Tech Breakdown: Peopoly's Moai SLA 3D Printer
MatterHackers' pros take an in-depth look at why this incredibly precise resin 3D printer is quickly becoming a crowd favorite.
The Peopoly Moai (Moh-eye) is a simple SLA printer which you can build yourself in as little as 6 hours. The kit costs under $1,300 and gets incredibly detailed prints. Here we are going to take a look at why the Moai is an awesome resin printer that won't break the bank, and why it should be added to your 3D printing workplace.
- Frickin Laser Beams
- Extremely high detail prints
- Use any resin you want
What is SLA?
SLA stands for Stereolithography, which is a completely different process from the Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) printers you are probably used to.
Unlike FFF printers, which melt plastic and spit it out, SLA printers use a laser to harden light sensitive resin. The resin is kept in a tank with a transparent bottom. Below is the laser, which shoots up into the tank. The object is printed upside down, hanging from a platform which rises up out of the tank.
The advantage of SLA is the incredible detail it can achieve. The highly focused laser on the Moai allows it to print details as small as 0.067 mm. This is an order of magnitude better than the 0.400 mm nozzles standard on most FFF printers. The Moai can also print layers down to 0.015 mm thick, which is one quarter the recommended minimum on most FFF machines.
Unlike digital projector based resin printers, whose accuracy is determined by the resolution of their LCD, the Moai is an analog system. The laser is aimed by two mirrors mounted on galvanometers. The galvanometers are driven by a signal from a 16 bit DAC. This means that the theoretical maximum positioning accuracy is 2 microns.
To demonstrate what the Moai can do, we decided to print our mascot Phil A. Ment scaled down to 6 mm tall. All of his details are still there, although you may only be able to see them under a microscope.
Who is Peopoly?
Peopoly (pronounced pee-opoly) is a new 3D printing company founded by two friends in 2015; Shu (Mark) Peng and Richard Li. Their goal was to create a laser SLA printer that was affordable enough for regular makers, not just professionals. The company has operations in Los Angeles, CA and Hong Kong.
In March 2017 they launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Moai. The campaign was successfully funded in April and they began shipping printers to backers in July of the same year.
The Moai takes about 6 hours to build, from taking it out of the box to doing your first test print. You can get your Moai and start printing with it the same day.
The major components of each Moai are assembled at the factory, calibrated, tested, and then taken apart and put in the box for you. The build is easy because you are just combining subassemblies. The kit comes with all the tools you will need. No soldering or other specialized skills are required. All the difficult work has already been done for you.
Many SLA printers require you to use resin made by the printer’s manufacturer, but the Moai does not. It allows you to adjust all laser power and exposure settings, which means that you can use any resin you want with it. We recommend getting the Peopoly resin to start off with, since the default settings are tuned for that resin and it will work best when you are trying your printer for the first time. However once you have some experience with the machine you can try any of the other resins we carry, like the MakerJuice or the PhotoCentric resin. Just remember that each resin is different, though, so you will need to do some experimentation to get the settings right.
Peopoly resins also work in printers other than the Moai. In particular, their resin works well with the Form 1. The Moai resin vat is also interchangeable with the vat from the Form 1.
Prints with G-Code
One thing we particularly like about the Moai is that it prints using regular G-Code, just like an FFF printer. This means that it will work with your favorite slicing program. Unlike most SLA printers, you are not locked in to using the software provided by the printer’s manufacturer. Peopoly has a specially tuned version of Cura that they recommend, but you can also use MatterControl or Slic3r.