Z Corporation redefines its entry level with the ZPrinter 150 and 250

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So, this one should be pretty hot off the presses (the NDA lifted about 10 minutes ago), Z Corporation has just announced details of the latest move to lower the barrier to 3D printing with its brand spanking new ZPrinter 150 and 250 models – starting at a rather low-cost £10,500 (in the US, that equates to $14,900).

To break things down and give you the facts, the key difference between the two is that the 150 prints in monochrome, while the 250 (£17,900) prints in full colour. Both machines have a build envelope of 236x185x127mm (that’s 9.3×7.3x5inches for those using those odd units still). It’ll print at the usual 20mm/hour (just under an inch) to a resolution of 300 x 450dpi. And if you’re looking at building fine detail parts, it’ll realistically get down to 0.4mm depending on build orientation and complexity of the details.

The Z250 offers colour capability, restricted to 64 colours, rather than the 180,00+ available in the higher-end ZP450 and 650 models – but for many, it should suffice.

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In includes the now standard automatic part loading (recent Z Corp machines use powder cartridges), but the costs have been driven down by not including the post processing chamber found in the Z450 models and above, but if you’re looking to use the automatic powder recycling capabilities, there is talk of a low cost add-on that bolts onto the unit to make this happen (it’s thought to be around the $1,000 mark).

Powder Cartridges make for a much cleaner working environment

Many have been talking about the mass adoption of 3D printing for sometime, but I’m not entirely convinced its going to turn into that world where everyone has a 3d printer in their home for a good long while, if at all. At present, there are dramatically lower cost options available, but these are aimed at the hobbiest looking to take on some new technology and give it a whirl.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but when you’re a professional organisation looking to bring your prototyping needs in house, you need something that’s lower maintenance, that produces more repeatable results and that you can get high-level support for when problems occur. Z Corp admitted that its not looking to dramatically erode the price levels rather continuing to lower things gradually as it can conduct cost economics and redesign work to bring the cost down in increments. After all, these products are aimed at professionals, as they most likely will for many years to come, and that means that a robust product that produces the results, is more desirable than chopping the margins out of the machines in a dramatic manner.

I’ve got a whole load of rapid prototyping content stacking up on my to-do list, so do stay tuned for more over the summer months. And if you can’t wait for that, Todd Grimm has just released his latest benchmark that compares 7 of the leading machines (but not these, which is a shame) – you can download it (once you’ve registered) at http://www.tagrimm.com/benchmark-2010/index.html