3D Printer; Dimension vs. Invision

Our company is getting to a point in which we need a 3D printer in-house.
Can owners of the Stratasys Dimension or 3D Systemn Invision weight in their comments?

We like the fine detail you can achieve wiith the 3D Systems machine and also the ease of use and material of the Stratasys machine.

Pricewise they are both too close to each other to make any difference.

Your thoughts?


the Stratasys is a FDM right? and the 3D system is a UV curing process…so they are different types of machines. What are you wanting to use the RP parts for?

The FDM is very robust and you can test snap fits…etc it can be finished with a bit of work so it can be painted. While the Multijet uv process from 3d systems is good for fine detail and limited testing.

so in the end if your a engineering company and/or design house wanting steardy functional parts quickly I would get the Stratsys.

or if you design lots of really tiny detailed things like toys/jewlery get the 3d systems

Personaly I’ve seen the Stratsys it a few palces and they always say good things about them I made most of my final year design using FDM to do some really big parts which you could actualy throw about and get some good test results back. Its very easy to maintain and I think the materail is quite cheap, I guess its also easyer to change the material on it as it comes on a real…I guess the 3D systems on is a liquid…does it have a short life?


You are correct.
My company does have a need for both characteristics you mentioned. We have larger parts that would do fine with the rougher finish of the FDM and we have small parts or parts with small details or rounded faces that would benefit from the smoother finish of the 3D Systems machine.

The Photopolymer used on the Invision ns more like a gel, think of a tube of caulking material with a push piston on it that pushes the material out. The Dimension material comes on a reel. Loading/unloading materials is pretty simple on both. As someone else said, comparable to changing a VHS tape.

Unfortunately, we can only afford purchasing one of the machines (I would like to have both!), so I am curious as to the experiences of people that have used the systems, what problems you encountered, etc.


If you need both I guess you have to compare % of jobs where a FDM would have been suffeceint to a fnie detailed machine.

a smoother finish can be achived by rubbing it down and its only the tiny details…and I mean tiny that wont come out on the FDM machine. I would get the Stratsys and farm out your fine stuff…or hy not get a current design done in both and compare the models?

I would get the Invision from 3D Systems if I had my pick, but I have heard rumors of the machine being finicky.

I was hoping to hear from owners of the equipment to get their impressions,

have you looked at the objet machines, they can do some nice stuff

I did look at it . . . cha-ching ! ! !

They just came out with the EDEN 250, smaller machine to make it more affordable. The machine alone is still about US$60,000. Then you have to but the rest of the stuff and create a calibration schedule, etc, etc.

Also, because they use a pressurize water to eliminate the support material, if you have fine details on your part (most likely the reason you went the Objet route) you might want to make 2 or 3 copies of the part as you might end up breaking them while removing the supports.

I have had about a dozen parts made on the Eden and the finish is indeed very nice, though.

Gogin a little of the topic as you must haev looked at lots of machines…did you see the Envisiontec vanquish (www.envisiontec.com) my uni just got a big one, its pretty neat build proccess. It has a DLP inside it which produces the image for each layer…super smooth build surface and great details, not sure about the price though.

Did not.
I was interested on those that have good support in-town should something go bad.

They do have an interesting set of materials.

I was in the same situation earlier this year. I had several samples made, checked out the machines running, and spoke to local users,

I ranked them like this:

  1. Dimension (FDM)-

In the end, I felt this was the best machine because it uses ABS plastic for its material, making the parts very strong straight off the machine. It is also by far the easiest machine to use. I really wanted to be able to make physical prototypes without doing any hands-on work, and the Dimension was the only machine that allowed me to do so. I make 10-20 times as many prototypes now because of it. It is also very clean and the only machine that is “office-friendly.” The only con I would say is the surface finish is not as smooth as SLA. Still, I have been able to sand it on the few models I need to be smooth. There are also studies that show the Dimension is the most accurate 3D printer, which has been very important to us.

The local distributer provided several local users, and they all loved their Dimension machines. It was almost like they were getting payed to say nice things, but after owning my own, I can assure I agree with everything they told me.

