Bringing 3D printing to the desktop is a great idea. And it’s gotten there due to technology that has shrunk the hardware’s footprint and made processes safe for office environments by preventing dust from escaping machines. Other pluses are improved efficiency and recycle consumables left over from the process.
DE took a look at the year’s offerings in printers and scanners and offers the following compendium.
The Mcor Technologies Matrix 300 uses paper and a water-based adhesive to create 3D parts.
Z Corp. ZPrinter 350
The ZPrinter 350 monochrome 3D printer ($25,900) is touted as a fully functional automated 3D printing solution. The printer has much of the automation of the earlier 450 and 650 models, including snap-in cartridge loading, automated material loading, intuitive control panel, automated recycling of used build material, and self-monitoring.
Joe Titlow, Z Corp. product manager, said that 80 percent of the functionality of the higher-end systems has been ported to this entry level product. The build speed is approximately the same, at about .8 vertical in. per hour, “which means that you can create a model several inches tall in just a few hours.” Why a monochrome 3D printer? Because monochrome is a less-expensive process than color and simpler to use.
The build size is 8 in. x 10 in. x 8 in. As with the ZPrinter 450, the 350 has 300 x 400 dpi resolution, which has proven capable of producing detailed features. The ZPrinter 350 also features office-safe build materials, dust control, noise control, and no liquid waste—making it a true office solution.
The materials use non-toxic powders and binders. “All unused powder is completely recycled and used in the system,” said Titlow. This is in clear contrast, according to Titlow, to systems that build supports that are cut away and discarded after printing. Such support material can comprise 50-70 percent of the volume of the part.
“We have a new water cure finishing process,” said Titlow. “When the parts come off our machine they’re simply blown off to remove all that loose powder that acts as support and then it can just be misted with a water solution,” Titlow said.
A1 Technologies RapMan Pro 3D Printer
The RapMan Pro 3D Printer (starting at about $3,000) from A1 Technologies is based on the company’s earlier RapMan 3D Printer in kit form.
Designed by Bits From Bytes, and supplied by A1 Technologies, the RapMan Pro, recently renamed the BfB 3D, has been developed using open source technology. The open source technology means that anyone can contribute to the design, and everybody owns the design. It is said to be similar to the fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology from Stratasys in that it uses a filament off a spool, heats the filament with an extrusion tip, and lays down the plastic layer by layer. That’s where the similarity ends, however, as the BfB 3D is a very inexpensive product compared with the higher-end FDM machines from Stratasys.
Improvements in the BfB 3D include an anodized aluminium chassis for more rigidity. The Z axis now uses lead screws, which has enhanced Z-axis performance, accuracy and repeatability.
The RapMan kit runs with two key materials: ABS and PLA. Both of these materials are supplied to the machine on spools and 100 percent is used. The only waste that results comes from any support structure. However, it should be noted that the volume of waste from support materials can be cut by a well designed part and part orientation on the machine.
ABS is a common plastic material that can be shredded and then recycled, although A1 does not yet offer this service. PLA (poly-lactic acid) is a biopolymer and is therefore biodegradable and environmentally friendly. It is capable of building large parts, but with the crucial benefit that the lifecycle of the part itself has zero carbon impact on the environment.
Dimension Printing uPrint Plus
Another desktop machine is the new uPrint Plus from Dimension Printing, a division of Stratasys. The uPrint Plus ($19,900) is an enhancement of the uPrint ($14,900), has a larger build envelope at 8 in. x 8 in. x 6 in. (33 percent more build volume) and the ability to print models in eight ABSplus material colors—red, blue, olive, black, dark gray, nectarine, fluorescent yellow, and ivory. It still has the small footprint of 25 in. x 26 in.
The new colors should interest engineers looking to differentiate components and intrigue clients with a concept design that looks more like the end product. It also offers two resolution settings of 0.010 in (0.254 mm) and 0.013 in (0.330 mm).
