3D Printer Gets A Big Resolution Improvement

[Jose Carlos Veloso Junior] has been working on his 3D printer to improve the resolution. We looked in on his project back in October when he was printing the blue busts like the one seen above.

We were impressed by the resolution he was able to achieve back then, using liquid resin that is cured with visible light. The resin creates a thin layer on a glass tray, and is cured when a projector shines precisely positioned light from below. The cured resin is then lifted on the Z-axis, and the next layer in the printing process is hardened by the projector’s light.

Well, this newest rendition far outperforms the initial iteration. The bust on the right looks like it’s been hand-buffed to remove the layer lines, but it actually just came off of the printer. [Jose] made a video of the new equipment in action, which you can watch after the break. He’s keeping most of the juicy bits to himself but he did tell us that the improvement he achieved were due to multiple changes in the process. He tweaked the software to use a more precise curing time, the resin formula has been improved, the ability to isolate pixels without hardening resin around them has been stepped up, and he’s made changes to the way the printer is calibrated and how it lifts the hardened model.

This is fantastic. Kudos to you sir!


48 thoughts on “3D Printer Gets A Big Resolution Improvement

  1. I cannot wait for the release of further details. I hope the resin isn’t super expensive – this is the first 3D printer that I would actually be interested in building.

  2. The deciding factor on how kickass this is, is the availability and cost of the resin. Honestly that’s where the technology is.

    If this guy managed to make some sort of cheap resin this is completely amazing. Pity it is light on the details.

  3. Although it “looks” nice, how accurate and repeatable is it? If you can’t control the measurements, this process is only good for art projects and not so good for engineering.

    1. You hate intellectual property laws? Did it ever occur to you that Jose has spent thousands of hours on this, and is keeping the details private so you won’t steal his hard work? IP laws protect the people who make this stuff, too. If you invented things instead of copying others, you would appreciate IP laws.

  4. @Bob – Repeatability along 3 axis seems to be well demonstrated by creating the same shape repeatedly around the surface of the sphere. I would guess that is why he chose a sphere.

    I would like to know what the elapsed time was for such a build.

  5. I am no lawyer but it is my understanding that it isn’t IP infringement to make a patent or other information to use for yourself. You just can’t sell it. You can still share info about it or improve upon it or tell others how to do so (although the original patent stays in force). You can even patent derivative improvements but you could be barred from selling it by the original patent holder.

    This is the exact same printer as the “Zbuilder Ultra” or envisionTEC’s technology. It is a DLP and UV resin material machine. They are about $40,000 and up.

    There is no support material so you have to build in supports for some geometries. This bust however doesn’t need it but other geometries would. Removal of those supports can be a pain but isn’t that bad. Something (like Magics) has to generate them.

    If you know what you are doing, the resins are a bit pricey but not as bad as people make it out to be. Bought in industrial quantities, they are quite reasonable – but still not what I would consider dirt cheap like a spool of ABS is.

    Speed is dependent on how fast you move the z axis. The thicker you go the faster but you start to lose quality.

    Overall though, this technology (as I have said in the past) blows makerbots out of the water in terms of speed and quality.

    1. Incorrect. Read the FAQ at the USPTO.gov website. A patent give you the ability to restrict anyone from making OR selling what you have patented. There doesn’t even have to be a rhyme or reason behind who you let use it and/or who you charge… or how much.

      Here’s the funny part though. A patent is supposed to grant this privilege in exchange for completely divulging exactly how it operates. So regardless of the patented methods he MIGHT have used… he could still post some patent numbers.

  6. I have said it before and I will say it again. You could produce a kit like this for under $3000. Even less if you can get the DLP projector used as it is one of the main costs. If you happen to have a DLP projector and some 80/20 laying around, probably even less.

    A couple of mounting brackets, a microcontroller, a host computer, a power supply and stepper motor, a Z stage (fairly precision but not terribly pricey) and not much else round this build out. Again, extremely simple – the trick is in the software and dialing everything in and getting the right resins.

    Fortunately, the resins are very forgiving as there is no complicated recoating mechanism like you have on the zcorp or other SLA or SLS machines. So the viscosity of the “ink” can vary pretty substantially (unlike Objet’s technology) and still print just fine.

