Le Chi Hieu
My opinion would be that it is very difficult to compare these machines side by side. You need to look at what your goals and end product is.
We have just purchased a Z-corp printer over other technologies because it gave us speed at acceptable price and part quality for our architectural visulaization models. However, we anticipate that we will still need to oursource parts particularly to SLA (or perhaps sls although we have not tried that yet) because the SLA finish is better particularly on small parts with a great deal of detail. We may also try Sanders (sorry it has a new name now) for some models for the same reason.
We did look seriously at SLA, ... for about 30 minutes, as it is a great process with a great deal of support, knowledge and resources behind it. However, I decided that I was not willing to deal with the potenital health risks associtated with the resins. Plus, I have a dream that one day even our back shop will be a sunny place, not a resin friendly cave.
Bottom line like most RP decsions, what do you want to do? IF you have a lot of students that will be running RP models as part of a design process, then you probably can't beat the less expensive starch in a Z corp printer. We have found that the Z printer is so fast that we are already starting to use it in ways we had not thought of. If you want the best product possible from the Z-corp machine, spend the extra money and get the color option. We have found right away that the color head creates models that have significantly better surface finish than the faster monochrome head.
If on the other hand, you need very precise intricate models for casting or the like and where surface finish is critical, then the z corp printer is probably not the best choice. SLA is one choice as is Sanders. Also don't rule out the new Waterworks systems by Stratays. In my anaylsis these are probably the middle of the road. They cost less than SLA, have good surface finish, and no support removal. However, unless you go to the best machine, they are a great deal slower than z corp.
Then of course you could always sit on the fence for news from the RP&M show and the new OBJET printer. This is SUPPOSED to have nearly the resolution of SLA with desktop modeler type of price and safety. However, to the list, Objet has been pretty unresponsive regarding price, and real deliverable date. I was not willing to risk a 1.0 version of a machine. I figured it would be at least a year perhaps two, from a real roll out, that I would feel comfortable buying this machine. But Hey you are a university, so YOU see if you can get one and let us all know how it works out...As the list knows you have all that free labor and keeping you busy working out the bugs on a new machine will keep you from doing commerical work (grin)
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