Earlier this week a new 3D printer has been launched on Kickstarter promising to deliver high quality printed objects in a very compact, easy to use and affordable package. Called MoonRay this is a DLP-type printer employing photo sensitive resins and an energy efficient UV projector to deliver 100 micron XY plane resolution and 20 micron layer thickness for its prints at a printing speed of up to 2.5 cm or 1 inch per hour.
The MoonRay 3D printer has been created by American company SprintRay led by PhD graduate Jasper Jing Zhang and is already very successful, at the time of writing pledges for this project sum up to almost three times the US $100,000 goal.
MoonRay’s creators go so far as to taglining it as the world’s best destkop 3D printer however we have yet to see if these claims will be met. This project seems to have addressed cost effectiveness and print quality along with attractive packaging and ease of use. In the following we will take a look at some of the aspects of photopolymerized resin printing and how MoonRay plans to tackle them.
DLP printing technology is very similar to stereolithography (SLA), some even regard it as a variation of it. Anyway, both technologies employ UV light to selectively cure layer by layer of photo sensitive resin from a tank. DLP printers have a much simpler construction than their SLA or even fused deposition modeling (FDM) counterparts, requiring in most cases just a single actuator to move the Z-axis arm or elevator, since the XY layer is generated by instantly exposing the resin to a 2D image from the DLP projector, rather than be drawn by a moving head carrying a laser or an extruder.
DLP printers have similar ownership costs with SLA printers, which means that they are significantly more expensive than most mainstream FDM printers. Initial cost is higher, photo sensitive resins are more expensive than thermoplastic filaments, and maintenance can also become significant depending on how much you print – generally the translucent resin tank is considered consumable as it will get contaminated after cycling through about 2 liters of resin, not to mention the careful handling required so it will not get scratched or otherwise.
This is one aspect that MoonRay addresses by featuring a long-lasting resin tank which should no longer be considered consumable, virtually eliminating the cost of replacement. A set of custom resins 30-40% cheaper than other products has been also developed, this way running costs are lowered further.
Energy efficiency of DLP technology is generally comparable with FDM however the DLP projector tends to be very bulky and in some cases have limited xenon lamp life. With some DLP printers the projector is an optional extra or not even available, requiring the use of one you already own. Print quality is also influenced by the projector’s characteristics such as contrast ratio, power output, light spectrum and uniformity which can raise several issues such as improper curing, lack of precision, warping and so on.
This area features perhaps the most significant improvement, MoonRay does not incorporate or require a standard DLP projector as its light source, instead the printer features a custom designed RayOne UV LED projector which emits light in a very narrow spectrum with a wavelength around 405nm. This reduces energy consumption, increases layer curing precision and removes the bulk allowing for a much sleeker printer design.
The RayWare software is packed with features, allowing for quick and easy setup, it can automatically generate supports until parts are completely dry and there are also anti-aliasing algorithms in place which further enhance printed surfaces. Let’s take a look at some specs.
MoonRay Quick Specs
- Body construction: plastics with UV filtering and metal
- Dimensions (WxDxh): 38.1×38.1×50.8 cm (15x15x20 inch)
- Build volume: 12.7×8.1×22.8 cm (5×3.2×9 inch)
- DLP Projector: UV LED 405nm
- Horizontal (XY) resolution: 100 micron
- Layer (Z) resolution: 20 micron
- Print material: UV resin – standard or castable
- Print speed: 25.4 mm or 1 inch per hour
- Software: RayWare for Mac OS X, Windows 8 and 7, with automatic support generation and anti-aliasing
- Other: HDMI, USB, power cables, maintenance kit, spare resin drums
It seems that MoonRay aims to deliver professional grade prints with much better cost effectiveness. You can head to the campaign page to find out more or preorder your own for as low as US $2,699. Retail price will be US $3,499 and shipping is expected to start in Winter this year.