Posts Tagged ‘SLA

formlabs-form1-plus-complete-package

The 3D printers using FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) also known as FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) is the most affordable technology for 3D printing at the moment, but the extrusion of thermoplastic material does have its limitations as well as some advantages. The most significant disadvantage that makes some people start looking to make the next step is the level of detail that the FDM/FFF printers offer, so the next step is normally to go for a 3D printer using Stereolithography (SLA) – a 3D printing technology used for producing 3D models layer by layer by curing a photo-reactive resin with a DLP or UV laser. You should be aware of the fact that the SLA 3D printing hardware is more expensive and also the resin used for building the 3D printed models is also more expensive than what you are using with an FDM/FFF 3D printer. The detail level and durability of the printed materials is usually significantly higher, but the materials you can choose from as not as much as you have in the form of various thermoplastic that can be extruded with an FDM/FFF 3D printer.

If you have decided to move from an FDM/FFF 3D printer to an SLA 3D printer, or just get another 3D printer to extend your creative options, then your first step should probably be to check out the FormLabs Form 1+. It is a pretty affordable 3D printer using stereolithography technology to build 3D models with a layer resolution of up to 25 microns – 0.025 mm or 4 times better than what the usual best layer height offered by most plastic extrusion 3D printers. The drawback that the Form 1+ printer has is that the printable object size is smaller than what most FDM/FFF 3D printers offer even the most basic ones, so you will not be able to print very big models, unless of course you break them down to segments. The build volume you have available with the Form 1+ 3D printer is 125×125×165 mm and the printer does use support material where needed that is automatically generated and should be easily removable when the print is ready. One thing that people used to print with on plastic extrusion 3D printers – the leveling of the build plate is not needed, meaning less problems with unusable prints. The Form 1+ complete package will cost you $3299 USD and 1 liter of resin used by the printer is being sold of $149 USD. We are already considering getting a Form 1+ 3D printer for next year to accompany our MakerBot Replicator 2 FDM 3D printer in order to be able to start experimenting with SLA 3D printing.

3doodler-printed-horse

The 3D Printing pens are essentially a new category of devices that has appeared due to the big interest in consumer-oriented low cost 3D printers in the last few years. These devices are essentially a very simplified version of a 3D printer in a hand-held format or a more complex version of a glue gun. With a 3D printing pen you essentially get an extruder that you hold in your hand and move around to print stuff similar to how the extruder is being moved in a 3D printer by the precise mechanism. Obviously with a hand-held extruder and hand movements you cannot achieve any precision that is even remotely close to what a 3D printer can achieve, but that is not the goal here anyway. You can view 3D printing pens as more of an art oriented devices where it is not about achieving a high level of detail or much of a precision, but being able to let your imagination free and literally start drawing three-dimensional physical objects.

3doodler-3d-printing-pen

The device that has created the whole market and interest in this new set of products is the 3Doodler considered to be the world’s first 3D printing pen, or at least the first such product that went mainstream. This all happened last year when the Kickstarter project for the 3Doodler turned out to be a very successful crowd funding campaign generating huge user interest and a lot of support. Since then the makers of the very affordable and creative “alternative” to traditional 3D printers have announced that they have shipped more than 100000 3Doodler 3D printing pens. So it is no wonder that after the huge success of the 3Doodler a lot of similar products have appeared on the market and a lot more 3D printing pens will probably become available soon if the interest in these devices continues to grow. We already have a Chinese company making an alternative to 3Doodler, the YAYA 3D Printing Pen that appears to be also available under different brand names as the company also operates as OEM and ODM supplier aside from having the product available under their own brand name. Other similar alternatives are the 3D Air Pen also available for sale, the 3D Printer Pen or the upcoming 3D Simo and probably many other similar devices.

lix-3d-printing-pen

What all of the above mentioned 3D printing pens have in common is that they are quite big in size and not very pen-like in terms of size, so you will need some time to get to use to work with them. There however is another interesting project in the works, the LIX pen – a project for a really compact 3D printing pen that will us FDM (or FFF) technology for extruding thermoplastic materials such as PLA or ABS that are used by many 3D printers. The LIX pen also had a successful Kickstarter crowd funding campaign and there is a lot of interest in this device as it really brings the size down providing a 3D printing pen that is not much larger than a traditional ink pen. If you are considering to get a 3D printing pen and are not in a hurry then this one may be worth waiting a big more for them to start taking orders and get one, we are waiting for just that to happen to get one LIX pen to experiment and play with, hopefully the wait will be worth it.

