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3D Printing: Have You Taken the Plunge Yet? Planning To? 251

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the well-have-you? dept.
First time accepted submitter mandark1967 (630856) writes "With recent advances in working with different filaments (Wood filament, Nylon, etc) and price drops seen lately, I'm curious to know how many of you have decided to take the plung and get into 3D Printing. There are several kits available now or even assembled units that are in the same cost range as a 'gamer' video card (DaVinci 1.0 for $499, Printrbot Simple 2014 — $399, 3d Stuffmaker — $499).

I'm wondering if any of you have purchased a 3D printer and how you like it so far. I've been in the computer field since the 80's but never did CAD work before so I was very hesitant to take the plunge, fearing the steep learning curve of mastering programs like Blender or AutoCAD. What I found, however, was programs like TinkerCAD and 123Design made it very easy to learn basic CAD so I decided to pick up a 3D Printer last week. After a week or so of design work and printing out many items, I think I've picked up a few skills and I can actually see myself making a little money on the side creating and selling items. I don't think I'd trade my current job for one designing and printing items, but it is nice to have a little income on the side if I choose to do that."
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3D Printing: Have You Taken the Plunge Yet? Planning To?

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  • by seebs (15766) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:15AM (#46571787) Homepage

    So, you haven't actually tried to make any money, but you could see yourself doing it, and you are talking about how it would be nice if you choose to do it... Shouldn't you verify that you can actually successfully do such a thing before counting that as a selling point of the printers?

    • by gl4ss (559668) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:53AM (#46571881) Homepage Journal

      I got a Replicator dual(was 2400 euros or something shipped). total beta product as far as dual goes(using 2 materials). works ok after many community tweaks. made some parts for friends, keychains etc.

      I've since bought two repraps, and now I have the opinion that spending over 1000 bucks on a fdm 3d printer is just pure madness, unless you go and spend 8000 and get a mojo(expensive prints but easy peacy to do the prints).

      why put so much money into this? because it's fun. it mixes electronics, mechanics, motors, robotics... so the printers themselves are a hobby in itself too and you get something tangible out of it for your efforts. it's much less noisy and approachable than cnc routing etc similar and much cheaper too.

      summa summarum.. unless you're already running a prototyping biz you can't just make money easily by just printing. if you need 3d prints for some other job(design or whatever) then you can save a lot of money and time by running your own 3d printer though..

      buying your first printer and being all "oh I'm gonna make so much money from this" just doesn't quite work out. you can use it to complement some other business you have, but it's hard to compete on the market for just making the prints. however if you're doing freelance parts designs or such stuff then you pretty much have to have one now.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        it's hard to compete on the market for just making the prints.

        Yep. There's a lot of printers out there among 'makers', and if there really is any money in it then there'll soon be a lot more.

        • Yep. There's a lot of printers out there among 'makers', and if there really is any money in it then there'll soon be a lot more.

          You can go to a site like www.makexyz.com [makexyz.com] and quickly find someone to make your part ... and then find someone else willing to do it for a few bucks less. It is already a crowded and competitive business.

    • Seems to me that unless you can print gold, you will not make much money here.

  • 3D printing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:35AM (#46571833) Homepage

    I can't speak from experience but the things keeping me OFF 3D printers at the moment are:

    - Too much faffing about to build the things (or too much cost to acquire them pre-built).
    - Too much faffing about having to calibrate, adjust, tinker and play with them to get good results.
    - Too fragile (i.e. you can't throw them about, take them to a friend's house).
    - Too reliant on a small set of manufacturers (for the source materials, software, etc.)
    - Still no established 3D printing "standard" in an OS. Sure, there are lots of "almost-standards" but I'd rather avoid another mess of things not being compatible - non-compatible printers just puts us back into the range of "I have to buy the same printer/manufacturer again because I don't want to change all my setup / software / source material" but in an era where it's too expensive to perform the current "Sod it, throw it away, buy the cheapest one again, suffer the time lost" scenario we have with 2D printers.
    - 3D models are just that much harder to make and print reliably. The two examples of software you point out? Both licensed only for home use. Google Sketchup is the same. As soon as you say 3D, you have to pay for software (and driver integration, or learning-curve) so we've jumped back 20 years again). Then every home-built printer will have different tolerances and results.

