Fusion3 was founded in 2012, and has always been focused on businesses' and organizations' 3D printing. Its printers are made in North Carolina. Its flagship is the Fusion3 F410, which is designed for business and schools to make functional plastic prototypes.
With its ability to quickly create models out of a wide variety of materials, the Fusion3 F410 is an excellent pick for a small machine that packs the punch of a much larger and more expensive 3D printer. At $4,599, the F410 is a bargain that goes beyond the usual entry-level fare to quickly cook up all sorts of prototypes and products.
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Based on fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology, the F410 adds a twist: three interchangeable printheads with different sizes of extrusion tips. The one you should use depends on the speed and exactness of the desired item. The F410 includes the 0.4mm tip that can lay down 20- to 300-micron layers with a tolerance of 75 microns. If you need more precision, you'd use the 0.6mm tip that can make 100- to 400-micron layers with an accuracy of 115 microns. Finally, the 0.8mm tip creates 200- and 500-micron layers with a tolerance of about 150 microns.
With the different printheads, the resolution can fit the project. They cost $160 and can be swapped in about five minutes by loosening two screws. Of the three, the 0.8mm printhead is the speed demon, with the ability to lay down material as fast as 250 mm per second – double the speed of many FDM printers and two-thirds faster than the MakerBot Replicator Z18. Even the 0.4mm printhead churns out 110 mm of material per second.
Rather than selling its own filament, Fusion3 takes an open-source approach that certifies raw materials from third-party vendors. With partners like Atomic Filament and 3DXTech, it offers a wider variety of possibilities than any single company can accomplish. The available materials include nylon, polylactic acid, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, polyethylene terephthalate and acrylonitrile styrene acrylate. There are specialty filaments like carbon fiber, fiberglass, polycarbonate, and a flexible plastic for tubing and electrical conduits. While all the materials are appropriate for rapid prototyping, the nylon filament is best for making functional parts, and the polycarbonate material can withstand higher temperatures.
These raw materials are generally available in black and white, but some, like the PLA filament, have yellow, orange, gray and eerie glow-in-the dark products. The filament comes on open spools that are easy to load and cost as little as $30 a reel. On the downside, unlike with the Leapfrog Xeed 3D, the F410's single-extruder design means you print the item's supports at the same time out of the same material.
Lacking the Xeed 3D's automatic filament-feeding mechanism, the F410's filament is loaded by twisting the printer's feed knob until it catches and is pulled into the extruder. Another downside is that the waste filament can't be recycled.
The printer can create swooping curves, sharp angles and straight edges for a variety of objects. Its output is used in auto assembly line fixtures, prototype product cases and precision impeller blades.
Like the Xeed 3D, the F410 has a heated glass stage for increasing build consistency, though it lacks the Xeed's granite option. Before printing anything, you'll need to cover the stage with glue stick to promote adhesion; a stick comes with the printer.
With a 14 x 14 x 12.4-inch build chamber, the F410 is deceptively large. It can accommodate single items up to nearly 40 liters. That's good, but second best to the MakerBot Z18's 18-inch-tall build chamber, which can make items 4 inches longer than the F410 can.
One of the smallest and lightest printers in its class, the F410 is 28.5 x 30.5 x 25.5 inches and weighs 85 pounds. It can be set up on a shelf or tabletop. Fusion3 sells a $650 matching wheeled stand that has a large compartment for filament and tools.
Ease of Use
Instead of the expected horizontal door, the F410's hinged lid opens vertically like a car's hood, revealing the build chamber, printhead and filament spool. All the action takes place on the system's 4.7-inch color touchscreen. It not only shows if the heaters are turned on and the temperature of the extruder and heated stage, but it is color-coded, with green indicating that each has hit its optimal temperature. On the display, you can start a print job or perform maintenance, like leveling the stage or running diagnostic checks.
Like the Xeed 3D, the F410 uses Simplify3D software. It works with Windows systems (Vista to Windows 10), Macs (10.7 or newer) and a variety of Linux distributions, such as Debian, Ubuntu and Fedora. On the downside, there are no phone or tablet apps that can free the operator from a desktop or notebook computer.
The program imports standard STL, 3MF or OBJ CAD files, which the software corrects for design faults, optimizes and slices into manufacturing sections. Before any plastic is extruded, the app adds supports as needed and shows a preview. Experienced designers can vary printing parameters and even reduce how much support material is needed, decreasing build times and cutting material costs.
Unlike the Xeed 3D, the F410 does without a webcam for remote viewing of the build's progress. It connects via an Ethernet port, but it lacks Wi-Fi or the ability to link the F410 to a workstation with a USB cable. While most of its peers let you put a file onto a USB flash drive for quickie prints, with the F410, you'll have to use an SD card.
Maintenance is minimal and includes cleaning out debris from the previous builds and periodically cleaning the extruder, tightening the printhead, and adjusting the F410's bearings and tension cables. You'll also need to occasionally lubricate the Z-axis rods and lead screws.
The F410 comes with a two-year warranty, the best in the business and four times the coverage that MakerBot provides. The company doesn't sell extended warranties but includes lifetime support and sells replacement parts at cost.
Fusion3's support site includes a comprehensive manual and setup guide, tips, and troubleshooting help. The tutorial on getting the most out of the Simplify3D software is an excellent way to get started with the F410. The company has technicians standing by at its North Carolina factory to answer your questions from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. They promise to answer email questions within an hour.
At $4,600, the F410 is a bargain in the 3D printing world. Want less of a commitment? Fusion3 has arrangements with two financial firms to lease you the unit. Pricing starts at $125 a month for 12- to 60-month leases.
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