Okay guys, I know that a lot of you have been patiently waiting for info, and some of you have also been getting a little antsy. True, I've been quiet for a couple of weeks but we've been having some issues lately. Our printers have been giving us trouble, we also had some other shop projects taking up some time and effort, as well as some unplanned downtime for myself for post processing models (I had an arm in a sling for a week or so with a shoulder injury), but "back in the saddle" is where we are as of today!
In light of the lack of forward movement with our in-shop printers, we started moving forward with the contingency plan. A colleague has a couple of much 'higher end' SLA printers, as opposed to the FDM printers we use in shop, so we went ahead and got things moving by outsourcing some of the 3D prints. It's significantly more expensive, but it will provide a MUCH higher resolution print with virtually no post processing or clean up needed. We're picking out the more 'detailed' models for the first prints, the ones we had expected to end up printing in SLA. Depending on how it works out, and budget concerns, we may be able to get some additional models done this way to reduce the standing post processing queue.
I grabbed some pics while I was there today to show what we've got cooking. The pics show some of the pieces from the Research Station stretch goal model lined up in the software and a little video showing the printer in progress creating the layers, clearing the print tray window and doing its thing.
The SLA printers are significantly slower than FDM, and I couldn't get any pics or video showing the print in the middle of the growth process since it was in the very first layers, but I'm going back by tomorrow and I'll get some showing the model nearing completion!
For those of you who like 'behind the scenes' info, the printer actually grows what is seen in the first images upside down on the growth plate. The plate is lowered into the resin solution and a special laser light is exposed in a 'slice by slice' method, causing the resin to harden. The plate is then lifted up on a measure of microns and the method repeated. Periodically the entire print is lifted out of the solution and a special wiper clears off the tray's window to ensure it stays clean and error-free.
Check out the gallery for the link to the SLA Print Process images!