ProJet MJP 3600 Review
3D Systems' ProJet MJP 3600 is a MultiJet Printing plastic 3D printer designed to create concept models, functional prototypes, molds and end-use parts. With the ability to reliably make smaller details than most other 3D printers, precision is the watchword for the ProJet MJP 3600. At about $70,000, it isn't cheap but can more than pay for itself by dependably producing accurate items.
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While others in its class can lay down 100- or 75-micron layers, the MJP 3600 gives the designer the choice of three different layer heights: XHD mode (16-microns or 1,600 dots per inch), UHD (29-microns/890 dpi) and HD (32-microns/790 dpi). Its overall accuracy of 25-microns makes it a good choice for those who require precise 3D prototyping and manufacturing.
Under the surface, the MJP 3600 uses an innovative phase-change process that turns liquid raw materials into a solid plastic object. After the fluid has been pumped into the machine and pre-heated, the device's sophisticated printhead sprays a pattern of the object's current layer onto the build stage. The object is hardened by intense ultraviolet lights.
The MJP 3600 uses the company's VisiJet M3 family of raw materials to create smooth surfaces, compound curves, strong overhangs and sharp edges. There are seven materials to choose from, each formulated to a specific task. In addition to the general purpose dark gray Techplast, there's 3D systems' high-strength white M3-X and the translucent Crystal material. None are brightly colored or can glow in the dark.
As the object is being made, the MJP 3600 creates supports using the company's waxy Visijet S300 material wherever there's a danger of sagging or warping. The raw materials come in 2-kilogram containers that cost between $400 and $600 each.
After the part is printed, heating it to 70-degrees C (158 degrees F) melts away the support material, leaving the part. A final bath with heated mineral oil followed by a wash with dishwasher soap should remove any remaining support material.
The MJP 3600 can accommodate the building of objects up to 11.75 x 7.3 x 8 inches in HD mode. This is a little more than 11 liters but well short of the HP Fusion Jet 4200's 40-liter capacity.
On the downside, if you want to use the machine's XHD and UHD higher resolution modes for more exacting parts, the largest object the printer can make drops to 8 x 7 x 8 inches, or about 7.3 liters. If you need both large size and the XHD or UHD resolution, the more expensive MJP 3600W Max model can make things as big as 11.75 x 7.3 x 8 inches, equaling the base model's ability in HD mode.
According to 3D Systems, the basic ProJet MJP 3600 unit can create models at up to 5.1 mm of thickness per hour in HD mode; the MJP 3600W Max can boost this by 55 percent. Finer parts require a little more patience because the MJP 3600's speed drops to 3.6 and 1.8 mm per hour in the much more precise UHD and XHD modes.
The system's color touchscreen is how you interact with and configure the printer. It not only shows how much raw material remains but lets you fine-tune the build parameters to suit the job at hand. With a preview on the left and choices on the right, the display shows the system's status, build progress and the materials being used. It can be set to email a warning when there's a problem, like if the raw material reservoir is low.
You get access to a powerful Tools section to view current information, software upgrades and run diagnostic programs. If you're unsure of how the machine works, the MJP 3600 lets you run a demo print of any of several built-in designs that can be created at the touch of the screen.
About the size of a refrigerator, the MJP 3600 and Max models are the same size: 59.5- by 47.0- by 29.5-inches. They should be able to fit into the corner of an industrial facility and weigh in at 660 pounds.
Ease of Use
The printer includes the company's Sprint software that starts the 3D build process with a standard .stl CAD model of the item. Before it begins creating the item, the app looks for possible manufacturing problems and opportunities to share the building stage with other objects, potentially streamlining production while cutting costs. The preview lets you look at the 3D model from a variety of angles.
It then slices the design into manufacturing sections while automatically optimizing its orientation, scaling, location and build parameters. On the downside, the software is only available for 64-bit Windows systems. There's nothing for Macintosh and Linux workstations, nor for iOS or Android mobile systems.
Like the other ProJet machines, the MJP 3600 has been designed to run unattended. Just load the file, adjust the parameters, start it up and go do something else. It will send an email warning if something goes wrong with the build, like running out of raw material or a power failure. On the other hand, it lacks a web camera to view the object being made from afar, or supervise multiple printers.
The system connects to the company's digital infrastructure with 100Base T-wired Ethernet networking, but not the faster gigabit protocol. It does not have a Wi-Fi antenna, nor does it have the ability to dedicate a workstation to the printer with a cabled USB connection. For quick drop-and-build maneuvers, the MJP 3600 has a USB port in the front for inserting a flash drive.
On top of cleaning the material cartridges and the drawer with alcohol and a lint-free cloth periodically, you'll need to empty the waste materials bin and occasionally clean it. Unlike the HP Fusion Jet 4200, the MJP 3600's unused material is not recyclable.
3D Systems includes a one-year warranty with the MJP 3600 printer but covers the printhead for five years, a distinct advantage if the printer will be used a lot; extended warranties are available. There's a lot of self-serve support material on the company's website that ranges from webinars and a slew of documentation to a detailed manual that explains exactly how to use this complicated machine. In addition to videos and troubleshooting help, there're sections that have news and software updates for the printer.
On top of emailing questions and concerns to the 3D Systems support crew, if you need personal assistance, the company has experienced technicians on call via a toll-free number. They are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
With the ability to make a variety of complex parts with exceptional precision, the 3D Systems MJP 3600 stands apart from the crowd and is best for when accuracy counts for everything. It may not be the fastest 3D printer, but it has a wide assortment of specialized materials at its disposal and at $70,000 can transform the way a company designs and makes a variety of objects, from parts to products.