Elefu’s Ra Introduces Peripherals for 3D Printing
Nearly every product with an appeal to the public has some form of peripheral. I remember seeing the first neon lights that people strapped underneath their cars just to add distinction and draw attention to their vehicles. Computers have loads of peripherals. Everything from light-up towers to USB-connected Hula dancers bring more personalization to what is pretty much a standard feature of both home and office.
You might not immediately identify 3D printers as something that might have a market for peripherals. The majority of the systems sit in offices or workshops and are mainly used by engineers and design firms to create prototypes. That isn’t the sort of crowd that is likely to be interested in peripherals without a dedicated purpose.
The wildcard here is the home market. People like customizing their stuff and Elefu has given hobbyist 3D printer owners some new options. Behind the peripherals is a new controller board build (named Ra) just for 3D printers. Users can connect an MP3 player and LED lights to the board, which produce visual and audio cues that indicate how far along the current build is toward completion.
Blinking lights and audio blurbs aren’t all the board has to offer. The ATMega2560-based system allows for computer-free, direct input printing, through the use of a LCD screen, SD card reader and a basic control device. Ra can also control two beds simultaneously, allowing truly dedicated hobbyists to print multiple objects at the same time.
A number of hobbyist printers have been attempting to create multi-extruder head printers, with varying amounts of success. Ra has been designed to support multi-extruder heads. Assuming everything works out, the ability to accurately control multiple extruder heads and multiple systems simultaneously could be another step forward for hobbyist 3D printers.
Elefu sought funding for Ra using Kickstarter and has reached its goal a good month ahead of schedule. The custom built boards will sell for $149, which is a pretty sound deal for any hobbyist looking to improve upon existing devices.
I wonder if industry will take note of this development? A 3D printer that sends you text updates on the build process might be more attractive to professionals than audio reminders. Third-party developers might be able to design boards that can improve already existing systems, as is the case with computers.
Below you’ll find the somewhat awkward Kickstarter video that describes the capabilities of Elefu’s Ra.