What is an Infinite-Z 3D Printer?

Simply put, the 3DPrintMill is a cross between a traditional 3D printer and a conveyer belt. This means two things:

  1. Continuous, unattended part printing. Parts are 3D printed, the heated belt advances, and the parts detach themselves and fall into a bin. No more constantly prying pieces off a heated bed and starting the print process again. The 3DPrintMill can turn an entire 1, 5, or 10-kilogram roll of plastic filament into dimensionally accurate plastic parts with no human supervision.
     
  2. Extremely long (theoretically “infinite” along the Z-axis) 3D prints. By tilting the bed 45 degrees, the back of the printed object advances out of the 3D printer- while the front is still being printed inside the printer. The longest print out of the 3DPrintMill to date is a 20 foot/6 meter long bar- all one piece, produced by a machine only 66cm long. 

 

Who is the 3DPrintMill for?

  1. Anyone who enjoys 3D printing but does not enjoy the process of leveling beds and detaching prints. The 3DPrintMill usually prints out of the box and has excellent bed adhesion with PLA, TPU, and PETG. Any adjustments, if needed, are simple, and once done, it stays level almost indefinitely.
     
  2. Etsy and eBay store owners who already sell original 3D printed designs. Wall hooks, face shields, and other functional prints by the dozen, hundreds- or even thousands. We’re working on software solutions that will allow you to not only print the same object continuously but also add a variety of different models to a print queue and print them all without interruption.
     
  3. People who need plastic parts below the minimum for cost-effective injection molding, or anyone who has sensitive IP and don’t want to risk having their molds used without their permission.
     
  4. Anyone who would use a traditional 3D printer farm- but doesn’t want the associated labor costs of constantly changing trays of parts, detaching those parts, and starting the print process again.
     
  5. Cosplayers with very long prints- swords and spears, that usually require a dozen or more parts and significant post-production can generally be printed on the 3DPrintMill in just two parts, often with no support to remove.
     
  6. Restorers, propmakers, and set designers. The 3DPrintMill can print strong, durable crown molding and other architectural features of any profile up to 200x170 and of nearly any length, without the need for custom tooling. Depending on your selected print resolution and application, these 3D prints can often be immediately primed and painted- with no need for time-consuming post-processing.
     
  7. Schools that want to provide access to a 3D printer and want to avoid the risk of students handling it directly and cutting themselves on a broken glass bed, or the sharp tools often used to remove prints or burned on the heated nozzle. The 3DPrintMill is the safest option available since once loaded with a week’s worth of filament by a teacher, it can then be used without any human contact so can be encased in a plastic box or put behind a window with a 3D printed chute to dispense finished parts to the students.
     
  8. Anyone with compromised dexterity, or limited movements in their hands and arms. Because the prints do not have to be physically removed from the bed, they can be advanced via a digital control, the 3DPrintMill is far more accessible than more traditional designs- and we plan to build on that. If you or someone you know have special needs, please contact us- we’re doing everything we can to include features that will allow everyone to 3D print- for business or fun.
     

Hardware

The 3DPrintMill is not a “kit”. The printer comes separated into four main parts for shipping, the base, front, rear, and control panel. It takes less than 30 minutes to attach these parts with the accompanying Allen keys.

On the other hand, if you start with a box of aluminum extrusion, rods, belts, rollers, and other raw parts bought directly from a factory in China and passed onto you untouched yet at a substantial markup, it may feel like a bargain. But in the course of assembling a 3D printer entirely from scratch without the precision alignment surfaces and jigs available in a factory, errors become cumulative. A twist along one axis, combined with skew along another can be nearly impossible to troubleshoot. This is why, if you want good print quality and dimensional accuracy it’s critical to minimize the number of parts a customer will have to assemble.

Simply attaching a gantry to a base is a proven design- but try to assemble the whole gantry from individual pieces without a perfectly flat surface plate as a work surface and you’ll find there are multiple points at which deflection is introduced. Many sound printer designs become unworkable or require elaborate software correction because the precision alignment of parts from a kit to .01mm or better tolerances is unrealistic at the average person’s dinner table or office desk. This is why every 3DPrintMill is first tested at the factory, then comes to you as a nearly finished unit.

