With so many personal 3D printers hitting the market, it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you. Over the years we've seen plenty of attractive options, but few have matched the price-performance of the B9Creator, a Digital Light Processing (DLP) projector-based 3D printer that was created by Michael Joyce of South Dakota. After a successful crowd-funding campaign last year (where the original B9Creator was launched to the tune of more than US$500,000), he's back with an upgraded kit that irons out some of its issues.
The B9Creator v1.1 comes as a kit ($2,675) or fully assembled ($3,375) – which fits neatly between the Makerbot Replicator 2 and the Form Labs Form1 printer. However, the quality of the printed parts appears to far surpass its competition.
Layer by layer, the B9Creator uses the light from a Vivitek projector to cure photo-initiated resin rather than extruding plastic. It's similar to the Form1's stereolithography, but can print objects with an XY resolution of 50 microns and a Z resolution of 25 microns. Compare that to the Form1, which only prints with an XY resolution of 300 microns (and a Z resolution of 25 microns), yet costs hundreds more than the B9Creator kit.
That difference is most noticeable when it comes to small, detailed parts like jewelry or highly detailed models (like those made with digital sculpting software such as Zbrush or Mudbox). In those situations, you want the smallest possible resolution to avoid unsightly layer stepping as seen in less expensive fused filament fabrication (extruded plastic) printers.
Already in the hands of users
Already the first crop of customers are sharing their experiences through the B9Creator's official forums. One of those users, Carter Lee, has plenty of experience with 3D printers through his work as a custom jewelry designer. "In its current (original) state, my efforts to push its limits has shown this machine created and delivered by the one-man-band Michael Joyce to have exceeded my expectations many times over. Commercial casting workshops are accepting the material, resin manufacturers are developing B9-specific alternatives, the community is developing improvements from all different directions."
"With some attentiveness on the user’s part, [the B9Creator] gets them 90 percent of the result of the best commercial desktop 3D printer at one-seventh the cost," he added. You can see some of Carter's printed parts, which include detailed rings, in the photo gallery. He plans to start his own business, Chicago Charm Company, in the near future, and will use the B9Creator to fabricate pieces which can then be cast in precious metals.
(Left) a ring printed on a professional ($18,000) printer, (right) the same ring printed on the B9Creator ($2,600) (Photo: Carter Lee)
Lee also stated that the B9Creator's output will likely improve with the addition of proper resin formulation at the 25 micron slice setting, higher projector resolution, v 1.1 hardware tweaks, and more streamlined software. For example, currently the software cannot automatically generate the support structures for parts with overhangs, requiring the user to add those manually – a feature that could be added to the software in the future. And should users opt to install a projector with a higher resolution, they'll be able to increase part detail.
The Form1 garnered plenty of attention and support, but is now the subject of a patent lawsuit by 3D Systems, and delayed by manufacturer defects. Meanwhile, the humble B9Creator is already in the hands of some 200 users and outputting highly detailed parts for considerably less money up front (both in terms of the kit and the resin it uses).
The new Kickstarter campaign has less than a week to go but has already surpassed its funding goal by a huge margin, so the improvements made with version 1.1 will soon be in the hands of its supporters. You can learn more about the B9Creator at its official website, and in the pitch video below.