There are a lot of questions one needs to ask when considering buying a 3D printer. How fast is it? What materials can it print with? What kind of detail will the finished parts have? Those are just a few, but before you even get to questions like those, you have to ask yourself what kind of 3D printer technology you want. If you’re looking at desktop 3D printers, you’ll likely be choosing between two technologies: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and stereolithography (SLA). Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, but FDM is typically used for 3D printing larger, stronger parts while SLA is reserved for small, finely detailed parts such as jewelry and dental tools.
Choosing between FDM and SLA is relatively simple if you have a very specific purpose in mind; if you’re a jeweler, you’re likely going to want to go with SLA, for example. But what if you want to 3D print both finely detailed parts and large, strong prototypes? FDM is great for a lot of things, but it’s never been able to match the kind of resolution that SLA offers. Many consumers will invest in both FDM and SLA 3D printers to be used for different applications, but a young company is about to offer the option to have both in one machine.
Layer One is a Taiwan-based company that got its start through a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2013. Its Atom delta FDM 3D printers have become highly popular in Taiwan, and now Layer One is branching out into SLA – but it’s not abandoning FDM. The Atom 3, due to be shipped sometime next year, will feature both technologies.
“Even with our ultra-rigid design and a .2mm nozzle,it’s impossible to achieve super high detail with FDM, no matter how hard you try,” said Lawrence Lee, Founder and CEO of Layer One. “SLA is the only way we can offer this capability to our customers…SLA machines require a very sturdy Z (vertical) motion system, and delta’s provide that better than the conventional cantilever system. Of course, there will be challenges to designing a user-friendly module versus a standalone machine, but we accept them gladly.”
Layer One cites the falling prices of SLA technology as one reason that this machine will be possible. As Lee said, the company will stick with the delta model for the Atom 3, which will have a modular design that enables the user to switch back and forth between SLA and FDM. The reservoir attaches to the build plate, and the SLA build platform rides on the magnetic control arms.
“The Atom 3 combines FDM and SLA by way of its MagSwap module system,” Mike Galvez, Global Marketing for Layer One, told 3DPrint.com. “You would simply disconnect the FDM print module from the magnetic rods, replace it with the SLA build platform, and affix the resin tank to the FDM build plate.”
The SLA portion of the Atom 3 will feature LCD technology, and the printer will offer a build volume of 65 x 120 x 250 mm. SLA layer thickness ranges from 25 to 50 to 100 microns. Not much further detail has been released about the Atom 3 at this time, but expect more information to become available as the 3D printer gets closer to its ship date next year. Discuss in the Atom 3 forum at 3DPB.com.