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Review: The Nobel 1.0 -- stereolithographic 3D printing on the cheap

Lucas Mearian | July 22, 2015
When I unboxed XYZPrinting's Nobel 1.0 stereolithographic (SLA) 3D printer, I'd just finished shipping off another top-rated and remarkably accurate SLA machine, the Formlabs Form 1+.

XYZprinting supplied me with a 17.5-oz. bottle of clear photosensitive resin with which to print. (As of this writing, I had no information about what other colors are being offered or the pricing for the resin.) SLA machines are skimpy in their use of resin, so a 17.5-oz bottle can print dozens of models -- depending on their size, of course. After printing two good-sized pieces, I'd barely touched the resin level.

The printer comes with a USB drive loaded with XYZwareNobel CAD software. Using the software, you can load .stl files and inspect them prior to printing or adjust the model and layer size. Other than that, there's no other model manipulation offered. (On other 3D printer software, for example, you can inspect each layer of a model prior to a build to ensure quality and figure out whether support material is needed.)

I knew that, like other SLA printers, the Nobel 1.0 wasn't going to offer blazing fast build times -- but even with that consideration, this machine moved at a glacial pace. A simple Origami-style rabbit figurine, about 3.0 x 1.5 x 1.0 in. in size, took four hours and 37 minutes to print. The figurine, however, printed beautifully, leaving me with a semi-transparent, crystal-like model.

The lengthy build time was an issue, though. By comparison, printing that same rabbit model on XYZPrinting's da Vinci Juniorfused filament fabrication (FFF) machine took just an hour and 44 minutes. Heck, I was able to print an incredibly detailed, five-inch-tall model of the Eiffel Tower in three hours on the Formlabs Form1+.

And with that came my greatest disappointment with the Nobel 1.0 printer.

The Eiffel Tower challenge.

Of all the models I use to test 3D printers, the Eiffel Tower always poses the greatest challenge with its intricate latticework of scaffolding; it's the litmus test I use for 3D printers.

The Nobel 1.0 can produce layers that are 100, 50 and 25 microns thick. (The Form 1+ can do the same, plus it has a 200-micron "quick build" feature.) To put that in perspective, 100 microns is about the thickness of a sheet of paper or a human hair; 7 microns is about the diameter of a red blood cell. We're talking small.

For the fun of it, I attempted to print the Eiffel Tower using the Nobel 1.0's thinnest 25-micron resolution. I tried a half dozen times to get the machine to print, but it spent more than an hour attempting to process the model with its slicing software. (3D printers must virtually slice models into the many layers they'll use to create them before they can begin the printing process.)


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