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You might think the best thing to come out of Deadwood is Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen in the HBO television series, and you’d be correct… until Michael Joyce and his B9Creator came along, that is.
The South Dakotan astrophile, Joyce launched the first incarnation of the B9Creator, a high-resolution 3D printer, back in May 2012 which heralded a huge success. Not being a man to rest on his laurels Joyce was already busy at work on a new and improved B9Creator, v1.1, which he was also to launch on Kickstarter this year.
The B9Creator uses a DLP projector (just a standard home theatre one) to cure photo-initiated polymer resin by flashing the each layer from below, which hardens said resin while the z-axis rises producing the finished print from the resin.
We caught up with the B9Creator inventor Michael Joyce to see how he is getting on.
Hi Michael, tell us a little about yourself, your background, how you got into 3D printing.
MJ: I've always loved to make things. Over the last several years I ran http://www.lostinspacerobot.com making and selling full size replicas of the "Lost in Space Robot". Back in 2007 or so I "discovered" 3D Printing (stereolithography) which used UV lasers and UV resins. I considered using it for my product development but at the time it was still very expensive and not cost effective. I took interest in 3D Printing again back in the fall of 2011 after hearing about RepRaps and other popular FDM style hobby machines. I was not too impressed with the resolution of the prints compared to the UV Resin parts I had seen several years back. That led me to wondering if I could make my own UV Resin based machine.
When did you first discover that you could use a standard projector and resin to create physical objects?
MJ: After more research back in the fall of 2011, I learned that visible light resins were available and that DLP projectors were being used as well as lasers to cure them. The idea of curing the entire layer in one exposure seemed very simple and efficient so I set about working on my own prototype.
What would you say, to the layman, are the benefits of this kind of 3D printing over say plastic extruding ones?
MJ: The primary benefit is the potential for high resolution prints which allow for the creation of smoother parts with very fine detail. The downside is the build area is limited by the power output and resolution of the projector.
How long did it take you to come up with the prototype used in your first Kickstarter campaign?
MJ: I started working on the prototype in December, 2011. I tried several configurations in wood before deciding on what worked best. After that I created an all-metal version using CAD and had the first working production prototype in time to kick off my first Kickstarter campaign in May of 2012.
You asked for $50,000 on your first campaign could you of dreamt getting over $500,000?
MJ: I get asked that a lot. I expected to easily top $100,000 but $500,000 was at the extreme range of my expectations. I did set the goal fairly low because I wanted potential backers to know the project was going forward. (But still high enough that I could still produce a small run of machines)
What made you chose Kickstarter in the first place?
MJ: It was the most popular crowdfunding site and seemed like the best place to "get the word out" about our machine.
Were you at all worried about going back to that community with the 2nd model? I suppose the fears were allayed pretty much right away what with the instant success?
MJ: We had spent the time since we finished our first Kickstarter deliveries (Sept 2012) working on improvements and software. I knew there was some pent up demand and was pretty confident we would make our goals. But I do expect this to be our final B9Creator Kickstarter campaign. We'll be using a distributor for sales going forward.
We heard from a 3D printing enthusiast recently that the more you work with 3D printers and the more you tailor the machine to your own needs the better it gets. Is this the same for the B9creator?
MJ: Certainly. Part of the process is, understanding how best to design your 3D part to work with the particular style of machine you are using. As with any tool, your skill increases with practice.
Where do you think this 3D printing revolution is heading? How long do you predict before there's a 3D Printer of some form in every home?
MJ: I see a solid market for designers, artists and engineers, both professionally and for the hobbyist. 3D Printing is very popular right now and an enormous amount of time and money is being poured into R&D. Once the technology needed for combining multiple materials is available I think we may see the "3D Printer in every home" start to happen. As to when, I can't predict that.