About this project
As inventors, we use 3D printers all the time. We love 3D printing and all the doors it opens, but we don’t like our printers. It seems like every day something jams, breaks, shifts, or fails. Even when our printers do work, they need fine-tuning to print well. All in all, we probably spend more time working on our printers than on our inventions.
Sure, there are some high-end machines out there that consistently work well—but why do they have to be so expensive?
Go into a store with $179 and see what you can get. A microwave, a mini-fridge, a vacuum, etc. All of these products are pretty complicated, and no one expects them to require fixing every week. We believe a 3D printer shouldn't be any different.
That’s why we designed Tiko.
Tiko is a 3D printer unlike any before it. We meticulously designed every piece of it to make it high quality and easy to use, while keeping costs down in order to achieve a great price. So, what makes Tiko different?
Most 3D printers have a multipart frame. These are bulky, difficult to assemble, and easily damaged. This is where Tiko is fundamentally different. Tiko is unibody. That means the whole frame is one piece, introducing an amazing array of benefits. Easy to manufacture. Virtually impossible to misalign. That's how you get a quality 3D printer for $179.
Tiko is a delta 3D printer with three sets of arms moving in unison to control the movement of the print head (more on this later). The essence of Tiko’s innovation is our discovery that delta is the ideal configuration to unlock the many benefits of unibody.
From the very beginning, we were determined to make an accurate printer. Tiko’s unibody construction and delta mechanism have been carefully designed to deliver exceptionally high mechanical repeatability without the need for high-precision components. That’s right, you heard us. Even without high-precision components, Tiko is still able to print incredibly consistent layers.
Tiko printed the vase pictured above at a 200 micron-resolution, but it can print as fine as 50 microns.
Thanks to unibody, Tiko is also enclosed. Whereas most 3D printers have problems with warping prints, Tiko’s enclosed print chamber means that prints are isolated from the outside environment, resulting in strong and consistent print results, even when the wind blows.
Tiko’s slender unibody frame, delta mechanism, and ultra-compact liquefier/end-effector enable it to print objects far larger than any similarly sized 3D printer.
Like most delta printers, we started with a circular print volume. But we wanted more than that, so we expanded Tiko’s print volume into the corners for those extra-long prints, maximizing space efficiency.
Not only can you print large objects, you can actually remove them easily, too. Tiko’s print bed is flexible, so once your print is done, you simply lift the printer off the bed, then twist to pop off your print.
And with the specially-formulated coating on Tiko's print bed, prints adhere consistently. No more scraping, no blue painter’s tape, and no glue stick shenanigans either.
You know what else is flexible? Your choice of filament. Tiko uses non-proprietary 1.75mm filament on a standard 1kg 165mm (6.5 in.) diameter spool, so you can experiment with different materials. Tiko also detects when you’re out of filament and pauses the print so you can reload and resume.
Wires are so 1996. Connect Tiko to the cloud, and you can print from almost anywhere, even from your smartphone. No Wi-Fi? Tiko makes its own wireless access point so you can print directly, too.
Tiko’s browser-based software is super user-friendly. We’ve already optimized Tiko’s performance, leaving only a few straightforward settings so you can spend more time on your ideas and leave the printing to Tiko.
Tiko’s enclosed build chamber also means children and pets can’t interfere with the liquefier, a small but dangerously hot component that is typically left exposed in other 3D printers. Taking things a step further, Tiko has an onboard accelerometer that automatically shuts the printer down if it’s disturbed.
This same accelerometer is used for auto calibration, plus something even cooler. Tiko can measure its own performance, so with your permission, we can use performance data from your printer to help make every Tiko better. This will help us improve our firmware and slicing engine AND keep your Tiko running at peak performance. Everybody wins!
Tiko’s unibody construction also makes it incredibly strong. The stiffness of the frame improves print quality while making Tiko durable and easy to ship.
But even with all that strength, unibody makes Tiko surprisingly lightweight.
By now you might be wondering: How can a 3D printer this good, with all these features, cost so little? Well, it wasn’t easy. But if you’re not afraid to geek out, neither are we...
You emailed us, you asked us technical questions, and we’re happy to deliver. Right off the bat, there are a few things you should know:
1) Tiko has almost no parts in common with any other 3D printer in the world. Period. With a few exceptions, every component inside Tiko is a bespoke part designed for rapid and inexpensive manufacture.
