Nov 7, 2017 | By Benedict

Pennsylvania 3D printing company 3DFacture has launched a Kickstarter campaign for its new Weaver 3D printer, a stereolithography (SLA) laser 3D printer with an F-theta lens and 50-micron laser spot. The resin 3D printer is available at an early bird price of $999.

Since the arrival of Formlabs on the desktop 3D printing scene, the number of affordable resin 3D printers has skyrocketed, and the SLA/DLP revolution doesn’t look like slowing down. Its latest recruit is the 3DFacture Weaver, a printer with an F-theta lens that’s being billed as the “first desktop 3D printer with a 50-micron laser spot.”

According to 3DFacture, there are two big problems in the current stereolithography landscape. The first of these SLA problems concerns a lack of optical lenses that can guarantee a uniformly sized laser spot in a large print area. The lack of such a lens, 3DFacture says, produces an elliptical or diffused laser spot at the edges of the build area, which hampers printing resolution and the stability of a 3D printed part.

The other problem relates to distortion in either a DLP projected image or a laser galvanometer optical path. In both DLP and SLA desktop 3D printers, this distortion can lead to printing inaccuracies.

The best way to tackle both of these problems? Introduce an F-theta lens to the setup, according to 3DFacture.

It’s not a foreign concept in the world of 3D printing. Renishaw’s AM400 powder bed 3D printer, for example, uses an F-theta lens. But machines like the AM400 are much more expensive than Kickstarter-funded desktop 3D printers, since they are required to produce complex metal parts for industrial applications.

By sticking an F-theta lens in the Weaver, 3DFacture essentially introduces a new trick to the consumer-level SLA party. Whereas existing SLA printers use galvo mirrors to direct their lasers, the Weaver uses a “multi-element lens assembly” that focuses an incident beam onto a flat plane.

The Weaver’s F-theta lens has a focal length that “varies with the angle at which the beam enters the lensing element,” which keeps the laser beam’s “waist diameter” constant.

"You don’t get this kind of guarantee in other 3D printers," 3DFacture says. "Some printers list a 70- or 140-micron laser spot size, which might be true right at the center, but will be far-off at the edge,” 3DFacture adds. “That's why a well-known SLA laser printer claims a 140-micron average laser spot size.”

3DFacture says a non-uniform laser spot size can have knock-on negative effects, such as making the light intensity non-uniform, which consequently leads to print failures caused by low light intensity at edges.

“The F-theta lens provides a focused 50-micron round spot profile at very wide angles, increasing light uniformity and enhancing the surface smoothness of printed parts,” says 3DFacture.

What all this adds up to is some promising 3D printing specs. A 405nm UV laser is used to cure the 3D printing resin, with an X-Y resolution of 50 μm and 25 μm along the Z axis. A high-end linear rail means users can even squeeze out 10 μm layers on the Z axis if needed.

The build volume of the Weaver SLA 3D printer is 150 x 150 x 190 mm, and the printer has been tested for applications including art design, jewelry casting, and dental prints.

The company has also developed a range of 3D printable resins for use with the Weaver. The resin tank of the Weaver 3D printer has a Teflon film coated on top of the PDMS layer, which could prevent “heat-induced clouding problems.”

Those interested in getting hold of a Weaver SLA 3D printer will have to stump up $999 (without F-theta lens) or $1,499 (with F-theta lens) via Kickstarter, a price that includes the 3D printer itself, 500 ml of resin, and a “starter kit.” Other more expensive packages include things like an extra build platform and Fixer3D repair tool.

3DFacture has raised over $20,000 of its $50,000 goal, and estimated delivery for most packages is Jan-Feb 2018.



Posted in 3D Printer



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