Most 3D printers chow down on plastic filament on a spool. It's not the cheapest printing material you'll ever find and you're limited to what filament makers offer in terms of materials and colors. The Sculptify David printer on Kickstarter skips the spools and go for something more basic: pellets.
Sculptify is testing a variety of materials to work with David, from ABS plastic to EVA (a soft silicone-like material) to wood composites. Sculptify intends to offer bags of pellets, but users aren't limited to just the company's offerings. Pellets from other sources can also work with David. Rather than feeding from a cartridge, the pellets are poured into a hopper for use in the printing process.
A 2.2-pound bag of PLA pellets from Sculptify is expected to sell for $18. Compare that to prices for similarly sized filament spools running between $30 and $48.
Perhaps the most exciting part of this project is the potential to create flexible objects alongside the rigid plastic objects we're already accustomed to with 3D printers. David will eventually allow for material and color changes in mid-print. You'll be able to stop the print, purge the material, change the material selection, let David adjust, and then load up the new pellets. Sculptify says it plans to fully develop this capability in the near future.
Sculptify has a working prototype of David up and running, but needs the Kickstarter funds to go into production. The David printer hasn't seen the same kind of success as some other Kickstarter printers, perhaps due in part to the higher-end price point. The early-bird pledge prices start at $2,745. Compare that to the early bird price of $199 for the Micro printer (which is geared for much simpler printing needs). Sculptify is closing in on $58,000 in pledges toward a $100,000 goal with 24 days left to go.
The use of pellets is certainly an enticing change for 3D printers. Advanced users looking to experiment with materials that are out of the norm could have a field day with David. It would be even sweeter if the pellet concept could one day be married to a low-cost printer for the masses. If David succeeds, the future path for 3D printing could be paved in pellets, not filaments.