Over the last couple years, we’ve seen an absolute explosion of masked stereolithography (MSLA) 3D printers that use an LCD screen to selectively block UV light coming from a powerful LED array. Combined with a stepper motor that gradually lifts the build plate away from the screen, this arrangement can be used to produce high-resolution 3D prints out of photosensitive resins. The machines are cheap, relatively simple, and the end results can be phenomenal.
But they aren’t foolproof. As [Jan Mrázek] explains, these printers are only as good as their optical setup — if they don’t have a consistent UV light source, or the masking LCD isn’t working properly, the final printed part will suffer. In an effort to better understand how these factors impact print quality, he designed the DrLCD: a TSL2561 luminosity sensor mounted to a robotic arm with associated software to map out the printer’s light source.
The results when running DrLCD against a few different types of printers is fascinating. [Jan] was clearly able to make out the type of lenses used, and in one case, was even able to detect that a darker spot in the scan was due to a bit of resin having leaked into the light source and clouded up the optics.
But DrLCD can do more than just tell you where you’ve got a dark spot. Using the data collected from the scan, it’s possible to create a “compensation map” that can be combined with the sliced model you wish to print. As the slicer assumes an idealistic light source, this map can help by adding additional masking where bright spots in the display have been detected.
[Jan] goes on to compare the dimensional accuracy of printed parts before and after the compensation map has been applied to the model, and was able to identify a small but distinctive improvement. Not everyone is going to be concerned about the 157 µm deviation observed without the backlight compensation, but we certainly aren’t going to complain about 3D printers getting even more dimensionally accurate.
A couple years back we covered a similar technique that used a DSLR to capture high-resolution images of the bed. While arguably much easier to pull off, we can’t help but fall in love with the glorious overengineering that went into the DrLCD system, and we can’t wait until it starts making house calls.