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More than a 3D Printer - Model, Scan, Print with the Lionhead™ and Li™

Let's make things. Easier.

3D printing shouldn’t be about making the printer work. It should be about creating what you want, when you want it. That’s the real promise of 3D printing. At Radiant Fabrication, we’re working hard to deliver on this promise.

We think that anyone and everyone should be free to create things using a 3D printer. So we’re developing a new kind of 3D printer that doesn’t require training, experience, or superhuman patience to operate. Just a great idea that you want to make a reality.

We’ve had a lot of input from initial users on what we’ve developed thus far. This Kickstarter’s all about getting your support and your feedback so that we can keep making the experience better.

Sign on as backer today. Tell us how the features work for you, how the process feels, and what you would like to see. By sharing your perspective, we’ll be working together to make 3D printing easier. For everyone.

One of our testers finding out that Ctrl+Z works in Li too.
One of our testers finding out that Ctrl+Z works in Li too.

More than a printer, a solution.

The two part solution we’ve been working is the Radiant Lionhead™ and Radiant Li™. We’ve created this solution because we believe a new approach to 3D printing is in order.

As users of 3D printers, we’ve long been frustrated with the way that most of them work—more like historic commercial printing presses than the word processors and printers that helped move 2D printing into the home and office. In other words, 3D printers today demand expertise and time that the vast majority of us just don’t have.

Making 3D printing something that anyone can do means seriously streamlining the process. That’s why we’ve made the Lionhead more than a printer. It’s a scanner, too, and it connects directly to our 3D modeling software—Radiant Li™—that’s incredibly easy to use.

In developing Li, we were inspired by the simplicity of video game interfaces. You can create and edit models as if you were building a virtual Lego® creation. It’s simple enough for children to grasp with tools that enable experienced users to produce models quickly. When you’re done modeling, you just click Print. It’s that simple.

The Lionhead scanner lets you simply hit the Scan button and import real world objects you want to work with as a base for your creation. Li lets you work with it and customize it as you see fit.

From there, the Lionhead works quickly and reliably to automate common tasks. And its multiple printheads operate simultaneously to arrive at your creation faster.

With Lionhead and Li, you can scan, modify, and print using one seamless approach. That’s the Radiant experience.

Lionhead and Li after a scan is completed.
Lionhead and Li after a scan is completed.

Faster, from start to finish.

In its fully grown form the Lionhead features eight printheads, compared to the typical one or two, which operate one at a time as employed by other desktop 3D printers. The Lionhead Bunny has four printheads, still working harder and faster than any desktop 3D printer out there.

Multiple printheads working simultaneously means the Lionhead can print more material faster and use different materials simultaneously so your 3D object can be built faster.

Table 1: Printing material throughput.
Table 1: Printing material throughput.
Our 8 printhead extruder drive and heater blocks ready to be installed.
Our 8 printhead extruder drive and heater blocks ready to be installed.

Problem-free printing.

We know that we can’t talk speed without first investing in reliability. After all, there’s so much time lost in 3D printing because so much effort is put in making the machines work.

Reliability has always been one of our core goals at Radiant Fabrication. We’ve never been about producing the cheapest 3D printer but one that works and continues to work without maintenance.

To this end, we’ve zeroed in on these key features initially for the Lionhead Bunny:

  • Adjustment Free Filament Drive - No need to play around with springs, set screws or other troubling mechanisms. We have designed and tested our extruder drives so that filament is pushed through the heated nozzles with plenty of force, but dimensioned properly so that plastic filament doesn’t strip.
  • Automatic Calibration - We implemented this early in development so that we wouldn’t have to do it ourselves during testing—and so our users wouldn’t even have to think about it. We use automatic calibration for positioning into the printing and scanning positions. And our simplified mechanism does away with the traditional 2nd horizontal axis and uses rotation instead. This enables us to use fewer parts and simplify our automatic calibration so that it works every time.
  • Tweak-Free Software for Better Prints - We've designed and developed Li and the Lionhead together so that our software always provides the best possible print quality, that means less time working on the printer and more time printing.
  • Plastic Spool Holders - We designed spool holders to be part of the case. The design allows the spools rotate as the plastic filament is pulled into the printheads, meaning you don't have to worry about hand feeding filament or creating your own holders.
  • Carbon Air Filter - We use food-safe PLA as a printing material because it's safer than other common printing materials used in 3D printers.  While solid PLA is non-toxic, research on ultrafine particles emitted is still on-going.  No matter the results, we're including a replaceable carbon filter on the air exhaust for our printers to reduce odors and other emissions from the 3D printing process.

