If you keep up with the news in the 3D printing world you may have seen that, even though it is taking hold and likely to boom with consumers soon, low cost FDM printers are likely to become a thing of the past. Other 3D printing technologies — such as laser sintering (plastic and metal) and the resin processes (SLA & DLP) — are much more functional and accurate. But they are also more difficult to handle and generally orders of magnitude more expensive. Currently these processes are booming with designers and manufacturers but costs of machines and materials have generally kept them away from wider scale adoption. Some projects, such as the open source B9Creator, Nautilus (on Indiegogo) and Italian based Robot Factory, have begun to try to change all that.
Another new company, Solidator, wants to go one step further, doing for resin based DLP 3D printing what the Form 1 by Formlabs did for Stereolithography (SL) 3D printing. Although there can be confusion between DLP and SL, the two processes differ in that DLP uses photopolymer resins that solidify when exposed to UV light while SL uses lasers to cure the resins. Formlabs opened up SL to a much broader audience and Solidator it trying to do the same for DLP technology.
Solidator aims to sell its machine for less than $5,000 but the main costs that the company will shave off are “live expenses” — materials and time. Solidator’s DLP resin will run as low as $50 per litre, which is significant compared with prices that can easily climb above $150 for the same amount from other vendors. Another specific goal of the Solidator is to allow users to save on time — the most precious consumable of all — by cutting printing times for a single object by 60% on average. Using the 588 cubic centimeter build area to print multiple objects (say six 20 cm Eiffel Towers) it would take the same time as a single one.
This means that the print area is as large as most FDM printers, including Makerbot’s Replicator 2X and significantly bigger than the Form 1. The compromise comes with the resolution, at a typical layer height of 100 micron thickness, which may kind of miss the point — people want speed and accuracy. And this is what is behind the latest developments from Envisiontec, and newcomer Prodways.
The team behind the Solidator project, led by inventor and founder Tim Fischer, turned to Kickstarter for support in keeping production costs down by increasing the number of machines to be built. In the complete package they also include Solidator Studio, their own 3D printing software, compatible with all popular operating systems. It can read .STL, .OBJ ad .3DS files and even make the objects hollow to save on material. However, the campaign has 16 days left and still needs to collect almost 90% of it $125,000 financing goal.