Evolution of a Blog

This blog has evolved as I have as a maker. It starts at the beginning of my journey where I began to re-tread my tires in the useful lore of micro electronics and the open-source software that can drive them. While building solutions around micro-electronics are still an occasional topic my more recent focus has been on the 3D Printing side of making.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What $1000 SLA/DUP/DLP Printer Would I Recommend?

This was the year that you could start to buy (as opposed to build) a 3D Printer based on curing liquid resin (rather than melting plastic) for $500.  Pretty amazing when you consider where the costs of printers in this technology sector have been priced.  Of course at that price point you are going to have to make some sacrifices but at that price it is worth it!

The printers we are talking about come in three flavours.

The first, and the one that has been around the longest, uses a laser to cure the resin.  They are commonly called SLA printers which stands for (S)tereo(l)ithography (A)pparatus.  In reality, however, all of the 3D Printers in this category fit this title given its definition includes the following: optical fabrication, photo-solidification, or resin printing!  We will, however, just call the branch of the family that uses lasers to be SLA printers.  Think Formlabs Form 1 and Form 2.  The x/y resolution on a laser based printer will be 100um ish to 200um ish.

The second flavour is called Direct Light Processing (DLP) and uses a projector.  Think Moonray or B9Creator.  Some of these types of printers are capable of x/y resolutions of 30um - though with a smallish build size.

The third is called Direct UV Printing (DUP) and it uses UV light passing through an LCD display.  This is what the Wanhao D7 uses.  These types of printers are typically getting resolution of 50um on the x/y axis.

Generally these printers project onto the bottom of a vat of resin with a build plate that is dipping onto and off the build surface.  The z-axis will be capable of resolutions from 10um to 100um.  The whole workflow process for resin based printing is very different that for FDM and is described here.

At this moment there seem to be four major choices for a cheap printer in the resin printing space:
  1. You can build one from a kit or even from scratch as the parts are pretty common and there are both kits and good DIY instructions available.
  2. You can get a Wanhao D7...or any one of the numerous clones that look just like it.  I am not sure who was actually first here.  Wanhao is a cloner but are they also a clonee?  Here is an earlier article about the D7 ... note that a lot has improved since then.
  3. You could buy into one of the already released, or very soon to be released, crowd funded printers.  Two top this list, the Moai SLA 3D Printer ($1250) and the Phrozen Make DUDP 3D Printer ($980).
  4. You could wait for one of the many other crowd funded projects to come to fruition.  There are at least a dozen on Kickstarter with many of them having characteristics shared by the Wanhao D7 and the Phrozen Make.
Sooooo...what would I recommend?  I honestly do not know!  The market will mature a lot in the next 12 months so waiting could be your best option,  If you absolutely can not wait, and must be under $1000, then I would get a Wanhao D7.  Quality has been improving, there is a great support community, and they are ahead of the rest of the pack in terms of release date and number of printers in the system.

If you can go a little above $1000 then the Moai at $1250 is probably worth considering.  I don't have any hands on experience but it has a very enthusiastic following.  One slight catch...it is a kit!

A printer to watch in the short term is the Phrozen Make.  It enhances the basic D7 design with what looks like a better z-axis, and what will certainly be a better UV illumination for more even curing of prints.

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