Last spring, the world saw something amazing. It was a device that would revolutionize the planet, save the world, and turn your smartphone into a 3D printer. Kickstarters aren’t known for selling themselves short. I speak, of course, of the OLO 3D printer, later renamed the ONO 3D printer, ostensibly because of a trademark dispute.
While filament-based 3D printers are extremely capable and slicing software is only getting better, resin-based printers are able to produce prints of nearly unparalleled quality. If you want high-resolution objects and fine detail, a resin printer is the way to go. These resin printers, however, are a bit more expensive than your traditional filament printers. A few hundred dollars will buy you a serviceable i3 clone, and less than a thousand will get you a real Prusa capable of printing in four colors. The premier desktop resin printer, the Form 2 from Form Labs, starts at $3500 USD.
The ONO (or OLO) changed all of this. Instead of lasers and galvanometers or DLP projectors, this $99 resin-based printer used your smartphone display to shine light on a vat of resin. It was brilliant, according to the backers of the OLO Kickstarter. It is “a boon for democratizing 3D printing technology,” according to one idiotic tech blog. People with more sense questioned the feasibility of a resin printer powered by a phone.
For people who are more familiar with 3D printers, there were a few questions concerning the ONO. The Kickstarter campaign showed light-sensitive resin stored in translucent bottles. Control of the Z-axis stage of this printer was apparently through the headphone port. Different models of smartphones have different thicknesses, and there is no documentation how this would affect the distance from the resin tank to the screen. If a print on the OLO takes an hour, you can’t use your phone for an hour. OLO (or ONO) had a booth at this year’s World Maker Faire in New York, and I didn’t see one of these machines actually working. Simply put, we don’t know if the ONO actually works. For a 3D printer that made its debut on Kickstarter, this should come as no surprise.
However, just because the Kickstarter campaign doesn’t make any sense, is several months late shipping to backers, and there was apparently no working model in September doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the technology. The idea of using an LCD to shine light directly onto the bottom of a resin tank is interesting, and at least deserves some experimentation.
Someone finally did it. In a YouTube video uploaded this week, [Ionel Ciobanuc] demonstrated a homebrew 3D printer that is pretty much what ONO pretends to be. It’s a 5 inch LCD driven by a Raspberry Pi running nanoDLP with a simple motorized Z-axis pulling the print out of the resin. It works. Compared to a Form Labs print, or even a high-quality print off a filament-based machine it doesn’t work terribly well, but it works. In any event, it’s an experiment and proof of concept.
Whether or not the ONO works or not, and when it will ship is irrelevant. We’ve seen cooler printers with more interesting technology fail spectacularly. In any event, resin printers will, for the time being, be weird and exotic devices, powered by lasers and galvos or pricey DLP projectors.
However, this experimental 3D printer from [Ionel] shows what can be done with even the most minimal BOM. It’s not unreasonable to think this experiment in resin printing could be built for less than $100, and further experiments could bring that cost down even more. The idea presented by the ONO printer – putting a display at the bottom of a resin tank – actually works.