2. Objet-

This machine made awesome parts, but it is a little too pricey and not very easy to use.

There were no local users in my area, so I was unable to find out about their experiences. The ones I did talk to liked the machine, but the service was difficult becuase it was not local.

  1. Invision-

This machine also made very smooth parts, but i found them to be inaccurate. There were times when they were warped, and I built a couple of parts that needed to be pieced together because they were too big, but the would not fit together.

Every user i talked about this machine said it was not office-friendly and that it broke down a lot. This really turned me off.

  1. Z-corp-

I have seen this machine many times over the years. It has gotten better, but I still think the process is terrible. There is something like 7 different steps you have to take to get a decent part. And, the parts still feel and look grainy.

I was really turned off by all the procedures involved with build prototypes on the Z-corp. I thought having a 3D printer was supposed to make your life easier…not harder.

Needless to say, I purchased a Dimension SST and i have budgeted for another next year.

yeah the Dimension (FDM) is very robust, a little slow but worth the wait in the end I guess.

My uni are currently have trouble with their Invision machine…doing all sorts of odd tricks. I think they only got it as it ties in with doing investment casting…but how often do people need to do that?

Agreed! Run-RUUN! away from Invision machines. They are absolute crap. They break down. The printer heads clog, the parts warp because of the melting process (in the non SLA machine)
We have had a terrible experience with them. They cannot be relied on to function well.

i have direct experience with the invision machine.

it breaks down regularly and can only be serviced by the “regional” technician who usually takes a day or two to show up, and almost always needs to “order” a new part which will take another few days to be installed.

scale and tolerances can varry from build to build, so it is possible that interfacing parts from different builds will not properly fit together. the z-axis is pretty stable, but x and y can vary as much as .030" per 1.0".

it’s also a little on the slow side…1.0" of z-height per 5-6 hours.

however, cleanup and post-processing are a snap, and just about any part can be ready for a few coats of primer and presentation to a client in less than an hour.

all in all, the invision machine is worth it: great parts, easy and (mostly) accurate…when it’s not jammed up with leaking wax or racked mechanical assemblies.

when comparing the different systems on price, reliability, fidelity, durability and speed DO NOT overlook the costs (time and money) associated with finishing the parts, hazardous material storage/handling/disposal, prep, cleanup and returning the system back to a ready-to-build state after each job completes.

good luck!

Thank you all for participating.

We finalized the purchase of our machine a month ago. I will outline our experience so that other people in the same situation in the future might benefit from it. I apologize in advance for the length of this post.

It become clear that just but having the OEMs printing me parts and me evaluating them would not work. I felt the need to run the machines ourselves and I am glad I did.
I ended up requesting a 2 month rental (with a purchase option) from each company, something, I was told, that had not been done before;

  • The Dimension people pondered on the idea came through with a proposal in a few days. Within a few days, after approval of their proposal, they installed the 3D printer and the Cleanstation for removal of the support material.
  • The InVision people were much slower to make up their minds. Eventually they did rent me the oven, but not the actual 3D printer, and offered running parts for me at a very competitive rate. By the time that happened however, I had already been running the Dimension for 4-5 weeks and made dozens of parts with it.

    The parts we make are not very big, say 200mm x 50mm or so, but most of them have a curved back.
    We run into problems with the InVision pretty quickly. It became apparent the parts curvature did not match that of the math data files, but rather the curvature of whatever surface the part was laid on to cool off. We probably could have overcome that problem by first making a “support” model of a block with a face of the curvature the part was supposed to have, then making the part model and finally laying it to cool off on that “support” model so it would harden to the proper curvature. We never tried it though, too much screwing around and too much wasted material.

The parts match the geometry perfectly. The removal of the support material has not affected the shape of the part. As an added bonus, if a part is flat the support material can be taken off by hand in seconds, so you don’t even need the Cleanstation.

Shortly after starting the tryout of the machine, it broke down and it took almost two weeks to start getting parts again.

