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3D Printing - "It's all about design and quality output. Not how fast the printer can run."

wanhaod7red 2Wanhao

Not sure what that name exactly means. It seems to be tied to an image of a Rhinoceros. For me it is the brand name of my next 3D printer. The model is the Duplicator 7 ver1.5 or simply the D7.

I struggled with my justifications and options on this purchase, so I will tell the story.

I already own three 3D FDM (filament) printers. All are working OK making plastic items. That’s my problem. I don’t believe (or desire) the plastic things I create will be cherished heirlooms. Rather more like junk to be thrown out, like broken toys.

I want to use high quality 3D printing to produce master patterns for lost wax casting or perhaps cold casting process. Primarily though, I want to use 3D printing for my silver jewelry. The best method and highest quality printing is produced by light sensitive resin printing systems.

Many if not most professional jewelry casting masters are now produced using 3D CAD and 3D printing. There still is hand carving and CNC machining of wax happening too, but there is far more CAD and 3D printing of high detail, not possible to create with the other methods. More important to me; I just love to do 3D printing.

I am not getting any younger, so If I don’t do it right now, I will never. That’s my motivation and justification.

Two basic methods are in use with the light sensitive resin. One uses a focused UV LASER beam that traces out the layers of the print with rapid movements of a tiny light spot on the bottom of a vat of resin. There is a slightly different version where the laser spot maps the top surface of the resin reservoir. Either is called Stereo Lithographic Apparatus (SLA) method.

The other method projects a full image all at once on the bottom of the reservoir, using a video projector, layer by layer. A veriation of this uses a LCD display screen against the bottom of the reservoir with a bright UV light behind the screen. It’s like a snapshot picture projected of each layer. It’s called the Digital Light Processing (DLP) method.

The Wanhao D7 is the last type. It’s low power (30 watts) and slow, but can produce outstanding detail, finer than the LASER SLA spot. I am willing to exchange speed for lower cost.

Professional and prosumer low end 3D resin printers are in the $3000 to $10,000 range. Way out of my budget. But I was giving them serious consideration. I had to, as part of knowing what the options might be. I wanted to know what made them cost that much. Now I know. Power and speed add cost.

There are a lot of start-up 3D printer companies. The competition is driving the cost down. That’s good for the buyer, as it drives the cost closer to the quality of the printer. In a fee market there is more probability of greater value proportional to what is spent.

I spent as low as I could, with the simplest and best printing process I could discover and afford. The Wanhao D7 is continually being improved. The version I ordered is at least five generations from the original. The latest improvements were enough to convince me to make the selection now.

It may NOT have been the best or the only choice, but it is my choice. Not deciding means nothing can happen. I don’t have the luxury of time for examination to the n’th degree. I think I will do good with my selection. Specifications change constantly, so jumping in somewhere with both feet is necessary. Otherwise I never would get to the best decision.

I am not saying I selected the best printer. Far from it I am sure. The printer I would have picked if Jewelry was my prime source of income is at the $10k level. Spending that much would require a need for return on investment, at least in my justification. I spent < 7% of that amount. Two times my FDM printer cost bracket but at least four times greater resolution. Fair trade-off.

There is a point of diminishing return, and the D7 is at that edge. Each halving of the later height, doubles the print time. Each halving reduces the noticeable improvement effect by the same amount. With my FDM printers I usually print with 0.2 MM layers. The D7 prints at 0.035MM (0.0014") layer height.

I won’t see the new D7 until after the first of the new year. A late Christmas present to myself.

At this price, it indicates it is an import from China. All my printers came from there. Most 3D printers at the low-price sector of the market, do. Many are created by US “funding” campaigns. Go figure.

I'll post more when the printer is working.

The Author

Ramblin' Dan Kautz

dankautzThere is no doubt one of my hobbies is writing about my hobbies. I read somewhere a long time ago, the best things to write about are the things you know very well. I have been writing and publishing long before the personal computer became the tool of choice.  My first printed and published club newsletter was created in the late 60's.

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Our Mission

The intention of this web site and “Ramblin’ Dan’s 3D Print Design Studio” is to promote creative design thinking and demonstrate how ideas can be changed to tangible creations through the proper application and use of Three-Dimensional Printing systems.

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