The 3D printer landscape is a moving target, changing and morphing seemingly every day, largely due to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indigogo, which enable makers with great ideas to raise funds quickly and go from concept to production in no time. Here’s a sampling of up-and-coming 3D printers that caught our eye but weren’t available for testing at press time.
Designed by Illinois-based Duy Dang, this open source machine aims to be the sturdiest low-cost 3D printer. Its one-piece solid steel frame eliminates 40% of typical housing materials, and 80% of its parts are printable. All plans and files available for download.
Penn State graduate Andrew Diehl launched The Fablicator when he wasn’t seeing what he wanted in a readily-available printer. The extruded aluminum frame is so sturdy, you can apparently stand on it. It prints in both ABS and PLA, prides itself on print precision, features a borosilicate platform, and includes an integrated Windows 7 computer, but is priced at over $3000.
Vancouver-based Tinkerine Studio made a splash at this year’s Maker Faire New York with their open source Ditto printer. The Ditto boasts user-friendliness for novices and pros alike, a 450-cubic-inch build platform, and an open-front design prime for tinkering with prints, all for $899 ready to go out of the box.
The Model 0.1 is an open source powder-based rapid prototyping machine from the University of Twente in the Netherlands. Made from off-the-shelf parts, it boasts an easy build and can be adapted to perform selective laser sintering (SLS). Usable powder materials include gypsum, ceramics, concrete, and sugar.
Designed by Johann C. Rocholl (who was born in Rostock, Germany), the Rostock is a Delta robot-style 3D printer, a parallel-arm mechanism consisting of three arms connected to universal joints at the base, a design popular in pick-and-place machines. SeeMeCNC is looking to have a Rostock Max kit available soon at seemecnc.com.
MIT researchers Ilan Moyer and Nadya Peek have fashioned a workshop in a suitcase-sized metal case with this multi-purpose tool that works as a CNC mill, precision cutter, and 3D printer. The machine has been on international and domestic flights, as carry-on luggage.
RepRap core developer and creator of the popular open source Prusa Medel, Prague-based Josef Průša has a slick new version in the works. The Prusa i3 boasts a build volume 20% larger than the Replicator 2. Plans have not yet been released, and it’s unclear whether it’ll be available as a kit or strictly DIY, but coming from Průša, it’s definitely one to watch. Check out the video footage at youtube.com/user/prusajr.
Indiana-based William Steele designed this clear acrylic machine based on the MakerBot CupCake but with upgrades like a larger build area (6.5″×4.5″×7″) and super-quiet micro-step motors. Available as an upgrade (to convert your CupCake), full kit, or assembled.
Step into Liquid
Resin-based printers are the hot new tech in 3D printing. In a nutshell, instead of melted plastic printed from the end of an extruder, these machines cure liquid resin layer-by-layer using light, yielding the highest-resolution prints.
Formlabs Form 1
David Cranor, Maxim Lobovsky, and Natan Linder of the MIT Media Lab created the Form 1 and raised more than $2 million on Kickstarter for the project. Their stereolithography system directs a laser across a tray of liquid photopolymer resin to solidify one layer at a time, with the build platform raising the object after each layer. Pro-grade prints with 300-micron features and 25-micron Z resolution are possible. The team previewed the Form 1 at World Maker Faire New York to raves.
South Dakota-based Michael Joyce raised more than a half-million dollars — 10 times his intended funding goal — on Kickstarter for this open source, resin-based 3D printing system that boasts superior print resolution. A digital light processing (DLP) projector shines an image onto a layer of photo-initiated polymer resin, resulting in a quick, solid cure of the entire layer in one operation, at a minimum 100-micron resolution. Prints as fine as 50 microns X–Y resolution and less than 10 microns Z resolution are possible.