Currently FDM technology still dominates the home and small business 3D printing industry, though in the last few years we’ve seen desktop stereolithography (SLA) and direct light projection (DLP) printers start to slowly carve themselves an ever-growing niche. Rather than 3D printing with thermoplastics, SLA and DLP printers use liquid resin materials that are cured with light. The technology is often faster and more precise than FDM 3D printers, however the cost of the printer and the resin materials has been one of the primary obstacles preventing the technology from becoming more popular. There have been a few low-cost options like the Peachy Printer, but sadly none of them have managed to make it to market.
But a Swiss startup called Visionsforge may be the first company to successfully launch a truly low-cost, desktop SLA 3D printer. The Forge 1 is their new sub-$1000 SLA 3D printer, which is significantly more affordable than their existing competition. Additionally, the Forge 1 is going to be capable of printing much larger objects than competitors’ machines thanks to its LED-SLA process. For an SLA 3D printer, the Forge 1’s 373 x 260 x 205 mm (14.6 x 10.2 x 8 inch) printing envelope is positively massive. And if you’re worried about materials cost, Visionsforge is also looking to corner the market on resin materials by offering them to Forge 1 customers at dramatically lower costs than anyone else on the market.
“Since our customers will be able to print big sized objects, they will need more resin, and we did not want this to be a problem, so we decided to earn our money only with the 3d printer and share the discount we get from our resin supplier. [By] doing it that way we cut the cost for resin into 4, our resin costs 4 times less than usual and we will sell our resin only to our customers,” explained Visionsforge CEO Fabrizio Guadagnino to be via email.
The Forge 1 was developed by a small but dedicated team of engineers and software developers looking to shake up the industry and bring SLA 3D printing into more homes and offices. With a high resolution leadscrew, precise stepper motor and high-quality components like a zero backlash nut and top of the line ball bearings, the Forge 1 was built to last. It is also completely enclosed in a solid metal shroud and will be available in 5 different colors, including red, white, black, light blue and dark blue. The Bévilard, Switzerland-based company didn’t sacrifice quality for price, as they designed the Forge 1 to be extremely quiet, safe to operate and difficult to disrupt.
“We conceived Forge 1 to be as quiet as possible, with insulation material around the step motor and the closed architecture. Our customers can work or sleep or whatever they do in peace, during the print process. The closed architecture also makes it safe. No injury or accident possible because if the door is opened the print process stops, and automatically begins again after the door is closed,” Guadagnino told me.
Here is a brief video about the Forge 1:
The Forge 1 itself was designed to last for years, and the Visionsforge team will be offering improvements and upgrades to it via free software updates that will improve print speeds and its already high resolution capabilities. Currently the Forge 1 is able to cure between 10 to 30 cc of resin an hour, which is comparable to other similar printers available on the market. However, Guadagnino said that their engineers are working on software updates that will speed it up dramatically. As average as the Forge 1 printing speed may be, it can print with an impressive layer resolution. It is capable of printing layers as fine as 0.005 microns, which is fine enough to virtually prevent any visible stepping or striation marks, making it ideal for jewelry or dental applications.
While Visionsforge has not yet announced when the Forge 1 is set to be released, it will be coming soon. Its retail price will be $999 and it will include a 1.8 liter resin pack. Customers who purchase a Forge 1 will be granted access to buy Visionsforge’s discounted resin materials in four different sizes, $6.50 for 125 ml, $10 for 250 ml, $18 for 500 ml, $32.50 for 1000 ml and a 4 bottle pack for $59. They will also offer 6 different color resins, including red, blue, white, black, yellow and indigo. You can find out more about the Forge 1 over on the Visionsforge website. Discuss in the Visionsforge forum at 3DPB.com.