NEA is bringing stylish and upgradeable 3D printing to the masses


This sleek, unibody and affordable 3D printer comes in three different sizes. 


Amid the countless 3D printers that have entered the market in recent years, there are always a handful of startups that truly captivate our attention. Toronto-based NEA is one of those, and rightfully so. In an effort to provide Makers with an FFF 3D printing device that is affordable, accessible and easy-to-use, the team has unveiled a set of sleek, stylish machines in various sizes. After all, additive manufacturing isn’t always a one-size-fits-all sort of thing.

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Not only pleasing to the eye, each of the NEA printers — the Pro Mini, the Pro, and the Pro+ — boast an impressive build-volume-to-footprint ratio for their class. Driven by an ATmega2560 MCU, the versatile desktop gadgets combine small incremental stepper motors and custom slider blocks to handle all axis of movement. Meanwhile, their robust cylindrical, unibody metal frame, along with the help of NEA’s proprietary vibration dampening technology, allow Makers to experience incredibly precise print jobs.

While their overall size and print volumes may differ (Pro Mini: 250 in³, Pro: 1,100 in³, Pro+: 2,612 in³), the entire family features a print resolution of 25-300 microns, customizable LED lighting, a 150mm/second print speed, a dual-fan cooling, and a Wi-Fi module for wireless connectivity.

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Most printers waste space by moving their print heads up, down and around an immobile print bed. With efficiency in mind, NEA’s print bed actually moves back and forth along the Y axis, while its head moves left and right as it climbs upwards on the Z axis. Meaning, no more wasted space around the outside of the print bed. The machines all come loaded with a self-leveling bed, non-proprietary filament ranging from PLA to nylon to a metalized plastic hybrid, and open source Repetier software. However, NEA is also compatible with other programs, including Cura, Autodesk Spark and Simplify3d.

“With each iteration of our prototype stages, NEA 3D printers have improved overall print quality. Early on, we were excited just to get something printed, but since then our focus has been on reaching the perfect balance between accuracy, speed, reliability and repeatability,” the team writes. “Maintaining a standard of quality can only be achieved by acquiring and designing the most precise components with the entire printer in mind.”

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As we’ve seen with other Maker projects, modularity is becoming increasingly more important by the day. With technologies like 3D printing constantly evolving, having to keep up with latest advancements can time-consuming, let alone costly. Instead, NEA has been designed to be entirely interchangeable with a range of upgrades in the works, including multi-color, multi-head, and even full-color printing.

“Expect us to tackle higher print speeds and multi-mediums as well. Gone are the days of buying a brand new printer every time a new feature comes along. Your investment in NEA won’t leave you behind,” the startup urges.

Each NEA is equipped with a detachable head, a removable head cover, a drop-and-lock shelf, a sub-assembled unibody, as well as an easy-access core drawer for viewing, cleaning and upgrading its components. Should any mechanical or electrical component on a NEA break or malfunction — which is bound to happen, of course — simply pop it off and snap in a new module.

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What’s more, the team has introduced a custom filament cartridge. The so-called “Cool Spool” automatically lifts, providing users with an additional two inches in the Z-axis once the drop-and-lock shelf reaches its vertical limit.

As an added bonus to its campaign, NEA has revealed that for every Pro and Pro+ printer that is pre-ordered via Indiegogo, the startup will donate $25 to $30 to the e-NABLE Foundation that supports volunteers using 3D printing to make life-changing prosthetics for children.

Interested? Head over to its official Indiegogo page, where the team has exceeded its initial goal of $75,000 in less than 24 hours. Delivery is slated to begin in October 2015.

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