We continue our series of articles on working with the large-scale 3D printer of the Spanish BCN3D Technologies – Epsilon. The device equipped with two printheads and a closed working chamber is a bridge between desktop and industrial 3D printers – on the one hand it is definitely too big to be able to put it on the desk, on the other its functionality still predisposes it to work in an office environment like design studio, engineering office or research and development department of a production company or scientific unit. In this article we will summarize the most important features and functionalities of Epsilon and indicate its key advantages and disadvantages…
The 3D printer came to us courtesy of the Polish distributor of the BCN3D brand – Global3D, which has the full spectrum of the Spanish company’s offer. Until now, as part of articles presenting BCN3D Technologies devices, you could also get acquainted with earlier, smaller models – Sigma R19 and Sigmax R19.
1. Large-size 3D printer for large 3D prints
A distinguishing feature of BCN3D Epsilon among other devices in this class is the large working area of 420 x 300 x 400 cm. In addition, the working chamber is closed, thanks to which the printouts created inside are separated from the external conditions, which of course has a positive effect on their quality. At the same time, it should be noted that the 3D printer does not have an independent air circulation or any additional heaters heating the chamber – a higher temperature inside it is created due to heat emitted by heaters in the work table. We cannot set or regulate it. Nevertheless, work in such a large working area without a closed working chamber would be missed at all…
Large 3D prints mean long working times. Epsilon is well prepared in this respect – so far we have successfully implemented projects lasting 3-4 days of continuous operation. The 3D printer is equipped with filament flow sensors, so if the material runs out or gets stuck on the spool, the device pauses and waits for the user’s response.
BCN3D Epsilon offers remote communication via WiFi and BCN3D Cloud 3D print monitoring system. We can queue the work there and track the progress of printouts.
Filament spools can be mounted in two ways – either inside the working chamber, on the sides next to the floor, or at the rear on the housing. The latter solution is designed for larger filament spools weighing 2-5 kg – we can fit a maximum of 1 kg spools inside a 3D printer.
2. The two printheads
Regular readers of the 3D Printing Center certainly know this fragment of the description of 3D printers BCN3D Technologies by heart, so let’s think that they can go further, and reading this point is continued by people who meet with devices of the Spanish manufacturer for the first time… In 2015 with the premiere of the first proprietary device – Sigma, the original system of two independent printheads – IDEX – saw the light of day. It consists in the fact that the heads are installed on independent carriages – in the YZ axes they move simultaneously, but in the X axis already independently of each other. When one printhead prints, the other one is stacked on the side of the device. There is also the possibility of simultaneous operation of two heads, as described below.
Two printheads allow to work in four modes:
- one head prints one* detail
- two heads print one* detail from the same building material but from two different colors
- two heads print one* detail – one applies building material and the other supports water-soluble
- two heads print two* details simultaneously.
* There may of course be more details – as many as they can fit on the work table.
The IDEX system is identical for all BCN3D Technologies 3D printers, i.e. in the case of Sigma / Sigmax R19 and Epsilon we will not notice any difference. In fact, the only thing that distinguishes the first two devices from the third one is the much larger containers for filament remnants on the sides…
3. The solution for low-volume production in FFF technology
Thanks to the IDEX function, users can divide the work table into two parts in the Y axis and print two sets of parts simultaneously. In the case of Epsilon this is particularly important, because after such a virtual division we get two work tables with an area of 190 x 300 mm!
We have two modes: DUPLICATE and MIRROR – in the latter, the working area in the X axis is slightly smaller and 165 mm.
This allows us to carry out low-volume production – we can produce parts twice as fast as on another 3D printer with a comparable working area due to the simultaneous operation of two independent heads.
Of course, we also need to prepare here for some restrictions… For example, the above production would certainly come out when printing it from PLA material. In the case of using more advanced engineering class material, e.g. polyamide PA6 / PA12, we would rather not risk – and certainly reduce the number of details and their density.
BCN3D 3D printers also suggest using special head shims when working in DUAL / MIRROR mode. On the one hand, it’s not too complicated – on the other, we have to do an additional service. This is not obligatory – if we give up this option, one head first applies the material, and after the first layer the second one joins the work. Unfortunately, with a large number of details (as in the printscreene above), we strongly advise against this option.
4. The Software
To work with Epsilon (as with all other BCN3D 3D printers) CURA is used – one of the most popular programs dedicated to 3D printers of the FDM / FFF type in the world. It is developed and made available under an open-source license by the Dutch Ultimaker, but is still made available to other companies that can customize them. For example, BCN3D Technologies has introduced its own 3D printing profiles or double 3D printing modes.
At the time of writing this article (13.04.2020), BCN3D Epsilon could only use one 3D printing profile by default for a 0.2 mm layer. Of course, this can be modified in the advanced settings.
The CURA version used by BCN3D is easy and simple to use, and even completely novice users of 3D printers should not have major problems in operating the device and preparing files for 3D printing.
5. Advantages and disadvantages
- really big workspace
- the ability to work with two printheads and using building and support material
- the ability to divide a large 3D printer workspace in half and twice as efficiently work in DUAL and MIRROR modes
- automatic pausing of the printout during work in case of filament problem
- built-in HEPA filter
- simplicity of use
- great design.
- loud HEPA filter operation
- the need for usage of shims for lowering printheads in DUAL and MIRROR modes
- complicated service in the event of filament jamming in the system
- high price.