One of the common frustrations with common filament based 3D printing is that you’re typically stuck with one material at a time. The Swapper3D Kickstarter is taking a somewhat tried and true approach from CNC machining and applying it to a 3D printer.
note: This is a kickstarter. Kickstarters are not like buying a product from a store. If this company fails to fulfil the promises, there is no protection for your money. Do not support kickstarters financially until you are fully aware of how kickstarter works.
People have come up with all kinds of creative ways of getting around this limitation. There are settings in your slicer so that you can change materials manually during a print, often used to create a color shift at a specific height for logos and items like that.
There are also folks making interesting mechanical means of changing filament during an active print. This can be seen in items like the Prusa MMU, which changes which filament hits the extruder, or the Pallete by Mosaic Manufacturing, which fuses different filaments together at various places to be printed at the appropriate time. Those approaches come with a common frustration: the purge block.
When you change material or color, you have to purge the extruder of the remaining material. This adds up in both time and material.
A common response to this frustration is to simply add more tool heads. Full extruders that can be loaded with different filaments. You can see this in Prusa’s new XL, or the e3D Tool Changer system. This solves the purge block issue, but using full extruders has a couple downsides as well. Cost and weight for example.
The Swapper 3D is looking back at what CNC milling machines have been doing for decades, simply swapping out the item at the very end of the chain, in this case the hot end. It’s cheaper, lighter, and less space hungry than swapping out a full extruder with all the associated parts. The only thing remaining to be seen is if this system holds up over time, and of course if they deliver on the kickstarter.