creo-pop-3d-pen-prototype

The 3Doodler and all of the other mentioned above 3D printing pen alternatives, already available or soon to be available, as well as some others that we did not mention or maybe even don’t know that exists are all designed to melt thermoplastic material such as ABS or PLA and extrude it with the person using the pen moving it to either draw flat on a piece of paper or in three dimensions with the extruder material. There is however an alternative option available, or to be more precise more like soon to be available, that does not use FDM or FFF technology for printing using thermoplastic filaments such as ABS or PLA, these devices instead will utilize SLA (Stereolithography) technology. This means that instead of melting thermoplastic the 3D printing pens using this alternative technology will use a special cold photopolymer resin that will be extruded and quickly solidified using UV light. Products that will use SLA technology are apparently soon going to be available like for example Polyes Q1 or Creo Pop both of which do look very promising and we may also see other similar products getting announced soon. Using photo sensitive resin that is more like liquid can provide another interesting creative alternative to 3D printing pens melting plastic materials, not to mention that it may also allow for some interesting alternative uses depending what you mix with the filament.

Let us get back to the important question however and it is if the 3D printing pens, regardless of their form or the technology used are really worth it? You should be well aware that a 3D printing pen is not an alternative to a 3D printer, it is a similar in functionality device, however the target users and uses are different. 3D printers are designed to replicate virtual objects with high precision and accuracy and 3D printing pens are more like for the creative or artistic bunch that does care more about the freedom and creativity that these devices give to their users. The fact that 3D printing pens are generally much more attractive in terms of price as compared to even the cheapest 3D printers makes them interesting for a much broader audience, including a lot of people that just like cool gadgets, but have no idea what they will use a 3D printing pen for. The fact that 3D printing pens do not require any special software, knowledge or skills to be used makes them cool gadgets for everyone, however having some skills and knowledge and at least an idea what and why you may be using such a device for will definitely help. Otherwise there is high probability that you will get one cool 3D printing pen, try it out and not get satisfied with the result you get and just put it a drawer and forget about it. Companies saying that you do not need any experience or knowledge to use a 3D printing pen may be misleading people a bit, you may not need it, but you still need to spend some time in order to get used with the product and to be able to make good use of it, but even then if you suck at drawing things in 2D, then you most likely will be disappointed in what you can do with the device in 2D or in 3D. So even if 3D printing pens are very affordable and seem easy to be used they are simply not for everyone, the same as with 3D printers, although the people making and selling these products may claim otherwise. You should be well aware of the fact that with both, even if you lack the needed knowledge or skills to use them and take full advantage of a 3D printing pen or a 3D printer you can quire them by learning… you just need to want to learn.

When we are talking about 3D printing you should know that there are multiple different technologies available, the main difference is in the material and how the layers are built. We are going to quickly cover the three mostly used ones, though there are other technologies also available. Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is an additive manufacturing process or 3D printing technology that uses melting of thermoplastic material by heating and then extruding it to create the object layer by layer. This is the most widespread and affordable technology currently available though it is not the most flexible and precise one at least the more affordable consumer 3D printers, the fact that it is cheaper and easy to use is what has helped it spread a lot.

Stereolithography (SLA) is a 3D printing technology used for producing 3D models layer by layer by curing a photo-reactive resin with a UV laser. This technology is considered more expensive mostly due to the price of the photopolymer and the hardware required to cure it and does require some extra steps after the model is printed before it is usable, however it also produces higher detail level. SLA does also print support structures for more complex geometry models as FDM does.

Selective laser sintering (SLS) is another 3D printeing process similar to FDM that builds three dimensional objects by using a laser to selectively sinter (heat and fuse) a powdered material instead of thermoplastic like in the case of FDM. The main advantage that SLS has is that it does not require support structures to be printed, because the part being printed is surrounded by unsintered powder at all times, making it easier to print more complex geometry.

Apart from FDM, SLA and SLS 3D printing technologies there are quite a few alternatives available that can work with different materials and produce 3D prints from thermoplastics, nylon, photopolymers, different metal alloys and even edible things like sugar. But if you want to get into 3D printing with an affordable solution the fused deposition modeling-based 3D printers are probably the best choice.


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