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SLA Printers

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Lately there is an invasion of SLA printers from China. Some of them look good and have a competitive price. Currently there is no much information on any of these new printers though. Most rsemble the Form1. Some have larger printing volumes but most are confined to print small parts. Most use the same expensive type of resine and require cleaning and cure.

In your opinion, will SLA printers take a significant share on the home/small office market anytime in the near future? Or are these printers aimed exclusively at professionals in niche markets like jewellry, engineering,...? Do you see in the no so distant future a SLA printer at your desk?

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I think SLA printers and FDM printers fill similar but different roles. Mostly due to scale and cost. I think they will excel in areas like miniature printing, casting masters, jewelry, and other specifically areas where FDM printers suffer due to print lines, and small detail resolution.

But I don't think SLA printers will ever beat FDM printers in medium sized prints, like larger figurines, busts some mechanical prototyping. FDM's are just so much more cost effective, durable and easy. Not to mention the different types of materials available.

I think SLA printers will find homes in slightly more professional printing places, and miniature enthusiasts (trains, warhammer, dollhouses) But I don't see SLA printers being adopted as widespread as FDM printers. They are more expensive and dealing with resins, cleaning the plate seems like too much of a bother for casual users.

But who knows, lets see how far the price can drop. I certainly will consider picking one up eventually for making really small parts that my UM's aren't suited to do.

 

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I think in the long run SLA or Powder will win over FDM.

SLA Processes scale well in both directions, while making FDM using finer threads "feels" to be more difficult and to do this without increasing print time immensley seems even more difficult.

There are materials of different hardness and elasticity for SLA already. And the range of choices will widen.

Post curing and cleaning can be automated. SLA patents just ran out, so prices are starting to fall.

Having both an SLA and FDM printer, I must say the SLA is easier to operate and delivers more consistent results.

The FDM objects can be larger and feel more like something bought in a shop made of plastic and more sturdy.

The SLA objects have better surfaces and look like gems compared to toys. Like a miniature replica of a vintage car compared to a matchbox car. The washing and curing is a no brainer and support handling and removal is ways above FDM (as I know it, I know there are dual head solutions with solvable supports).

Nonetheless I think Powder is the future, because it can be fine enough for smooth surfaces, solves the support problem in an elegant way and alllows for simple methods to print voxels in different colors. A curing process to make the objects sturdy or some coating to change the haptic will be only amatter of time.

Or the future may be completely different :)

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I agree with what's been said so far. I think SLA and FDM machines do similar things but have costs and benefits, each of which make them fill different niches as Valcrow mentioned.

Benefits of SLA: smooth texture, high accuracy on small parts, quick print times.

Costs of SLA: weak material strength, high cost of printing material (which will definitely come down in price as time progresses), few material types to choose from, and curing times.

I see SLA being primarily utilized by people that want to make figurines, or jewelry to form a mold with which can then be made into an object out of any material that can be molded.

Benefits to FDM: many material types to choose from, no curing time, a wide (and quickly growing) selection of materials with different properties, parts can be used out of the machine with a good deal of reliability, dual (or multi) print materials, relatively cheap material prices.

Costs of FDM: small detailed resolution not always captured on different axie, more mechanical parts (more potential things to break), and slightly more knowledge about 3D printing needed (which could be seen as a good thing or a bad thing, contingent upon your interest); a knowledge of different settings and printing strategies is very useful when printing this way. That last point being said, the software needed to auto generate support structures and such of good quality for difficult overhangs and designs, has come a long way is always improving.

I don't think additive manufacturing/3D printing will ever hit the general public, i.e. grandma is using the printer on a regular basis, until it can print cloths/footwear or electronics (think cell phone). I think this technology is already so apart of industry/research, that it will benefit the general public more indirectly than directly for a good while.

 

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I see FDM, in the long run, as a dead end street. As long as it is cheap and cheerful it will fill its niche, but as soon as SLA catches up machanically or financially it pretty much loses its right to exist. Some might argue that this will never happen or not for a long time, but FDM reminds me a little too much of a matrix printer. Fine and wonderful, until you get something that just does a better job.

 

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In your opinion, will SLA printers take a significant share on the home/small office market anytime in the near future? Or are these printers aimed exclusively at professionals in niche markets like jewellry, engineering,...? Do you see in the no so distant future a SLA printer at your desk?

 

 

Anytime in the near future? No. Eventually? Yes.

 

I see it as similar to the difference between color laser printers and traditional inkjet printers 15-20 years ago. One offered significantly better performance and precision than the other, but also tended to cost substantially more to purchase and operate (thousands of dollars versus hundreds).

 

Fast forward to today, and you can get a good color laser printer for not significantly more than the price of a good inkjet printer.

 

I expect 3d printing to go the same route. From a purely theoretical standpoint, I think there's no question that SLA is a better approach than FDM in terms of performance, and it's main drawbacks are simply cost and process issues (SLA components are expensive, resin is expensive, resin is messy, resin requires extra curing/finishing steps, resin is harder to clean etc.). Given enough time, I think technology will solve those problems and we'll see SLA start to take over.

