I have seen the ultimate deltabot and believe it or not, it is being produced in a quaint little town called Rexburg in Idaho. Located a few hours northeast of Salt Lake City, Rexburg isn't the kind of place one expects to find a former engineer at NASA playing mad scientist, leading a team of 3D printing technology developers. But, that is exactly what we found during a recent visit to PrintSpace's facility.
PrintSpace CEO Mark Jaster has experience researching 3D printing under extreme environmental conditions such as space. One might think that designing a printer for something as mundane as everyday office use would be a simple matter of a couple of days at the drawing board and a month or two of parts sourcing. However, Jaster is one of those guys who sees something and says to himself, 'I can make it better,' including his own designs. As a result, the Altair, PrintSpace's first 3D printer available to the public, was over a year in the making and it shows.
At first glance, the Altair looks like a standard deltabot, maybe a little prettier and more sturdy. Upon closer inspection, the differences become apparent. An aspect of PrintSpace's patent pending CarbonGlide™ technology, the printer's arms and rods are made of carbon fiber. This lends the unit enhanced structural stability while remaining light at 12 lbs. Combined with a low-inertia print head and electromechanical wizardry Jaster considers to be a trade secret, the Altair performs with excellent X/Y accuracy. This means the printer is capable of printing very thin walls and vertical layers are more difficult to visually detect than they are with other printers in its price range.
In a nutshell, parts printed on the Altair look great, approaching Stratasys FDM quality without the Stratasys price tag. But, that doesn't mean it's cheap. The Altair's retail price is $3,395, but you can see where the money went when looking at its performance and considering the fact that it is comprised of precisely machined components. This is not a RepRap.
"The Altair really isn't intended for casual hobbyists," said Jaster. "It's targeted more toward professionals and individuals who already have a desktop printer but are looking to upgrade."
Jaster is aware that winning in today's saturated desktop market requires more than just performance, so he's included a number of convenience features that make the Altair almost irresistible.
"When developing the Altair, I thought about the kind of features I would want from my own printer," said Jaster, "I would want it to be reliable, easy to use, and versatile. I don't want to spend time on manual calibration and I don't want to be limited in material options."
From its conception, the Altair was designed to be simple to operate and maintain. Automatic print bed calibration is performed via a menu option in the printer's LCD screen. An embedded LED around the LCD's control dial tells the user when the nozzle has reached optimal printing temperature. The print head is connected to the printer's arms with magnetic ball bearings, allowing easy removal for cleaning or nozzle swapping. Even the print bed can be removed by simply depressing its clamps.
The Altair's proprietary PrintSpace NOVA all-metal hot end allows employment of the widest possible variety of materials from basic PLA to polycarbonate and high temperature Taulman nylons. MatterControl host software provides a large array of Altair-specific optimized presets to take advantage of this ability without worrying about temperature and speed settings.
In summary, the Altair is a wicked deltabot, and I want one. Its speed, print quality and ease-of-use put it at the top of its class. With a customer list that includes BYU–Idaho, USU and Sandia National Laboratories, I am not alone in my thinking. In fact, during our visit the folks at PrintSpace were busy adding office space so they could increase production. I can't wait to see what Jaster and his team will come up with next.
- Solid State, Fully Automatic Bed Calibration: for optimal adhesion of first layer ensuring reliable prints
- Instant-on Heated Bed: heats up in less than 90 seconds
- Borosilicate Glass & Buildtak Bed Surface: for optimal adhesion with multiple materials
- Print Volume: 8" diameter by 10" high (200mm diameter by 250mm high)
- NOVA Hot End: All-metal, high-heat hot end prints at high speeds without jamming, max temp 300°C
- High Speed Positioning: up to 300mm/s
- Print Tolerance (X,Y): 100 microns
- Minimum Layer Thickness (Z): 50 microns or better, depending on material
- Filament Diameter: 1.75mm
- Supported Materials: Over 25 materials including PLA, ABS, Carbon Fiber ABS, Nylon, Polycarbonate, PVA, HIPS, PETT, TPU, Metallic fill, "Tough" PLA, Flexible PLA, Carbon Fiber PLA and more
- Nozzle: .40 standard universal nozzle (can be switched to other sizes)
- Magnetic Arms: for easy nozzle change out
- Optional Material Specific Beds: for optimal adhesion with various materials
- LCD Front Panel Control: printing, calibration, print settings and print progress
- Front Panel Micro SD Card Slot: for untethered printing
- USB Connectivity: compatible with Mac, Windows and Linux
- Remote Monitoring & Control Available: view, start, stop and control a print from mobile device
- Compatible Host Software: MatterControl, Cura, Astroprint, Octoprint, Repetier, Skeinforge
- Construction: delta frame, patent-pending CarbonGlide™ technology, powder coated aluminum with carbon fiber rods & arms
- Printer Dimensions: 27.2" by 15" by 15" (600mm x 380mm x 380mm)
- Printer Weight: 12 lbs (5.4kg)