Space 3D Review: Affordable Large Format Resin Printer
An all-metal design results in a sturdy device and reliable printing. The build volume is unparalleled at this price point, but equally such a large build plate makes this awkward for beginners to resin printing. Those looking for larger resin prints can save during the Kickstarter, but that comes with inherent risks.
3D printing is now a part of everyday lexicon with filament-based FDM printers to be found in schools, libraries, and homes all over the world. But it’s only in the past year or so that stereolithographic (SLA) resin printing has come down in price to be accessible to the home user too. So far we’ve seen incredible quality prints from a few consumer resin printers, but with one very limiting factor: the build volume is tiny.
Space 3D from 123dimension promises to change that, offering an affordable and uniquely large-format resin printer for less than $700 during their Kickstarter, rising to a claimed RRP of $1100 later. The campaign is running until Saturday 18th January, so be quick if you’re interested.
What Makes Space 3D Different?
Two things make the Space 3D different from existing printers.
Firstly, the large build plate and 10.1-inch 2K resolution screen enable a much larger overall print volume. This means you can either print larger objects (obviously), or you can print multiple smaller objects at once. This is significant because a resin printer takes the same amount of time to print per layer, regardless of how much is on the build plate–so you might as well fill it up with objects. This is in contrast to an FDM printer, where increasing complexity means more movements and therefore a longer print. A resin printer produces an entire layer each time.
The second biggest feature of the Space 3D is an all-metal design. Plastic has a tendency to warp over time and isn’t as stable during printing. When you’re dealing with measurements in microns, accuracy is important to successful printing. The all-metal design of the Space 3D enables it to print reliably with no wobble or shaking, and with longer service life.
Of course, it also makes it significantly heavier, weighing around 22 pounds (10kg).
Space 3D Specifications
- Build volume XZY 8.5 x 5.3 x 7.9 inches (215 x 135 x 200 mm).
- Machine size: 14 x 16.5 x 19.7 inches (356 x 420 x 500 mm).
- XY resolution 85?m; Z resolution 10?m; layer height 25-100?m.
- 140W UV LED matrix.
- 10.1″ 2K (2560 x 1600px) resolution UV mask screen.
- All-metal build.
Slicing with ChituBox
All 3D printers require a 3D object file to be prepared before printing. A piece of software “slices” the print into layers and translates those into codes that the machine can understand.
For the Space 3D printer, that process requires you to use ChituBox, available for all common platforms. I had some issues importing the configuration files supplied, though this appears to be a Mac OS bug rather than an issue with the files. Opening them up and manually copying over the settings was trivial.
From there, simply drag in the object, re-orient if needed, then add supports. Just like a filament printer, resin printers will have issues with overhangs in the model. Everything must be connected to something on the build plate. Otherwise, it would simply solidify on the FEP film at the bottom of the resin, and not be pulled out when the build plate rises back up again.
For the most part, I found the auto-generated supports worked fine, but I did have a few models that failed, so it’s a good idea to learn how to examine the supports and verify they’ve been generated correctly.
After a failed attempt at using some LCD-W water washable resin (which apparently requires a longer exposure time, and even then it’s tricky to print with), I picked up some Elegoo Grey. There’s a variety of resins available as add-ons when you back the Kickstarter, but these weren’t ready for testing yet.
This was the first selection of models, all done in a single 8-hour print. This was at 50 microns with heavy supports. This level of supports proved to be quite difficult to remove cleanly, but other than that, the detail was incredible.
My next prints were two larger models and one smaller, all at 25 microns and medium auto-generated supports. One of the larger models failed, but two came out fine.
The supports were a lot simpler to remove, but still not as clean as I’d like. I’m confident the Space 3D can print reliably though, and any failures were my fault. Learning how to optimize supports is the biggest hurdle to the best quality results here, which is great: that’s a skill that can be learned.
Washing and Curing
For those of you new to resin printing, you should know that it’s not as simple as pouring in some resin and hitting the print button. There’s a lot of clean-up and post-processing involved–far more than filament-based printers.
After scraping the print off the build plate, you’ll need to wash everything with isopropyl alcohol (IPA), which is highly flammable and noxious. If one of your prints has failed, you may need to pour the resin out of the tank and filter out the solid residues; failure to do so will result in damage to the screen when you print again.
Space 3D includes a handy “one-button cleaning” function, whereby a single layer is cured, which you can then peel out of the resin tank. This will have bonded with any failures. I certainly appreciated this feature.
You also need to do a final cure on your successful prints. The best way to do this is to submerge them in a bath of water, with a UV light around them. I picked up a cheap nail curing device with a 30s timer, which I precariously balanced over a small tub. A few minutes was enough.
You’ll use a lot of IPA with a device this large, though you can reuse it to some extent between prints. You’ll need a sealed container big enough to store that of course, which is where the large build plate and resin vat of the Space 3D becomes its biggest annoyance.
The build plate is particularly heavy, making it awkward to hold one-handed while wiping with another. I struggled to find a container big enough to fit the build plate. With smaller devices, you can put them in a sealed sandwich box, so you can shake vigorously to clean everything.
For that reason alone, I don’t recommend the Space 3D printer for beginners: start with something smaller. Once you’re comfortable with resin, IPA, the cleaning processes, and find yourself wanting to print larger, then consider upgrading.
Our thoughts, images and videos are of the prototype Space 3D device sent to us for review, of which we’ve had very limited time with due to customs and delivery mishaps. We cannot guarantee anything will be fulfilled, only comment on what we have been given.
There is always an inherent risk when backing any Kickstarter, and you should not treat Kickstarter as a pre-order system with a guaranteed final product. I’ve personally put thousands of dollars into products that just haven’t materialized (in one instance, the creator was jailed for murder). I’ve backed many more that have succeeded, but the point is: please don’t part with any money that you couldn’t afford to lose.
My experience tells me that the Space 3D Kickstarter is not a scam, and that they have a genuine product they’d like to mass-produce. But at the very least, nearly all hardware projects suffer from delays. Creators are inherently optimistic about schedules, so factor that in if you’re looking at a particular project deadline.
Should You Back the Space 3D?
If you’re experienced with resin printing and in need of something larger, this could be a great opportunity to grab a bargain on the Space 3D Kickstarter before it hits retail, by helping the creators to bring this device to production. The detail is incredible, and if you know what you’re doing, you should never get a failed print.
On the other hand, if you’re a complete beginner to 3D printing or even just resin printing, I wouldn’t recommend Space 3D as a suitable entry point. Get something smaller like the Elegoo Mars to gain experience in the preparation, cleanup and curing process.
Win the Space 3D Prototype
We’re giving away our prototype to one lucky reader. Please note, due to the sheer size and weight of this printer, the competition is open to United Kingdom residents only. To enter, please make sure you answer the question of what you’ll do with the printer, as we’d love it to go to a home that’ll make good use of it. Good luck!