The company says two support-material enhancements will reduce material consumption and modeling time. The first, Smart Supports, cuts material use by 40 percent, while the second, SR-30, is an improved soluble support material that dissolves 69 percent faster, to speed the modeling process. Smart Supports are available for both uPrint and uPrint Plus.
The two machines do not generate any powders or dust. The material is a solid filament wound on a spool that is liquefied before being extruded into thin layers.
3D Systems V-Flash Modeler
The V-Flash Desktop Modeler from 3D Systems (priced at less than $10,000) has a footprint of 26 x 27 in. (660 x 685 mm) and weighs 66 kg (146 lbs). Like the previous printers, it too fits easily in the home or business workplace.
The V-Flash process is described as “instant” prototyping by the company and the build volume of 9 in. x 6.75 in. x 8 in. (230 x 170 x 200 mm) makes it possible for users to create a broad range of part sizes. According to 3D Systems, the V-Flash is easy to install, so that first-time users can start making models in minutes.
Parts are attached to the build pad “using small, strategically spaced break-off supports that use a minimum amount of material” so that less material is used, translating to less cost overall. Building material can be replenished during the printing process. V-Flash has patented and proprietary Film Transfer Imaging (FTI) technology that eliminates wear parts in the printer, instead transferring them to the returnable and recyclable single-use material cartridge.
Solido SD300 Pro 3D
When 3D printing company Solido struck a deal with CAD software and service provider SolidVision, the two took a giant step in a new direction for the world of 3D printing. The agreement meant that Solido’s 3D desktop prototype printer, the SD300 Pro 3D printer ($9,950), could be brought to SolidVision’s broad base of CAD users. By using their CAD data to directly build in-house designs, users could use those specifications to cut, glue, and layer engineered plastic sheets from a spool, a process known as laminated object manufacturing (LOM).
While previous attempts at LOM had met with criticism because it wasn’t capable of producing high detail and resulted in hazardous waste, the SD300 Pro changes that. The SD300 produces detailed, functional parts within 0.1mm accuracy and cuts down on waste. Customers send Solido their empty containers and waste material in pre-paid pouches, and earn “green points” to use toward credit on their next order. In addition, the material is non-toxic and can be peeled away from parts with forceps supplied with the machine.
With minimal training, users can drill, finish, and assemble parts to create larger models without having to outsource. And the process enables nesting multiple parts to run builds simultaneously.
Mcor Technologies Matrix 300
The Matrix 300 ($20,000) is unusual in that it uses paper and a water-based adhesive to create 3D parts. A tungsten carbide blade cuts the profiles. “We don’t use a laser, try to keep the costs down and try to keep the machine as robust as possible,” said Conor Mac Cormack, Ph.D., CEO of Mcor Technologies, which manufactures the printer.
Mac Cormack says that because it uses paper and a water-based adhesive instead of a polymer material, it is eco-friendly. Finished printed parts can be thrown into the paper-recycling bin when no longer needed. Users can also use scrap paper from a regular photocopier or printer in this machine.
The Matrix 300 has an aluminum chassis construction with a device similar to a paper-feed mechanism in a large photocopier. The size of models are in the range of 8.5 in. x 11 in. x 6 in. Multiple parts can be manufactured and joined together afterward using the same adhesive within the machine so there is good uniformity and bonding along the joints.
The Dimension uPrint Plus.
Objet Connex 350
Objet Geometries launched the Connex350 ($200,000), a 3D printer that enables the simultaneous printing of multiple materials with different mechanical and physical properties. Modeled after Objet’s Connex500 ($250,000), the first to offer printing multiple, diverse materials, the Connex350 is a smaller machine with a smaller build tray size (13.78 in. x 13.78 in. x 7.9 in.) for economy-minded organizations.
Both the Connex500 and Connex350 use Objet’s patented PolyJet Matrix technology that makes it possible to produce multi-material models such as a rigid cell phone housing with soft buttons that also possess great detail and accuracy. The prototypes, made of a combination of flexible and rigid materials, closely resemble the feel, look, and function of final products.
