With the growing improvements in technology and the resultant resolution that is now coming from the desktop 3D printers, I decided I needed to start looking at purchasing one for use in rapid prototyping client projects.
For Odyssey Solutions, the most critical three factors I was using to select our printer were: reliability, print resolution and overall print build volume. The reliability and resolution seem obvious enough but, in order to be able to accommodate the largest possible parts I had to narrow down the list to just a few.
When you Google 3D Printers you will most likely come across Makerbot (recently merged with Stratasys), 3D Systems or a seemingly endless list of small start ups. Makerbot for example is probably the most notable name in the industry as they were one of the first to really perfect the consumer 3D Printer. The Replicator 2 and now 2x are sleek, eye-catching products that had some serious time spent in the aesthetics department. However, it seemed that there were far too many people complaining about reliability and print consistency.
So I then looked at the 3D systems Cube and Cube X systems. Both are rather pricey for what they deliver. The Cube X is a larger printer with a very sizable build volume, it also comes in an optional multi-extrusion head system.
Another thing that tends to differentiate the 3D printers is the print media that is used. Most commonly used is a extrusion filament process that draws a small diameter plastic thread from a spool through a heated extrusion head and out onto the printing surface. The two most widely used materials are ABS (plastic) and PLA (biodegrable plastic made from plants). There are many advantages and drawbacks to both materials but, most people would agree having the capability to print both is preferred. PLA is a fast, non-toxic material that can be recycled. ABS on the other hand tends to produce finer resolution prints and more suitable for parts where stress will be seen. Both the 3D Systems and the Replicator 2x models can accommodate both printing materials but, the price tags were what turned me off.
I then came across a smaller start up company called Type A Machines, a San Fran-based tech company that is focused on the open-source side of things. From reviews I read, their first generation machine the Series 1 (a primarily wood-based skeleton) performed well for the mid-range of users. The price tag was almost half that of the aforementioned models. I then heard they were going to be rolling out a Pro model which would be constructed of high strength steel and glass making is more suitable for high volume, high resolution print users. I contacted them directly by email to find out more and see when the release date would be. The following day Sara from Type A invited me to become a Beta tester for this new system. Not only would I get the latest and greatest model from them before anyone else but, I would also be prioritized for any upgrades later on (heated build platform, wifi and modular wire management systems). The best part about this was the build volume was 12″x12″x12″, much more than any competitive product out there. This meant that I would be able to handle many of my clients prints in-house as opposed to using a third party. So I decided to take them up on the offer. The order is placed and being filled at the moment.
In about 4 weeks I will have the machine and I will then post a follow-up blog on the results.
Here is a quick glance at the new Series 1 Pro
As always, thanks for the read.