holder on the left side of the build platform. Placing the filament inside the machine reduces the footprint and gives the overall impression of fewer moving parts. The removable lid keeps loose hair and jewelry out of the build area during printing, but allows for easy access during filament loading, print removal and maintenance. The front of the machine has a clear Plexiglas door that snaps shut with a couple of tiny magnets.

A polished consumer product from the first touch, the Dremel design team has clearly thought through the unboxing experience. Inside the packaging is a full color, easy-to-follow quick-start guide, two sheets of Dremel-branded BuildTak, and a black and white printed instruction manual. As you would expect from a company like Dremel, the manual is quite comprehensive and well organized. It’s especially gratifying to see a glossary of terms to explain 3D printing to a new audience of makers.

Dremel has a long history of working with partners around the world to manufacture their tools and products, so it’s no surprise that the Idea Builder was conceived in partnership with Chinese manufacturer Flashforge, makers of the popular “Creator” Replicator clones. The Idea Builder is based on the Flashforge Dreamer, whose electronics utilize the ARM Contex-M4 CPU processor, instead of the ATmega chips used in the Flashforge Creator line. The company is also working with Autodesk to create design software options for their customers.

The Dremel 3D software interface and features are similar to Makerware or Cura and runs on both Mac and Windows. It displays the build area with a 3D rendering of the build volume, has options to move, rotate and scale parts, and will highlight areas that will need support material. The software lacks options to change print temperatures, infill percentages, add rafts, or use custom gcode files — handicaps Dremel purposefully implemented to help simplify the printing experience for new users. However, it’s been mentioned that these missing features may be added in future iterations of the software.

The slicing engine is fast and offers high, medium, and low-resolution settings that translate to 0.1mm, 0.2mm and 0.3mm layer heights and pre-assigned infill levels.

Although the Idea Builder software lacks advanced settings it has succeeded in creating a streamlined consumer-ready user experience and ecosystem. Dremel is tapping into its established Racine, Wisconsin-based customer service network for free customer support from “Dremel Experts” via a variety of platforms, including phone, Skype and email. And it is using its distribution clout to get product into new channels.

With Dremel’s entry into 3D printing, it’s clear that the race to mainstream 3D printing is heating up. The Idea Builder’s attractive price point and features make it worth considering for a variety of user types. So how did this machine perform in our serious testing? We’ll be posting our full review in the next issue of Make: magazine, along with 25 other new 3D printers. And look for the release of our test models later this week so you can play along at home.

55 thoughts on “The Idea Builder: Dremel Releases a Mass-Market 3D Printer

    1. Exactly. It makes perfect sense. A dremel-based five axis CNC would be a much more useful tool than a 3D printer in their current form.

      1. Don’t forget perhaps the biggest part of this deal — Dremel’s distribution network. They specifically mentioned The Home Depot in their video, but pretty much any place that currently sells Dremel products is a potential outlet. That includes my local Kroger/Fred Meyer’s.

        A retail chain is far more likely to purchase units from a respected name in the industry, knowing that they’ll have more purchases and fewer returns as a result.

          1. My Black and Decker hammer drill and Skil Saws works great. Don’t know what your hating on value tools for, most people don’t have the extra money or need for industrial quality tools to use on home projects..

          2. Right? I’ve got a fairly cheap set of Ryobi cordless tools (drill, circular saw, reciprocating saw) that are far from contractor-grade, but nevertheless have served me faithfully for years of moderate use and occasional abuse.

            To be fair, though, I do want to replace the drill with a higher end Dewalt. Drills are one of the places in tools where you really get what you pay for. Although I think that’s changing with the newer mechanical clutchless electronically controlled ones.

          3. Ryobi are excellent “Saturday Tools” with Rigid and Snap-On being excellent everyday tools.

            Harbor Freight falls under the is-it-cheaper-than-renting-it-and-will-it-destroy-something-more-expensive-when-it-breaks category.

  1. Looks like there is beginning to be more healthy competition from manufacturers. Not just kickstarter projects.

  2. How was that football-like pen stand made with this machine?
    It has both white and black in it.
    (seen in the video)

  3. $1k for PLA only doesn’t impress me in the least bit. Also that video was so corporate canned responses it made me sick, not one word of technical specs. Only thing I’m happy about is that more companies are jumping on the consumer 3d printing bandwagon which means cheaper more reliable versions.

  4. the dreamer looks the same but it is much better…it has 2 extruders with a heated build plate, that’s why a closed chamber can make sense… dremel just bought the ff design and put the cheapest hardware in it:/

        1. We’re not going to agree on this, but here goes:

          What Dremel is counting on is the slightly well-off tinkerer who’s heard about this hear 3D printing stuff, and would like to get into it, but doesn’t know where to start. He’s in Home Depot, or Lowes, or Ace, picking up some new cutting wheels for his Dremel, and right there on the shelf is a 3D printer — something he’s interested in — made by Dremel — a company he knows and trusts — for $999 — a price that seems reasonable. He pulls open his phone, and does a quick Google search for other 3D printers to see if that’s a good price. He finds others cost $300+ more. He doesn’t look too closely at the specs, because he doesn’t really understand what he does or doesn’t want. He could go home and do some research, but he’s right there…and it’s on the shelf in front of him…

          He buys it. He’s happy.

          He’ll later find out that there are some things that it can’t do, and eventually he’ll decide that those features are things he can’t live without. So he goes online to do more thorough research. Maybe he finds another company with a good reputation and the features he wants. Maybe by this time, Dremel has another unit out that does what he wants. He already has a Dremel. He likes it. It’s reliable. The support is great. He’s used to the software, and has some accessories already.

          He buys it. He’s happy.

