A single 3D printer is great for prototyping, but horribly inefficient for manufacturing. A part that takes you 10 hours to print could probably be injection-molded in 10 seconds. A set of injection molds, however, can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. For that, you can purchase a fleet of 3D printers that would allow you to manufacture parts at a respectable scale. The new Microcluster shelving system, just launched on Crowd Supply, is designed to house that 3D printer farm.
While 3D printing probably won’t ever compete with injection molding at large scales, it offers a lot more flexibility. If you revise your part design, you only need to swap your G-code file and you’re done. Retooling for injection molding would cost a significant amount of money. You can also switch which parts you’re printing on the fly as the market demands. Aleph Objects has proven the viability of that concept with their massive 3D printer farm in Loveland, CO that they use to make parts for their LulzBot printers. Now, the Colorado Printing Project is making it easy to build your own with Microcluster.
Microcluster is a set of parts that you can use to upgrade a standard shelving unit into a home for your 3D printers. The most important feature is that it fully encloses each shelf, which dramatically improves part quality when you’re printing with materials like ABS. There are also options for adding lighting and cameras. The enclosure has a clear, sliding door on the front, so you can monitor the printer while keeping the heat contained. If you’re serious about building a 3D printer farm, Microcluster looks like an affordable and effective solution.
The Crowd Supply campaign is running until October 31st, and a Half Stack Kit that holds one to four printers will set you back just $249. Rewards are expected to ship in December.