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The Curious IVI 3D Printer

The Curious IVI 3D Printer

The mysterious IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

The mysterious IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

I'm looking at some details on an upcoming 3D printer that seems too good to believe.

The device is the IVI 3D printer, described as:

“A high resolution, modular, closed-loop 3D printer, for only $799.”

Ok, but could this be true? Closed-loop technology is a means of providing extreme reliability and quality. It is usually found exclusively on higher-end equipment, and even then at a premium cost. How could it possibly be available on a printer that is being sold for only US$799?

Oh, wait. During their upcoming Kickstarter launch, the price is said to be only US$299!

Perhaps this machine has an unusual design that somehow allows for these advanced features to be included at very low cost? Unfortunately the folks behind the IVI 3D printer have not provided many specifications aside from these:

  • Build volume of 210mm diameter x 220mm tall

  • Swappable nozzles of 0.15-0.40mm sizes

  • 2.5W laser for engraving

  • CNC with 8000rpm

  • Quad-core processor

  • XYZ accuracy of 0.015mm

However, their rather skimpy website does include a relatively long video purportedly showing the features of the device. Let's go through some key sections of this video to see what we can figure out about this machine:

Touchscreen on the IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

Touchscreen on the IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

First we see what it appears to be a rather nice full-color touchscreen interface. It seems to portray the print status. Note that their are two buttons on this panel, one saying “not acceptable” and the other “good”. This could be a way for the company to get feedback on print reliability by simply asking the 3D printer operator to tell them. This approach is also used by Formlabs.

It’s a delta-style machine [Source: IVI]

It’s a delta-style machine [Source: IVI]

Now it’s clear that the device has a delta-style design, which is highly mature in the industry and offers typically higher print speeds and larger build volumes. Nothing too surprising there.

Swappable magnetically-attached toolheads [Source: IVI]

Swappable magnetically-attached toolheads [Source: IVI]

Aha, the delta toolhead seems to be removable. It looks like it is magnetically attached. In this image what seems to be a milling head is being installed.

A conventional filament hot end toolhead [Source: IVI]

A conventional filament hot end toolhead [Source: IVI]

Oh wait, now they're putting in what looks like a 3D printer hot end for filament printing. This device has at least two functions.

Some type of optical system on the IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

Some type of optical system on the IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

What's this? A camera? Maybe it is a laser?

Laser scanning a key? [Source: IVI]

Laser scanning a key? [Source: IVI]

Yes, it's a laser. Here we see it apparently 3D scanning a key. However, there's something troubling here. The key is made of a somewhat shiny material, and that situation invariably causes difficulties when 3D scanning because the shiny metal reflects the laser beam in confusing ways. I would be very surprised if this 3D scan succeeded. On the other hand, if it’s an angled “camera”, then it could be using photogrammetry to perform the 3D scan.

A container within the IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

A container within the IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

What is going on here? There seems to be a small toolhead and a large container within the build volume.

Oh, it's a resin tank! This device, which we already know has a hotend for 3D printing filament, also has a laser specifically for SLA 3D printing! This toolhead seems to be different from the laser used for 3D scanning.

IVI 3D printer liquid resin surface [Source: IVI]

IVI 3D printer liquid resin surface [Source: IVI]

Also note that this SLA system is a top-down design. Instead of firing the laser through a clear resin tank from the bottom, instead the laser fires downward at the hopefully flat and motionless resin surface directly. We've seen this style of 3D printing previously from Gizmo 3D Printers, and it can print with extreme speed.

Completed SLA 3D print emerging from IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

Completed SLA 3D print emerging from IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

Here we see a completed print being raised out of the resin tank. Top-down SLA designs have this unique feature, where the print dramatically appears from the resin tank when completed.

The IVI 3D printer performing some milling operations [Source: IVI]

The IVI 3D printer performing some milling operations [Source: IVI]

Here we see the milling head with a small bit installed. It's cutting a hole in what seems to be wood. CNC mills require a considerable amount of power to cut through anything substantial, which is unlikely to be seen on this machine. I suspect the IVI 3D printer will be able to address only small milling needs.

Mobile app provides remote control for the IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

Mobile app provides remote control for the IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

This is seems to be a screenshot of a mobile app that offers remote control of the device. There are the usual controls and current state monitors. Note that feedrate, flowrate and temperature are all marked “NA”, as the machine apparently is performing a resin print at this time. They would not be “NA” if a filament print was underway.

A filament-based 3D print on the IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

A filament-based 3D print on the IVI 3D printer [Source: IVI]

Finally we see a reasonably large-sized filament 3D print underway. This appears to be a pretty much standard delta print.

Let's add this all up. We have a machine that:

  • 3D prints in resin and filament

  • Can CNC mill solid objects

  • Performs laser engraving

  • 3D scans objects, including shiny objects, apparently

  • Monitors all processes with closed loop technology.

And all this can be yours for only US$799, or US$299 purchase it during their launch campaign.

I've read discussions about this device that point out many issues with the design elements versus the proposed cost, particularly the cost of some high-end the components visible in the video, whose cost alone might exceed US$799, let alone US$299.

I'm afraid i'll have to join the skeptics on this one. This machine is clearly priced far too low for it to be a viable business, and possibly even functionally viable.

It may be that this could be another future Kickstarter failure, as we have seen many times in the past. Startup companies who focus on low-cost aspects too intently very often neglect manufacturing issues that cannot be overcome. The result in the past has been launch backers who have paid their money and not received a machine. Nevertheless, an inspection of their current Kickstarter page shows they’ve already raised far more than their original modest goal of US$50K. Some people are attracted to the low price without considering other factors.

I'm curious to see how this plays out, aren't you?

Via IVI and Kickstarter

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