There seems to be another big success on Kickstarter: the VIT SLS 3D printer from Natural Robotics.
Since the expiration of certain patents, there has been a small avalanche of low-cost SLS-style 3D printers, each capable of 3D printing very strong nylon parts. The key advantage of SLS technology, which involves blasting a laser at a flat bed of nylon (or other polymer) powder, is that the surrounding powder supports the print. This means that it is possible to 3D print arbitrarily complex objects without fear of print failure.
And that’s exactly what Natural Robotics is doing with their new VIT 3D Printer. We covered this machine when their campaign launched some months ago.
The Barcelona-based company has previously marketed a successful series of delta-style extrusion 3D printers, but has now branched into SLS 3D printing technology as have several other 3D printer manufacturers.
The reason for them doing so is that the expiry of the patents means the technology can be marketed for far less cost. This enables a much wider audience to participate in the machines because they are now affordable. Natural Robotics wants a piece of that market.
SLS systems by nature produce good quality objects, typically in strong nylon materials. And that's certainly the case with the VIT, as seen in the sample print images.
How affordable? Their launch price was €5,999 (USD$7,125) for a 250 x 250 x 250mm build volume SLS 3D printer. That’s substantially lower than one might pay for traditional equipment from 3D Systems or EOS, where prices could be six figures. Now this is, they say, 45% off their retail price, which implies a cost of around USD$13K, which is still much less than traditional alternatives.
Has this been a successful concept? It certainly seems so. At the close of their launch campaign, the device has raised well over USD$300K, almost ten times greater than their now clearly too-low fundraising goal.
While they will busy constructing and shipping dozens of machines, they will also face competition from several other low-cost SLS systems from the likes of Sintratec, Sinterit and Formlabs. It’s a tough market, but that’s good for buyers - and makers of polymer powders, too.