Mechanically, we’ve focused on using fewer parts to ensure better reliability. With fewer potential places for hardware to break, wear out, and fail, the Lionhead needs less preventive maintenance. And that means less of your time will be spent trying to figure out why a print isn't working.

A few chess pawns modeled in Li and 3D printed on a Lionhead.
A few chess pawns modeled in Li and 3D printed on a Lionhead.

We wanted our circuit boards to be reliable and expandable while also providing the kind of processing power and autonomy that works best with our current and future plans. Because of this, we have been working with Parallax Semiconductor to design our boards and are using the Parallax Propeller as the brains of the Lionhead circuit board. The Propeller is an eight-core microcontroller and its parallel architecture is what’s enabling us to control so many motors, monitor temperatures and control heaters, watch calibration switch states, and talk to your computer at the same time.

Additionally, we have worked with Parallax to make sure the Lionhead circuit boards can be chained together. This means that while one board is sufficient for the Lionhead Bunny, two are combined together for the fully grown Lionhead, and more for future printers.

Technical Specifications

Table 2: Lionhead Bunny and Lionhead specs.
Table 2: Lionhead Bunny and Lionhead specs.

Who we are, and why we're doing this.

Radiant Fabrication is a small team that’s been working since 2011 on a big challenge: to help more people tap into the possibilities of 3D printing.

We believe that without addressing users’ abilities to develop their ideas as 3D models, 3D printing will stay only in the hands of technicians or people satisfied with reproducing existing models. We know that more is possible in this realm, so we’re focusing on improving accessibility, speed, and reliability for all.

We’re excited to share what we’ve been working on with the world, and we thank for your interest and support!

How we got here

We (Kevin, Nate S., and Nathan P., the co-founders) met when we worked at the Morgridge Institute for Research.  While Nathan and Kevin were working on design and development of an educational iPad game, they met Nate, who was working on many medical device prototype projects.  Nathan had a 3D printer at home that he loved to hate because of how often it broke or just wouldn’t work, and Nate was lucky enough to work with expensive 3D modeling software and 3D printers every day.

During many of the discussions that we had, the same issues kept surfacing: The printer keeps breaking, the printer is too slow, you need XYZ software to change that 3D model because ABC software doesn’t have that function, where am I supposed to find XYZ software… each seat costs $5,000??!?

We realized something had to change with 3D printing.  Not just making the hardware move faster, not just adding more features like scanning or touchscreens, but by creating an entire experience with both software and hardware working together and in different ways.  We created Radiant Fabrication in November of 2011 to create that solution.  Shortly after, we left our other jobs behind and we:

  • Were among the top 25 finalists of the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest in 2012,
  • Changed our first and embarrassing company name, PolarD, to Radiant Fabrication,
  • Operated out of Nathan’s home office and Sector67, our local hackerspace, for more than a year until finding our current office space, shared with Renascence Manufacturing,
  • Collaboratively developed our electronics boards for the Lionhead with assistance from Daniel Harris, Ken Gracey, and others at Parallax,
  • Convinced a few other fans of 3D printing and voxels to join us and accelerate development of the Lionhead and Li (enter Matt - Minecraft expert and game developer, Todd - machinist, tool maker, and designer, and Tricia - marketing guru),
  • Secured sufficient machining equipment to help us create multiple movement mechanisms, extruder drive, and printhead prototypes faster and, with a successful campaign, create most of the Lionhead Bunny components ourselves,
  • Tested our software on multiple occasions with members and visitors at Sector67 and with young people at BadgerBOTS and Madison Fractal, each time using feedback to iterate on Li’s design and implementation,
  • Designed, made, and tested many versions of our heater blocks, extruder drives, electronics, and movement mechanisms.

