Every so often a new idea comes forward that makes you wonder how this hasn’t been done before. The latest to come across our desk was Layer One’s Atom 3 3D Printer. No longer must you sit and fret, having to choose between committing your money to a proven FDM workhorse, or throwing caution and your hard earned bankroll into the SLA ring. The Atom 3 promises both technologies in one sleek machine, just not quite yet as the expected shipping date won’t be until some point next year. In the meantime, we will have to pontificate based on the available information, some impressive renders, a healthy dose of optimism, and, yes, a dash of skepticism.
Atom’s deltas are great machines, mixing quality design with high end components, that give their users the superior quality prints they desire. The choices they’ve already made, such as linear rails for the axis, will help to bring that same high quality to SLA printing, using an LCD Vat that will sit on top of the bed surface. With the cost of the LCD setups coming down, not to mention their size advantages over a full sized projector, we have been seeing this type of setup gaining a greater foothold in the resin world.
The Atom 3’s layer heights are already dipping down to at least the expected 25 microns, and with a build volume (65 × 120 × 250mm) that exceeds most current entry level SLA setups (both LCD and BYOP) this printer should be a sight to behold. While the price remains unknown, we shouldn’t expect to see them dip into bargain territory, but so far their quality printers have earned their slightly premium price, and there’s no reason for that to stop now. The prototype prints they have shown showcase the impressive quality already, with the minute details of the Eiffel Tower, such as the upper railings, coming in fine. Other renders show current ideas for the SLA LCD Setup, a two piece unit, consisting of an LCD base which will sit on the bed surface, and the resin vat which will rest on top. With more photos, including a time lapse, available soon, we expect more impressive looks at this machine.
For every “why didn’t I think of that” we often quickly think of quite a few reasons for why not. We are here to be honest and, honestly, we have a few concerns (not the least of which is how the LCD vat will perform in real world use). Just getting a “normal” resin printer to run well can be enough to make 3D printing enthusiasts cringe. Throw in a removable, swappable SLA LCD setup and there is definitely a moment of pause, as the fragility of the parts, combined with the need for a dialed in printing experience, can leave a lot of room for error.
Another thought that made us cringe at first were those beautiful magnetic mounts and arms (and everything else) being covered in the slightly sticky, slightly slick, slightly sweet (don’t ask us how we know) resin haze that seemingly ends up on everything when you are resin printing. It could possibly foul up that super smooth motion. On the other hand, maybe that slight resin haze on the glass build plate will be the perfect bed adhesion helper. Take it with a grain of salt.
Atom freely admits that they haven’t solved all the problems yet, hence next year’s shipping expectations. Some of the photos do show some of their resin setting battles, but Atom is looking forward to the challenge, and we definitely think they are up to it.
In the past few years we’ve seen quite a few “all-in-one” machines and here is a two-in-one that really has our attention. The ability to switch back and forth from FDM to SLA can be a game changer for those who need the flexibility of harnessing the strengths of both sets of technology. Now factor in the ability for that FDM printer to have true dual extrusion, and even the possibly swappable tool heads like a laser engraver, and we actually are looking forward to seeing the Atom 3 come to fruition.