Roland DG: iModela, The Desktop 3D Printing Factory…

The world is shrinking, cities seem much closer together when you travel at near to the speed of sound, computers that once filled entire buildings now fit in your pocket and what once required factories full of machines can be done by the iM-01 iModela, the desktop 3D printing factory.

Roland has managed to squeeze an entire automated production system into a box not much bigger than an inkjet printer and at $1000 they have managed to bring desktop manufacturing to the masses, anyone with a computer and spare USB port can start the production line rolling.. A product of Roland’s little known DG division the iM-01 brings flexible manufacturing to a desktop near you.

“With iModela, artists around the world can bring their most innovative design ideas to life, adding dimension and style to creative projects, whether or not they have any previous experience with 3D technologies.

iModela makes it easy to create a physical model from an artist’s 3D rendering, using powerful 3D modelling technology to sculpt shapes, drill holes, create reliefs, smooth surfaces and engrave designs. With iModela, 3D modellers and hobbyists can afford-ably produce even the most complex designs with precision.”, John Wall, Roland DG Business Development Manager

Roland DG have over 25 years experience manufacturing milling equipment so the iM-01 was a natural progression, bringing all those years of experience to desktop manufacturing gives the iM-01 an unfair advantage though. Reliable, cheap and flexible is tough to compete with. Unlike the famous Roland brand, producer of many of the greatest electronic synths and musical equipment, Roland DG is a smaller less well known division, making some very impressive industrial milling and manufacturing equipment. The iM-01 may change this, introducing everyone to Rolland DG and the new desktop revolution.

There is room enough in the desktop manufacturing world of the future for both 3D printers and milling machines. The iModela is similar to the very popular 3D printers available at the moment but with one major difference, the iM-01 uses milling techniques instead of printing to produce its designs. Where as 3D printing lays down material layer by layer to build a design up, milling uses a billet or block of material and whittles it down to the required design. Milling has the advantage of being able to work on existing parts to engrave or drill, applying the finishing touches.

The iM-01 is also flexible with the materials it can work with; foam, resins, plastics, wax, balsa wood, any material basically as long as its not too dense. Both technologies are quite complimentary, 3D printing is able to produce complex shapes that can be completed in the iM-01. Finishing touches such as drilling holes, trimming and smoothing is easily done.

Now every spare room or basement can be turned into a home factory. A cheap and compact factory now fits on a desk, driven by USB the factory has bee reduced to one PC with enough spare USB ports. Artists will love the ability to quickly bring ideas to life. Need to build that once off Star Wars character or maybe Barby needs a chainsaw, just lay out the design with the supplied iModela Creator software and hit the go button. Roland’s suggested uses include charms, pendants, key chains, small figurines, model airplane and train set parts. We here at Highpants suggest that is a fairly tame beginning. One off toys and creative trinkets will quickly flow from people experimenting and playing around with iModela’s. Communities are already springing up, sharing prebuilt designs and experiences. The community will be vital to making the iM-01 easy to use for everyone.

Roland iModela Creator

Many artists and hobbyists are adapting home production systems like the iM-01 in order to gain a manufacturing advantage over cheap mass produced goods. The iM-01 and other desktop manufacturing equipment like the current generation 3D printers are allowing cheap low volume manufacturing. Allowing one person factories to offer the one off custom product that is the basis of being hand-made, without the time-consuming production. Low production costs and high resale is the ultimate business model and an artist using desktop manufacturing can achieve this. Interestingly desktop manufacturing also opens up mass production on a small scale. Being able to produce 100 items with exactly the same dimensions down to 0.001mm is difficult to do by hand, but this is the bread and butter of milling machines. Will we see one person factories taking on Chinese mass produced products, maybe not in the near future but the possibilities are all there.

The iModela Creator design software lets you work free hand to design you own 3D models or you can import pre-built 3D models. Roland even has a number of starter projects available to create your own action figures and toy soldiers. The software can operate at a accuracy of 0.001mm, often the resolution of the software can be a limiting factor in the accuracy of the final product but in this case the software and hardware are well matched, the mechanical resolution of 0.000186 mm/step achieved by the stepper motors allows the hardware to always maintain the required accuracy / resolution. The interface itself has all the required function to lay out basic engravings, patterns and models but the real power of the software comes from being able to load in 3D models produced in other packages like 3D Max or Lightwave. Load these in and tweak them with Creator and you will be creating complex figures and models in a flash.

Roland has managed to create the next must have gadget for the Noid workshop and the backyard shed. This is a serious piece of manufacturing technology wrapped in a mini box that anyone can own and operate. Inheriting the flexibility of the larger brothers with such flexible design features as replaceable cutting bits, motors, spare parts and simple design, all going together to make a bullet proof manufacturing system. Will producing spares and repairing a gadget soon simply involve downloading the part design and printing your own, we will soon have the technology sitting on the desk next to us.

iModela How-To


Roland iModela iM-01 Features:

  • Precisely mills 3D shapes, patterns and designs out of foam, wax, balsa wood and plastic
  • iModela Creator, Roland’s 3D design software, is included, allowing users to accurately mill shapes, holes, textures and patterns right out of the box
  • Affordable, easy-to-use platform for exploring creativity
  • Easy to setup and operate, with just a power switch, simple LED display and external control panel for adjusting computer settings
  • Compact, desktop device stores in a dedicated carrying case and travels easily
  • A specially designed spindle motor*1 unit supports a variety of milling tools*2 commonly available at model shops and do-it-yourself (DIY) retailers
  • iModela artists can share projects and learn from others around the world by joining the online community at*3


  • Acceptable materials: Soft material such as resins (except conductors such as metals and carbons)
  • X, Y, and Z operation strokes X, Y, and Z: 86 x 55 x 26 mm
  • Distance from collet tip to table: Maximum 55 mm
  • Table size: Width x depth: 86 x 55 mm
  • Mountable cutting material weight: 200 g
  • X-, Y-, and Z-axis drive system: Stepping motor
  • Operating speed X and Y axes: 6 to 240 mm/min Z axis: 6 to 180 mm/min
  • Software resolution: 0.01 mm/step (RML-1),, 0.001 mm/step (NC code)
  • Mechanical resolution: 0.000186 mm/step (micro steps)
  • Spindle motor: iM-01 spindle motor
  • Connectivity: USB (compliant with Universal Serial Bus Specification Revision 2.0 Full Speed)
  • Control command set: RML-1, NC code
  • Power supply conditions: Dedicated AC adapter: AC 100 to 240 V ±10%, 50/60 Hz Machine: DC 24 V, 0.7A
  • Power consumption: Approx. 14 W
  • Operating noise: During operation: 57 dB (A) or less (when not cutting),,during standby: 39 dB (A) or less
  • Dimensions: 214(W) x 200(D) x 205(H) mm
  • Weight: 1.7 kg
  • Environmental Temperature: 5 to 35°C, humidity: 35 to 80% RH (no condensation)
  • Ambient pollution degree: 2 (as specified by IEC 60664-1)

Source: Roland DG

Buddha’s Brother out…