We started the Solidator project after asking ourselves two questions:
- Why do high quality 3D printers print so slowly?
- Why is the build volume on 3D printers generally so small?
Three years later, we're excited to unveil the results of that quest: Solidator - our DLP based 3D Desktop Printer.
Here's what makes Solidator different:
Solidator features a huge build area that is 3-4 times larger than that of most other commercial stereolithography printers and even a lot higher than those of the most FDM printers. No longer will you be limited to small prints - the 588cm² print area yields objects that are truly massive by comparison.
Whether you're rapid prototyping or simply impatient by nature, speed is king. Using DLP-Stereolithography and specially formulated materials, Solidator hardens an entire 0.1 mm layer all at once, without the typical moving heads or lasers that do nothing except waste your precious time.
This way Solidator can create 6 Eiffel Towers in one print in only 5.5 hours. As time grows linear with height of the objects - flat objects like a 8 Raspbery Pi Top Covers can be printed in only 25 minutes.
This makes Solidator the fastest Desktop 3D Printer around, without sacrificing quality. In Update #2 we showed how it compares to other printers in terms of speed at the same layer height.
Solidator can print features as small as 270 microns (0.0106 inches) and layer heights from 100 microns all the way down to 30 microns. This leads to impressive results.
- Build Volume: 280x210x200 mm (11.02"x 8,26"x7,87")
- Number of Voxels in Build Volume: More than 1.5 Billion Voxels
- Z-Motor resolution: 10 microns (0.000393")
- Typical layer height: 100 microns (0.00393")
- Minimal layer height depends on the material used.
The Z-Motor is able to go down to 10 microns layers.
We currently support down to 30 microns with the solidator resin.
- Minimal Feature Size / XY-resolution: 270 microns (0.01063")
wihtin a 280x210mm build area
- Speed: 10 seconds per 0.1 mm Layer
- Footprint: 620x600x480 mm (24.4"x23.6"x18.7")
- 3.2" Touch Screen supports standalone printing
- Job transfer methods: Wireless LAN, Ethernet, USB
- Software support: Windows XP/7/8, MAC OS X, Linux
The Technology and how it works
Our mission statement with Solidator is to make printing large objects (or just printing many different at once) FAST while providing unmatched high quality at this size and speed. With FDM Machines and SLA laser machines this cannot be achieved as these machines always need to move the laser or a print head and they can only create one 3d point at a time. We therefore use DLP Projection Technology instead which is way more expensive. With the DLP Projector we can get visible (not UV) light to all points in a layer at the same time. Using a high quality brand projector and high end optics we can assure that the picture quality and light distribution is great and just what is needed to get a 0.1 mm thin layer cured in 8 seconds. We then give the Z-motors around 2 seconds time for moving up and down. The basic restriction in size you see on current DLP and SLA printers is mainly because of a force that grows in squares by the size of the build area that holds printed layers down to the resin container. The second reason for the restricted size of current systems is restricted light source power or respectively laser positioning time. With a build area like ours this force will easily get to 800 N and will certainly break the parts you are printing leaving you with unprinted/destroyed voxels or parts. We did overcome this major issue which blocks anyone from making a large build area and even designed a machine that is so small that it still fits well on your desk. So indeed there is an innovation in the machine design and not a copying or a making cheap of something existing that’s why we applied a patent for it.
By not using PDMS as a separation layer like other Desktop Resin Printers we can actually overcome two significant problems:
- You do not need to remove resin from the tank to have it fully recover.
- There is not so much force that we need to slide the VAT, tilt the VAT or stretch the separation layer
The Z resolution of the motor is 0.01 mm that means we could go to 10 micron layers when the resin actually allows this - currently we tested and support 30 micron layers.
So, how do we get to such a good Minimal Feature Size of 270 micron as opposed to 300 microns that you normally see with SLA resin printers? The good thing about the DLP technology is that you get a fixed XY resolution that has absolute positioning accuracy. You can see this in the 30 microns image above. Every Voxel is exactly where it should be as there is no error from moving parts in this direction. Currently we promote a 280x210x200mm build volume which results in a Voxel size of 0.27mmx0.27mmxLayer height. This is about the same xy resolution as a computer monitor has! That is why you can only see the Voxels if you zoom in. (Note: Take your finger in front of your monitor as a reference to see how large the image was originally). Furthermore note that 270 microns is still not the end what Solidator can do - expect an update on this if we hear from you about demanding even smaller minimal feature size. No changes to hardware or software needed just let us know.
So back to our mission: We are saving you time and providing really high resolution prints on a huge build platform. We think that if you want to print a robot, RC car, engineering parts, electronics enclosure you will need a massive 280x210x200mm - 11.8 liter build volume or you just want to save time by printing several objects at once, you need a Solidator! Solidator can for example print a Raspberry Pi Cover Top, a Raspberry Pi Cover Bottom and a complete chess set in only 25 minutes all in one print. In fact Solidator can - at 100 micron layer height - render more than 1.5 Billion Voxels over a massive 11.8 liter build volume in only 5.5 hours making it the fastest Desktop 3D Printer on the planet with a really high resolution and a fixed XY positioning accuracy and a tiny minimal feature size.
