This is an amazing project and video I saw recently on Hoss’s 3D Printer thread over on CNCZone:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPmP0u1HuUM&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

3D printing an alien skull in high resolution…

There’s not a lot of information available about how this printer works, but there is a blog with some interesting pictures:

Whistle done in typical RepRap melted filament style…

A whistle done in 50 micron resolution with this high resolution 3D printer…

A ball 3D printed in high resolution…

As you can see, the resolution with this technique is much much higher than the typical hobby-class melted filament 3D printers like RepRap.

Apparently the process involves photo-reactive resin (resin that is cured by light), and they use DLP projectors to create the layers one 2D slice at a time.  Imagine a glass-bottomed tank full of resin, and a glass plate on the Z-axis where a normal mill’s spindle would be.  Lower the plate to the bottom of the tank and project an image of the 2D slice onto the bottom of it through the bottom of the thank.  The resin is cured by the light, and it takes 5-10 seconds for the layer to harden.  Move the head up by the layer thickness (50 microns in the high res photos above) and expose another layer.  Continue until you’ve pulled your 3D printed object up and out of the resin tank.

The mechanism and concept are actually pretty simple, though the process is can be time consuming.  A 1″ high object in 50 micron layers needs 508 layers.  At 5 seconds a layer, that’s 42 minutes.  Considering that the complexity doesn’t affect the layer time, doing something like the little ball is actually very fast compared to micromilling it in a 5-axis machine of some sort.

The gentleman with the blog says he is working on turning his project into a product, though he hasn’t posted for a while so it isn’t clear the state of the project.

These high resolution printers are really slick.  Here are a couple of links I found with more information about them:

http://3dprinter.wikidot.com/:  Lots of info here in a Wiki for a group that are working on this style of printer.

http://3dlprint.com/:  This printer is extremely similar to the one in the video above.

These printers are not apt to be inexpensive.  The DLP projector used in the 3DLPrint blog printer is a Dell 5100Mp which is a $2500 digital printer.  Of course you can reuse it for your Superbowl parties, LOL!

Photo-reactive resin to work with this type of technology also seems to be expensive.  One source quoted the resin for use with Dental 3D Printers at a price of $96 for 500 ml.

Still, these printers are extremely cool and it would be fun to play with one!

 

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High Resolution 3D Printer
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