Two of the biggest challenges with today’s desktop 3D printers are that they 1) don’t print very large objects and 2) are painfully slow. The Solidator 3D printer aims to change both of those things, in a printer that costs less than $5,000.
In the example shown above, the Solidator 3D printer was able to output a set of six Eiffel Tower models – each measuring almost 8-inches-tall – in just 5.5 hours. A similar feat on typical 3D printers would take days.
By using DLP imaging technology to print an entire layer at a time instead of a voxel at a time, the Solidator is able to print at dramatically faster speeds than most desktop 3D printers. This method of 3D printing involves using a vat of liquid resin that is designed to harden when exposed to bright light. Software converts 3D objects into slices, and then the projector exposes the photosensitive resin. Each razor-thin layer of resin hardens in about 10 seconds, and then the Z-axis of the printer moves.
The Solidator has a large output area, measuring 11.02″ W x 8.26″ D x 7.87″ H (716.37 cubic inches). For comparison’s sake, the print area of the industry-leading MakerBot Replicator 2 is 11.2″ W x 6.0″ H x 6.1″ H (409.92 cubic inches). Print resolution for the Solidator is also very good, with a typical layer height of 100 microns, though the z-stepper motor can move in increments as small as 10 microns. That said, 30 microns is the thinnest that can be printed with current resin technology. One limitation is the pixel density of the DLP projector, which reduces X/Y resolution to 270 microns – so objects printed with the Solidator aren’t as precise as those made with some of the better PLA and ABS printers out there.
But for many of us, our time is far more valuable than a couple of hundred microns of detail. If you need to create large numbers of small 3D printed parts, or if you need to crank out lots of prototypes, the Solidator could be a godsend. Since the printer’s Z-axis is where all the time comes in, the shorter your objects are, the less time they’ll take to produce. I can imagine cranking out dozens of 3D printed gears in just minutes on a device like this.
Resin for the printer will sell for as little as $50(USD) per liter, and will eventually come in a variety of colors. As an added bonus, the resin is quite durable when hardened. In fact, Solidator’s creators demonstrated the durability of printed parts by running them over with a car.
The Solidator 3D printer is available for pre-order via Kickstarter for $4950(USD) through January 3rd, 2014. While that’s certainly not chump change, it’s an impressive price for a printer capable of attaining such speeds, and with such a large work area.