Objet Alaris30 3D Printer – Update

In a previous post, we promised an update of the Objet Alaris30 3D Printer after we had used it for a couple of months and put it through the paces of a regular production workload.  After four months of regular use, there are a number of things we’ve learned…

Estimation is important.  At first, we though that the estimates were off by an arbitrarily large amount.  However, it turns out that that the Objet Studio software does a decent job predicting the relative amount of model and support needed for a job.  The graph above shows estimated model material  versus the actual consumption for 22 jobs of various sizes.  A linear least squares analysis shows that the estimated model consumption fits the actual model consumption fairly well.  Note that the software almost always overestimates the total amount of model and support material required for a particular job.   As you always need to have enough model and support material, better overestimate than under.

Waste is a problem.  There are two points we’d like to make about waste.  First, it is still surprising to us how much waste the printer generates.  We’ve used about 20kg of print material so far and have discarded about 5kg of waste, which is 25% of the material we purchased.  Any fabrication process is going to generate waste (think of a laser cutter’s leftovers), but we’d hope that this number would be a bit smaller given that we are also throwing away the support material at the end of the job.  Perhaps the waste is the reason that the estimated consumption is always higher than the actual.

Second, the Objet software does not warn if you are going to generate more waste than the tank can hold.  This seems silly to us.  Each of the five tanks (two model, two support, and one waste) sits on a scale that streams weights into the Objet control software.  If you attempt to start a job and do not have the adequate amount of model or support material, the software will warn you.  However, if you have a nearly full waste tank and forget to empty it before starting a new job, you run the risk of making a very costly mess.  If the machine could predict the amount of waste accurately, we assume the software could warn of potential overflow before you start a job.  This post serves as our feature request: Objet, please warn us if we’re going to generate too much waste to hold.  Thanks.

We are still very pleased with the quality of the prints coming out of the machine.  The resolution is incredible.  We have noticed though that some of our prints have begun to sag and warp in areas that are under 3/32″ thick.  This hasn’t been too big of a problem so far, but could be if you were trying to print an intricate structural model.

Lastly, we were surprised to learn last week that the Alaris30 is no longer listed on the Objet website.  The Alaris30 is being renamed the Objet30 and will be able to print using five different materials, whereas ours can only print in the VeroWhite material.  Alaris30 owners will be able to upgrade to the Objet30 system, which requires a changing out of the vacuum system, different tubes, and some other hardware/software upgrades.  Of course, it is going to cost you.