    3D printing needs to become a consumer-level tech. It's not. It's still up there with all the existing methods of plastics / wood / metal construction from a computer model. In the range of a trained person with expensive hardware in, say, a school for a specialised project. But not for the amateur home user unless they are prepared to spend as much time tinkering with the system as getting results out of it.

    To be honest, I will look at 3D printing seriously, even for personal hobbyist use, when someone like HP or Epson or a big name (hell, doesn't even need to be a printer manufacturer, Dyson, Samsung, whoever) produce a small black box. From that I put in up-to-but-no-more-than four materials / colours / dyes in a standardised package. I get a free bit of software with a few thousand models and - critically - import of any 3D model and/or conformity to a standardised 3D printing protocol so I can use other software. And it just works. Every time. I print, it comes out exactly as it is on the screen. WYSIWYG 3D printing. I don't even mind if it costs as much as a really decent 2D printer with more expensive consumables. But the hurdle to jump is the simplicity, repeatability, the hands-off method of printing, the automatic calibration and error detection (why can't we combine with something Kindle-like to detect when the print job is going wrong and have the printer slice off the last layer and start it again?), the single-black-box that is available complete, without assembly, from Amazon, tested and ready to go.

    Until then, it's nothing better than a hobbyist electronics kit, or someone building a high-end overclocking rig, or one of those RPi racks... the domain of someone who has so much time on their hands that they don't actually need the printer in the first place.

    • Re:3D printing (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:50AM (#46571861)

      You're really misinformed. You don't NEED to pay a single CENT for software that creates 3D models. Blender is fully compatible with 3D printing techniques, and even has integration with some 3D printing services (like Shapeways) these days. And guess what - Blender's completely FREE. I've printed tons of stuff on my own already just using stuff I made in Blender alone.

      Quit spreading uninformed FUD, bro.

      • Re:3D printing (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @06:51AM (#46572623)

        Blender doesn't do parametric modeling; using mesh modeling for designing mechanical parts is just an ugly cludge.

      • Re: 3D printing (Score:4, Informative)

        by samkass (174571) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @08:14AM (#46573073) Homepage Journal

        And OpenSCAD. If you have a 3D printer and haven't given OpenSCAD a thorough tryout you're missing out. I do the majority of my prints these days from OpenSCAD-created models, and the more you make the more libraries you build up to make better stuff later...

      • And I see you got modded informative for it.

        Blender is an ok program. I use it all the time for video and still animations / rendering. I know it pretty well.

        It is not even in the same ballpark as a CAD program. Yes, it can do the job. You can also use scissors to carve wood statues, but you would be an idiot to do so.

        You can draw a 4 leaf clover in blender, and 3D print that. If you are so inclined you can even print a ton of them. That does not make it a good alternative 3D design program. You can n
    • Re:3D printing (Score:5, Informative)

      by frinsore (153020) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @03:01AM (#46571911)
      3D printing isn't ready for hobbyist level yet, it's still more for early adapters but several of your concerns have been fixed in the past few years.

      - The more you're willing to spend on the printer the better quality results you'll get from the printer with less tinkering.
      - Windows 8 does have a standard 3D printer driver. Not every 3D printer may use it but you have to admit that there will be some standardization on drivers MS puts out. You'll still need an authoring program, but that's not different then needing a writing program to create a 2D document.

      Personally I don't see 3D printers really taking off until there's a "killer app" for them. Until there's something that everyone just needs to print and customize. Something like lego mindstorms or artistic iPhone covers or skylanders. Until that happens most 3D printers will be relegated to knick knacks and smart phone cradles.
      • Re:3D printing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @05:29AM (#46572307) Journal
        It's not just a 'killer app', it's a killer app that, for some reason, (illegal? a hideously embarassing sex toy? time-critical?) the user wouldn't be better off just uploading to one of the 3d printing services and having fedexed to them, maybe even picking up in-store if they live in an area with sufficient demand.

        2d printers, which are anywhere from 'better' to 'technology indistinguishable from magic' in terms of maturity, ease-of-use, cost, consumer acceptance, etc. already seem to be suffering pretty heavily from this effect. They aren't extinct or anything; but Having Your Very Own Home Printer! is a chore that people hate, and really only do for stuff that can't be sent off to the photo printing service or dashed off on the office's high volume laser. Even as assorted futuristic 'paperless' scenarios fail to pan out year after year, the printer as something you want to have personally is looking rather sickly. It'll be a cold day in hell when 'printing' goes; but nasty little home printers appear to have peaked and gone into retreat, despite their low cost and maturity. 3d printing, as something you actually do, rather than something you order or something that is important to assorted background steps, may never 'peak' at any noticeable level(obviously, there will have to be a 'peak' in there somewhere; but it needn't be very visible or relevant.)

