UNIZ announced a new consumer-level 3D printer, the IBEE.
UNIZ is well-known for their work developing resin 3D printers. We first encountered them at CES a few years ago where we learned how they had developed a high-speed resin 3D printer using an unusual tank system, a rarity at the time. Their machines eventually achieved the incredible print speed of 1200mm/hr!
Since then they’ve produced several different versions of the machine and a number of resin materials. Apparently they’ve obtained over 40 patents for different aspects of high-speed resin 3D printing.
Last year they came up with the idea of making a consumer-level device, as opposed to the professional-level equipment they have been making, and now it appears they have succeeded with the announcement of the new IBEE.
While the market for low-cost consumer resin 3D printers is pretty crowded these days, it’s also an area where there is usually little innovation. Most devices in this category are essentially identical, with little to differentiate themselves aside from price.
However, the new IBEE does have some very interesting differentiators.
Perhaps the major difference is build volume. While most desktop resin 3D printers offer a small build volume of ~100 x 80 x 120 mm, the IBEE has a relatively monstrous build volume of 190 x 120 x 200 mm. That’s approaching the volume of many FFF-style desktop 3D printers, to give you an idea of the IBEE’s capacity.
The reason why many resin 3D printers have tiny build volumes is due to the optics involved. Typically a fixed-size LCD array or projector is focused to small sizes to achieve reasonable resolution on the 3D prints. If these machines were scaled up optically, they would have relatively poor resolution.
So how does the IBEE stack up in that regard?
It turns out the IBEE uses an LCD panel that is a “new generation of high-performance light source” that presents light in a more coherent form to minimize light “leakage” to adjacent voxels. In other words, their light engine can 3D print layers much more crisply than typical LCD light engines.
This results in an XY resolution of only 0.0498mm, even in the large build volume of the IBEE. UNIZ says the IBEE can 3D print features as small as 0.200mm, which on some other 3D printers is the maximum resolution size, let alone feature size. Impressive!
There’s another differentiator on the IBEE: the tank films.
On most resin 3D printers, the light passes through a transparent film at the bottom of the resin tank, where the current layer is formed. This layer is then peeled off the film to make room for a subsequent layer. However, this peeling process tends to wear out the film, and it must eventually be replaced. Typical resin 3D printers require this replacement to take place periodically to maintain print quality, and the films carry premium pricing.
The IBEE, however, has a film of a different design. The IBEE films are of the same strong quality, but they will cost far less, and UNIZ has designed the vat system to allow for very easy replacement. This change would lower the overall operating costs for the IBEE.
There’s another very intriguing feature on the IBEE: the slicing software. Many resin 3D printers come with difficult-to-use software that can slow down users until they learn the peculiarities of the system. One system having outstanding software is Formlabs, whose PreForm software is incredibly easy to use and even includes a one-click feature to position, orient, slice and print model.
UNIZ has built a similar software system for the IBEE, which again includes a one-click-print feature, but is far less expensive than the Formlabs system.
Finally, the pricing for the IBEE is a bit of a differentiator. While the small-volume resin machines are available at lower cost, this is not the case for larger resin machines with build volumes similar to the IBEE. UNIZ has set the price for the IBEE at only US$449, a steal for a machine of that volume.
Even better, UNIZ has also prepared a special resin for the IBEE called “zMud”, which will be priced at only US$15.99 per 500ml (US$32/L). That’s also an incredibly good price for 3D printer resin, which can be as high as US$200/L.
Can you buy an IBEE? Yes, they are launching the new 3D printer on Kickstarter in the middle of December. If you’re seeking an inexpensive, large-volume desktop resin 3D printer, this may be the option for you.