    Overall, I really, really like this design and I say that owning more than one $150,000 3d printer. 50 microns in Z isn’t as good as the 16 microns that polyjet can accomplish but it is getting darn close. Get a better z stage and I don’t see why you can’t accomplish at least 25 microns unless there is too much “bleed through” of the resin.

  7. Build times are stable no matter the geometry you build. His video indicated 3.5 cm per hour, which is about 1.37 inches per hour – again no matter what you build (as long as it fits within the build envelope) as it is exposing the entire build envelope at once.

  8. Also – this gentleman isn’t in the United States so if he were to give away plans (he is talking about a kickstarter project) and or sell parts to build a machine – I don’t think he would have any liability like he would if he were in the USA, making machines and selling them to others for profit.

    In my opinion, this is easier to build, dial in and maintain and VASTLY better than repraps or makerbots. I really hope he makes this available to the community at large to build and improve.

  9. @CutThroughStuffGuy:

    As completely amazingly incredible as this thing is, the fact of the matter is that the UV resin is stupidly ridiculously expensive.

    The RepRap and Makerbot can’t even touch this thing’s output…but at they can use super cheap materials.

    Sign me up when someone figures out how to make a UV resin out of canned greenbeans or something. ;P (There’s gotta be SOME use for them, right??)

  10. “the fact of the matter is that the UV resin is stupidly ridiculously expensive.”

    It really isn’t once you start buying 55 gallon drums of the stuff.

    If you buy it in “ink cartridge” format then yes of course it is.

  11. But how to make/ convert the output to “lost wax casting method”.
    Plastic/resin rings don’t impress the wife like a new different Gold or Silver ring everyday !!!
    I think they would begin a new class, no, build a new wing in my kids school based on these being available.
    The demand for drafting/CAD class would be overwhelming.

    PLEASE !!

  12. Methyl methacrylate can be photo sensitized. Google it – you’ll find ideas on chemicals to mix in. It probably needs some tuning with regards to sensitivity, transparency and viscosity, but it seems very plausible to make resin at home.

  13. So you’re basically saying the only real problem of this is the price of the resin? So we just need it home made. Waaaaaitaminute…

    Jerry Ellswoooooorth! The people need you! ;)

  14. Cost of resin in a system like this seems prohibitive…HOWEVER, This system has minimal material waste. So while you spend hundreds per liter a more accurate breakdown of cost is the cost per cubic centimeter of build.
    When evaluating our RP needs, we came down to the envisiontec perfactory machine, that this unit was patterned after, or the Invision HR which uses inkjet technology. We ultimately went with the InvisionHR due to its 2 component build (material/support material)leaving less post processing. (meltable supports vs same material supporst)

    However, the amount of material wasted by the invisionHR cleaning its jets prior to build, easily doubles the appearant costs. We have to have a full platform of parts to build to justify the “purge loss”. Single parts carry a HUGE material expense for us.

    This necessitated the purchase of a solidscape patternmaster (predecessor of the T76) to allow single unit builds….at the same resolution but at a huge increase in build time.

    I still argue that the envisiontec perfactory would have been superior in our applications as we are now running 2 different machines to perform one job…at a higher material cost.

    Personally I have planned to tinker with commodity projector rp since well before I saw juniors work last year…the hardware side is quite straight forward….The software side has been my hindrance as I am a builder….not a coder.

    I am excited to see Junior back…..Ive checked his blog weekly since he pulled it down for “reconstruction” months ago. I look forward to him kicking off his kickstarter.

    Im very excited to see this equipment move into the hands of the makers that have embraced the RepRap Technology despite FDMs inherent limitations.

    1. These days the resin cost between USD 100 – 140/kg. I can let you know where. However most of the times resins and machines are made for each other and hence resin might need some customization – mainly viscosity and flow property. Also based on the light source (emission spectrum) and intensity, some photosensitivity aspect also need to be modified. I am from chemistry but involved with 3D printing and can guide in this respect.

  15. While the envisiontech printer ( and this similar one ) presents reliability, and unbeatable smooth upward facing surface finish, It does not beat Projet / Invision in speed, or support removal, and both upward and downward facing surface finish.

    I do look forward to seeing the Z step get improved.

    techartisan, Your 3D Systems Invision Machine can be tweaked to reduce the frequency of print head cleaning, as well as roughly how much material is purged. You can also adjust jetting parameters s.t. the minimal amount of material is used ( less planarizer waste). I am an authorized 3D System technician. I can help you do that.

