It is starting to look like we’re entering a new phase of 3D printing that may make standard FDM desktop 3D printing virtually obsolete. Fused deposition modelling has pretty much been the desktop 3D printing industry standard since dedicated RepRap makers started working with the technology over a decade ago. Not only was the technology relatively cheap, but the parts were easy to get, and the materials were easy to come by. By the time Formlabs launched their wildly successful Kickstarter campaign for their desktop stereolithography 3D printer there were already more than a hundred different brands and models of FDM printers.
While Formlabs has found quite a bit of success with the Form 1 and the subsequent Form 2, the relatively high price of their light-curing resin 3D printer has kept it and the handful of imitators who came after them from replacing FDM printers, despite higher resolutions, fewer printing errors and faster printing speeds. But as with any technology, given enough time the quality will always get better and the price will always drop. Super-fast light-curing resin 3D printers have started popping up in the last few months with the ability to 3D print at blistering speeds that can be almost 100 times faster than most SLA printers.
Carbon and NewPro3D offer two examples of this new breed of lightning fast SLA 3D printers. Just as the technology has improved, a new Kickstarter launching today suggests the prices are also going to be dropping, potentially making SLA 3D printing a contender for the 3D printer technology that finally knocks FDM off of its market dominance. 3D printer startup UNIZ Technology is crowdfunding its very first 3D printer, an LCD-SLA desktop printer called the Slash on Kickstarter, and early birds will be able to pick one up for only $999, making it more affordable than most mid-quality FDM desktop 3D printers.
The big draw is going to be the speeds that Slash 3D printer is capable of. According to UNIZ, the Slash will be the fastest desktop 3D printer ever made, capable of reaching record breaking printing speeds of 1000 cc/hr. It is also going to offer an incredible amount of detail, with resolutions on the Y and X axis as fine as 2560 x 1600, 339 ppi and 75 μm. The Z axis will have a resolution of 10 μm, and will also be customizable, so users can set different resolutions at different parts of the model. Obviously that is going to speed up larger or higher detailed prints quite a bit, and that’s on top of the already fast LCD light-curing technology.
The design also includes an automated resin system that will continuously refill resin throughout the printing process so users won’t have to worry about resin running dry during large prints. The polymer vat will feature passive peeling that extends the vat life far beyond anything that competitors of the Slash offer. The vat will have a 1,000 hour life, which could equal up to 300,000 layers. PDMS-based vats can’t even come close to that lifespan, and would need to be changed at least ten times as often.
The Slash Kickstarter campaign will be running for thirty days and is looking to raise only $50,000 by April 28th — and already raised $17,000 within its first 30 minutes of going live. The first 30 early early birds can get a Slash for $999 (with more than half disappearing in the first half-hour), the next 370 early birds can pick one up for $1,199 and after that the price jumps up to a still very respectable $1,399 available for 400 backers, with the final cost being $1,599 for the final 400 backers. Each of the levels of backing will include a 500mL bottle of resin materials. According to UNIZ, if the campaign is successful they could start shipping Slash 3D printers as soon as December 2016, with the rest following in February and March 2017. For a backing level of $9,999, five backers can receive a pre-beta package, with these printers shipping speedily after the campaign ends, in May 2016.
The Slash created quite a bit of buzz when it debuted at CES 2016, where several on-site journalists saw it printing at the promised speeds, which is extremely encouraging. While the specs of the Slash are quite exciting, I do find myself worried about the success of the Kickstarter campaign. $50,000 is a pretty low bar to set, especially when I’m sure the low unit price will be contingent on selling a high quantity of printers. It is very likely that UNIZ is hoping for a big Kickstarter win, unfortunately those aren’t as easy to come by as they used to be.
However that sub-$1000 price tag is extremely alluring, especially given the buzz on the quality, so it may be worth any potential risks. And if an affordable desktop SLA 3D printer shakes up the 3D printing industry with technology that is newer and faster than FDM, that would be pretty exciting. You can learn more about UNIZ on their website, and you can see the Slash SLA 3D printer Kickstarter campaign here.
Here is the Slash Kickstarter campaign video. Are you going to back this campaign? Discuss in the Slash 3D Printer forum over at 3DPB.com.