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DIWire attempts to fill the gaps left by 3D printers (hands-on)

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It brought solar-powered smartphone chargers to the streets of NYC, now Pensa, a Brooklyn-based design firm, is taking on desktop prototyping. Its latest invention, DIWire, is a compact CNC wire bender. A machine designed solely to bend wire clearly has its limitations, but DIWire was actually born from the limitations of more versatile technologies. The team traditionally used a 3D printer to build furniture models, but found that the resulting models didn't stand up to testing. With tiny broken chair legs as inspiration, Pensa set out to make an accessible machine that addressed the laborious nature of hand-bending and the impracticality of mass-production wire bending.

Gallery: Pensa DIWIRE metal bender hands-on | 13 Photos

Broken model chair legs are an extremely unique problem and there are clear limitations to a single-use device like a wire-bending machine, but Pensa's convinced that it will have mass-market appeal. The company currently has 10 beta units being tested in a number of environments, including a furniture design studio, but its biggest push at this point seems to be in education. NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program has one of the beta machines and the team has another on loan to Beam Center, where it's being used in after-school workshops.

And it is easy to use and surprisingly fun to watch. The device, which was designed entirely in-house, looks something akin to a speaker dock, and easily and quickly bends steel one notch at a time. The creation process is similarly simple. The software, which was also produced by Pensa, allows users to drag and drop vector graphics and adjust for wire size and materials with an extremely straightforward interface.

While Pensa doesn't have a specific price point set or a detailed plan for a retail rollout, it will launch a Kickstarter shortly after competing in our Expand NY Insert Coin competition. Donors can get their hands on a DIWire starting at $2,750 when the campaign launches next week.

Zach Honig contributed to this report.

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