Musings and Experiments on the Art and Science of 3D Printing


48 Hrs with the new Prusa SL1 SLA Printer!

By SublimeLayers Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Prusa selected me to beta test the new Prusa SL1 SLA printer and I received it on Monday afternoon (exactly 48 hrs from when I'm writing this). I'll let you read the specs on the web site so I can focus on the beta testing here.

I had dabbled in DLP resin printers a few years ago with the SeeMeCNC Droplit printer kit. It was an interesting printer but the slicing and control software was just way too immature at that time. So, in addition to the printer itself, I was very interested to see what Prusa did with the software. I've frequently commented that one of the big strengths of the Prusa i3 printer's success is due to the phenomenal job Prusa has done seamlessly integrating the firmware, slicer and printer itself. The entire user experience (not to mention quality of results) requires such a holistic approach. I suspected that the SL1 would be similar (and I was correct).

Let's start with the unboxing. I received two large boxes. One contained the SL1 and the other contained the optional washing curing station.
Professional and protective packaging 
The Gummy Bears are always well received - and short lived!

Sl1 internal packing
Setup and ready to rumble

The CW1 part washer and UV curing station accessories box
This is the CW1 
They make an attractive couple
The SL1 box contained an instruction sheet for beta testers with a link to a private Web site to get the setup guide, links to a series of questionnaires we are asked to fill out as we unpack, setup, calibrate and print (beta testing isn't all fun and games, we do have to put some skin in the game too!)

I started with the unpacking. Everything was well packed and attractive. First impressions are everything and the SL1 and CW1 delivered a great first impression. I was surprised at how heavy the SL1 was - it is mostly aluminum with a big linear rail and ball screw for the Z axis. The CW1 is also well built and contains a stainless washing container and rack.

Once set up, I plugged everything in and powered up. The first task was to connect the SL1 to my wifi network. The SL1 has built-in wifi and Ethernet! Connection was simple. The next step was to check for firmware updates. None were available so it was time to move on to calibration.

First, a couple of comments about the SL1 Handbook. Prusa gets an A+ for their documentation and this beta handbook is no exception. Sure there were some images missing and some info needed updating (that's what beta testers do you know) but overall it was complete and really well designed documentation.

Ok, now on to calibration. I read the Calibration process in the guide and then turned to the machine. The control panel is beautiful - full color, crisp and clear. Sorry for the poor photos but it is tricky to shoot an LCD display. Let's just say that the colors are clean and crisp. Black background with orange and white text and icons - very professional looking.
The Settings button takes you to the calibration procedure. I'll blog more about calibration later but will say it is a quick (5 minute) process and you only have to do it once. The LCD display includes FULL COLOR photos of the actual process - this is really nice. I know some minor changes are in the works for this part of the calibration so I won't post photos here now.

The printer comes loaded with pre-sliced sample models (4 of them) and there is a button to download models - so as Prusa releases more pre-sliced models, it will be a 1-click action to get them.

Before jumping into printing I should also add that there is a beautiful web interface to the SL1 too. It looks and works just like the built-in control panel. You point your browser at the printer's hostname or IP address and enter its unique API Key and you are connected. The web interface works great from your iPhone or Android phone too. Under the covers, Prusa has built a custom server with a custom user interface. This should give you a better idea of what the on-board display looks like too.

One nice detail - the Web interface makes a gentle "tick" sound when you click a button that sounds just like the on-board panel.

Now to the fun part - printing. Prusa included 500ml of "Prusa orange" resin. There was a 1l bottle of red resin in the CW1 box, so I have a little to play with. I'm looking for sublime green resin for 405nm DLP printers so post a comment if you know of anything!

Here is one of the included files - a small delicate flower. It is about 20mm across (the petals, the "leaves" are about 35mm). The detail is fantastic and got me excited to do something bigger. At this point I washed the print with a squirt bottle filled with IPA and cured it in the CW1. I don't have enough IPA to wash it in the CW1 - I have 4 gallons of 99% IPA arriving tomorrow though!

The next print is the infamous Eiffel Tower. It is the standard SLA model everyone must print. This one stands 130mm tall. Again, the resolution is amazing. I was running out of IPA so my washing was not very good. By way of disclaimer I should also say that this print suffered from partial separation of one leg from the build surface. The reason for this has been found and fixed so it won't affect production SL1s. This is why companies do external beta testing and I give Prusa lots of credit to taking the time to do it right.

Prusa has added features to the Slic3r Prusa edition to support the SL1 so slicing is straightforward. One really nice feature is that Slic3r can connect to the SL1 so you can print directly from it. The SL1 does not require proprietary resins and new resin profiles are being added. I have some resins on order and will profile those once they arrive.

I'll have the SL1 at the Midwest RepRap Festival in Indiana next week so stop by my Sublime Publications booth and take a look.

2 comments to ''48 Hrs with the new Prusa SL1 SLA Printer!"

  1. How does it stack up to Formlabs 2? In your opinion? Have you used both of them?

    1. I have not used the Formlabs 2 so I can't comment.