It seems that Creality is developing a belt-driven 3D printer, and that has several implications.
Creality is well-known for producing several very popular and inexpensive desktop 3D printers that have gained lasting places in the community. The CR-10 was perhaps their first big hit, followed by the immensely successful Ender 3. Most recently they updated that machine with the Ender 3 V2, which seems destined for similar successes.
Now the company is leaking information about an entirely new 3D printer with a radically different design. The apparently upcoming CR-30 differs from previous models in that it uses a belt-driven design.
Belt-Driven 3D Printing
The concept of belt-driven 3D printing is not entirely new; it has been pursued by a couple of companies in the past few years. Specifically I’d point to Blackbelt, White Knight, Robot Factory, PowerBelt3D, Printrbot (when they were still active), and even MakerBot years ago.
The idea here is that instead of building the object vertically as is typically done in almost every 3D printer, instead the building is done on an angle while the bed shifts. This shifting bed is achieved by using a conveyor belt that slowly turns while printing takes place.
There are a number of very interesting properties that come from this design.
First, it allows continuous 3D printing. As the belt moves, it deposits completed objects in a catch basket at the end of the conveyor. The machine can produce objects, identical or different, as long as there is filament available. Essentially it turns the 3D printer into a small continuous manufacturing device.
The second capability is that large objects can be 3D printed. While most 3D printers are limited to a fixed print volume, a belt-driven 3D printer can, in theory, print a very, very long object, as long as filament is supplied and someone or something can support the lengthy object peeling off the belt.
Now Creality is set to join the belt-club with the upcoming introduction of the new CR-30. There isn’t a lot of information about this device, as it hasn’t yet been released. However, Creality has published a short video showing a prototype device in operation, and it appears to work well.
In the video Creality states some of the CR-30’s specifications, at least for this prototype:
- Marlin firmware
- 0.200mm layer height
- 0.4mm nozzle diameter
- Print speed of 40mm/second
The print samples shown in the video look pretty good, too.
From my inspection of the video, we can further say about the CR-30:
- Build volume close to or over 200mm x 250mm x infinity
- Single extruder, Bowden-style
- Possible ability to hold larger-sized spools
- Rigid pyramidal frame design
- Filament-out sensor
- Blade to peel off sticky parts from the bed
- What appears to be knobs for easy tightening of the main belt-bed
This looks like a very interesting machine, and perhaps the first belt-driven 3D printer from an Asian manufacturer that could appear in the West.
We don’t yet know pricing, availability dates or much else about this mysterious machine.
Creality CR-30 Implications
There are some implications here.
First, it’s likely Creality will offer the CR-30 at a very good price, as they have always done for all of their products. This could bode ill for other belt-driven 3D printer manufacturers whose products carry premium pricing.
Secondly, this could popularize the concept of small-scale manufacturing in a way previously unattainable for anyone. Most 3D printers require human intervention between prints, but a belt system does not. I’m not sure what types of business models could result from this, but they will certainly be interesting.