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PopFab: a 3D printer and CNC milling machine that fits inside a briefcase

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MIT students have created a portable factory for rapid prototyping, fitting a 3D printer and a CNC milling machine inside an ordinary briefcase.

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MIT CNC Briefcase
MIT CNC Briefcase

Students from MIT's Little Devices lab have managed to package a 3D printer, a CNC milling machine, a vinyl cutter, and a programmable drawing tool inside a standard aluminum attaché case, creating a portable factory for rapid prototyping. Dubbed PopFab, the tool's capabilities are demonstrated in a teaser video, where it quickly produces a model goldfish using extruded yellow plastic.

"While the brief video only shows 3D printing, we also have toolheads working for vinyl cutting, milling and drawing (to be shown in future episodes)," co-designer Ilan Moyer tells Core77. "The underlying goal is to support the romantic dream of the 'nomadic designer' traveling the world while designing and making things possibly inspired by spontaneous experiences on the road."

While Moyer's dream might be some way off, the practical potential of 3D printing is already very real. At the Hackers on Planet Earth conference earlier this month, an unnamed security researcher managed to unlock a pair of "high security" handcuffs using a printed plastic key — technology doesn't get more useful than that.