The months old startup My Robot Nation was recently acquired by high-end 3D printing company, 3D Systems, adding yet another tool in their arsenal as they break into the consumer market. It’s a robotic match made in nerd heaven: one company allows you to design robots, the other to print them out at home.
My Robot Nation launched only this past December, but already they’ve built an impressive following from people who simply want to design their own robot online and have it arrive in the mail. The 2- to 6-inch robots come in all shapes and colors for $17.99 to $169.99, and some creators just can’t have enough robots. The creator with the most robots, “chilong,” has made 47 robots, and there’s been enough robots made already that the larger Nation has been broken down into five sub-Nations, including Warrior Nation, Sci-Fi Nation, and Retro Nation. Looking at the cartoonish robots, it’s easy to see how My Robot Nation is as popular as it is.
Here's a great video that shows you just how easy and fun making your one-of-a-kind robot can be.
3D Systems is a big fan of My Robot Nation too. The company has been in the business of 3D printing for decades, but mainly high-end printing for rapid prototyping for vehicle designers and engineers, energy companies, electronics makers, healthcare innovators, recreation companies that make anything from Lego-like blocks to fishing lures, and educators in need of visuals to teach science and technology. Ideally, the rapid prototyping would allow companies to identify design flaws early and reduce the chance for costly redesign. It also speeds up the entire design process, which can make the difference in being first to market ahead of your competitors. The ProJet 3500Plus is their new, top of the line high-definition printer. With a 16 micron print resolution, the prototypes are stunning replicas of the real thing.
But they’re not the only ones in the high-end 3D printing business, which is why they’ve bought up 24 companies in the last two years, My Robot Nation being the most recent. A vital part of 3D’s transformation is Cubify, a suite of tools that allow users to turn their ideas into tangible realities right at home. 3D Apps, libraries containing 3D games, puzzles, and standard CADs enable the user to create a 3D workshop right on their PC, tablet or other mobile device. What brings it all home, of course, is the Cube printer.
The Cube can print objects up to 5.5” x 5.5” x 5.5” in one of ten different colors, and the software is intended to make printing as easy as possible. The Cube won’t start shipping until May 25th but can be pre-ordered right now for $1,299. Through Cubify, 3D Systems wants to make high-quality, at-home printing a reality. Looking at their colorful, toylike examples on the website, it’s obvious that printing whimsical robots is something 3D Systems should be able to do.
In their efforts to diversify, 3D Systems is blazing a path that other 3D printing companies are sure to follow. As the technology gets better and cheaper, portfolios are going to expand and move closer to a one-stop-shop for anything 3D printed. In any case, you should probably start clearing out a corner of your attic, unless you want your Robot armies to go the way of your baseball cards and be thrown out by someone who just doesn’t understand.