jueves, 4 de octubre de 2012

Review: Top 5 low cost 3D Printer of 2012

Open source hardware is a reality that offers 3D printer users a possibility for self-building, modifying or adapting efficient devices at a fraction of the cost of commercial options.

This review will consider price of devices, but also cost of material, precision and speed of manufacture, in order to propose balanced options.
Although kits based on  thermoplastic filaments extrusion have monopolized low cost options for 2012, this review is quite heterogeneous, with very different devices and features.

Top 5 3D printers of 2012 regarding valued price, accuracy, speed, maximum size and cost of consumables are presented below:

This device is a project funded through Kickstarter site and presented last September at  2012 NYC Makers Faire. It is a 3D printer kit build in anodized aluminum and stainless steel. It is the only member of this group that uses an alternative technology to FDM... instead it uses DLP (Digital Light Processing), based on hardening a photocurable polymer by the action of a projector. Thus, it is able to generate more complex and detailed models than other low cost 3D printers, with accuracy up to 0.004 ". Maximun build volume is 4"x3"x8"...Bottom line is cost, at $ 2,495,oo and consumables around $ 45 / lb.

It's a kit from MaukCC costing $ 1,830,oo. What is interesting about this device is the optional tool changer supporting a wide range of tools: engraving heads, plotting heads, laser cutters and extrusion heads for 3D printing ... Cartesio may be considered a desktop CNC machine. Besides a pretty good resolution (0.008"), it develops X-Y feed rates up to 12"/sec.  Consumables are about $ 17/lb, but generic filament can be used.  The small build volume of 8"x8"x8" is a weakness.

3. RepRap Mendel
Mendel is second generation of open hardware RepRap Project, a pioneer of DIY 3D printers.  Launched in 2004 at University of Bath, UK. this initiative looks for building a self-replication machine under open sorce environments. Main advantage is flexibility design because of  open source hardware, which means device is continuously modified and improved. Estimated construction cost  is around $ 500. It uses generic PLA or ABS consumables at $ 7 - $ 14/lb. Maximum part size is 8"x8"x5,5 ". Main disadvantages are difficulty of construction and low print resolutions. Prusa Mendel is the most known Mendel-based model.

2. Creatr
Leap Frog's Creatr is a fully assembled 3D printer at a cost of $ 1,588.88, based on FDM extrusion technology, achieving up to 0.008" accuracy. Main advantage is plug and play installation, which eliminates the need for complex configurations. Maximum building size is quite attractive with 11.8"x9,8"x10,2", and estimated ABS consumable cost at $ 14/lb.

Ultimaking Ltd sells this 3D printer kit based on PLA/ABS filament extrusion at € 1194 (about $ 1550 plus shipping).  One of differences from other projects, is the fact of moving head rather than deposition platform, allowing a significantly increase of extrusion rate, which can exceed 12 "/sec! Consumables are about $ 14/lb (PLA) but you can use cheaper generic filament....device has also been tested with HDPE, PP and PMMA.
Building volume is a quite acceptable 8.2 "x 8.2" x 8.6 ", and precision a 0.004 " on all axes.

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