3D printers have come a long way in the last few years. They are no longer just curiosities. Nor are they so expensive that they’re way out of reach. Nor are they the monsters of yesterday.
Recently we were given the oppor-tunity to evaluate a desktop-sized 3D printer from Intellecta, the Australian reseller.
It’s the UP! 3D Desktop Printer and it measures just 240(w – plus 55mm for the media roll ) x 195(d) x 340(h) mm, with a weight of 5.2kg. That makes it small and light enough to fit just about anywhere.
First impressions count!
The first impression we got upon removing the printer from its packaging is that it is a serious piece of gear. The main part of it is made from powder-coated steel and feels hefty and solid. The stepper motors and gearing are clearly designed for precision; there’s no backlash in it at all.
Recognise it? It’s the 3D printer at right but in this case it’s a printed version, in ABS plastic, done by the 3D printer at right!
The maximum object size that can be created, 140 x 140 x 135mm, is set by the size of the printing platform and the range of the axes.
However an object that large (or anything close to it) would take many hours to print and as we shall see later, must be carefully designed if it is to be printed without distorting.
On the other hand, smaller objects such as knobs, gears and so on print relatively quickly and there’s no real trick to it.
Once the printer has been set up, you just feed the 3D models into the software, press the print button and away it goes. You can print multiple smaller objects in a single print run if desired.
The printer’s resolution is excellent, with settings of 0.2mm (fine), 0.3mm (normal) and 0.4mm (fast). This allows for smooth curves and makes relatively fine detail possible.
Objects printed at the higher resolution settings naturally take longer to produce. Roughly speaking, printing a small object takes an hour or so while several small or one medium-sized object will take 2-3 hours. Larger objects will take proportionally longer.
One very good feature is that the entire print job is stored within the printer’s memory before printing begins, allowing you to unplug and shut down the host computer while the job continues. This is handy for those larger jobs.
The objects produced are surprisingly strong and rigid for their size and weight. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic is used as the print medium and when this hardens, it is quite tough.
Flexible sections can be made by carefully controlling the thickness and fill density but sections with higher volume feel solid (even if they are filled with a dense mesh, to reduce weight and save on material)
The white plastic is semi-translucent so thin sections are translucent, to a degree. This presents some intriguing possibilities, for example where LEDs could be installed inside, to use as indicators or to create a piece of art. The standard plastic reel is white although differently coloured filaments should be available soon.