This week Longer launched its latest 3D printer, the Orange 4K, on Kickstarter.
If you’re not familiar with Longer, they are a China-based manufacturer of 3D printers, and by no means are they a small operation. As of this writing, they offer six FFF 3D printers, three desktop 3D printers using the LCD process, a large industrial SLA 3D printer, an industrial ceramic 3D printer and even a huge metal 3D printer, the LGS300.
The new Orange 4K is definitely a lot smaller than the LGS300, and it fits neatly into the desktop resin 3D printer market.
The new device inherits quite a bit from its predecessor, the Orange 30, a competent desktop SLA unit. However, there are a number of very interesting differences with the Orange 4K.
One is the build volume. The Orange 30 has a 120 x 68 x 170 mm build volume, while the new Orange 4K’s build volume is 118 x 66 x 200 mm. This is about 12% larger, mostly in the Z-axis.
The Orange 4K includes dual linear guides, parallel UV led lighting design, and a depth scale resin vat for larger prints. However, while those are great features, the most interesting is the vastly improved light engine.
As you might guess from the printer’s name, the light engine is 4K. The LCD process involves illuminating an entire layer simultaneously and so the resolution of the print depends completely on the resolution the light source.
Most desktop resin 3D printers use a standard 2K LCD panel, which provides 2560 x 1440 pixels. That’s what the Orange 30 uses. However, Longer has swapped out the 2K light engine in the Orange 4K and replaced it with a 4K panel that produces 3840 x 2160 pixels on each layer.
Correspondingly, the size of the pixels shrink. The pixel size on the Orange 4K is a tiny 0.0315mm, making for very high-resolution prints.
However, there’s a twist I haven’t seen on any other 3D printer yet: Color LCD!
No, you cannot 3D print color objects on the Orange 4K Color. Instead the “color” refers to the type of LCD light panel.
Let me explain how this works: a monochrome LCD panel with 3840 x 2160 resolution will produce exactly 3840 x 2160 pixels. That makes perfect sense.
However, a color 4K LCD panel also produces 3840 x 2160 pixels, except that in order to reproduce the colors on each pixel, they are divided into three “sub-pixels”. These would normally be used to mix red, green and blue light to form whatever color is required for the display. However, since we’re not producing color images here, Longer has co-opted this feature to generate additional resolution.
By sending color signal information to the 4K color panel, they can selectively activate each of the sub-pixels on demand! This means that instead of 3840 x 2160 resolution, the Orange 4K Color version has three pixels instead of one on the Y-axis. Thus it is effectively 3840 x 6840 pixels!
The pixel size on the Orange 4K Color unit are 0.0315 x 0.0105 mm, very small indeed. This means this device, combined with the 0.01mm Z-axis step-size, can produce incredibly precise 3D prints, which seem evident in the sample print images I’ve seen.
There’s one catch, though: the Color version will 3D print a bit slower. Longer says the print speed on the Monochrome version will be approximately 80mm/hour, whereas the Color version will be only 30mm/hour.
There’s an important reason for this: the amount of light (photons) being emitted from the sub-pixels is by definition one third of what you’d expect from a standard monochrome pixel of the full dimension. This means that in order to fully solidify the resin in a pixel, the light exposure must be lengthened. But for ultra-high resolution, that’s perhaps a good price to pay.
This is one of the highest-resolution desktop resin 3D printers I’ve seen so far, and the Orange 4K is available at a very low cost as well.
The Orange 4K Monochrome version sells for US$449.99, and the Orange 4K Color version with the much higher resolution sells for US$80 more at US$529.99. That seems like a great price for such incredible resolution.
The Orange 4K (both versions) are available now on Kickstarter, at an incredible price point. At launch the Orange 4K Color hig- resolution version will be available for only US$269. Of course, quantities are limited, and the price will rise slightly as the initial units are consumed. The retail price of the Orange 4K Color will eventually be a still-reasonable US$449, a great price for such a high-resolution machine.