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I have to admit that I have not been active on Instructables for quite a while now, this because we (yes it is we now :D) have been busy developing a 3D printer. A 3D dlp printer to be exact, an open source high resolution 3D DLP printer to be even more exact.
We have now finished version 1.0 and now it is time to share our learnings with the rest of the world.
Why did we work on a 3D printer?
Well as you all know the world needs more 3D printers, more platforms for creation, more freedom. More possible ways to show your epic awesomeness in creation. And most of all the freedom to design and fabricate exactly what you need, when you need it without any barriers. In short 3D printers are awesome, you can never have enough 3D printers.
Why did we work on a 3D Direct Light Processing printer (DLP)?
3D printers come in many shapes, sizes and varieties. There is Fused Deposition Modelling, FDM for short this is the category the RepRap community largely falls in to. Your Makerbots and Ultimakers that use a heated nozzle through which a filament is heated and deposited on the desired location. There are various powder bed 3D print techniques, where the powder particles are selectively fused together with a laser or glued together with a printed adhesive. And there is a variety of photo lithography 3D printing methods.
In lithography light is used to cure a resin to become a solid, the nice thing with this process is that where the light does not shine on the resin it stays liquid.
We found that there are two main DIY 3D printer routes out there that are easily accessible, FDM and photo lithography.
When googleing the WWW we found that there are absolute tons and tons of FDM 3D printers out there all working on roughly the same principles all producing roughly the same results.
Next to that stereo photo lithography has until now only been made really accessible to the community only by one guy, Michael Joyce from the B9 Creator. This is an awesome achievement! For us this also means that the world needs more and different kinds of these projects to become really open source. Photo lithography is an very precise method of manufacturing, in the past feature sizes of 100nm where obtained. No idea how big this is in inches (sorry people from the USA) but I estimate that if you squeeze your fingers together the space between your fingers is slightly less than 100nm.
In other words amazingly small feature size. We would love to make very accurate 3d prints.
So we based our choice of what kind of printer to explore on the possible feature size, accessibility of materials, ease of manufacture and the fact that a relative few have walked this path before us.