2009 is at the start of a new wave of personal fabrication revolution. We are grateful that we have been playing a role in this and eye-witnessed all the great changes in the industry. So let’s go back a little, talk what Tiertime was like, in the good old days.
Tiertime was founded in 2003, Allen Guo with several schoolmates from Tsinghua. They had been researching for years in the field of rapid prototyping and had experimented different Technology such as SLA, LOM, FDM and etc. The team later decided to concentrate on FDM technology, as compared to other techs paths, it is elegantly simple, clean and does not require expensive imported components (eg. lasers).
The very first line of product Tiertime developed is the “Inspire” series. These are machines with large footprints, big build volumes and dual extrusion aimed for industrial and higher education market in China.
At around 2005, Adrian Bowyer from Bath University of UK started the RepRap project. The project was aimed to produce self-replicating machines and it was basically a FDM printer partially made from plastic parts printed by the printer itself. Inspired by the project and with the development of compact CNC electronics, Tiertime also started to explore a compact sized product that can be sold at a lower price for personal use.
At 2009, Stratasys’ primary patent for FDM technology expired. The Reprap project, after several years of development, had became an open source library for all the people who are interested in the technology. Soon people started to develop, improve and made their own versions of Reprap machines and shared their designs on the internet. Then based on the public resources, some entrepreneurial technologists started companies to sell parts, kits and even constructed machines for people who cannot build their own Repraps or find necessary parts. At this year, many prominent players of Desktop 3D printing started their business.
In the middle of 2009, Tiertime is also preparing to launch its own desktop models. Allen and his team, had spend many days and nights working on the software and hardware of the new product. It was a completely different machine from the Inspire series, with very compact footprint and designed for people with little tech skills or knowledge in rapid prototyping. Although the Reprap project provide a rich resource for building a 3d printing system, Tiertime team believed their system was better than RepRap, they used an independently developed, proprietary system based on their own research and work.
The release of the first Tiertime desktop model, the UP Plus, was an instant success. Tiertime team sold and marketed their first desktop model on a new website, pp3dp.com with an online forum and store, targeting the international market. Compared to machines of the same time, such as Prusa Mendel, Makerbot Cupcak, Ultimaker Original, The UP Plus was much more advanced. While most machines on the market are made from plywood, use DC motor for extrusion and use 3mm diameter filament. UP Plus use stepper motors extruder and 1.75mm filament for much finer control and has a full metal body.
There was no dedicated software for Reprap based printers, and most of them were still using Skeinforge – an open source all purpose software that is not very user friendly for average people. However Tiertime release UP! Software in company with UP Plus, which provides a simple software interface to interact with printer and to process 3d files. As the software contains optimized print profiles, without tinkering, users could produce 3d models with high quality print right out of box. UP! software at that time already had advanced functions such as 9-point matrix leveling and automatic support generation which are still unique features of Tiertime products today.
At 2013, the second generation, the UP Plus 2 was released. It was the first 3D printer in its class with an automatic platform calibration system , provides reliable and high quality 3d printing results. The unique design of the machine, made it a classic model, and won Tiertime a number of rewards from Make Magazine from 2013-2015. The UP Plus 2, even appeared in the scene as props of the Iron Man 3 blockbuster. Many manufacturers have studied and referenced UP Plus 2 functions in their product development.
Make magazine used to show UP Plus2 on the cover twice and ranks UP Plus 2 as the Best in class:just hit print and Best overall experience of the year.
After UP Plus 2, Tiertime also released their consumer model UP mini and professional model UP BOX. These 2 models although not as popular, also made a great impact on the market and Tiertime become a major desktop 3d printer manufacturer.