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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+.

The Eiffel Tower's 1,209 layers simply proved too arduous a task for the XYZwareNobel software.

I changed the software's setting to 100 microns per layer, and the software still took more than 30 minutes to slice the model. However, it finally completed the task and I hit "print." The machine's LCD display then relayed to me that it would take six hours and 11 minutes to print, more than twice the time the Form 1+ SLA printer needed for the same model.

The main attribute of SLA 3D printers is their accuracy and ability to produce a relatively smooth surface. With FFF 3D printers, no matter how high the quality, the surface will have a ribbed feel. The ribbing is created by successive layers of a filament polymer being melted and extruded layer by layer.

The resulting Eiffel Tower print job was good, but not great. It was better than any FFF 3D printer I've reviewed, but not as good as the Formlabs Form 1+ SLA printer. Details on the Nobel 1.0's model, such as the latticework closer to the tower's pinnacle, were not crisp -- and, in fact, became one fused mass on the upper half. Still, the overall model was a really good representation of the tower.

Noise factor

Another benefit of SLA printers is that they're quieter than FFF 3D printers. FFF printers have a platform and print head that move on an x and y axis, creating a constant mechanical drone.

Other than the resin tank being adjusted and the print platform occasionally lifting, the printing process on the Nobel 1.0 is silent; it's simply a laser striking resin.

And, speaking of resin, one feature I loved and hated on the Nobel 1.0 was the resin tank auto fill. The Nobel 1.0 allows you to either manually fill the resin tank from a bottle or you can connect tubes from a special bottle lid to the machine that will then automatically fill the tank when levels become low. (Interestingly, this feature was not included with the more expensive Formlabs Form1+ printer.)

Other than convenience, the reason this auto-fill feature is valuable is that resin can harden over time, so leaving the tank filled with resin would more quickly lead to issues down the road; while they're not insurmountable issues, a user would likely have to shell out $50 or so for a new resin tank if material hardened on the bottom.

Now comes the part I hated about the auto fill: The tank doesn't just fill once during a print job, it incrementally fills over and over again -- and the sound it makes during that process is a shrill buzz that will make you want to put the machine in another room while it prints.

 

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