Some prototypes from our hardware museum (left and right) and the current Lionhead and components (middle).
Some prototypes from our hardware museum (left and right) and the current Lionhead and components (middle).
 

We’re always happy to talk about the details of development, some of which you can find on our development blog.  It’s been a great two years and we’ve made a lot of progress since we started the company, but we are ready to finally get some of the Lionhead Bunnies into their new homes.  We have a lot of work ahead of us to get the production machines manufactured and continue to improve on the Radiant 3D printing experience, but with your help we will be able to do it.

How you can help.

You can help us get to our full production machine in a few ways:

1) By becoming a Li Supporter and helping us shape the Li software.

2) By adopting a Lionhead Bunny, our four-printhead beta machine. If you’re interested in getting your hands on the technology quickly and helping us field test the Lionhead’s core software and hardware components, this is the best way. We will start shipping these machines within weeks of our campaign ending.

A Lionhead Bunny.
A Lionhead Bunny.

3) By adopting a fully grown Lionhead, our eight-printhead, production machine. By choosing this path, you can help us build our company so that we can continue to offer innovative software and hardware features to improve your 3D printing experience.

A fully grown Lionhead.
A fully grown Lionhead.

What we hope happens next.

Once we hit our funding goal we will start ordering components that have longer lead times and will order the remaining components once our campaign ends.  We’ve talked with the suppliers for these parts and they have graciously agreed to give us some extra time to pay for them.  By ordering the components this way we will then be able to assemble the adopted Lionhead Bunnies and send them to their new homes as soon as possible.

After putting the Lionhead Bunnies and Li into the hands of more users, we'll use the feedback we receive to improve our software and hardware. This will allow us to make any modifications or improvements prior to assembling and shipping the fully-grown Lionheads.

As we improve our software and hardware, we’ll need to create partnerships with companies capable of creating greater quantities of parts of the Lionhead. We have already partnered with Parallax Semiconductor to manufacture and assemble our circuit boards, and we are also co-located with a machine shop, Renascence Manufacturing, that can handle the low to medium part volumes for the Bunnies and fully grown Lionheads if we get overwhelmed. Lastly, if there is a high enough demand for Lionhead printers, our long term goal is to partner with a company capable of assembling Lionheads for us while we continue to innovate through our own design, development, and testing.  We have started talking with a few companies in our region capable of providing these services and will be touring their facilities in the coming weeks.

Here are the major milestones that we have ahead of us:

  • Launch Kickstarter campaign: Sept. 2013
  • Place order with suppliers that have longer lead times and as soon as we hit our Kickstarter goal: Sept./Oct. 2013
  • Kickstarter campaign ends: Oct. 2013
  • Place order for remaining components, with shorter lead times, upon receiving funds raised through Kickstarter: Oct. 2013
  • Machine, assemble, and test Lionhead Bunnies: Oct. 2013
  • Start shipping the Lionhead Bunnies: Oct. 2013
  • Use feedback from users to make improvements or modifications to the design of the fully grown Lionheads: Nov. 2013 through Jan. 2014
  • Finalize design for fully grown Lionheads & send out to manufacturing partners and order necessary components: Jan. 2014
  • Start assembling and start shipping fully grown Lionheads: Feb./Mar. 2014


Our stretch goals. 

