ZPrinter 450

The 3D Systems' ZPrinter-450 is a "High Performance Composite" 3D prototyping printer which uses a proprietary powder and binder system to build parts and assemblies. The primary components are a gypsum based powder which is bound together by a starch based binder applied by inkjet print heads. The composite model is then treated with Z-Bond, a low-bloom cyanoacrylate infiltrate (superglue), or with Epsom Salt solution to add strength and increase durability. Completed models accurately represent the original design and are very useful for Proof of Concept, Functional Testing, and Product Mockup. The printer can also build models of objects derived from DICOM source such as edited 3D scans and converted images from x-ray, CT, MRI; users must convert original DCM files to STL format prior to submission. Depending on design and application, the ZPrinter-450 can build moving and/or internal assemblies with moderate strength as well as single parts.

The build chamber of the ZPrinter-450 is 8 x 10 x 8 inches (203 x 254 x 203 mm) and the two print heads may provide up to 180,000 colors. The minimum feature size is stated as 0.006" (0.15 mm) though the layer thickness is between 0.0035" and 0.004" (0.089 mm and 0.102 mm). Acceptable file formats are STL, 3DS, VRML, or PLY.

The ZPrinter's primary advantage is its print speed and large capacity build chamber; its inkjet technology allows fast printing of multiple parts stacked to near full volume of the build chamber. Prints are very good resolution with sharp details even minor features are discernable.

The machine's limitations are three-fold and center on post-processing.

  1. Although the machine can accurately build any model or part in fine detail, extracting the model or part from the build chamber requires great care and some experience. The finished part is similar to "green ware" and very fragile until cured. Large models with thin walls will often collapse upon themselves during extraction.
  2. Models cured with Epsom Salt are cheaper to build, but are not as strong as models cured with Z-Bond (superglue). Also, the Epsom Salt will dissolve small features and thin walls, sometime leaving a lump of composite material instead of a model.
  3. Models cured with Z-Bond will have a gloss finish and the Z-Bond may add thickness to small features. The Z-Bond is expensive and may cost more than the powder and binder together, depending on surface area. Also, Z-Bond adds 24 to 48 hours to the total post-process time.