Perfect 3D prints start with a rock-solid platform. The 3DPrintMill is built like a tank with all-metal construction- 16.5kg or 36lbs of CNC machined aluminum and steel. Nylon rollers but absolutely no plastic structural parts. Industry-standard components, including aluminum v-slot beams, mean you’ll never have to rely on just one company if you want to hack, upgrade, or repair any part of your 3DPrintMill yourself. We designed it from the ground up to be open, not to tie you into a proprietary ecosystem.

The gantry of the 3DPrintMill features a modern Core-XY motion system at a 45-degree angle. Core-XY, while more costly than other options, offers the best combination of stability, speed, and precision for 3D printing applications. 

The rolling Z-axis uses a nylon conveyer belt designed for industrial assembly lines- expected to last years with regular use. You aren’t a regular user? No problem, you can buy extra belts for just $45 and swap it out in less than 10 minutes. Are you a hardware hacker? Think you can make a better belt printer? Also, no problem, we’re all about supporting innovation in the 3D printing community- by popular request, we’ll sell you just the belt if you want.

Our 24-volt, 220-watt aluminum print bed heats quickly and evenly- up to 100ºC, providing great print adhesion to the nylon conveyor belt with no curling. Top-mounted knobs ensure fast and accurate leveling of the bed assembly should it be required.

The printer uses the same, proven, reliable Bowden hotend as Creality3D’s best selling CR-10 V2 3D printer. Good for a variety of materials up to 240ºC, look for optional direct drive conversion coming soon.

Inside, 3DPrintMill features Creality-3D’s top of the line, 32-bit motherboard proven in its best-selling Ender-3 and CR-10 V2 series. The board is running Open Source Marlin firmware, features an ARM STM32F103 chipset, and TMC2208 stepper drivers for silent, safe, and precise operation.

Print resume and filament interruption detection. Should your 3DPrintMill lose power, you can resume printing wherever you left off when power is restored. Run out of filament midway through a long print job? No problem, our filament sensor will detect breakage or runout, pause printing while you load new filament, and resume right where it left off- usually without any discernible mark on the print.

Software

Slicing software- the program that converts your 3D model into tool paths your printer can follow, plays a decisive role in 3D printing. Good prints come from good slicing software. 

Our slicing software, CrealityBelt, is specifically designed for the 3DPrintMill. It can slice a model of any length, or slice multiple models for continuous printing. CrealityBelt is user-friendly with a simple operation and a clear interface.

The GCODE file that the 3DPrintMill reads, while unusual in that it is sliced at a 45-degree angle, is in no way proprietary, is completely open and we’re working with the maintainers of several Open-Source slicers to add the capability for Infinite-Z printing to their existing applications. We anticipate multiple Open Source slicing options to be available before March 2021.

Tom Jackson- aka, FilamentFrenzy, Slicer Profiling Expert

Slicer Profiles

Within the slicing software are profiles- printer-specific configuration files that allow you to select the speed, quality, strength, and other attributes of your 3D prints. Every new printer design needs it’s own slicer profiles to match its unique configuration.

The slicer profiles that will come ready to use with your 3DPrintMill are being configured by Tom Jackson- aka FilamentFrenzy. Tom is well known in the 3D printing community and his profiles are widely regarded as the best available for achieving optimal results from nearly all Open Source 3D printers on the market today. No more time wasted trying to “dial-in” a new 3D printer yourself or waiting weeks or months for the community to figure out what works- with your 3DPrintMill you get the best quality, configured by the top expert in the field, right out of the box.

Scott Lahteine, Lead Marlin Developer, Firmware Expert

Firmware

As with Slicer settings, for the best firmware coding we went to the best in the business- Scott Lahteine, the maintainer of the Open Source Marlin project. Working with Scott means no buggy firmware issues out of the box. It also ensures the firmware source is compliant with the GPL and accessible to all who want to work on it, hack it, improve it- even make and sell their own Inifinite- Z printer to drive competitive innovation forward. Most importantly, it means that the Marlin project is financially compensated for the essential work it does for the 3D printing community - as it should be by all who profit off their work. We do, and we hope you will as well by contributing to Scott's Patreon.

