A Look Inside the V-Flash

During our recent visit to 3D Systems we managed to get a look deep inside one of their intermediate-level 3D printers: the V-Flash. This device uses a unique method of deploying build material that results in the object being built upside down! Upside down or not, the printed results are of extremely high accuracy.
 
The V-Flash uses a liquid resin approach, in which a layer of resin is instantly solidified with a high-intensity flash of light (hence the product name). The unique feature is how the resin is applied. Imagine the following:
 
  • The resin sits in a cartridge at the bottom of the machine
  • A thin transparent plastic film is inserted into the resin reservoir
  • The plastic film is pulled out (wet) of the reservoir into the build area
  • A light flashes the appropriate pattern onto the resin on the film, solidifying an entire layer all at once
  • This resin fuses to the roof of the build chamber
  • The plastic film is retracted back into the reservoir to “get wet” with resin
  • The build platform is raised a small amount, and the object is slowly built, upside down
 
The advantages of this approach are several: 
 
  • Extreme accuracy is possible, because the resolution of the layer is equal to the light projection
  • Clean operation without waste occurs because the resin is applied directly from the reservoir and returned if not “flashed”
  • Quick prints because an entire layer is built in one flash
 
There’s one more advantage: the price of this unit is actually under USD$10,000. That’s far more than you’d pay for a hobby printer, but far less than you’d pay for a big-time commercial 3D printer. 3D Systems terms this a “personal” 3D printer, although it’s most likely found in professional offices at this time. 
 
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