Solidoodle 3 Provides High-Quality 3D Printing on the Cheap

Fierce market competition is pitting the multitudes of 3D printer companies against one another, forcing lower prices on higher-quality machines. Like a new iPhone, Solidoodle is releasing the third iteration of its printer with some updated parts, bigger size, and improved performance. A pre-sale offers the latest printer for $799, but it will not be shipped for eight to 10 weeks, so don't count on it arriving in time for Christmas. But perhaps, for the price, it may be worth the wait.

The resolution of obtainable printings is dependent on layer thickness. Solidoodle says the new system has a potential resolution of 0.1mm with an average layer thickness of 0.3mm. The extruder nozzle moves in the x-y plane with a resolution of 0.011mm to 0.1mm (taking into account the melty, gooey expansion), which translates to roughly 2,300dpi. The heated base plate, made of 1/8-inch aluminum, moves in the z-direction.

The new acrylic extruder incorporates a new spool design that prevents filament tangling. The 0.35mm extruder and its stepper motor (nichrome powered) require very little adjustment. Solidoodle 3 works using the fused filament fabrication method, which extrudes 1.75mm thermoplastic ABS (recommended and sold at $43 for a two-pound spool) or PLA filaments on to a heated base platform.

The build space is a bit larger than the previous printer. It measures eight inches a side and comes with an interior light and no door or cover, so you can see it at work, though you may want to keep it off the floor and away from pets, kids, or windows. If you turn parts on a diagonal, nine-inch parts are an option, as well. The entire printer measures 13.5 inches long by 14 inches wide by 14 inches high and features a steel frame that can support more than 200 pounds.

Solidoodle 3 is still compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux, and it can print any STL file. It's built on RepRap Sanguinololu v1.3a electronics and comes with a user-friendly GUI to print. It also includes a USB cable, 0.3oz of filament, and a 120V or 240V power supply (for the US and Europe, respectively).

Solidoodle says this printer is meant to print only individual pieces and is not for printing machine parts, but that may be flexible with discernment and application. The company has sold more than 1,200 printers to date and is expecting to break sales records in 2013. It's time to start getting familiarized with physibles. Also, it probably won't be long before the multitudes of printers hit the resale market. Deep discounts are on the way.

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