Bill Steele, creator of the first Infinite-Z FDM and DLP printers
Karl Brown aka. NAK3DDesigns, the creator of the first Open Source Infinite-Z 3D printer kit.

Lineage

All consumer 3D printers currently sold, build in some way on the work of Adrian Bowyer and his RepRap project- Open Source 3D printing. Some 3D printers iterate more than others, some are simply clones and claim innovations as their own that was in fact the community’s work. Others take only the broad strokes of an idea and build on it, improve it, and allow others to build on it further. For the 3DPrintMill we have taken pains to involve and consult the talented individuals who brought the technology this far, and built on their work with their permission.

Bill Steele, who first demonstrated Infinite-Z FDM and DLP printers, and Karl Brown who created the first practical, Open Source kit so consumers could build their own Infinite-Z printer. Both Karl and Bill have given the project their blessing- and indeed, without them, it would never have been possible.

Naomi Wu working with the Creality3D engineers on an early version of the 3DPrintMill

Why Crowdfund?

When Naomi Wu- the project head for the 3DPrintMill, decided to create and market an Infinite-Z belt printer that could be mass manufactured and affordable to everyone, she knew she could not do it alone. Bringing the 3DPrintMill to life would need the resources of a full engineering team and a company with substantial 3D printer manufacturing experience. So a deal was struck, Creality would invest the R&D resources necessary to make the 3DPrintMill real, and as soon as that expense was recouped, the entire product would be fully Open Sourced for the benefit of the community. When the 3DPrintMill reaches 5 million USD in crowdfunding, the whole machine- CAD files, BOM, firmware, schematics, will be fully Open Sourced. Anyone in any country can make their own version, iterate and improve on it- leading to vastly accelerated development. 

While many people understandably have concerns about crowdfunding this printer, it’s a compromise that benefits the community. Countless 3D printers from startups with no manufacturing experience have failed to deliver anything. Companies with manufacturing experience have started using the platform for marketing proprietary, locked-down products- offering nothing substantial to the community and limiting their engagement to expecting that community to provide service and support to each other for free. By rewarding the 3D printing community with not just a revolutionary printer at a fraction of retail price, but also handing over the complete source code, we hope to accelerate innovation on this remarkable technology and offer a practical, turnkey option for small scale manufacturing, anywhere in the World.

Naomi Wu with her pre-production 3DPrintMill

Naomi Wu

Naomi is a flamboyant young hardware engineer who runs the largest Tech YouTube channel in China from her workshop/studio in her native city of Shenzhen. Naomi has appeared on the cover of Make Magazine, is a passionate advocate for 3D printing and Open Source Hardware, and is responsible for the first five Open Source Hardware Association Certifications in China.

Creality3D and Naomi have collaborated for many years on both engineering and marketing endeavors- including working together to fully Open Source the legendary Ender-3, which has become the best selling 3D printer in the World.

Two years ago, Naomi pressed Creality to bring an Infinite-Z 3D printer to market, then liaised between the originators of commercially viable Infinite-Z printing- Bill Steele and Karl Brown, the engineers at Creality, and the global 3D printing community. Now, their dream of unattended small scale manufacturing in any home has become a reality with the 3DPrintMill.

Creality 3D

Since our establishment in 2014, Creality 3D has quickly grown to become a well-known and trusted name in the 3D printing community. Headquartered in Shenzhen, Creality 3D has branches in Beijing, Shanghai, and Wuhan, containing R&D, manufacturing, and after-sales service divisions. With a total area of 30,000㎡ of factory and research space, a team of over 1,000 employees, and sales of over half a million 3D printers a year, our ability to meet production deadlines is assured. Creality 3D prides itself on its large-scale R&D center- 3D printing laboratories and the Creality Research Institute. It was this commitment to innovation- to building on and refining Open Source designs that lead to the creation of the 3DPrintMill.




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