AMS Spring 2023

Orange 4K Hits Kickstarter with 4K Resolution and Subpixel 3D Printing Technology

6K SmarTech

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We are increasingly seeing an influx of new, lower cost vat photopolymerization 3D printers that making such technologies as stereolithography and digital light processing more accessible than ever. While there are a number to choose from, not every low-cost system is capable of the same quality or even advancing the state of the art to a significant degree. However, there is a new 3D printer on Kickstarter called the Orange 4K that seems to bring something new to the table, both in terms of speed and resolution.

In most cases LCD 3D printers on the market rely on a 5.5” 2K resolution screen, allowing them to achieve 47.25-micron resolution. Produced by Chinese 3D printer manufacturer Longer 3D, the Orange 4K introduces 4K resolution to vat photopolymerization printers, allowing it to reach 31.5-micron resolution and even finer. Not only does the use of an LCD screen allow the Orange 4K to be much less expensive than previous generations of SLA and DLP machines, but 4K resolution makes it possible to utilize the sub-pixels of the screen to achieve what may be unprecedented resolution.

Currently on Kickstarter, the printer is available in two varieties, one which uses a color LCD screen and another that is monochrome. In this case, the Orange 4K mono is actually the more advanced of the two, as it is with this machine that subpixel rendering can be achieved and increase the resolution of the device.

Subpixel rendering relies on the fact that each pixel on an LCD screen is made up of red, green and blue subpixels to anti-alias text, among other applications. Whereas both devices are capable of reaching 31.5-micron resolution standard, the Orange 4K mono can hit 10.5 microns across the Y axis through the use of subpixels for curing the photopolymer resin.

The result is smoother prints with very fine details at a low price, given the fact that the first 50 Orange 4K Mono Super Early Bird customers only pay $299 for the system. This compares to the first 50 Super Early Bird customers for the Orange 4K Color, who pay $269. It’s worth mentioning that Color customers can upgrade to the Mono, which entails swapping out the LCD screen on the system for the Mono screen and then updating the firmware. For backers who miss the early bird printers, a Color Upgrade Kit can be purchased by pledging $385 or more.

Longer 3D is able to develop such technologies due to the fact that it has an in-house research and development lab, which is not the case for all of the manufacturers of low-cost DLP 3D printers on the market. In fact, the firm started in 2014 as a maker of industrial 3D printing systems, including polymer and ceramic DLP machines and laser powder bed fusion 3D printers.

Because industrial equipment requires a hands-on, customer-focused relationship when it comes to training and maintenance, the company’s industrial division is centered within the boundaries of China.

To get its foot into the international market, Longer 3D began manufacturing desktop 3D printers. This began with polymer extrusion machines, like the U20 and U30 printers made under the Alfawise brand. Since then, the company has rebranded and advanced its extrusion line, as well as developed an LCD DLP line that includes the Orange 30.

These previous machines featured 2K LCD screens, which led it to the development of the Orange 4K. We’ll be reviewing the Orange 4K in an upcoming post, but without hands-on experience, it appears to be a pretty phenomenal machine, especially for the price point. In addition to the high resolution, it is said to print at pretty remarkable speeds.

The mono is able to print at 2s per layer, with the company claiming that updates will allow it to reach 60 mm/hr. For comparison, most standard DLP 3D printers print at rates of 100 mm/hr.

Other details about the system include a CNC machined metal body with dual liner guide, meant to be more stable and reliable. The machine featured an integrated 2.8” touchscreen and plastic resin vat with scale. The print volume of the Orange 4K measures 118 x 66 x 200mm (4.64” x 2.6” x 7.87”). The system can achieve layer thicknesses as fine as 10 microns.

The company suggests that the Orange 4K will be ideal for the jewelry and dental markets, as well as for producing miniatures. To learn more about the Orange 4K or to purchase, visit the printer’s Kickstarter page, where packages start at $269, for a single Orange 4K Color 3D printer and go up to $1,700 for five Orange 4K Mono 3D printers. That’s enough to start a complete print farm.

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