Exclusive interview with Alex Youden, an ambitious young engineer from the UK who’s launched the NFire 1 modular 3D printer on Kickstarter.
Though he’s only 19 years old, Alex Youden has already a remarkable track record in product design. Two years ago, he won the Intermediate Engineering and Technology category of the Young Engineer of Britain awards, developing a new way to practise a golfing technique.
Since then, he’s had one simple but ambitious vision; every home should have a 3D printer. He invested his prize money to start NFire Labs, and today he launches the NFire 1 on Kickstarter, a modular 3D printer that promises to be affordable and high-quality. ALL3DP spoke to Alex about the features of the NFire 1 and his plans for the campaign.
Q: This is an Elevator pitch for the NFire 1. Tell us what it is and why it’s exciting in 30 seconds or less. GO!
The NFire 1 is the worlds first truly modular 3D Printer which can change and adapt to your own personal journey through 3D printing. If you purchase a small 3D printer and then want to print larger objects, currently you would have to buy a new 3D printer. Not any more. If you purchase the standard sized NFire 1 3D printer, all you have to do is upgrade the axis and you can instantly double your build volume! Simply swap out the specific components and you are good to go. Printing in dual colours with the NFire 1 is as easy as printing with a single colour with a simple upgrade! We have focused on making upgrade-ability as easy as possible.
Q: We can see it’s a Delta printer. What advantages does this offer over a conventionally designed FDM printer?
The NFire 1 is a delta configured 3D printer, which means it overcomes some of the common issues that a standard cartesian FDM 3D printer has. It has increased printing speed due to its low mass print head. The footprint is vastly reduced compared to the print volume. We also think the delta design and the NFire 1 looks a lot nicer than the alternative cartesian 3D printers.
Q: The asking price is, frankly, astonishing. How on earth can you offer a 3D printer so cheap to backers without sacrificing quality?
Right from the start we wanted the NFire 1 to be local. Most of the printer has been sourced from within a 2 mile radius of our location. Why get something shipped half way around the world when it’s on your doorstep? The NFire 1 is therefore completely designed and manufactured here in the UK! A fact which not many other 3D printers can boast. Bulk pricing is another factor in offering the NFire 1 at such a great price. This is one of the reasons we turned to Kickstarter and crowd funding.
Q: And when you say “truly modular”, that’s a big promise! How does this work, exactly?
We started from scratch. With years of experience with building, modifying 3D printers we knew what works and what doesn’t. We combined all of the best ideas and the result of this was the NFire 1. With starting from the ground up we were able to create the necessary design changes to make all the parts interchangeable. This is something we are incredibly proud of, especially when the sky is the limit with the amount of upgrades and add-ons you can get for it.
Q: The theoretical build volume of 3,375cm^3 or 6,750cm^3 is also impressive. Is it easy to implement? What are the possible applications?
We all know bigger is better, right? The possible applications of such a large volume is limited by only your imagination! You are able to print some of the most intricate and detailed prints which are huge compared to others. Peoples minds are blown when these 3D printed objects go from simple key-chains to something which can be held with two hands!
Q: The E3D extruder has a lot of fans in the 3D printing community. What makes this component so special, and why did you choose it for the NFire 1?
The E3D V6 Lite is a metal hotend which prints to an extremely high standard when tested, no other hotend came close to its performance. With the whole ethos of having high quality the e3D V6 Lite was an obvious choice. With it also being produced in the UK, it tied in with our whole local concept.
Q: For the Kickstarter campaign, do you have any stretch goals lined up, in the event you meet your initial targets?
We could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you! They will be released during the Kickstarter campaign.
Q: Tell us a bit more about yourself. What inspires you?
Two years ago I built my very first 3D Printer (A Reprap i2 for anyone out there interested). The first time I saw that hotend move about, buzzing and wiring, with this thin strip of molten plastic flowing out the end… It put a spark in my head. From that moment onwards 3D printing has been this simply mind-blowing concept of having a physical object created out of thin air to me! It’s this wonder and this amazement which I want to give to as many people in this world as possible. The NFire 1 provides a platform to do this. With it being made with high quality components and the fact it is so affordable it opens the door of many people! I firmly believe that in the near future every home will have a 3D printer.
Q: What advice would you give other folks using crowd-funding platforms for the first time? (Answering as a Start-Up)
Take your time, what ever you do don’t rush into it. The last thing you want to happen is to release something which is untidy and unfinished. Not only will it be hard to fund, but if it does, you are going to have one hell of a time sorting all the issues out with backers pressurising you for their pledge! The NFire 1 launch has been pushed back a few weeks just to make sure everything is in place and ready to go.
The C4DI has been incredibly helpful in regards to the progress of NFire Labs. I have never experienced anything like it before, and it really is a place which you have to go to to realise its full potential and what it can offer. For growing start-ups and indeed growing established businesses the C4DI in Hull is the place to go to! I don’t think NFire Labs would be half the company it is now with out the support from them.
Q: Finally, what’s the single most useful thing you’ve ever 3D printed?
It may not be the most useful, but it certainly is the most powerful. I 3D printed a traffic cone on the NFire 1 and it has turned into a firm favourite around the office. People are lost by its seamless appearance and it’s the same expression which I first had when I saw 3D printing. This amazement and you can see people trying to work out how it was made. It’s this feeling which needs to be had by anyone and everyone!
License: The text of "19 Year Old Engineer Launches NFire 1 Modular 3D Printer" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.