We have gone through 10 cartridges of material already and it has not had a problem yet.

The wax melts in the oven, simple enough. The problem is that it is a somewhat messy process, you do end up with wax in you hands (similar to getting hot wax from a candle) and it might be time consuming to take it off. You want to dedicate an area to do this removal process.
On small detailed areas, we found it almost impossible to get rid of 100% of the wax support material. This might create a problem with post processing. Without the post processing, the wax visually detriments from the part as it is of a more whitish color than the model material and it stands out. With time and hobby tools, you can get 99% out, but it is annoying.
The support material can be thrown with the regular waste once it is solidified.

Drop the parts in the tank, come back in a couple hours and remove parts from tank. Shake off excess, let air dry and you are done. It is seriously simple and hands off, we love it.
For us the solution on the Cleanstation tank can not be sewered (PH is 11.0 or above). We have to treat it as corrosive, hazardous waste and make proper arrangements for its disposal. Again for us that is not a problem as we have the facilities to treat it internally . To some other companies, depending on their status with the EPA, they might be able to just dump it in the sewer without a second thought. Check with your local EPA to be safe and plan accordingly.

Layer build thickness is about .0015". The part’s finish and resolution is fantastic. You can really capture most details that are at least .015"-.020". Unfortunately, the material used is translucent an if you have features on front and back of the part it is annoying to have them so visible when evaluating the model. A coat or two of primer would take care of that if you have the time to go through prepping and painting the part.
The material drills, sands and taps very nicely. Painting with a paint that requires oven curing time will affect your part curvature, if it has any.

Their layer build thickness is .010" so any features smaller that about .030" might not come out right. You have to consider model placement on the machine taking into account the layered build process. It will affect the look of your part if it has any type of curvature. Additionally you need to consider the direction of the “grain” when making a 3D printed part if you will be applying any force to it. For most of what we do, the parts are good enough.
The material drills and taps very nicely. Painting will require some serious amount of prep work. You can’t just throw paint as it is a porous material. You will have to sand, apply a filler and then paint. I am sure with time you can get very nice looking parts, but don’t be thinking it will be a 5 minute operation. Then again the porosity of the material is really nice for vacu-forming.

Part dimensional stability was somewhat of a hit and miss. Sometimes they were OK on the XZ and not on the Y, other times XYZ were good, and other times, none were good. Not sure why, but I suspect the post processing of the parts to be the main reason.

Dimensionally the parts come pretty much right on the money, but you again have to keep in mind the layered build process and positioning of the model during the build.

Prior to doing this rental period, we were leaning towards the InVision as the parts finish was so good. Shortly after starting the rental (try-out) period, it became clear the Dimension was what we rather have, and that is what we purchased.

Other that the great detailed finish you get on the InVision, we had many more areas of concern with all the other aspects, including reliability. Though I requested references 3 times, the InVision people only came up with one name. When I talked to this person, he was in marketing and could care less if the model was half inch bigger or smaller than the real part as he was just showing a concept. The Dimension people gave me 5 references, 3 of them local, and all in the engineering side, which is what we were looking for. They all had pretty much the same experience with the Dimension as I stated above. Most had had the machines for over 12 months and some were ordering a second machine.

The dimension part finish is not great, but it is not bad. We do not bother trying to make it look smooth and glossy as the raw parts convey what we are trying to do. Most of the times, we just bolt them on the machines they are going into and go at it. They might not be pretty, but they work and that is what counts.

In sort, after three months with it, the Dimension proved to be all that you have read about and all that you have heard from their reps;

  • it runs, non-stop and without trouble
  • parts are consistently dimensionally correct
  • material comes in different colors, which is nice if you have a part made up of different components. Material is very easy to change.
  • it allows you to think of the part you are designing and to keep on working. You feel 100% confident once you hit print, you can keep working on your design and don’t worry that the Dimension might stop, screw up , etc. It just works !
  • support removal is mindless and effortless

    Hopefully this helps the next person making the same decision.

Let me know if you have any questions.