The patent-pending design is realized in laser-cut steel parts, precision-cut aluminum profiles, linear guides, motors, optics, electronics, acrylics, and a special liquid plastic resin container. All parts are sourced from the USA and Europe and will be assembled and tested. The machine will be shipped preassembled to you with minimal final assembly required.
We've tried to take ease of use to a whole new level. Solidator supports Wireless LAN, Ethernet and USB keys so there is always a convenient way to get your 3D model onto the device no matter where you work. And with a built in 3.2” touch screen for user interaction, you can even print without a computer handy. As a light source we use a high power DLP projector that is calibrated and fully automated. There is no dangerous laser that requires you to wear safety glasses. The red protection cover helps to keep away sunlight from the liquid plastic and should be used whenever possible to extend the life of the material.
The printer comes with Solidator Studio, our software solution for 3D rapid prototyping. You can open 3D models in “.STL”, “.OBJ” and “.3DS” format and place them into the scene to print. The software includes an industry leading GPU-accelerated slicer and automated support generation. Files can be transferred to the printer via WiFi, LAN or USB Stick. The software is tested on and available for Windows XP/7/8.x, Mac OSX and Linux Ubuntu.
We have developed a special liquid plastic resin (similar to nail polish) with our resin providers. The prints in the pictures are printed with these resins that are specially designed for Solidator. Resin prices start at an industry leading $50 USD per liter (excluding shipping) and will be available from our partners. Compare that to some other stereolithographic printers that charge $150+/liter, and you'll see the advantage of Solidator.
The Solidator Resin we currently use is extremely hard, too. The hardness of the printed parts (at 0.1mm layer height) is 85D (shore hardness) - this is about the same value as PLA (about 85D) and more harder than ABS (about 75D) and certainly harder than POM (about 80D). The melting point of the printed parts is about 110°C (230 °F). In Update #1 we also showed that you can run over printed parts with a car without major destruction of the parts.
Materials that we certify for use with the printer will allow for high resolution and incredible overhangs. You also don't need to test all this yourself, as we test and refine all of the print settings for you. Solidator and the materials allow you to print incredible overhangs in your objects without support structures:
Today there are a range of colorants available (yellow, black, red, blue, cyan, green and gray). We will continue to develop these and other colors and resins for your printer so you get the best quality prints at a great price.
We expect these new colors to be available for you soon after your machines ship. In addition we already have finishing materials ready which you can use to get silver and gold objects and other effects with minimal extra work.
We are ready for production
So where are we in this whole process? We´ve:
- Formed an awesome global team with members in USA and Europe.
- Developed several prototypes and tested more than 20 material formulations from around the globe to find the optimal combination.
- Tested the final product design for over six months and have built it several times to validate it.
- Tested our suppliers ability to deliver timely and within given production tolerances.
- Planned the mass production facility design and workflows.
Unlike other printers that you might have to wait a year to get, we expect to start shipping the products within 3-4 months after the campaign ends.
Why do we need your support?
In order to achieve our last goals we need you: Making the machine affordable. In order to make it affordable we need to buy parts in larger quantities – and that is where we need you and your support. If you support this project you help us order parts in larger quantities allowing for lower printer costs. If we reach the campaign goal we will be able to ship the printer for half the price it would cost us to produce it in very small numbers.
The team & our company
We founded a company “tangible engineering USA Corporation” based in Florida which will concentrate on the 3D printer business: produce the printers, support the website and support our customers.
See our website at www.solidator.com
We have setup a strong team:
- Tim Fischer – Inventor and Founder: Tim has a strong background in electronics, firmware development and software-engineering and started the project 3 years ago. He holds a computer science degree.
- Sebastian Kummler – Inventor and Mechatronics Engineer: Sebastian has a strong background in cybernetics and mechatronics. He holds a degree in cybernetics. He joined the team two years ago.
- Marcus Eberle – Mechanical Engineer: Marcus has a strong background in mechanical engineering and was working on the first prototypes we developed. He holds a mechanical engineering degree. He joined the team two years ago.
- Björn Borgsdorf – Software Engineer: Björn is our specialist for OpenGL and anything 3D rendering cross platform. He holds a degree in computer sciences. He joined the team last year.
- Nico Ploner – Software Engineer: Nico is our specialist for Touch-User-Interaction and Firmware. He holds a computer sciences degree. He joined the team last year.
- Marina Fischer – Business manager: Marina holds two degrees in business administration and is responsible for all production site related planning and execution. She joined the team last year.
- Joshua Ellis – Engineer and liquid plastic resin expert. Josh manages MakerJuice Labs – dedicated to refinement, enhancement, and production of new and exciting materials to use with your printer
Risks and challenges
Similar to many Kickstarter projects, we face some risks:
We do have some remaining risk regarding the right packaging and shipment so that your printer makes it to you safely. However we are confident we can solve this by using experienced experts in shipping.
We might encounter unexpected logistics / customs clearance issues in some countries which we need to learn how to deal with when / if they occur.
We have a great team setup so there shouldn't be any risks with that!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (25 days)