The system can jet two different Objet FullCure photopolymer materials in pre-set combinations to create 16-micron, high-resolution layers. Once cured, the material can be recycled with any plastic recycling program and Objet will accept used resin cartridges at its U.S. headquarters for reclaiming.
Laser Sintering Systems
On the other end of the spectrum from 3D printers are the new plastic laser-sintering systems, EOSINT P 395 and EOSINT P 760 from EOS, the new additions in the P3 and P7 series.
Unlike the products made from most 3D printing processes, the products derived from these machines and direct metal laser-sintering (DMLS) can include manufactured, fully functional parts. EOS has developed peripheral equipment, special materials and software products to address the e-manufacturing process chain and has introduced new products for powder handling and preparation called integrated process chain management (IPCM).
Both the EOSINT P 395 and EOSINT P 760 are modular systems to expand purchase options, and can be upgraded with part property profiles (PPP). The quality of vertical surfaces has been improved by the addition of a completely re-engineered laser optics module (surface module).
The EOSINT P 760 can be fitted with the OnlineLaserPowerControl (OLPC) to monitor and control the laser’s power during the building process, and a FlashRecoating module that increases productivity when using the “TopSpeed” and “Speed” parameter sets by accelerating the recoating speed up to 400mmps. With the appropriate packing density, users can reach build-up rates of up to 700cm³ph.
Powder materials can now be reused via IPCM; it is sieved quickly under defined conditions before its reuse. The powder is prepared outside the machine via powder homogenization, and ensures high quality and flexibility.
Exact Metrology, Inc. has added the new MH 3D Scanner from Artec to its line of measurement and scanning devices. The lightweight, ergonomic design of this handheld 3D scanner allows the user to scan target objects from any angle. The MH 3D Scanners require no mounts or markers, just like other hand-held Artec3D Scanners.
The scanners work like video cameras, but instead of a 2D image, the result is a 3D image captured at speeds of up to 15 fps or 0.5 million points per second while providing up to 0.2 mm resolution at 0.02 mm accuracy. The scanners are equipped with wide-field-of-view 3D and mega-pixel 2D sensors. The technology enables the capture of both shape and surface texture of objects in a snapshot or video mode. They are suitable for a variety of applications including computer graphics and animation, medical imaging, archiving, and prototyping.
System weight ranges from 3 to 5 pounds, depending upon the model. Exact Metrology Artec3D Scanner systems, including hardware, software, and training, start at about $15,000.
3D3 Solutions FlexScan3D
The 3D3 Solutions FlexScan3D Development Kit ($11,999) includes hardware, 3D scanning software, and technical support for creating your own 3D scanner. The FlexScan3D software ($2,499) enables users to choose their entire hardware lineup.
Regardless of the option chosen, the kit connects with a variety of off-the-shelf digital cameras and a presentation projector. The projector puts a reference pattern onto the scan target to aid accurate digitalization. FlexScan3D’s triangulation engine takes the images from the cameras to acquire data needed to create 3D models.
ZScanner 700 PX and ZScanner 700 CX
Z Corporation’s handheld ZScanner 700 PX and 700 CX capture large quantities of 3D geometry and color data. Extending the company’s 700 platform, which digitizes 3D surfaces in real time, the ZScanner 700 PX ($84,900) is a handheld laser scanner designed for large-scale scanning of products like aircraft and automobiles.
The ZScanner 700 CX ($49,900) can capture surface information in full 24-bit color, and can render the complete picture of an object, not just the geometry. Greater realistic 3D visualization and concept models can be achieved with color 3D data, making the 700 CX suitable for more than product design and engineering. The company says it can also be used for art, anthropology, entertainment, and web applications, and provides accurate, automatic texture mapping that can be saved separately from the point cloud.
A1 Technologies Ltd
Exact Metrology, Inc.
Objet Geometries, Ltd.
Contributing Editor Susan Smith is DE’s expert in rapid technologies and has been immersed in the tech industry for more than 17 years. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.