 

To be completely honest, if it weren't for those problems I'd have gotten a Form 1+ instead of an Ultimaker 2. But SLA just isn't quite ready for consumer adoption yet. In another 10-20 years, however, I expect that to change. I'd be surprised if I didn't end up with an SLA printer sitting on my desk at some point within that timeframe.

 

As much as I love my Ultimaker 2, I have to concede that I'm pretty much on the equivalent of an old-fashioned dot-matrix printer at the start of the 1990's, and that after a few generations of 3d printer technology its capabilities are probably going to start looking pretty sad.

 

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The reason why you see a lot of SLA printers right now, is it's because it's very easy to produce. You only need a few bits and pieces. And I've seen quite a few selling without the needed beamer, which is the most essential component.

 

I expect 3d printing to go the same route. From a purely theoretical standpoint, I think there's no question that SLA is a better approach than FDM in terms of performance, and it's main drawbacks are simply cost and process issues (SLA components are expensive, resin is expensive, resin is messy, resin requires extra curing/finishing steps, resin is harder to clean etc.). Given enough time, I think technology will solve those problems and we'll see SLA start to take over.

 

I think it's a bit silly to think that with enough time all problems will go away. While I do think SLA can take over some of the market that FDM currently has. I think there are two important factors that will keep FDM in play:

* Speed. Curing resins takes time. You cannot really speed up this process. You could use stronger light sources, but that has other drawbacks. With FDM you can go to thicker layers, and have a choice between speed and quality. With SLA it's always quality over speed.

* Materials. FDM is getting more and more material options. All are safe to touch and handle. SLA on the other hand:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/formlabs-com-assets/Black_Resin_MSDS_V5.pdf

 

Eye and Face Protection: Chemical splash goggles or a face shield is recommended during operations where

splashing could occur.

Skin Protection: Avoid all skin contact. Depending on the conditions of use, cover as much of the exposed skin

area as possible by wearing gloves, aprons, long pants, and long sleeved shirts.

Other Controls: For operations where contact can occur a safety shower and eye wash facility should be

available. Always use good personal hygiene and housekeeping practices. Wash thoroughly after handling.

Environmental Exposure Controls: Keep product from waterways and watersheds. This substance is not readily

biodegradable and dangerous for the environment. Avoid release to the environment.

 

Also, with some resins (not sure, could be all), there is a chance to build-up an intolerance. There are reported cases of people unable to be in the same room as a SLA printer due to allergic reactions.

And you cannot make every material into a resin. With FDM it's almost "if you can melt it, you can print it"

As for powder. Ever used one of those machines? While the results look great there are problems with strength, and you need to clean off the powder from the print, which is a bit of a messy process. Rather not do that in my home.

 

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I thought we are talking about the future, not tomorrow :)

Most said here is speculation, but somebody pointed out FDM is faster today. I must say my B9Creator (DLP) is usually faster than my UM2, the more stuff is in the xy plane the more pronounced is the advantage for the DLP printer. Accordingly the advantage is even bigger when printing multiple objects as the additional objects do not add any time.

Resin/Filament cost. Massive cube 1cm^3: FDM 5.6 cent 8.2 cent. Both technology can hollow out, but I just wanted some mass to get numbers. The filament being from Ultimaker (31,50€ per reel), the Resin being Spot-HT (79€ per bottle) - I choose those, because I have used them and they work. That said, there is also FunToDo resin, which is something like 45€ instead of 79€, bringing the cost down to 4.6 cent, below the cost of Ultimaker filament, but there is also cheaper filament. Still it shows the cost is not necessarily higher - it will fall with time, more so for resin, as the filament market is more mature.

Also powder isn't restricted to "plaster" you can have metal printers as well - to recycle a quote "if you can grind it you can print it". I have to admit you still have to melt or glue it, but you cant make a filament out of stuff without effort.

FDM is popular, because it was the first technology the patents ran out and is reasonably simple and cheap to realise.

On the other hand to think that something we associate with a given technology today, will be a limiting factor in the future is probably a bit naive. Most people wouldn't have predicted the kind of cars and planes we have today, when seeing the first of those species. So convictions like resin has to be an irritant or FDM will not be able to print features below .02 mm, will most likely be proved wrong. Does anybody know how often it was stated that semiconductor structures couldn't be made smaller, because the masks couldn't be made smaller or the wavelength or whatever ?

3D printers will only be a real consumer product, when you select a design in a menu, press a button and it comes out without any ado.

We are far from this, even farther than we would have to be.

We get rather "underdeveloped" products, which only work when cared for. Compare the moving components of an UM2 with a decent milling machine and you know what I mean. You get ringing, you can dealign the xy axis with bare hands. The feeder is prone to grind or to block the flow, the calibration with a piece of paper and screws that can spring out of the nut, filament manufacturers that do not offer profiles for the machines on the market etc.

