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

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


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.

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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.

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Mike Senese

Mike Senese is a content producer with a focus on technology, science, and engineering. He served as Executive Editor of Make: magazine for nearly a decade, and previously was a senior editor at Wired. Mike has also starred in 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, fixing cars, and attempting to cook the perfect pizza. You might spot him at his local skatepark in the SF Bay Area.

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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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