The total is not quite comparable yet, however the number of low-cost photopolymer 3D printers on the market is growing rapidly. As has been the case for thermoplastic based 3D printers, small manufacturers try to stand out on the global market by introducing unique features.
Gooo3D, a startup hailing from the vibrant South Korean 3D printing community, just did that with its G Printer, which integrates a 100% UV optical engine for resin curing, as well as integrated Materialise software for direct (no computer required) 3D printing.
Launched on Indiegogo on November 9th, G Printer is equipped with a 100% UV projector. Along with offering high resolution capabilities comparable to most low cost DLP machines, Gooo3D explained that “UV projectors are more precise as the beam radiates only on the wavelength of 405 nanometers. Most commercial projectors radiate light from 350nm to 700nm meaning that the light towards the center shines the brightest and most intensely while the light at the edges are comparatively very weak. Such uneven light produces unevenness in the resulting print out, causing variance with the input modeling data.”
Another advantage is that the UV engine allows for a reduction in heat production. Once again, one of the limit of commercial projectors is that, by radiating all over the spectrum, they create a huge amount of energy waste which produces excess heat. This can lead to overheating, which is why most projectors require fans for cooling. This in turn means more noise – especially in small spaces such as an office – and faster hardware deterioration (for example bulb replacement). G Printer, on the other hand, guarantees as many as 10,000 hours of bulb lifetime (compared to around 3,000 hours with a standard projector).
On the software side, G Printer has introduced an embedded UI which enables direct 3D printing form a standard USB drive. This also includes the support generation software from Materialise, which means that the 3D printer is capable of automatically generating supports (like most professional DLPs do).
Finally the G Printer team assures that their machine is capable of up to 25 micron resolution on the Z axis and up to 60 mm/h in Z axis speed, all with G Printer’s own line of Generic and Castable resins.
In spite of a somewhat limited printing volume (126x78x145) mm, the G Printer was developed to fit inside any space, be easy to use, and last long. It also promises speed and precision. These features, combined with the Indiegogo price starting below $5,000, are all certainly features that the market is looking for, and enough to make it stand out. The only question remaining concerns reliability. For that, we will need to wait for it to hit the market: ETA April 2016.