All these things create a need for expertise, which isn't really needed. Nobody would put up with a paper printer that prints wobbly characters or which has its print head tilted every time somebody bumps hard against the printer, or the paper feed jams regularly, or you have to oil the mechanics every now and then.

Think about to have to build your own paper feeder, to make the printer working reliably or to use an "atomic" paper removal method.

Just check how many designs on Thingieverse make the 3D printers work as they should. There shouldn't be a need for that.

Because we put up with this, this part of the 3D printer market is restricted to enthusiasts and tinkerers.

The consumer needs a device that just works. Today those devices (or something close) may exist, but not for a consumer or hobbyist compatible price.

 

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* Materials. FDM is getting more and more material options. All are safe to touch and handle. SLA on the other hand:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/formlabs-com-assets/Black_Resin_MSDS_V5.pdf

 

This is very much a matter of time and development. Currently resins are expensive, not very strong and have other issues, but the search for cheaper, better and safer materials has clearly started a while ago. As more companies jump on the band wagon, better solutions will be found. Just look at all the FDM alternatives you see popping up now. The same will happen with SLA when enough momentum has been gained.

 

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Well i have just bought 2 SLA machines, and I have 4 FDM machines. So I am talking from experience here. For me the following is true (not getting too technical).

The first thing is build volume, Its no good if its not big enough. FDM is the clear winner here, SLA need to catch up. SLA is too small for most of my projects.

The second thing is quality, SLA is the clear winner here, I simply cannot match the quality of SLA with any of my FDM printers.

The third thing is print speed and un attended print. SLA is the clear winner, FDM is noisy and arguably more chance to fail half way though. SLA is much quieter meaning I can print at night.

The forth thing is machine price - FDM is the clear winner here - SLA need to come down.

The fifth thing is setup, SLA is much simpler, almost plug it in and print.

The sixth thing is post cleaning - FDM is the winner hands down - SLA is messy and a ball ache.

Conclusion.

I think SLA will win to be honest, Most of the caveats will be over come with time, the printers will become cheaper as will consumables, Just look at the price of the CTC Riverside. Wash off will become safer and easier with water washable resins. Build volume will surly get larger.

With these improvements - I can see most homes owning one in the next 10-20 years. Just like nearly every home has a TV now.

just my opinion on how the tech is right now.

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What sla printers did you get, the form 2? As i heard the form 1 had quite a high failure rate. While i love quality of sla, I still think fdm is great for the price, and from experience using a machine night and day for over a year non stop, I had hassle free printing with great results (depending on the object of course). Can you get perfectly smooth spheres on an sla, or line free prints with no post work? I have seen a few rings and such printed on one but was not sure what had been done to it to look as it did. Also filament costs are dirt cheap, and all you need to print with. No extras. Maybe a new pfte every now and then, lol.

Edited by Guest

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All my prints have layering, its just much more noticeable with FDM. Sea starts at FMD lowest setting 0.1 and goes down, so layering is much less noticeable. Machine prices and consumables will fall with popularity. FDM is cheap because of this, in a few years they may even stop making them, and go the way of the type writer or mechanical calculator.

For now though they still rule, you can do so much more with them, simply because of the large build volume, many different filaments, colours and material, and the fact you have more control over infill density and fill patterns.

I just see FDM technology slowly being phased out over the years for the consumer level, I think there will always be a need for FDM, just not in the home.

I have the CTC Riversides a stripped down form1 clone, ships with cura (hence I have opened an account on there), but I am not sure if the cura bundle is legit or they have stolen the software.

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Thanks for the info, It says layer height it 0.1? Thats not too great? Im sure i would see the lines thats all i look for these days, i may consider it if if went to 0.025 but at 0.1 no way.

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FWIW 1 micron looks much worse on FDM than it does on SLA they are almost invisible with SLA.  Do you print much at 1 micron ? On my FDM I print at 2micron.

Remember this is the cheapest SLA on the market, I'm not saying its the best...  I have a feeling it will be the most popular though.

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i print at 0.06 and never lower res, due to the lines. 0.1 and lower is for speed and prototyping only. something i did not buy this printer for. the main thing i like about this,printer is that i only need filament and nothing else, maybe some acetone but thats about it. i understand there are aditional cost with the sla which puts me off it. in have no space for all the extra tanks to cure and stuff. and as for the layers being almost invisible, i thought that too about high res fdm prints......until, i spray painted them. paint brings out any imperfections, and i like things as close to perfect as i can get, but for 800$ i might get one just to play around, but im not that great at modelling yet, so the speed is not an issue yet as i simply cant produce that many things to print atm, maybe later.

i have not seen many solid smooth surfaces on sla printers, only pointlessly extremely complex geometric shapes. and this tends to hide the lines. i also have not seen any ultra close ups. i would like to see a perfect sphere raw off the printer in a close up lit in a way to show the bad parts, rather than to hide them.

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