Most FFF (Fused-Filament Fabrication) 3D printers can be categorized as one of two types: Cartesian or delta. Cartesian 3D printers are, by far, the most common, and represent a typical design with three axes that move independently off each other. Delta 3D printers have the hot end mounted on three arms that move vertically, and all three have to work together to move in any single axis. Cartesian 3D printers are the easiest to control, have a rectangular build area, and tend to be very rigid. But they’re also bulky, which is why Malte Schrader developed this innovative 3D printer that folds for portability.
Unlike other 3D printers that can be broken down into smaller pieces for transportation, this “X Printer” uses the folding mechanism during the actual printing process. In place of a conventional Z axis, which rides on linear rails and lead screws, this design has a scissor linkage to lift the X and Y axes. The benefit of that scissor linkage is that no vertical linear rails or lead screws are necessary. Instead, the lead screws that lift the extruder are mounted horizontally along the bed. That means that the printer is very flat when the Z axis is in the zero position, making it easy to store and carry.
As a consequence of this unusual design, Schrader had to design and CNC-mill most of the mechanical components out of aluminum. The drive components, however, are standard off-the-shelf parts. The controller is also a popular Einsy Rambo board. The X printer is still under development, so it is yet to be seen how well it will perform. There are some challenges for Schrader to overcome, including how to translate simple 1:1 Marlin 2.0 motor commands into the variable ratios needed for the Z axis geometry. It’s also possible that tolerance issues could cause the Y axis to become slightly off from perfectly parallel to the bed, resulting in adhesion or layer thickness issues. Still, it’s a very clever design that shows a lot potential.