Among the most exciting developments in 3D printing is the proliferation of low-cost stereolithography (SLA) and digital light processing (DLP) 3D printers. A key driver of this trend is the use of LCD screens as the energy source for curing photopolymer resin, as they are able to increase the resolution of DLP 3D printing at an extremely low cost. The latest such printer is the IBEE from San Diego-based UNIZ, which has just launched on Kickstarter.
Founded in 2014, UNIZ was an early developer of LCD-based DLP 3D printing. It became wildly popular with its first Kickstarter campaign in 2016 when it launched the SLASH, an LCD-based system that could print at speeds of 1000 cc/hr.
In 2017, it took the technology a step further with the introduction of what it calls Uni-Drectional Peel (UDP) technology. Whereas most SLA and DLP printers lift the print bed up and down before printing the next layer, UDP is able to do so in just one direction without the need for an oxygen window (as seen with Carbon’s process) or specialty separation materials. In turn, UNIZ printers with UDP can produce parts at a Z-axis speed of 650mm/hr. The company claims to have pushed SLA printing record speeds to 1,200 cc/hr.
The latest printer from the UNIZ team is the IBEE, which is able to achieve a minimum feature size of .2mm and 49.8um XY resolution in a large print volume at a low price. The machine will sell for approximately $450 with resins available for $16 /500ml. The build volume is 7.5″ × 4.7″ × 7.9″.
While there are a growing number of low-cost LCD 3D printers on the market, UNIZ differentiates itself with a solid track record. Over the past five years, the company has released 37 products, including printers and resins. Over 40 patents have been granted to UNIZ.
The IBEE is meant to bring a robust build volume and high resolution to the consumer market by making a low-cost system with those qualities. According to UNIZ, the IBEE’s build volume is three times the size of other machines in the same class. The company claims that the vat is economical as well, stating that “vat and film usage cost is optimized to be long-lasting and durable,” in that films will cost less and can be changed easily while still ensuring quality.
The system is also accompanied by the newest version of the company’s UNIZ Maker software, which is describes as “entry level friendly” and capable of “one-click printing,” though “powerful” nonetheless. A One-Click Print feature makes it possible to simply select a model and hit the print button on the system, which will in turn automatically identify the best orientation for the object, add supports and begin printing.
The IBEE takes advantage of the fact that, when the company was developing large-scale mono LCD in 2018, UNIZ found a new approach to LCD printing with high-performance light sources, in which the light diverges at a smaller angle than traditional dot matrix LCDs. This results in 90 percent power uniformity and, therefore, improved consistency and detail across the part.
Delivered along with the IBEE will be zMUD, UNIZ’s first consumer resin, designed to be inexpensive while providing rigidity and toughness. The company suggests that it results in a smooth, matte finish with high precision and accuracy. The resin was specifically formulated for the IBEE but is engineered to work with all of the company’s machines.
You can visit the IBEE Kickstarter page to learn more and purchase one. Based on the company’s history both with Kickstarter and SLA systems, our guess is that it will likely be a hit. Beyond that, the IBEE reflects that, even when it comes to low-cost LCD-based 3D printers, competition is heating up as prices drop and quality improves. Through this technology, we may really see more of a democratization of desktop 3D printing than was original thought would occur with fused deposition modeling printers.
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