Ugh. And I've (finally) got some stuff I need to have printed.
A few notes on the PAP/Fineline announcement and shapeways FUD. First, the FUD material from shapeways is printed with a Projet HD 3000 which is the current model of the Invision HR machine that Fineline was offering. The Invision HR machine is pretty much outdated by now as they were "newish" around 2004. You can find used Invision HR machines for around $15,000 to $25,000 today. In other words, what Fineline was
offering, shapeways is(was)
offering with a newer technology and at a reduced price. Second, the FUD material was a trial at shapeways and it's done this week. For those who are really interested in this, today (June 24th 2011) Shapeways will make the final announcement on whether FD and FUD will be available in the future.
Regardless of the outcome of the FD/FUD trial, Shapeways appears to be searching for higher resolution options all the time. I've seen a lot of rumblings about them offering a high res wax based option which would be very useful to a lot of us who might investment cast TINY parts for brass or pewter centrifuge casting. This industry, of course, is constantly evolving and at an amazingly rapid pace. One thing that is certain is that newer higher resolution printers will come and they will become economical for our community. I strongly believe that what is available in SLA right now will be available at shapeways FD/FUD prices in the very near future. I believe there will be a major breakthrough in this technology which could have a dramatic impact on production cost.
These are some exciting times for those with some 3d modeling skills who are involved in scratchbuilding. Consider the rapid pace in which we've gone from very crude resolution at astronomical prices to the dirt cheap high resolution options we have now. Ten years ago, a 400 mm3
print with obvious stepping at .1mm would cost in the neighborhood of $250. Today, a 400 mm3
print with virtually no stepping costs around $15. As with Moore's law, the the resolution in 3d printing seems to be progressing at an exponential rate.
If you're interested in similar resolution, take a look at http://www.proto3000.com/
in Canada. I've personally used them for printing with one of their objet printers. Contact them for a quote and a recommendation on which printer to use. They've got some ridiculous resolution options but will cost a bit more. They returned my quotes within a few hours and parts usually arrived in a few days. There are a few considerations with the Objet material though. It is a good bit more susceptible to heat distortion than the Invision/Projet parts so it would probably be more suited as a mold master than as a direct use part. The material also doesn't seem to hold sharp details as good as the Projet material does.
Finally, as another example of how the technology is getting more affordable, take a look at the Solido printer at Solidvision: http://www.solidvision.com/3d-printing/solido/
This printer is $2,950 and a material kit (8kg roll of pvc, glue cartridge, anti glue pens) is $500. The mileage you get out of a material kit is entirely dependent on how and what you print. For an idea of how it compares to the Visijet material from Fineline, take a look at this: http://mysd300.blogspot.com/2010/03/process-comparison-invision-hr.html
This illustrates how the resolution range of the Invision HR material is becoming cheap enough to own at home. The SD300 is a very interesting product because it has applications beyond simply building a 3d part. You can use it to lay down layers with various thickness printed on a flat sheet for assembly. Use your imagination. Watch this video to see how easy it is to use this printer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=02Vcvi1wrqk