Successfully Kickstarted in the spring of 2017, Peopoly's Moai is the compelling new option for high-quality SLA prints. Review the facts on this kit SLA printer.
For those with the engineering savvy, there are countless options for DIYing an SLA printer from scratch. But for the average consumer, this technology is prohibitively expensive — often far exceeding the higher end desktop FDM machines.
Knocking on the door of its molten plastic spewing brethren however, is Peopoly and its Moai SLA printer. Initially a Kickstarter campaign during the spring of 2017, the project’s goal of $30,000 dollars was cleared within 3 days. Over a 33 day funding period, it hit the lofty grand total of $254,412.
The Moai shipped to its 266 backers over the summer and now, months later, this kit SLA printer is available to everyone via the company’s own site and a number of third party re-sellers.
At the nitty-gritty level, here’s how the Peopoly Moai SLA printer breaks down:
On paper, the resolution capabilities of the Peopoly Moai has it printing higher quality prints than Formlabs’ Form 2, the undisputed King of the Castle for desktop SLA printers. Indeed, beating out the Form 2’s 140 micron X and Y axes and 25 micron Z axis resolutions with its 70 and 15 micron capabilities, it could be argued that the Moai offers the most detail for a desktop SLA printer currently available.
Of course, things aren’t so simple. There are considerations like cross-curing and how well the resin you use absorbs the light. Diving into Peopoly’s recommendations for printing with various resins, it appears that the finest Z resolution for most resins is 25 microns.
Another arrow in the Peopoly Moai’s quiver is its generally open nature. Third party resins are encouraged, with Peopoly maintaining a spreadsheet of verified settings on their user forum. In addition, print preparation is handled entirely in free and open software like Autodesk’s Meshmixer and Ultimaker’s Cura (with Peopoly offering their own Moai optimized flavor of Cura 2.6).
The main strap line for Peopoly’s Moai is that it is an “affordable laser SLA printer”. Whether you consider $1,250 to be affordable or not is entirely between yourself and your wallet. But when compared to similarly specced machines such as Formlabs’ Form 2 (the de facto King of desktop SLA) the Moai certainly operates in the ballpark of affordability.
For the prospect of superfine prints that blow most, if not all, desktop FDM machines out of the water at a price point considerably less that what such competition retails for, is a strong proposition.
Peopoly founders Shu ‘Mark’ Peng and Richard Li boast a programming and hardware background, with Li a seasoned medical and industrial equipment developer. Pre-production units of the Moai were shipped to notable influencers and makers, maker spaces and maker fairs for user feedback.
This feedback channeled into the final unit, which Peopoly hopes will kick start a community of experimenters and developers with a simple and hackable design that outputs professional quality prints.
Our early impressions of the machine give us confidence that they just might do it.
We’ve been working with the Peopoly Moai for approximately two business days now. One was spent building and troubleshooting issues (or non-issues, as we later discovered). The second, rattling off test prints and writing our initial thoughts up into this post.
All we can confidently say about the Peopoly Moai thus far is that it is fun. This is an enjoyable printer to build and operate. We’ll go full disclosure here and say it is the first SLA printer this writer has actually gone hands on with, so to take it from parts in a box, to seeing the laser jumping back and forth as it cures the resin, is a delight.
The assembly is neat, simple and to the point. A slideshow build guide produced by Peopoly gives clear instruction for the well-labeled parts in the box.
We encountered two problems though, overall. One is an easy fix, the other is something that seems to have afflicted a number of kits shipped by Peopoly.
Firstly, the threaded rod for our line drive motor came bent. Whether this was due to the overly snug foam packaging bending it in transit, or it slipping through quality control pre-packaging, we can’t say. It’s easy to bend back into a serviceable shape, and needn’t be perfect to do its job dipping the resin tray for each layer.
After reading the Peopoly forums, the second issue seems to be an semi-frequent problem for the company. Initially our SD card reader refused to recognize any SD card we threw at it. Checking the respective parts and pins offered no indication of the issue.
Miraculously on day two of our testing the reader now works, so where exactly our issue lay remains a mystery. Peopoly’s solution to the borked SD readers is a replacement part.
Handily, all of the electronics and cabling are easily accessible inside the printer, so we foresee little trouble replacing the SD board, should you need to.
After a quick calibration and bed-leveling, we rattled off some the provided test prints. So far, color us impressed. It’s still very early days using the Peopoly Moai, but in terms of simplicity and ease of use, for now, color us impressed.
Successful test prints provided by Peopoly in the Moai kit. Above, a model of a ring — perhaps better printed in castable resin, but a handsome enough print in the Gray resin provided to us. Below, the second test print o f four Moai easter island head statues with fine Peopoly branding.
It’s becoming clear we need to work on our post-processing.
We’ll update this post with images and impressions as we review the printer, before summing everything up with our review proper. Watch this space for further updates soon.
Going a little off-piste from Peopoly’s provided test models, we’ve turned to an SLA classic — fantasy castles! Printed at a 25 micron layer height, the Medieval Castle by BoldMachines is good. The layers appear to be far more noticeable on slopes, whereas as sheer planes and edges are crisp and smooth.
We’ve also tried our hand at 3D printing the excellent Strandbeest model by Tai45914, from Thingiverse. Sadly parts of the print are messed up, so we’re doubtful this little critter will ever walk. It’s clear the printer struggled with this one, with failed supports leading to missing areas of the model.
We’ll follow up with a larger version to see if that fares better.