    I am no longer apart of any sales organization, but when i was… We had customers attempt to quantify print head cleaning waste. You can do this by weighing your waste bag, and then printing a microscopic low and flat part in low res mode, then weight the bag again. I think you will find its really not that much. But I understand your concern, it is a common one.

    Also worthy of note, there is actually an upgrade available for Projet machines that completely gets rid of your test strip on HD builds. This upgrade expands your build area to almost the whole platform. You gain speed and less waste material in the verification strip.

  16. UV Chemistry is…. extremely detailed. There are hundreds of products, multiple chemistries. Several categories of different major “types” – epoxies, acrylates, etc. Hundreds of books have been written about it and it is 20+year old technology at this point in time.

    Making inks at home from raw feedstock is NOT reasonable for 99.99% of hackers. It is truly an industrial process involving some nastier chemicals.

    However, buying it from the 4 or 5 major US distributors / manufacturers is easy and reasonable. Maybe not DIRT cheap but seriously – not that bad.

    Let’s put it this way. IF you source in 55 gallon drum quantities and IF you source your photoinitiators in bulk (25 lbs or more) and IF you figure out the optimum chemistry for your application (meaning what ingredients to buy), you can produce inks on the order of $2 to $10 per pound, depending on what you are optimizing for. Keep in mind however that you will be buying $2000+ drums of product and you will need 2 or 3 of them most likely as each ingredient imparts different properties into the final product (just like baking a cake). Some products are much better than others, some are nearly useless, some play nicely with certain photoinitiators and some don’t, you have to dial it all in to the wavelength of light you are using. Oh and they have a shelf life. The manufacturer says 12 months but realistically 3+ years. Possibly more if stored correctly or you test and adjust the inhibitor concentration.

    You *can* source smaller quantities but expect prices to be about $10 – $15 per pound higher as most vendors don’t want to repack raw materials.

    So – done right – UV inks used in a printer like this that generates little to no waste and that have only a single ink COULD POSSIBLY BE almost as affordable as RepRaps to operate and produce FAR superior results.

    Oh and by the way, you can produce wax based UV curing inks that you can use for lost wax casting. See the CP200 series of inks by 3D Systems. Works great for lost wax – enabling you to cast parts in gold, silver, platinum, aluminum, etc.

    “VisiJet® CP200 Wax Material provides 100% RealWax patterns for lost-wax casting of mid-sized and large foundry applications across numerous industries and uses. RealWax patterns can replace traditional casting waxes in standard casting processes with no special modifications.

    VisiJet® CPX200 Wax Material provides extreme resolution performanance for high-end lost-wax casting of fine-detail items such as jewelry and micro-medical and electrical devices. Used exclusively in the ProJet CPX 3000 3D printer, the CPX200 material sets the standard for feature definition, accuracy and precision.”



  17. I am an unauthorized Objet (polyjet) technician. I don’t service other machines but I do all of the service on ours and I have training from official techs. I would love to hear more about 3d systems machines. The Invision in particular gets a bad rap from Objet techs but that might just be sour grapes. The ones I see operating look like they have been splayed open with all of the covers removed and they essentially are finicky little things that need a lot of care but make nice parts.

    The real waste is the support material for polyjet / projet printers. It embeds model material inside it and all of it is wasted. You can adjust the amount of model material that goes into the support material but there is only so much you can do before you lose quality. Yes, you purge some too but that isn’t too bad. The real gotcha is the material changeover wizard. That is absolute crap. Manually change over resins. Don’t bother using the wizard but in order to do so, you have to get access to the maintenance menu and Objet, by design, locks users out of that mode and prevents them from accessing it.

    All of that is largely irrelevant if you are using your own inks anyway because a purge might cost you a few cents rather than a dollar or two.

  18. If the tolerances come out good and he plans to make it open source then I will be purchasing my first 3D printer. Resolution has been one of the principle factors in my not bothering with reprap and Makerbot.

    I would also love one that could extrude high grade plastics such as nylon 6 (as used by Glock and H&K)

  19. I believe Glock frames are glass filled nylon. Reprapping that isn’t possible, I don’t think.

    “DuPont Zytel brand glass-reinforced polyamide 66”

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