The makers of a 3D desktop printer that's garnering attention as a Kickstarter crowdfunding project claim the machine is 50 times faster than other 3D desktop printers.
The Slash 3D printer is a stereolithography (SLA) machine, meaning it uses a basin filled with photosensitive resin that's hardened into shapes layer by layer using a concentrated light source.
The 3D printer, from startup Uniz Technology LLC in San Diego, is available for $1,200 to Early Bird backers. At that price, the Slash 3D printer is the least expensive SLA machine available -- even cheaper than XYZprinting's Nobel 1.0, which retails for $1,500.
XYZprinting has made its bones in the 3D printer market by offering inexpensive da Vinci 3D machines; more than one of its fused-filament fabrication 3D printers retail for under $500.
With the lowest price and reported fastest speeds, the Slash 3D printer has would-be buyers flocking to the Kickstarter project; so far, the crowdsourcing campaign has garnered more than $200,000, four times its original $50,000 goal. And, it still has 21 days to go.
The Slash 3D printer can build a simple two centimeter-diameter tube at the rate of 10 centimeters in 2.5 minutes -- 240 centimeters an hour, according to Uniz Technology CEO Houmin Li.
The Formlabs Form 2 SLA printer has a build speed of 1 to 3 cm/hr when printing at 100-micron layer thickness. For example, a chess rook takes around one and a half hours to print at the 100 micron layer-height.
Another way to measure the Slash 3D printer's speed is by the cubic centimeters of light-cured resin it uses per hour (cc/hr). Uniz Technology claims its printer is capable of hardening 1,000 cc/hr.
By comparison, the Form 2 3D printer can use 19 cc/hr. An industrial SLA 3D printer, such as the Carbon3D M1 machine, can harden up to 60 cc/hr. Of course, the Carbon3D M1 has a price tag of around $144,000.
Uniz Technology claims it overcame a speed barrier with its Slash SLA 3D printer by using a liquid crystal diode (LCD) to harden the photosensitive resin. Then, a liquid cooling coil below the nonstick surface that separates the printed layer from the bottom of the resin vat, keeps it from overheating material during its print cycle.
As other SLA printers have attempted to improve on print speeds, they have superheated the nonstick layer to 500 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, damaging the material, according to Houmin.
"Before Slash, speeds of 1,000 cc/hr were only achievable with large industrial machines that cost over $100,000; now it can be available in your home," Uniz Technology boasts.
Like the Form 2 SLA printer, the Slash uses resin cartridges that automatically refill the machine's tank during the printing process.
As a rule, SLA 3D printers offer far greater resolution (the smoothness and detail of a printed object's surface) than fused-filament fabrication 3D printers, which extrude layer upon layer of thermoplastic to create an object. All FFF printers leave a course- to fine-ribbed surface on printed objects. SLA printers, however, are capable of printing a virtually smooth surface, with finer print layers.
The Slash 3D printer offers layer thicknesses of 300, 200, 100, 50, 25 and 10 microns in size (a micron is 1,000 of a millimeter). The Uniz slicer software, which allows users to import and prepare files for printing, can even define different Z resolutions, so that one layer can be thicker or thinner than another.
The Slash 3D printer has a build area of 7.5-in x 4.8-in x 7.8-in. By Comparison, the Formlabs Form 2 SLA 3D printer offers a layer thicknesses that range from 25 to 100 microns; it has a build volume (or area) of 5.7-in x 5.7-in x 6.9-in.
The Slash 3D printer is scheduled to begin shipping to early customers in December.