Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Consumer 3d Printing, What Technology will be King

There are many different kinds of 3D printers, the main kinds being FDM, SLS, and SLA.  Throughout this article, I will evaluate which type will become dominant in the home, based on consumer criteria.

$500,000 SLS 3d printer used by Shapeways

The cheapest SL printer the form 1, $3300
Consumers are lazy, they want to do the least and get the most.  FFF lays down layers of plastic, and is the only one that is ready to use right after the printing is done.  SLS, uses lasers to bind together plastic powder, so after your done printing, you have to knock off the powder, then brush it to get the rest of the powder off, it takes time and energy.  SL is a little bit easier after your done printing you just soak in hydrogen peroxide for a few hours.

Consumers are very impatient, if they want something they want it now.  FFF is the slowest, topping out about 300mm/s, or about 10 minutes to build a smartphone case.  While the others, are just about 10% to 100% faster. However, FFF does not require any finish like SL, that has to be soaked in hydrogen peroxide, or  to be dusted like SLS.  Depending on job size make FFF the quickest.

Expect The Best
Consumers expect the best, think about it, you expect you computer to run smoothly and get mad if there is a problem. This is the only place that FFF loses, it cannot produce the quality that SL or SLS can produce, it goes down to the 35 microns for the best FFF printer, and about 25 microns for a desktop SL machine, there are no desktop SLA machines yet to compare, but for the bigger industrial printer it blows away all the others away at 15 microns. However, you can get FFF to look as good or even better than SL or SLS by heating up some acetone and putting the parts in the vapor, but I believe the average consumer wouldn't do this.

The average consumer has enough to pay the bills, save a little, then have a little bit left for unessential items like and X-box, or a new TV, or hopefully a 3d printer. This is where FFF shines the, it the the cheapest of all... by a lot. The cheapest SL will you run you about $3,000, the cheapest, SLA will cost around $10,000, and the cheapest FFF will cost $300.  The material is also way cheaper, a kilo of filament for a FFF printer will cost about $30, the prices are similar for SLS printers, then jumps up to $300 a kilo for SL resin.

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