2) Every component you see below is a generation or two behind where we actually are. We are in a highly competitive field with rampant product-cloning, so we hold our intellectual property very close to the vest, and a number of these technologies are patent-pending. These older parts worked well, and they’re similar to what’s in the final Tiko, but the latest generation is even better. And secret!
Now let's get technical...
ONCE AGAIN, UNIBODY
It all started with unibody. In most 3D printers, the most expensive (by far) item is the frame. That’s because most 3D printers have a frame built from multiple beams that are fastened together. In delta printers, this frame is often made from three vertical extruded-aluminum beams. We had a simple thought… what if we extruded all three rails together?
Just like that, we had it. A unibody chassis. Strong, lightweight, virtually impossible to misalign, but also one we could extrude by the mile at a very low cost. Being made of one piece means no assembly is needed—no fasteners, no alignments, none of that.
It’s a simple concept, but an enormous leap forward. And it's only the beginning.
Deltas really do it better. We don’t want to lecture you on robot kinematics, but it’s no secret that parallel manipulators are inherently more accurate than their gantry/serial counterparts. We’ve said it twice, and we’re proud to say it again. Tiko does not use high-precision mechanical components. Why not?
Because we don’t need to! Tiko’s low-part-count parallel-arm mechanism has consistently demonstrated exceptional mechanical repeatability without the use of high-precision rails and linear bearings. That means we can manufacture Tiko using consumer-grade tolerances and relatively simple parts, rather than the crazy-expensive CNC-machine components found in other 3D printers.
Having developed an inexpensive chassis and rails, we didn't want to mess it up with a complicated drive system. Most 3D printers use an eye-popping arrangement of belts, pulleys, and tensioners. Instead, we developed a proprietary direct-drive system in which the motors are mounted onto carriages that drive themselves directly along the rails.
Simple, reliable, and super-inexpensive to make. How we integrated the gear racks into the rails during production, however, is our secret.
NOTE: Don't worry, we abandoned the above pictured NEMA-14’s ages ago. They were expensive, heavy, and noisy. Tiko now uses a completely different type of motor that has proven far more suitable, and you wouldn’t believe how little it costs. This alone had a major impact on our pricing.
Once we had perfected Tiko’s mechanics, the electronics became the most expensive part of the printer. Most 3D printers use hobbyist electronics, which are great for tinkering but overpriced and underpowered for a consumer-grade product. So, we developed our own.
Tiko’s electronics employ carefully chosen surface-mount components that are optimized for mass manufacture. These make Tiko faster and smarter, while costing less.
Furthermore, Tiko’s high-efficiency liquefier and motors use only a fraction of the energy required by most 3D printers. This allowed us to use smaller and less expensive electronic components and a standard “brick” power adapter instead of a bulky PSU, which further reduced costs.
At its core are the carefully designed convection-optimizing heat vents. These vents maximize the upward flow of hot air while shielding the heatsink. The exact specifications are secret, but Tiko's liquefier maintains a remarkably low inlet temperature without any forced airflow—even inside a warm print chamber.
By incorporating the heat shield into an injection-moldable end effector with integrated ball joints and making a geometrically simple heatsink without any fins, we dropped costs even further.
Achieving our demanding thermal performance criteria also required the use of a one-of-a-kind aerospace-grade Titanium alloy nozzle. The nozzle minimizes conduction to the heatsink without the need for an insulating barrel. The reduced heat flux results in a nozzle that requires very little energy to maintain its temperature, making it exceptionally energy efficient.
Notice how quickly the temperature drops off. We freakin' LOVE Titanium!
This unique nozzle makes for an extremely compact and efficient liquefier, which gives Tiko excellent extrusion control while enabling trouble-free nozzle changing, as no molten filament ever comes into contact with the threads. It also improves print quality by minimizing the effects of radial disturbances in the carriage.
But isn't Titanium expensive? Sure it is, but by making the components so small, it actually reduced our costs.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Tiko’s cutting-edge technologies and bespoke parts give it a completely different cost structure than any other 3D printer. It wasn't easy, but we did it, and now we're really excited to take the next step and bring Tiko to you.
Now for $179, you can have a Tiko. What you create with it is up to you.
And first movers can get a Tiko at our limited Earliest Bird ($99) and Early Bird ($139) prices.
