An Interview with Daniel Warner, Portabee
Just when we thought we may have seen it all, at least to this point, we discovered Portabee. We all know that 3D printing is a technology that is here to stay and continues to make great strides seemingly every day. Portabee is taking 3D printing to a whole new level by making it completely portable. Anyone that has seen a 3D printer knows that while the desktop models are not gigantic, it is not likely you are going to want to unplug it, put it in your car, and then set it up wherever you are going. The Portabee GO, the company’ latest innovation provides you the ability to get high-quality 3D prints from a setup that is no bigger than a standard laptop and is just as easy to power on and get running. In this most recent segment in our Expert Interview Series we connected with Mr. Daniel Warner, Portabee Chief Evangelist who told us a little more about their company and products. The interview was conducted via email and the transcript is below.
1) When was Portabee founded and why?
The company was founded in 2011 with the goal of advancing the state of personal 3D printing technology.
2) Is there any significance behind the name of the company or the printers?
Yes indeed, the Portabee name is a direct reference to our 3D printers being portable. This is a different approach to other 3D printing manufactures right now, but we think there is enormous appeal to having a 3D printer that can be taken around like a laptop.
3) Who are the key employees of Portabee and what are their roles?
- Wee Kiam Peng (KP) - Company Lead, Engineering
- Bao Keat Tham - Engineering
- Lin Chee Hoe - Business Relations
- Esther Wu Wen-Hsin - Engineering
- Daniel Warner - Digital & Software
More info is available (and some lovely photos) at: http://portabee3dprinter.com/about/
4) What is it from your backgrounds that has given you the ability to design and manufacture these 3D printers?
We come from a range of backgrounds, and we all have varying roles at the company, but our engineering team makes the magic happen, and they come from an electrical engineering background.
5) What, without giving away any trade secrets, can you tell us about the process by which Portabee printers are set up and ready to print? Is it easy enough that a novice can operate one?
Our latest 3D printer the Portabee GO is simple to set up and operate. Simply unfold the 3D printer, load the filament, and press print.
The autolevel feature will ensure the accuracy of the first layer, which is where alot of the failure comes from in 3D printing. So this is nice, and we love using it ourselves compared to earlier 3D printers =).
6) What file formats and software can one use with a Portabee? What filament types/materials work with your printers?
We use the industry standard STL format, and use open source CURA and Pronterface for printer control. We love open source software, and there are many new software offerings arriving these days too, and you can use your GO with these.
The primary material for GO machines is PLA. However, any 'soft' material that requires less than 210 - 220 degrees is ok (for example, ABS is not ok, it is too tough a material for the GO). Stuff like taulman nylon, and laywoo works just fine, but yes, basically not hard stuff like ABS.
7) What made you choose to design a truly portable 3D printer? How does the Portabee GO differ from the kit? Can they both print at the same speed and have a similar build space?
The portability is just a thing we saw as attractive from the beginning. We just loved taking these machines around town, and showing them to people. And this really could not be done with most of the 3D printers out there.
The KIT is very different from the GO, the KIT is actually REPRAP based, and prints it's own parts.
The GO is a completely aluminium machine, so it can produce highly accurate parts.
8) Looking at your website, the kit looks like it may be somewhat customizable, are customizations and hacks/tweets something you encourage Portabee owners to pursue?
Yes indeed! A 3D printer is the perfect tool for customization, and you should always customize your 3D printer =). We started this because the open hardware movement was really exciting, and we love maker innovation.
9) Given the wealth of 3D printers out there, what would you say sets yours apart from the rest?
- Ease of Use
- Price range (we always remain at a roughly iPhone level cost)
10) What can we expect from your company in the next 3-5 years? What do you think we will see happen across the industry?
Our job at Portabee is to keep improving our printers. The 3D printing revolution requires steady improvement, and we plan to keep our heads down and keep refining.
Across the industry there seems to be much going on (Much of hype also! But alot of progress). Yep, we think 3D printing has huge promise, right now there needs to be continued improvement, then in 4-5 years we might see some truly amazing applications.