        Especially with 3d printing putting so much of the emphasis on materials (rather than mere pigments/dyes), and with most of the really cool materials either coming last/never to low-end gear (barring a radical discontinuity in the cost of high power lasers and optics to suit, laser sintered metal probably isn't coming home to you) or requiring additional processing steps that aren't particularly user friendly(ceramic powder/slurry processes aren't too bad; but the parts aren't much use until you put them through the kiln... modelling waxes for 'lost wax' casting are downright friendly; but the molten bronze steps that follow really aren't, and so forth), there is a very, very, hard sell to be made for having an in-home unit.

        Obviously, there already are in-home units in homes, so no theoretical proof is needed of the fact that some people want them; but the 'just pay for a timeslice on somebody's $100,000 printer...' factor makes it much more plausible that the in-home population is not a precursor of a boom just waiting for a little more maturity to take off; but a much closer to stable enthusiast population that will have better printers in 10 years than they do today; but may not be all that much larger.
        • by frinsore (153020)
          Actually that makes a ton of sense. Seriously, no sarcasm. I can see people going to a library or other community center and using the cheap 3D printers to make test prints and then going to a business to make an expensive version. Or if you had several prints that you needed to get done then just go somewhere with a bunch of printers and have them printed in parallel there instead of in serial at home.

          And if the 3D printing revolution does happen like the fanboys say: the kinko's down the street will
          • by Immerman (2627577)

            Quite so. As the price falls I could easily see even libraries/maker spaces/etc having decent moderately high-end 3D printers capable of producing whatever I want. Honestly I can't think of any use I would have for such a thing that's worth the initial expense, maintenance costs, and storage space of having a 3D printer of my own. On the other hand I've got a makerspace down the street with a decent PLC printer that I'm starting to take advantage of. An appliance/automotive repair shop on the other hand

        • Re:3D printing (Score:4, Insightful)

          by AmiMoJo (196126) * <[ten.3dlrow] [ta] [ojom]> on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @07:36AM (#46572843) Homepage

          It's been cheaper to print your photos at the local photo shop than at home on an inkjet for years, maybe a decade or more. Yet people still buy inkjets and photo paper. I don't understand it but clearly there is a market for wasting time and money to print at home.

          • I don't understand it but clearly there is a market for wasting time and money to print at home.

            Lets talk about it then. The resources you want to minize use of are "cost" and "time". It is faster to print a photo on my home printer than drive to a store, and pay them to do it unless I'm printing a lot. If I'm printing more than say 20 pictures, or picures of all different sizes, then it takes longer because of my paper feeder. Typically though I only want to print one or two of a picture to put in a picture frame or give to friends and family

            But lets also talk cost. It's about 10c per picture in p

            • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

              It's easier to just upload 20 photos to a printing side and wait a day or two for them to arrive in the post. Or do it while you are at the supermarket for general shopping anyway.

              If you print at home you also have to waste time maintaining the printer. At best 50p/print for photo quality is reasonable if you use refill 3rd party ink and off-brand paper, but in reality it is worse because you waste a lot unblocking the print heads. In comparison you can easily print hundreds of photos for free (http://www.m

          • I don't understand it but clearly there is a market for wasting time and money to print at home.

            I agree with the principle - I just got a family-pack of an 8x10, two 5x7's and a fist full of 4x6's at Walgreens for $3.24 the other day, printed on a mini-lab. It would cost more to print inkjet at home for lesser quality results.

            However, if I had a picture where one of my kids wasn't dressed from head to toe, then there's no point in sending it to Walgreens. I've got an inkjet photo printer that I rarely us

      • 3D printing rocks! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Kludge (13653) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @07:50AM (#46572919)

        Apparently there is quite a bit of ignorance about 3D printing here. Also slashdot has become populated with too many Apple and M$ users who have "it's not ready for the consumer" mentalities.

        I bought a Printrbot Simple ($300) for my son for Christmas. He and I put it together, tweaked it, and now we use it to print cool plastic stuff. He printed a rose for his girlfriend for Valentines day which she like very much. How f*^%ing cool is that? Taking a bunch of parts, putting them together to make a machine that can make stuff. It is totally fun and cool. I'm so glad I got this thing. It has given me the opportunity to give to my son what I had when I was his age with computers: the ability to tinker with tech and make something cool.