If you want multiple Tikos—for your whole family or a school or to simply print more things at the same time—multiply $179 by the number you want and set that as your pledge amount (Example: 3 x $179 = $537 for three Tikos).
NOTE: Multi-Tiko pledges will only be counted in multiples of $179. Earliest/Early Bird prices are limited to one-per-backer.
One of the questions we get asked most is, “Can you use your 3D printer to print another 3D printer?" Well, kind of! For an $18 pledge, you can get a 1/10th scale Baby Tiko Unibody… that was printed by a Tiko!
And for any pledge amount, you'll be helping make 3D printing accessible and dependable for a new population of inventors who haven't had easy access before now. We'll keep you informed of our progress through consistent campaign updates, and over time we'll share creations from around the world that came to life thanks to your support.
We’ve been working on Tiko for over a year. During that time, we’ve gone through many iterations, developed some remarkable technologies, and created a strong network of manufacturers to form a solid supply chain. With your help, we can initiate the following steps to bring Tiko to you…
In order to make sure that all backer information is up-to-date so we can ensure fair rates, we will collect shipping fees when we send backer surveys this Fall. Exact shipping rates will vary depending on destination, but will not exceed $65 USD per Tiko.
Tiko rewards will be shipped according to Kickstarter pledge order, starting this November. If you want your Tiko soon, you should move fast!
What is it about us that makes us so different? How were we able to build Tiko, and why are we the ones to deliver? Let’s get better acquainted.
Matt Gajkowski (Center)
Matt was born and raised to be an entrepeneur. He believes in simplicity and relentless progress, and he isn't afraid to challenge established ideas. He is the mind behind Tiko's groundbreaking technologies and the muscle that has brought them to market. Matt worked as a freelance product designer before starting Tiko. He now has a vision for the future of 3D printing and the know-how to realize it.
Sharon Charitar (Left)
Sharon gets things done. She handles Tiko's market research, community management, PR, bookkeeping, etc. You name it, she's done it, expertly. An analyst at heart, Sharon finds data that we use to improve our business and our product. She is the glue that holds all of Tiko's operations together and keeps us running smoothly and efficiently.
Michael Zhang (Right)
Michael was born in China and moved to Canada at age 12. He is fluent in Mandarin and has many connections back home. Michael leverages this, along with his sharp technical skill set, to work with experienced manufacturers without language or technical barriers. This enabled us to find new ways to manufacture Tiko's bespoke parts and push the envelope on Tiko's performance while reducing manufacturing costs.
We’ve worked hard to bring Tiko to this stage, but we couldn’t have done it alone. It was through the patience, support, and enthusiasm of some amazing partners that we’ve made it this far.
Spark Centre is a non-profit support organization that helps entrepreneurs bring innovative technologies to market. A passionate team, they have supported us since day one. They are the minds behind the $25,000 Ignite competition and the Thrive accelerator program. Before we met Spark, our prototype was held together with tape and popsicle sticks. If you have an idea, talk to them!
Fallon StarterKit takes the same top creative talent that works on Fallon’s high-profile ad campaigns and lets them create crowdfunding campaigns for select projects. Boy are we glad they selected us! This campaign is the result of our extraordinary partnership with Fallon.
There are numerous other amazing companies we’ve worked with for manufacturing, legal, accounting, etc. Building a printer is one thing, building a company is another, and it’s because of their hard work that Tiko is ready for you.
Risks and challenges
The Tiko is only as good as its parts, and up until now, all of those parts have been prototyped using 3D printing and machining. In production, our parts will be made using injection molding and other processes, which means they'll have different tolerances and mechanical properties than those we’ve prototyped. If any of these changes compromises performance, we will have to go back and tool them again. This is not a fast process.
Furthermore, we will not release a printer that doesn't meet our high standards, so we'll run endurance tests on every single aspect of Tiko until it's ready. This too, takes time. If something doesn’t pass, it has to be analyzed, fixed, re-tooled, and re-tested.
You get the idea—perfecting groundbreaking technologies isn't a quick or easy process. As a result, our biggest challenge is getting it right quickly. We don’t want to rush or it will show in the final product, but we also don’t want you to wait a day more than necessary. We feel confident about our timeline, and we have expert manufacturing partners who are eager to speed up the process, but our biggest challenge is staying on schedule.
Other than that, you can sit back and relax—with Tiko, you’re going to get everything you hoped for and then some!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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