Meet the M-One, the latest open source SLA 3D printer

Stereolithographic 3D printers, which use light to harden liquid resin into 3D objects, are dropping in price. And their price tag will likely continue to fall after two open source printers enter the market this year, one of which went up on Kickstarter today.

With its orange casing and metal body, MakeX’s M-One looks a lot like competitor FormlabsForm 1 and Form 1+ 3D printers. But it costs half the price and is open source, which means users can easily modify it, copy it and use any type of resin they want.

The M-One prints at a slightly higher resolution than the Form 1+: 20 microns compared to 25. MakeX founder Junshen Pan said in an interview that it also prints faster, but it is a larger machine and needs to have its UV light replaced more often.

Objects printed on the M-One. Photo courtesy of MakeX.

Objects printed on the M-One. Photo courtesy of MakeX.

Stereolithographic 3D printers (SLA) somewhat resemble an upside down version of fused deposition modeling 3D printers, which melt plastic and then lay it down on a print bed before it hardens, slowly building up layer by layer. In an SLA printer, the print bed is upside down and slowly rises away from a vat of resin as the 3D object is formed by a laser.

The M-One incorporates an unusual resin vat that tilts as each layer is added. It also has a soft bottom, which needs to be replaced regularly.

The tilting resin vat. Gif courtesy of MakeX.

The tilting resin vat. Gif courtesy of MakeX.

Pan founded MakeX after finding prototyping on existing 3D printers frustrating.

“I found it is really a pain to follow a complex process to operate a (hobby-grade 3D printer), wasting hours on just dealing with the inconvenient process,” Pan said. “So I told my concern to my friends. We agreed on the same decision: Make a simple, beautiful, highly integrated printer for designers.”

He hopes that the feedback gained from the first generation machine will lead to an even better model.

As of 5 p.m. PT on its first day, the Kickstarter campaign has raised nearly $55,000 of its $100,000 goal. The M-One costs between $1,699 and $3,999 and will ship to backers starting in November.