Aug 30, 2018

[UPDATED] LulzBot Teases New Open Source SLA 3D Printer, Coming September

Teased in a not-so-cryptic email newsletter, Lulzbot has as good as announced it will be releasing a new resin-based 3D printing solution in September. [Update: Or has it...?]

[We’ve added an update to the end of this article, following LulzBot’s uploading of a video teaser to Twitter]

Hot on the heels of the release of its LulzBot Mini 2 desktop FDM 3D printer this summer (check out our full review here), LulzBot appears to be readying some new hardware.

Teased in a fun email newsletter that packs more stereolithography puns than you could shake a resin-covered stick at, LulzBot posits a “cure for your high-resolution 3D printing needs.“.

Such a system would mark a whole new direction for a company which, to date, has focused solely on fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers.

The LulzBot Mini 2

A Long Time Coming?

With multiple mentions of high-detail and high-resolution, both terms bandied about when differentiating SLA from FDM 3D printing, plus phrases such as “wash away your 3D printing preconceptions” and “we’re laser-focused on the fine details, get on our wavelength“, the company leaves little doubt that the new system will be some kind of stereolithography-based printer.

LulzBot has been hinting at an interest in taking to SLA and DLP 3D printing as early as 2016, with the company publishing a blog post detailing their experiences in feeding improvements back to Monkeyprint, a Free Software for slicing for DLP by Paul Bomke.

In that same post, the company points to a forum thread titled “What should we build next?“, encouraging readers to comment whether they would like to see an SLA/DLP machine from the company. In the two years since requests for a resin-based 3D printer appear frequently.

LulzBot Mini & Mini 2

LulzBot SLA 3D Printing System

At the time of writing, we’ve only the newsletter and a sign-up page on the LulzBot website to go on for information. In the absence of cold hard facts, we can indulge in some warm squishy speculation and educated guesswork.

Firstly, this new LulzBot 3D printer, SLA or not, will be Open Source. Fact.

A champion of Free Software, Open Source Hardware and Libre Innovation, LulzBot is one of few companies — especially in 3D printing — to make a success of making every single aspect of their product open to scrutiny, replication, and modification.

The benefit of this, of course, is in collaboration; driving the field toward better things with the collective knowledge of the community. This also means the new machine would be open to 3rd-party resins sensitive to the laser’s wavelength (if it does indeed feature a laser).

In the background of the teaser image for this announcement, we see a blurred 3D printer in signature LulzBot black color. There is a case surrounding the frame, though we note that it appears to be transparent, rather than tinted — something not commonly seen on SLA machines given that stray UV light spilling into a print chamber can mess with any exposed resin. Has LulzBot created a novel new system to make this inconsequential?

That being said, it could well be that this mysterious background machine is a red herring — a LulzBot Mini with an enclosure, for example. [It looks like we might be half-right here – check out our update, below]

In the foreground of the picture, we see a rook chess piece with a double helix running through its center. A common demo piece for SLA 3D printers, the rook bears no telltale layer lines of FDM printing, with a smooth surface finish. More fuel for the SLA speculation train.

We would be surprised if this new LulzBot 3D printer is not priced to compete with the Formlabs’ Form 2 — the de facto leader for professional print quality at a sub-industrial price.

LulzBot already competes effectively for this prosumer dollar with its Taz 6 and Mini 2 3D printers, so it only makes sense for it to offer a high-resolution alternative to the individuals and companies it has already convinced with its FDM offerings.

Roll on September.

UPDATE 8/30/2018: Since publishing this piece, LulzBot has posted a teaser video to Twitter and YouTube (above) that appears to feature some kind of modified LulzBot Mini. The vid leads us to believe that the machine shown is a red herring, and not what the company will be releasing in September.

In it we see resin poured from high into a tall clear case — which would be a nightmare to empty and clean in practice. Further to this, we see what appears to be a LulzBot Mini build plate (inverted, as found with a bottom-up SLA machine) attached to a broom handle and lowering with a worrying amount of travel in the X- and Y- axes.

At this point, we speculate that Lulzbot will either release a resin-based printer as expected and is having some fun with Franken-machines to tease it. Or, more likely, this is a hoax and the new kit will be the company’s recently released Aerostruder Micro tool head, or a device similar to it; specialized hardware for FDM that yields prints as fine as SLA printing.

Whatever it ends up being, a possible new name has been under our noses the whole time, with the sign-up page URL ending /fine and the latest tweet explaining that “Fine-details are on the way”. Could we see a LulzBot Fine printer released in September? Or the LulzBot Fine tool-head perhaps?

Still, roll on September.

License: The text of " LulzBot Teases New Open Source SLA 3D Printer, Coming September" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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