There was this strange machine at CES 2017. First they were printing – Then they were carving – Then they were engraving and then they were making cookies!!!!
So what was it? what is the Zmorph 3d printer?
Let’s find out.
Who are they?
Maybe you have never heard of Zmorph ( pronounced zee-morph), they are a company who are located in Poland.
They take their name from the Greek for creating objects, the addition of the Z signifies that they are creating objects in 3d ( as the Z-axis is the third dimension).
Their first model was produced in 2012 as a modification of the open source Reprap model.
The main objective was, and still is, to make this technology available to users unfamiliar with programming, electronics or mechanics.
What do they have to offer?
The model on offer today is the Zmorph 2.0 SX, an upgrade on the 2.0 S model.
The soft triangular styling will be at home whether in the lab, in the home or at school.
With the covers preventing touching of the hot parts, this printer – operating on the FFF ( fused filament fabrication) method of printing, shows a degree of care for the younger users.
The touch screen interface makes desktop fabrication very easy to use. The interface now feels as familiar as your smartphone or tablet.
The closed loop control this printer offers whilst fabricating, allows errors to be spotted and corrected on the fly, ending up with a successful print. Other printers would just carry on with the mistake, ending up with more scrap.
The main advantage the Zmorph 2.0 SX has over it’s competition is the ability to change print heads. One minute it is a 3d printer, then the next it is a CNC machine, the next it is a laser engraver/cutter. Oh and if you want custom cookies or doughnuts then this is the printer for you. It even has a print head for soft dough.
And it quite literally is less than a minute to change the print heads. Undo one screw and remove the print head, lock another in place and do up a screw. That’s it.
The basic model the Zmorph 2.0 SX basic comes with the 1.75mm print head and the CNC cutter/engraver.
The Zmorph 2.0 SX full package comes with the 1.75mm 3d print head, the CNC cutter/engraver, the two-colour print head, the thick paste print head and the laser engraver/cutter..
The printer frame itself is made from 6mm thick aluminium for rigidity. The build platform is a 5mm hardened heated glass plate, capable of operating up to a temperature of 120C. There are changeable build platforms for the different functions. The CNC has a plywood bed, the thick paste extruder can use either, or it can print directly onto the silicon to go straight into the oven.
The print area is a respectable length, width and height of 250mm X 235mm X 165mm ( 9.8in X 9.25in X 6.5in) – you can extend the print area slightly by removing the covers. It extends the length up to 300mm (11.8in).
With an positioning accuracy of 14 microns (0.014mm) in the X and Y axis, along with an accuracy of 0.625 microns (0.000625 mm) in the Z axis and the feedback system, this machine will know where the print or cutting head is exactly at all times.
The layer resolution is 50 microns for fine printing going up to 400 microns for a fast print speed.
Powered by the Sunbeam 2.0, with its ARM processor, the electronics drives the XYZ axis stepper motors along with the two for the dual print head extruder.
On board data storage allows the user to download the files to the printer and then disconnect the printer, whilst it continues to print.
Connection to the computer is via either USB or LAN for ease of use. The onboard capacitive touchscreen allow the user to operate the machine in standalone mode.
What print heads do what?
With currently 6 print heads you are spoilt for choice on what the machine will do next.
Standard 3d print heads
You have access to both types of standard filament, 1.75mm and 2.85mm. Personally I would go for the 2.85mm, as this appears to be the consistently available filament. The 1.75mm appears to go out of stock regularly.
The dual print head
The dual print head only comes in 1.75mm size.
There are a variety of nozzle sizes available, the widest choice is on the 1.75mm single print head with a 0.2mm, 0.3mm and a 0.4mm. Te 2.85mm comes with a choice of 0.3mm or 0.4mm and the dual head come with a 0.4mm as standard.
Unusually the dual nozzle filaments are internally mixed, removing problems with differing height of two nozzles and the offset this brings. With the internal mixing you can get any colour between the two different filaments loaded. This means that you can shade your prints with their custom designed software. Some of the effects, like the picture vase are stunning.
