The timeline of smartphone-powered 3D printers has been questionable. Famously, the low-cost ONO 3D printer—which raised $2 million through Kickstarter in 2016—has so far failed to deliver. Does that mean that smartphone 3D printing is over before it even began? Maybe not.
Italian 3D printing company Lumi Industries has launched a new compact 3D printer which uses photosensitive liquid resin and the light from a smartphone screen. Unlike the ONO, however, the new product is not being released commercially. Rather, Lumi Industries is launching its new 3D printer—the LumiBee—as a free open source project.
According to the company, Lumi Industries has been working on developing a portable 3D printer since its beginnings. Eventually, however, the company realized it was perhaps not feasible to develop a commercial product using smartphones as a light source. Instead of letting all its R&D go to waste, the company has decided to share it with the maker world.
LumiBee is a compact, smartphone-powered 3D printer whose construction can almost entirely be 3D printed using FDM/FFF technology. That is, Lumi Industries designed the 3D printer so that 95% of its components could be printed on a desktop system. To use the small 3D printer, users simply have to place their smartphone inside the printer’s base and fill the resin vat with Daylight liquid resin, which hardens when exposed to smartphone light.
Lumi Industries even suggests using an outdated—but still functioning—smartphone to power the 3D printer, giving it a second life. The LumiBee is reportedly compatible with any smartphone on the market, a feat which took some ingenuity to achieve.
As Davide Marin, Lumi Industries CEO, explained: “I overcame this issue in the simplest way. Every smartphone has a built-in flash for the rear camera, and to access it, is quite easy in Android studio. So I reduced communication protocol to the bare minimum, using a quick blink of the smartphone flash to say ‘go up 1 layer in the Z axis’ to Lumibee and 2 quick blinks to say ‘print is finished, put the tray completely out of the resin’.”
The LumiBee pictured was 3D printed using Zortrax 3D printers and materials from 3D Filum. The Daylight resins tested with the DIY 3D printer come from Photocentric, which says it is “delighted to support LumiBee’s DIY project with our patented daylight 3D curing technology and resin.”
“We encourage people to download plans and files, play with them, and if they think that we did a nice job, there is the opportunity to donate on our page to support the project and let us improve it further,” concluded Marin. “3D printing community, the challenge has been launched: heat up your FFF 3D printer and soldering station, sharpen your ingenuity, make your own LumiBee and most important enjoy yourselves!”