A Comparison of 3D Printing between 20 years ago and now.

 

1996

2016

Price – How much for a top of the range SLA 3D Printer?  Approx 480k GBP  Approx 600k GBP
Build Speed – How long does a typical full build take?  A half height build (that’s the extent of our first vat, 300mm) covering the whole build, typically took 5-6 days. So a full height build would have taken in the region of 10 days.  A full height build, 580mm, covering the entire platform takes 2-3 days.
Setup Time – Man hours. A typically large build with averagly complex components would take many hours to setup, orientating parts, fitting them to the platform. Creating and editing supports could add many hours. All in all 6-8 hours PLUS an overnight slicing procedure on the Silicon Graphics workstation. Today a similar build preparation time could be reduced to less than an hour. Recent software tools orientate parts for optimum surface finish. Automatic support generation is highly efficient, reliable and allows orientations that were previously unnattainable.
Running Costs – Laser cost and lifetime. Initially Gas Lasers were classed as consumables! At 32,000GBP each they were only guaranteed to last only 2000 hours too. You could eat through 4 per year! OUCH…  Today the 50,000 GBP solid state laser lasts and lasts. 15000 hours is easily accomplished and the replacement parts that wear out are only a few thousand pounds.
Material Choice and properties Material was very limited. SL 5180 was the standard resin.It was very slow to build, very brittle when handling it, and it would grow in size by 2% as it absorbed moisture from the air; that would make a 500mm long part 510mm!  Today material choice is much greater. Filled resins, flexible resins, ABS, PP simulants, castable, stronger engineering types. Thankfully they all build much faster, they are all a lot stronger and don’t get effected by moisture.