By Alec | 3Ders
While every new 3D FDM printer on the market promises revolutionary building speeds and unimaginable printing quality, we have to be realistic and say that FDM 3D printers probably won’t reach those quality levels we all fantasize about for a long time. While perfect for prototyping, designing and having fun with, if you’re looking for a 3D printer capable of producing marketable products, the safest best is probably still DLP/SLA technology.
Last week, Carbon3D announced an entirely new breakthrough 3D printing process, which is 25-100 times faster than than other 3D printing processes on the market. Now, a new 3D printer in that field has just been announced that might be also what many makers are looking for. The Gizmo 3D printer, which is currently being developed by Australian resin manufacturersGizmo 3D, has hit the web with full force through a video illustrating its ‘Continuous 3D Printing’ technique. As developer Kobus Toit explains to 3ders.org, this could be the world’s fastest high-quality 3D printer .
While the Gizmo 3D printer is not the only 3D printer out there to use Direct Light Processing (DLP) technology to 3D print objects in resin, this particular build differs in how that technology is applied. As Toit explains, it relies on top-down printing. "The projector is above the resin filled vat/tank. The projector displays images onto the resin while the build plate moves deeper and deeper into the resin," he says. "The great thing about top-down is that you can print really large items without worrying about the suction problems that bottom-up DLP printers have."
While not quite continuously printing, Toit’s setup allows for insane speed levels that definitely approach it. While part of the technique is a trade secret, he did explain to us that its top-down projecting technique saves a lot of time. "The walls on the objects are very thin and that allows the resin to flow over the previously printed layer very quickly so the build plate can move almost continuously," he says.
Whereas most printers lose time by moving the build plate up and down, that isn’t a problem with this top-down projection. "Since this is a top-down printer it doesn't require the same effort as a bottom-up printer where a bottom-up printer needs to overcome suction problems. I believe this printing method can be combined with the standard printing method so overall printing speed of objects can increase," Toit explains. "Display of the image might only take 1 second while movement of the build plate and waiting for the resin to come to a standstill could be 15 seconds per layer."
The Gizmo 3D printers will also come with a large vat to ensure there is always enough resin regardless of the size of your project. "No need to add an external reservoir to top up the resin or add extra resin to the vat while the print is busy. If you don’t use the wiper system, the top-down DLP printer has less moving parts than the bottom-up printers during printing and even less than FDM printers. This also means less things that can break and less things that need replacement and less things that can go wrong during a print," he says. Not unimportant features.
But perhaps especially interesting to potential ‘prosumer’ users is the fact that size really doesn’t matter. Projection means objects can be as big or as numerous as you can make fit on the platform, and all should be completed in the same amount of time. And those build platforms are quite impressive already, certainly for a resin 3D printer. The standard GiziMate 3D printer will feature a build platform of 400 x 200 x 200 mm, while the GiziPro model will feature on of 400 x 200 x 350 mm. The biggest version of the printer, GiziMax, even has a build area of 400 x 200 x 850 mm to work with.
And as can be expected of a resin 3D printer, printing quality is great. "All printers can print at 35 micron XY (depending on setup and projector) and have a Z resolution of 1 micron," though this depends on the resin used as well. While Toit is still working on this portion of the machine, it should be possible to install multiple vats of resin (even in different colors) on the machine to enable multi-color printing (effectively functioning as four build plates in one). The resin itself is heated to room temperature (22 degrees Celsius) for optimal flow and resolution.
Toit remained tantalizingly mysterious about the electronics that are used to operate this printer. "This is part of the secret. What I can say it uses a Sanguinololu controller and a modified version of Marlin. The modifications in Marlin are actually to help the user to level the machine easier and to control the special wiper that isn't featured in the video," he told us. In terms of software, these Gizi 3D printers are controlled through a combination of Gizmo and Creator he calls Gizmetor. Requiring a 64bit PC to run, it will work on all Linux, Mac and Windows. ‘You can print directly from the library or add the item to the full size 3D layout. When adding the item to the full 3D layout you can choose to add it horizontally or vertically. Toit is also working to add all the common 3D printing web repositories to Gizmetor, including GrabCad, YouMagine, Thingiverse and Cubehero.
Fortunately, Toit was more open about how and why he began working on this particularly promising 3D printer. Only coming into contact with the concept of 3D printing through a colleague a few years ago, he became obsessed with the hobby and his Makerbot 2X. "It was a lot of money and I had never designed anything in my life, so I decided I first need to design something usable before I spend the thousands on the Makerbot 2X. I designed a bomb prop for my laser skirmish business using off the shelf electronics and perspex." He told us. This was successfully made through an external printer, convincing him to purchase a Makerbot 2X for at home.
Wanting to 3D print laser skirmish guns for his business, Toit became increasingly frustrated with all his failed attempts to get the machine to function properly. "I then found DLP technology and it seemed like something that could work for me. It was fast, it was accurate and it was possible to reproduce prints. I learnt everything I could about the technology and then decided to design my own printer so that I could print my laser guns. I thought it would take a month to design the printer, but two years later, over 130 unique components in the printer and I am ready for beta testers of the machine," he says.
And that is, in a nutshell, where Toit and his super-fast 3D printer is now. While not yet quite ready for mass-production, Toit already argues that it’s a perfect machine for jewellers, artists and sculptors, as well as engineering companies and hobbyists looking for a high-end prototyping machine. "When I started with the design of the machine it was called The Customiser. The idea was that the user could customise it to what they needed. I kept that spirit alive while designing the machine, but just changed the name," he explains. With a bit of luck, production of these machines can start in late 2015 and Toit is currently hard at work preparing his production channels before launching a Kickstarter in September. "I am hoping to sell the standard GiziMate for around $2500 and the GiziMax with all the features will most likely cost in the region of $6000," he tells us.
Before getting there, however, Toit will be hard at work over the coming months to find suppliers in China, designing a vat for multi-colored printing and building a beta machine by late June. But he has already found a number of beta testers who will test every aspect of the machine before going to Kickstarter: "an Engineering company in New Zealand, an artist in Australia, a bicycle manufacturer in Australia, a jewellery company in Australia, an engineering company in USA, and a blogger/tester in USA." While these will doubtlessly come up with some issues, these are hopefully all concluded by late August – just in time for a launch on Kickstarter in September 2015.
Toit does have a very full agenda already, but it’s good to see that a 3D printer will be thoroughly tested and manufactured before being taken to a crowdfunding campaign – it means that you won’t have to pledge thousands and then just wait and see if it will ever be built. "Worst case scenario is that we might get pushed out 2 months and only launch November. It will depend on the beta testing and imports. Sometimes imports can take a month and not two weeks. Beta testers might require big fixes, though I can't see any required fixes at this point in time since the printer is already working very well," he says. It’s a refreshing take on crowdfunding that doesn’t seem to take our funds for granted.
While we thus have to wait a while before this promising range of resin 3D printers becomes available to the public, the Gizmo team seems to have gathered all the ingredients for a high quality machine. And as the expected Kickstarter backing price of $2500 doesn’t sound bad either, the time might have come to leave filament behind and upgrade to resin. More information will doubtlessly follow over coming months.
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