Comparison of different 3D printers is still a challenging task, because the features of a 3D printer are not necessarily seen from the specifications.
The properties listed in the specifications include layer thickness, precision of movement, temperature range, materials, printing speed, etc. which do not provide much information to those interested in the matter. In particular, if one is not familiar with the principles behind the FDM technology, which actually dictate most of the above mentioned properties.
The most obvious of them are the layer thickness, the extruder temperature range and the printing materials used.
With a miniFactory 3D printer the layer thickness can be adjusted in the range between 0.01mm to 0.3mm. The most commonly used layer thickness applied in the FDM technology is 0.2 mm. If the objective is to get rid of the stratified look of a part, the layer thickness can be easily reduced. This, however, means that the time needed for printing the item gets longer, because to print e.g. a 1 cm thick item applying 0.2 mm of material requires 50 layers, while with 0.01 mm it takes 1000 layers. The time to print one layer is always the same, and therefore the length of the printing process grows proportionally.
The extruder temperature range dictates some of the potential printing materials. Most of the units available on the market only work with PLA plastic or PLA, ABS. With miniFactory it is already now possible to print with over 12 different plastic materials, which is made possible by its special extruder structure and the high (300) extruder temperature range. The possible options include, e.g. PLA, ABS, NYLON, T-GLASE, TIMBERFILL, CARBON-PLA, HIPS, BENDLAY, PVA, PLA GRAPHENE etc.
Aspects that are difficult to compare.
Printing precision – some of FDM technology equipment manufacturers report their unit’s actual printing precision in motion precision figures. These are two different things. In miniFactory the trapezoidal bar control and the full metal extruder structure create preconditions for high precision results, while the actual precision of a miniFactory unit is ±0.2 mm. By optimising the part-specific printer settings and by taking into consideration the shrinking of plastic, etc, it is possible to achieve even more precise printing quality.
Printing speed – in the FDM technology plastic is squeezed out through a hot extruder forming an item layer by layer. Therefore the previous layer has to have cooled down before the next layer is extruded over it. This means that whatever is the rate with which the unit moves, the optimum printing rate is 50mm/s – 80mm/s – regardless of the device. Generally, printing with higher rates produces just mess, particularly in smaller items, because the previous layer is not given time to cool down sufficiently.
A printing precision test was carried out with a miniFactory unit, while the challenging aspects of the FDM technology were included on a small base.
The item was printed with the standard profile of a miniFactory unit, and the only change to the standard settings was adjusting the layer thickness from 0.2 mm to > 0.1mm. The material used was PLA.
This is a hard to print testfile! Often you don’t know if your printer is ready for complex files. With this file you have an easy option to check problematic printing/slicing stuff.
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These test are included in this tiny file:
- size: the object is 4x50x50mm (baseplate)
- hole size: 3 holes (3/4/5mm)
- Nut size: M4 Nut should fit perfectly
- fine details: pyramide, cone, all numbers
- rounded print: wave, half sphere
- minimum distance between walls: 0.1/0.2/0.3/0.4/0.5mm
- overhang: 25°/30°/35°/40°/45°
- bridge print: 2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9mm
- surface: all the flat parts