Monday, June 25, 2007

V-FLASH Newsletter Announces Beta to Begin

We received an email this morning, from V-Flash, containing their latest newsletter. The bulk of the newsletter was dedicated to explaining why they chose to build the objects in an upside down orientation.

Why Upside Down?

The primary reason, of course, is that they use a photocurable liquid and if they didn't build upside down they would have to build the objects in a tank holding all the liquid. Obviously, that isn't the optimal solution if you've found another. And, they have, as you can see in the above illustration.

It's an ingenious solution that dips a sheet of film into a cartridge holding the liquid and pulls it back out, carrying a layer of the liquid on its surface. The hanging piece is lowered into the layer of liquid and some of the liquid is photo cured to create the next layer of the object. Any uncured liquid is simply carried back into the cartridge during the next build cycle.

This is a great technique for making the process both efficient of materials and clean. But, there are a few ramifications for designing a piece built in this way since there are no actual support materials. For most shapes where building a piece would require support materials if the piece were build right side up, there is no need for support with the upside down build. It's a great idea.

But, one of the benefits of 3D printing is having the ability to create pieces within pieces. A cage with an animal inside it would be an example. When building this type of piece in the V-Flash, without some minor revisions to the design, the animal would simply remain on the film. It's a simple fix. Simply add tiny breakaway sprues connecting the bottom of the animal to the bottom of the cage and break the sprue after the job is completed. The sprues have to be carefully located and easily broken; but, it's not a monumental problem.

Preparing for Beta

The big news in the newsletter, was that they are preparing to begin beta testing the V-Flash. This stopped us in our tracks since we had assumed that beta testing had been well underway given the announced target for delivery of the first units. It seemed to us that they were hinting that the delivery schedule might be slipping a bit. While we're as anxious as anyone to see desktop 3D printers arriving as soon as possible, we'd rather have the first users have a great experience with their new tools. So, whatever it takes to get it right, it takes.

Sample Parts Scarcity

No matter which of the new desktop units you are interested in, it takes a long time to create a part. Estimates are around 1" of height per hour. So, there aren't all that many parts being created, even if several machines are being run constantly.

We expect this shortage of sample parts to continue long after the units are in beta. But, even so, we hope to be able to be able to see a least some small samples of the V-Flash materials before the units are shipped, so that we can test its characteristics for you. We're already doing this with some materials created in the Desktop Factory 3D printer which will allow us to be able to help potential buyers and users with realistic expectations and suggestions for getting the most out of the printer based on these tests.

If you'd like to be put on the V-Flash newsletter mailing list here is the link.

V-Flash Newsletter Signup

In the meantime, we'll keep tracking for you!


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