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3D printer runs Linux on BeagleBone, focuses on ease of use

Oct 19, 2017 — by Eric Brown 1,523 views

The “Voladd 3D Printer” features a Linux-driven BeagleBone SBC that connects to a cloud-based sharing site, plus a unique cartridge and cooling system.

San Sebastián, Spain based Voladd has won Kickstarter funding for a Voladd 3D printer that runs Debian Linux on a BeagleBone Black single board computer. Like several other Linux-based printers we’ve seen (see farther below) the Voladd connects to a cloud service, and does not require an attached computer. The printer stands out with its mobile app remote control, as well as a streamlined cloud interface that lets you download one of thousands of free designs in 25 categories and share designs and printer access with others. Kickstarter pricing starts with early bird packages of 499 Euros ($591), with shipments due in December.

Voladd 3D Printer
(click images to enlarge)

Voladd, whose founders previously launched a company called Tumaker that makes professional 3D printers, is aiming the Voladd 3D Printer at the home market. Billed as “the first 3d printer for the masses,” the WiFi and Ethernet equipped device features a sleek consumer electronics style design aimed primarily at novices.

The printer is touted for its compact 40 x 29 x 29cm size — like an “open 15-inch laptop” — when compared to its large, 3,281 cubic centimeter, 17.5 x 12.5 x 15cm printing capacity. You can print objects up to 15cm tall.

Angled and rear views of the Voladd 3D Printer
(click images to enlarge)

The printer features a novel cartridge system with varying tip widths, starting with medium (0.4mm) and bold (0.6mm), with plans to soon introduce a fine (0.2mm) head. The compact filament cartridges are said to improve ease of use with automatic recognition by the printer using NFC communications. The NFC chip also relays sensor info to your printer, which passes it on to the cloud service and your mobile app to inform you when it’s time to change cartridges. The app provides updates on printer head type, color, connectivity, temperature, and data delivery and receipt status.

Voladd app (left) and cartridge
(click images to enlarge)

The cartridge design reduces the overall size of the printer and prevents jamming, thereby avoiding cleaning or tedious maintenance, claims Voladd. Color options for the biodegradable, plant-based PLA bioplastic materials include white, silver, orange, green, red, blue, and black, with up to 20 colors expected to be available in 2018. We did not see a retail price for the 420-gram cartridges, but based on the difference in the early bird packages, it would appear to be 30 Euros or about $35.


The drawback of a unique cartridge design is that you’re potentially locked into a single source for consumables, although Voladd plans to sell them via Amazon, as well. The company will send you a new cartridge if you send them five empty ones, and in 2020, it plans to “open its catalogue to 3rd party companies with exclusive, innovative and radically special materials.”

The printer is claimed to be quiet and energy efficient, but we did not see any specs along those lines. Also, there’s no mention of how fast the printer works. Storage is provided as a buffer for downloaded designs while the printer is working, although it’s unclear if there’s a microSD card along with the BeagleBone’s 4GB of eMMC.

Voladd printer head types (left) and feature list
(click images to enlarge)

The Voladd 3D Printer is touted for its dynamic airflow system, which cools the plastic once it has been deposited without the higher energy consumption and maintenance issues of typical fans. The printer can deactivate its airflow system’s fans “in real time depending on the direction of the movement of the head,” says Voladd.

The Voladd mobile and browser apps let you customize the size of squares, washers, hangers, handles, hollow cubes, letters, numbers, stoppers, gears, and balls. The printer supports uploads of standard .stl slicer and .gcode archive files from Simplify 3D, Cura, Repetier, and other platforms. An API will be made available for developing custom Voladd apps.

Left to right, top to bottom: Makerbot Replicator, iBox Nano, AON, Autodesk Ember, Marvel 3D Printer Dev Kit

When the first Linux-based commercial 3D printer arrived in 2014 — the 5th generation MakerBot Replicator — we correctly predicted this would not be a huge growth market. Yet, over the years, we’ve seen several embedded Linux based designs including the iBox Nano resin printer, the high-end, Raspberry Pi based AON, and Autodesk’s Ember 3D Printer. We’ve also seen a Linux-based Marvell 88PA6120 development kit for making 3D printers and Ateam’s Waggle remote control for adding cloud-based slicing, a video feed, and temperature monitoring to existing 3D printers.

Further information

Voladd printer Kickstarter pricing starts with early bird packages of 499 Euros ($591) and then €569 ($674) with one 420-gram, white bold cartridge. A €599 ($709) early bird package adds a white medium cartridge. Standard KS pricing is €649 ($769) with one cartridge, a reduction from the retail price of €799 when the device goes on sale in mid November. The campaign is open for funding through Nov. 26, and all shipments are due Dec. 10, 2017. More information may be found at the Voladd Kickstarter page and the Voladd website.

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3 responses to “3D printer runs Linux on BeagleBone, focuses on ease of use”

  1. Iain says:

    Raise 3d N2 uses an i.MX6 for the user interface and wireless networking.

  2. Valter Minute says:

    Are people really so frustrated by the need of copying a file to an SD card and slide it inside the printer to start a printing job?
    And what will happen if the company goes out of business (or get acquired by a competitor)? Will the printer works without the cloud-based back end? For sure it will not work without the proprietary filament cartridges…
    I would be happy to monitor my 3d printer via app/website, but those seems to be too big trade offs for such a small advantage.

  3. Max says:

    For several years now, “innovation” in the 3D-printer market consisted exclusively in locking the user into Yet Another Revolutionary Cloud Platform and Yet Another Awesomely Proprietary Cartridge System, while prices hit a hard stop at $500 refusing to, you know, ever become actually affordable. Oh, and every single one of them is The First Of Its Kind, of course…

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