Micronics to Offer $2,999 SLS 3D Printer—Is it Real?

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A startup called Micronics has recently unveiled a desktop powder bed fusion system priced at a mere $2,999. The team highlights the inclusion of its proprietary slicing software and the simplification of the process with the integration of powder recovery and handling systems. This price point is noteworthy, as it is half that of the Sinterit Lisa and less than a third of the cost of the Formlabs Fuse.

Micronics claims that its MicroSlicer software allows users to import STL files and features a packing algorithm and “real-time physics simulation engine” optimized to prevent collision and parts sticking together. Additionally, a gravity simulation is included, which is said to aid in positioning parts. Interestingly, the slicer software was developed using the Unreal Engine.

The material for Micronics’ system comes in canisters and is gravitationally fed into the system, then moved upwards with an auger. The build chamber is designed to be completely removable. For powder distribution, the system positions a powder flipper that scoops up powder, rotates, and opens sloped wings to drop the powder onto the build platform, before rotating again to spread the powder evenly. After the build process, a plastic tool is provided to remove the entire powder cake, which can then be positioned into a bin for depowdering. This bin allows for shaking to sieve old powder and depowder simultaneously. New powder can also be added to the bottom of the bin before it is poured back into the machine, with the parts remaining in the upper compartment.

The company states that it accelerates the heating process for new builds by enclosing the build chamber in glass, which helps retain heat. Excess powder is removed with the recoater after every new layer and then mixed with new powder. This method is said to gradually heat the build’s powder, purportedly saving time on powder reheating. However, questions may arise regarding how mechanical properties are maintained with this technique. The build volume of the printer is 160x160x200mm. It utilizes a 5W 450nm diode laser, a choice that stands out given the printer’s overall affordability, as diode lasers have become more cost-effective. The motion unit of the printer incorporates a galvanometer (galvo) system developed in-house, which is an analog unit, presenting a novel approach that might not be widely recognized.

The printer, retailing for $2,999, is currently sold out, and the sift bin is sold separately. Micronics offers five liters of PA 12 powder for $219 and PA 12 Glass Filled (GF) for $229. The company also plans to expand its material offerings to include TPU, PP powder, and PA 11. Notably, the printer is open to using your own materials. It supports a layer thickness range between 100 and 150 microns. The dimensions of the printer are 310 x 330 x 700mm, and it weighs 19 kilograms. What’s more, the company emphasizes that the printer is manufactured in the USA.

First off, wow. If the system is even remotely close to what the company is claiming, it’s impressive. Some aspects appear to be examples of highly creative value engineering. We’ve observed how Creality & Co. ingeniously value-engineered the Prusa to $170, while an entire industry sprang up from MakerBot and others, offering $2,000 printers. Similarly, Formlabs pioneered a professional SLA segment through meticulous value engineering and tight control over every variable. So, I’m not dismissing the possibility outright. It’s just that achieving such a groundbreaking feat for an astonishingly low price leaves me both amazed and highly skeptical. Crafting a $3,000 SLS printer in the US, especially with costly components like diode lasers, seems nearly impossible.

The video above strikes me as somewhat peculiar. Watching it, you’ll notice a continuous shift from ‘we’ to ‘I’ when referring to the construction of the printer. This fluctuation between ‘we built this’ and ‘I built this’ raises questions: Was the printer constructed by a single individual? Furthermore, the absence of names or any details about the team is puzzling. Without knowing who the presenter is or the size of the team, it’s challenging to understand whether this is a solo endeavor or a collaborative project. If it’s a personal or small team journey, sharing that story and mentioning names could enhance transparency and connection with the audience.

Moreover, the video’s title, “How we BUILT a 3D printer that can print ANYTHING!,” immediately sets off alarms. Despite the bold claim, it later narrows down to being able to print “any geometry you can dream of.” This is followed by the mysterious narrator asserting that it can produce parts ‘with the strength and durability of an injection molded part,’ which might mislead viewers. My closest lead to the creator is “Mindless-Rub-7832″ on Reddit, who refers to the project in singular first person and whose images match those released on the Micronics site. Another clue is “Luke Micro,” who started the Micronics subreddit, suggesting someone likely named Luke developed this printer single-handedly.

While this achievement appears remarkable, doubts about its viability linger. I can accept that an individual might possess the skills to embark on such a project, but eventually, collaboration could become necessary. The project has only recently been introduced on YouTube, with promises of more details to come and a product launch in the coming months. If this printer lives up to its promises, it would indeed be incredible. Despite my skepticism, I remain open to being convinced otherwise.

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