Last week, I wrote about the new Makerbot Replicator. The next day, I wrote about all the cool things that 3D printers will probably do to civilization in the next few decades.
The Replicator 2 costs about $2200. For just $100 more, people have purchased the Form 1, a printer on Kickstarterthat's already earned almost 4 times its $100,000 goal. The Form 1 has a layer resolution of 25 microns, which makes for a significant difference in possible detail. This printer really meets its goal of "[rivaling] the output of high-end printers at a fraction of the cost."
That price does not, unfortunately, appear to be available to the general public -- it was a limited offer to the first 25 people who pledged $2,299. Those people are also first in line for delivery -- $2,499 (also sold out) is second in line, $2,699 (almost 300 left) are promised priority for shipment over people who order it after the Kickstarter.
The Form 1 is able to achieve its superior resolution because it employs a different printing method than most printers on the market:
Stereolithography (SL) is the gold standard for accuracy and resolution in the 3D printing world, reaching layer thicknesses and feature sizes that are worlds ahead of what is possible with [extruded plastic]. The process is pretty straightforward - a laser is used to draw on the surface of a liquid plastic resin that hardens when exposed to a certain wavelength of light. The laser draws and hardens a layer at a time until the entire model is built. It’s simple, reliable, and quiet.
This printer looks amazing, but it's also a little more in-depth than the Replicator 2 -- there's an after-printing process, using the Form Finishing Kit, that's necessary to finish off the object after it's been printed. I'm not sure about what kind of drafting software works well with the FORM 1 ("We painstakingly designed our Form software to have a simple, intuitive user experience that streamlines the process of importing .STL models from any 3D CAD package. ") but it seems very much designed for serious engineers and other professionals who need high-resolution rapid prototyping technology.
I still want one, though.