          **Edit: What I’m saying here, is this isn’t for current enthusiasts. It’s for *future* enthusiasts who aren’t sure where to start. For them, this is a relatively low-risk gamble.

          1. Look at the first Macs, the Lisa’s, the Newtons, the TI-99, Atari, Commodores, etc. They weren’t designed for the current expert or enthusiast, they were designed to be the first computer for their market niche. Think Model T. It might not have all the bells and whistles, but if I wanted all the bells and whistles, I’d probably spec’g out and building my own.

          2. Told you we wouldn’t agree.

            Whenever I take something back to a big box store, they usually just swap it out for a new one; no muss, no fuss. I’d call that pretty good customer service. Whenever I need support, rather than replacement, I never call the big box store — they didn’t make it, why would I expect them to support it? I do as the instructions say, and call the manufacturer, who does a great job at service and support. It’s one of the items pointed out in the story above, in fact, as a strong point for Dremel.

          3. I’m gonna throw this out here, then I’m done:

            http://www.garagejournal.com/2014/09/dremel-3d-printer/

            That’s right…a site that’s never mentioned 3D printing before is excited about the Dremel 3D printer, as are the commenters to that site.

            This is *exactly* what the Dremel brand name and distribution do for 3D printing. They make people who hadn’t really considered getting one seriously think about doing so.

          4. Do you mean the Compucarve? I have one. It’s actually a Sears-branded model of the Carvewright. Not totally a proper CNC machine, but for hobbyists and especially for the stuff that I do, it’s f-ing brilliant.

            It will import standard grayscale graphics formats (jpg png, etc) and you can simply tell it to make white a particular depth and black a particular height. VERY fast learning curve to do signmaking, bas-relief, lithopanes, etc, and turns out some very nice work.

            Plus, because it feeds through like a planer, the actual sizes of material it can handle *well* exceed the specs. I’ve done 12″x60″ signs on mine.

    1. The closed chamber is to keep hair, fingers, ties, necklaces out of the machinery. All it would take is one kid to get scalped ormangled and then what happens? Market to the mass market and you need to protect them also.

    1. Which for a company new to the industry to make a sustainable and profitable product line, is pretty much everything.

        1. “and they never made any ground in the SUV world.”

          The Honda CR-V (an SUV) has been the top selling SUV in the US for years. If that’s not making any ground, and the how you feel Dremel is headed, they’re in for some serious cash.

          1. That’s not what you said. You said they didn’t make any ground in the SUV market, which is false; they are in fact at the top of the SUV market. Likewise, even if this Dremel is crap, it doesn’t mean it’s useless for the company. Thousands will be sold, and people new to the Maker movement will join the ranks, and Dremel will come out with something better, possibly even putting themselves on the top of the 3D printing market.

            Even with that mis-step, Honda is the leader in the SUV market. Also, note that the Explorer is no longer body-on-frame, so even the competition has come around to the “Honda way”; they found that their customers didn’t care about off-road prowess, so they stopped spending money making it that way.

            So perhaps this Dremel is a mis-step, but you learn even from failure. And Dremel has one big advantage that other, smaller companies don’t, which is their sales distribution network. Look at, say, Tesla: vastly superior car to most that are out there. Even if it didn’t cost vastly more than a Civic, you’d still sell more Civics because there’s (a) name recognition, and (b) a great distribution network for Honda cars.

            As someone who’s worked distribution before, you can’t discount the value of putting your product in front of many more eyeballs than your competitor. Especially when your customers don’t necessarily know what they want.

  5. For $999 it’s really a miss affair. I would have expect something more, like a dual-extruder and heated bed. Not joing the masses of overpriced and underfeatured printers…i love Dremel tools but not this. Please.

  6. This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you. You definitely put a new spin on a topic that’s been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

  7. Real journalists know the rule that the first time you use an acronym you explain what it means. But they no longer teach journalism in colleges; they teach left wing activism. So you get stupid writers like this one who write junk like ‘machine is PLA only.’

  8. I think this is the first 3D printer from a company that was not specifically started to make and sell 3D printers?

    If I am right about that, isn’t THAT the most significant feature of this announcement?

    Sure, if you have been looking at 3DP for a while, you will see the kinks and glitches in this unit (although, to be fair, I suspect the bundled software might be the Killer Feature on Dremel’s machine). But, as someone else has said, few people buy a Taz, or a MakerBot, or fill-in-the-blank on impulse one Saturday afternoon.

    Also, for a certain kind of hobbyist, the Dremel name will mean two things:
    1. Reliable quality
    2. A company that will be around to provide service and support tomorrow.

    Would they get that from the top-tier 3DP companies? Yes. Does the public at large feel comfortable with these new and possibly unstable companies? Mostly not.

  9. I’m saving my money for a model that prints metal objects instead of plastic. Ever have a part you can draw and/or describe, you know exactly what you want, but you can’t find in any hardware department? That’s what I want a 3D printer to do. Anything less is Playskool or Mattel

  10. who else think they will make a dual extruder upgrate for it? it is based on the flashforge dreamer, a dual extruder printer, and the gap for the second fillamant roll is still there!

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Mike Senese is the Executive Editor of Make: magazine. He is also a TV host, starring in various engineering and science shows for Discovery Channel, including Punkin Chunkin, How Stuff Works, and Catch It Keep It.

An avid maker, Mike spends his spare time tinkering with electronics, doing amateur woodworking, and attempting to cook the perfect pizza.

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Tom Burtonwood

Tom Burtonwood is an artist, educator and entrepreneur based in Chicago, IL. Burtonwood co-founded Mimesis, LLC a product development company focused on 3D scanning and digital fabrication. He teaches at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College.

Find Tom on Twitter: @tburtonwood and on Instagram: @tomburtonwood

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