Z Corp 650: Test build

Published 15 December 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: solidworks, 3d printing, rapid prototyping, z corporation, z650, stl, vrml output

One of the best things about this job is that we get to test drive all of the latest bits of technology and for me, there’s nothing more satisfying than sending off some data to an rapid prototyping vendor and waiting for that FedEx box to arrive back in the mail. if you’re going to write about these machines, then surely you need to try them out, see what they can do - right?*

Anyway, today brought me a test assembly build from Z Corp, over in MA. The Z 650 is the company’s high-end machine, bigger build chamber (@254 x 381 x 203 mm), fastest printing (2 to 4 layers a minute - layer size being between 0.089–0.102 mm ) and it’ll build in full colour at 600 x 540 dpi. The machine also sees a new black binder introduced, so for those working with darker colours, less ink is used as it doesn’t have to make up that black from the others. It also introduces the integrated clean up station that debuted with the 410 last year, so mess is reduced greatly.

So, here’s what its like receiving a rapid prototype in the mail:

#1: Start in SolidWorks, create the model. you then output the data to either STL if you’re working with a colourless RP process (pretty much everything else other than Z Corp). With Z Corp, it supports colour, so use it, and to do that, you need a VRML (.wrl) file. Waiting a while and then you get excited, you get the email notification that your part is being dispatched..

#2: Box arrives with glee on your behalf, absolute horror on the behalf of your significant other (if you work at home - and do excuse the state of the kitchen).

#3: This thing looks sweet. Build is very stable, finished nicely (Z Corp have been working with us long enough to know not to mess with the results - unlike some other vendors).

#4: This thing maxes out the Z650’s build chamber in length, so shows what it’s capable of in terms of size - this is around 13.5-14” high.

#5: Details are nicely replicated, you’d have very little finishing to do with this model before a presentation with a client. With the colour Zprints, you have to be careful with too much aggressive finishing as the coloured binder is only printed on a few mms thick ‘into’ the material.

But what about the colours? I was pretty surprised. Look at the first image - Black, White, Red. Not this. I spent some time going through the assembly file to remove the colour that existed on the model (as have been built), using the Appearances funcitonality in SolidWorks (itself not an easy task). Go the model in a nice state and exported the VRML file and sendspace’d it off to Z Corp - who duly built the model and sent it back. I’m in touch with the SolidWorks guys to find out what’s going on with this and I’ll post an update here when I get some feedback.

But if it proves anything, it proves two things:

  • a) the Z Corp 640 Z printer is an incredible peice of kit and can generate stunning vivid coloured models at a scale that’s increasingly in demend in a very wide spread of industries (including architecture in a big way).
  • b) it proves that user error is inevitable. I thought I’d have know after all these years to double check the geometry I’m sending out, that it’s what’s needed at the other end and suits my purposes. You live and learn I guess. I thought I was going to get back a slick looking model in three colours. I got back a brightly coloured model that looks pretty cool on my desk, but doesn’t quite match up with expectations in terms of appearance. That said, they do match Greg’s shiny/horrid new trainers.

January’s Develop3D will feature an indepth of the Z650 - so stay tuned or register if you haven’t already.

*OK, so not all magazine’s do it - they should…


This is an awesome model!<BR>I once printed a multi-media player that i designed and forgot one round on one edges and it totally ruined it and you could hardly see it. :(<BR>Every one was saying ahh it is just 1 round but now you can make it perfect you want to have it perfect.<BR>The rapid prototypinh that i used could be easily painted ground layer is recommend.

Posted by Marijn1 on 01 January 1970 at 02:00 AM

Is that a Dualit toaster?

Posted by Matthew on 01 January 1970 at 02:00 AM

That model is nowhere near as cool as my trainers!

Posted by greg corke on 01 January 1970 at 02:00 AM

Matt - no, its not a dualit toaster - the closest I've got to that level of conspicuous consumption is the kitchenaid foox mixer and the Siemens/Porsche Design coffee machine the other side of the kitchen (which I got for free, guess were from)..<BR><BR>and Greg - no, its not - nothing is as take-your-eye-balls-out-and-wash-them-cool as your trainers by boy..

Posted by Al Dean on 01 January 1970 at 02:00 AM

wow, I love your backsplash, looks ikea-like. gray is probably my favorite color, except with cool lookin' 3d printed parts. The 650 rocks it out right. so cool man. - Josh

Posted by Josh M on 01 January 1970 at 02:00 AM

cheers man.. the rest of the kitchen is ikea, those tiles aren't (they're individual - and I'll never do that AGAIN man).. in fact, the room is so small, I modelled it up, all the units - had around 1/2" to get everything in.. TIGHT..<BR><BR>and yes, the 650 rocks - can't work out this .wrl weirdness though - the SWx guys are looking into it, but I'm guessing its silly season for them..

Posted by Al Dean on 01 January 1970 at 02:00 AM

Funny, ZCorp didn't give me that demo model when I sent off for one....all I got was the plain white bearing grin

Posted by Kevin Quigley on 01 January 1970 at 02:00 AM

Al,<BR><BR>Apply colors only to Face in Solidworks. Pain staking, but ensures that the VRML captures the correct colors.<BR><BR>And while you are in Solidworks earm ask them why textures don't go with the VRML?<BR><BR>Cheers..

Posted by Cadjunkie on 01 January 1970 at 02:00 AM

Hi Al,<BR><BR>We had similar problems on other zcorp machines printing scale models or architecture maquette parts. Therefor we export the file in .stl and add the colours in the zcorp printing software. Using zcorp color templates helps to optimize the colours on your part. Maybe a hassle but it works better for us.<BR><BR>cheers<BR>rene

Posted by Sotopia concepts - 3D maquette printing on 01 January 1970 at 02:00 AM

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