The CNC print head
The CNC print head, used for milling and engraving is constructed of a steel housing for endurance.
The brushed motor is able to cut at a minimum of 4mm/second and up to a maximum of 120mm/sec.
The work area comes down a little, due to the size of the CNC print head, to 250mm X 235mm X 85mm ( 9.8in X 9.25in X 3.34in).
The recommended cutting height is 0.5mm but this can be adjusted, dependant on material between 0.025mm and 0.4mm.
The types of materials that can be cut with the CNC print head are
and PVC foam
The laser print head.
The laser print head can be used for cutting thin materials or engraving.
The high quality 3mm aluminium frame has been laser cut for accuracy.
The laser comprises of a 2W blue laser and associated electronics, mounted in a box not with the print head.
The laser can cut and engrave plywood, eva foil, cardboard and leather.
The laser is not that powerful, but it can cut balsa wood, thin cardboard and paper.
Just remember to take precautions on both lungs and eyes – you only get one pair of each and they are not replaceable at the present time!! so get some good goggles and fume extraction before using this print head.
Thick paste extruder print head
This is the print head for doughnuts and chocolate. You can also print ceramics.
Basically anything which has a thixotropic nature ( stays put after extruding without running). The dough may slump but will not, unless too thin, spread out too far so keep it’s custom printed shape.
The nozzle is either a 2mm or 4mm one allowing for different materials to be printed.
The material is forced out using a stepper motor so some trial and error to get the right print speed will be in order.
The reservoir is a maximum of 100ml.
There are more print heads coming, another material extruder which doesn’t rely on a reservoir and plunger, making it easier to continually print.
This is where a lot of manufacturers fall down, the software.
It is refreshing to see that zmorph have taken the bit between their teeth and designed a new piece of software specifically for their printer.
It is a free download and with the available print heads for the printer – it’s no wonder they have done this.
Can you imagine explaining how to get files created for laser etching – or CNC cutting or engraving with the standard slicing software?
The software itself is available for PC and MAC.
The Voxelizer, as their software is named, has separate areas for each of the print heads.
It would have been nice to see that you could cut out and ‘carve’ something with the CNC print head and then go on to laser engrave it. Or 3d print something and then refinish it with the CNC print head.
It recognises a lot of cad files, along with picture files.
You can then work on finishing your model with adding parts, strengthening weak parts, cutting off bits you don’t want.
You then export the code for the printer with which print head you have chosen.
It is frustrating it will not export a standard G-code file to be used with other printers – it is definitely locked to their printer!!
I am very impressed with how they have managed to produce a printer with a variety of print heads. The changing mechanism needs a little more work in my opinion. It should not need tools and could have had a spring pin to lock it in.
The variety of functions this printer can do is excellent. From standard 3d printing through CNC machining, laser engraving and onto producing the custom chocolates for teatime!!
The software package is good, it still has a little way to go to make it completely user friendly. They have thought about the fact that this is lacking on the market.
I feel that they could have included a multi print head work flow to allow the printing of parts followed by the laser engraving of the outside, or the CNC cutting of a part with 3d printing on top then laser engraving to finish it off.
I am sure this will come in the future as the machine matures and more users give feedback.
With new parts being developed for the printer, this one will not go away very soon. Will you be able to use the upgrades in the future- or will they change the mounting mechanism for the print heads? This is anybody’s guess.
With a price tag of $2600 for the basic package going up to $3800 for the full package, you will need to be sure that it will be used a lot before committing to purchase this printer.
Would I buy one?
Well, I would but I cannot justify the expense at the moment. I like the fact that they are going to release the CAD drawings so that you can produce your own print heads in the future.
So what is the zmorph 3d printer? It is a printer, CNC cutter, laser engraver and a printer capable of printing the cookies for tea!! nice one Zmorph.
Leave a comment in the box below to tell us what you would do with your Zmorph 3d printer.
Thanks for reading