Don’t take this the wrong way, we will be thrilled to hit our goal. However, we also have a wish list of additional features that we believe could make the Lionhead and Li combination even better. If we make it past our initial funding goal and are lucky enough to have sufficient backers, we will be able to accelerate the development and testing of the following features and include them with the Lionhead Bunnies, fully grown Lionheads, and Li:

  • $120,000 - Multiple color/material support. You want to print in two, three, or four different colors simultaneously instead of printing faster with one? Sounds great! We will make it so that you can define your own colors in Li so that you can put in your choice of colors in the Lionhead Bunny or Lionhead and print with them.  Fully grown Lionheads will also be capable of printing with Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) as a support material.
  • $180,000 - Minecraft world import. Already have a great creation in Minecraft?  We will add the ability to import your Minecraft creations into Li and print them out using the colors you have loaded in your Lionhead.
  • $240,000 - Wired networking printing & scanning. Click Print in Li and your creation will be sent instantly sent over your (no clouds involved) network to your Lionhead Bunny. Click Scan in Li and the Lionhead will scan your object and send the voxel results to your computer. Lionhead Bunnies shipping prior to full testing of this feature will receive an adaptor to attach to make it network capable.  This feature will be installed internally for fully grown Lionheads.
  • $300,000 - Laser line scanning. We currently use Silhouette Scanning algorithms to scan objects quickly. Supplementing it with laser line scanning would further improve scanning quality and support a larger range of objects.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us so far

We wanted to thank all of those that have been invaluable in helping us to where we are today.

First, our families. Those that have been involved in any new venture or life goal know that it requires a huge amount of determination, time, effort, sacrifice, and support. Our husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, nieces, nephews, friends and pets have stayed behind us through it all, on long weeknights and too many work-filled weekends. And for that we love and thank them.

Additionally, special thanks go out to:

Our advisors: Dr. Sang Kim, Dr. Rock Mackie, Dr. Greg Schoofs, Brent Starck, Brad Taylor, and Gary Sarner

Chris Meyer, Sector 67, and all of the members and visitors that tested our software

AlphaTech Counsel

BadgerBOTS and BadgerBOTS Testers

J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc.

Madison Fractal and Fractal Testers

Merlin Mentors – Cheryl Vickroy, Pete Johnson, and Susan Healy

Parallax Semiconductor - Ken Gracey, Daniel Harris, and others

Renascence Manufacturing

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Hardware Challenges: We have designed our printers to use common parts so that we can have a choice of suppliers whenever possible. In cases when there are few suppliers for key components, such as stepper motors, we have done our homework by ordering from multiple well-known suppliers to test their speed and product quality. We have also researched the customers that order from these suppliers to make sure that they have a record of being able to supply the quantities we may need.

For custom parts we have the equipment we need to produce smaller quantities, such as the number of Lionhead Bunnies that are in the rewards, without delays. For larger quantities, or if we get overwhelmed, we will need to work with a company capable of producing the parts. The good news is, as we previously mentioned, that we currently rent office space from a company that would be able to help us out with larger quantities, Renascence Manufacturing. Since we moved in six months ago they’ve been kind enough to coach us on what types of hardware design features are expensive to machine or difficult to repeat with the necessary accuracy. Based on their advice we have made multiple modifications or redesigns to keep costs down and to make our machines more reliable.

Software Challenges: We’re working to develop the most intuitive and streamlined 3D modeling, scanning, and printing software available. While we have some great ideas for future directions, we will need feedback from the community to tell us if features are good or which need improvement so that we can continue to iterate on them. We do our best to follow iterative development principles and will be regularly releasing updates with bug fixes, feature improvements, and new features.

FAQ

  • You can import STLs into Li and place, scale, rotate, use to remove voxels, or even modify the shape once they have been placed. We will also be expanding the types of files that you can import in future updates.

    Last updated:
  • Although it was a stretch goal for our Kickstarter campaign, were able to get multiple colors working in Li much faster than planned. We will be adding multi-color modeling to the beta version of Li available for download later this week. We also hope to share an update soon about putting those colors to use with a Lionhead.

    Last updated:
  • The scanner is also the printer. The printing platform is also the scanning platform. There's no additional hardware or software, it all works with Li. Check out our 3rd Vimeo video above titled "Radiant Li 3D Scanning" if you want to see Li and a Lionhead scan an object.

    Last updated:
  • The Lionhead Bunny and Lionhead use 1.75mm PLA Filament.

    Last updated:
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Funding period

- (30 days)