Creality launched what could be their largest crowdfunded product ever, the 3DPrintMill.
The 3DPrintMill, also known as the CR-30, is different from almost every other desktop 3D printer in that it is a belt 3D printer. No, that doesn’t mean just motion system uses belts, but in fact the print surface itself is a moving conveyor belt.
I’ve written about belt 3D printers previously many times, but for those still not familiar with the concept, it is very different from the standard fixed build plate used on almost every 3D printer. In a standard 3D printer, the print surface remains motionless, while the toolhead gradually rises on the Z-axis.
In a belt 3D printer this changes significantly. The motion system tips the X-Y axes to a 45 degree angle, and the Z-axis becomes the moving conveyor belt. In other words, the printer operates at an angle instead of being horizontal.
This curious arrangement might seem strange, but there are several very significant advantages to the concept.
Belt 3D Printer Advantages
The first advantage is that prints are automatically removed from the printer when complete. This happens naturally when the belt eventually moves the print to the belt’s turnaround-point. As the belt curls under for another go-around, the rigid 3D print will slowly peel off the belt and fall off. Presumably the operator has placed a catch-bucket to receive the completed prints.
This leads to the second huge advantage: if prints are automatically removed after completion, then there’s nothing stopping you from starting a second print job. In fact, it’s actually possible to 3D print objects continuously: as objects are printing, completed prints fall into the bucket.
The belt concept thus transforms the device into a manufacturing system that can produce larger quantities of objects without much need for human intervention other than inserting a new spool of filament when the first one runs out.
The third major advantage of a belt 3D printer is an ability to dramatically reduce the use of support material. By 3D printing at a 45 degree angle, it is possible to orient parts to minimize the required support structures. Objects that would require much support if printed “vertically” can have reduced supports when printed at an angle. In some cases it is even possible to totally eliminate any support, if the object’s geometry is suitable.
That advantage matches well with the idea of continuous production: the manual effort required to remove the supports is reduced on each and every one of the many objects printed in a production environment.
I think you can see why I am so excited about belt 3D printers.
Creality CR-30 Belt 3D Printer
Now, Creality has launched their own version of a belt 3D printer, the CR-30, or “3DPrintMill”, its brand name.
This device includes all of the advantages mentioned above, and is available at an incredibly low price. The most well-known alternative belt 3D printer on the market carries a far higher cost, making the 3DPrintMill a far more accessible device. How low is the price?
For the first few to place an order on Kickstarter it is as low as US$538 at launch. The future retail price will be higher, expected to be near US$999.
How could Creality develop such an interesting machine and offer it at such a low cost? It turns out they were inspired by an open source design and worked with those who developed it. By combining these ideas together with Creality’s hardware team over the past several months, they were able to create a configuration that both performs and carries a low cost.
For Creality, this is their second foray into the world of crowdfunded Kickstarter projects. The first, which occurred earlier this year, launched their popular CR6-SE desktop 3D printer. This launch was incredibly successful, resulting in over 10,000 orders and generating well over US$4M in revenue.
While that campaign wildly succeeded, I have a suspicion that the CR-30 / 3DPrintMill campaign could be even bigger.