        As far as 3D printing not being "standard" nothing could be further from the truth. When you order the Printrbot Simple unassembled, you get a box full of parts in the mail and nothing else. No instructions, no software, nothing. You don't need any non-standard crap. The connector is a standard micro-USB cable. The instructions are online as web pages and help is available on the forums. The software I need to run the printer and make models is already in my Linux distribution.
        "sudo yum -y install RepetierHost blender" and off we go!

        If you want to do some hobbyist tinkering or if you want to give that joy to someone whom you love, get a 3D printer.

        • "He printed a rose for his girlfriend for Valentines day which she like very much. How f*^%ing cool is that?"

          It's not. Not in the farthest reaches of the imagination is it even close to cool.

          If you believe linux is ready for the desktop (less than 1% market share), then it would be reasonable to conclude 3D printing is also ready for the masses. However, if you believe things closer to reality....

          Before you comment, yes, I did Metal CNC at home before 3D printing was ever imagined. I've built a Print
    • by rusty0101 (565565)

      I think that a 3D printer is pretty much in the domain of a machinist metal lathe at this time. In short you can get a satisfactory home use variety device for about the same price, or build one yourself from reasonably priced off the shelf components and a little bit of work on your part. If you are going to do something that involves one of these in a professional capacity, it's going to cost significantly more.

      Both serve the needs of someone who has developed somewhat specialized knowledge.

      That said, I'm

    • by DamonHD (794830)

      You can't throw nice 2D printers around either and expect them not to suffer.

      The process is not as painful as you think.

      Myself and one other on the OpenTRV (opentrv.org.uk) project work to get OpenSCAD files and fromt hat we produce STL and many of us (maybe just short of 10) print from that same STL on lots of different printers with different setups without significant difficulty.

      Yes, my 3D printer is a bit 'beta'y and slow, but it does work, and is now reliable and easy to use.

      Rgds

      Damon

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      actually the reliance on single source is not a problem at all.

      there's dozens of manufacturers you can get control boards from, likewise for steppers and other parts. dozens of filament providers and manufacturers as well.

      but if you buy into a single source 3d printer then that's what you get.. but buying into that is just madness now(unless you go expensive and stratasys).

      if you want a simple error free experience without learning, go lease a Mojo. then you're stuck with single filament provider, but you g

      • by Plammox (717738)
        I tried out the Mojo my supervising professor bought for his lab. And yeah, it's so hassle-free even the bachlor students can't seem to mess it up.

        Great thing, but pricey.
    • Re:3D printing (Score:5, Informative)

      by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @03:31AM (#46572007) Journal

      - Too much faffing about having to calibrate, adjust, tinker and play with them to get good results.

      Whether that's too much depends on you, but yes. They do require a fair bit of faffing to get used to them. The first 10 prints *will* fail. Once you learn the machine well enough you can reel things off reasonably quickly. They are not yet plyg and play.

      - Too fragile (i.e. you can't throw them about, take them to a friend's house).

      3D printers or the parts? They're not too bad. The homebuilt ones tend to be les robust, but many re reasonably solid. There are even some collapsible ones designed for portability.

      - Too reliant on a small set of manufacturers (for the source materials, software, etc.)

      There's lots of manufacturers of the printers, and besides the designs are mostly open source. If you have something like a broken morot, you can essentially plug in any old stepper as a replacement. Plastic filament likewise has plenty of sources. Also, there are now designs for machines for making filament from pellets. ABS pellets are not going anywhere.

      - Still no established 3D printing "standard" in an OS. Sure, there are lots of "almost-standards"

      If you are using the open ones, then the standard in the OS is completely established. It's an open chain with standards all the way down.

      Models are generally described in STL (one of the stupidest and easiest file formats in existence). Very standard.

      You load the STL file and convert it into G-Code, or generate g-code any way you want. G-Code is used for almost all CNC machines and extrusion type 3D printer. Very standard.

      You either load the STL onto a micro SD card and stick that in the printer (all standard) or you connect over RS232 over USB. cat will do for sending the file but you could use pronterface ot octoprint if you prefer a nicer interface.

      There's no need to have this in the OS, and apart from the FTDI driver, it makes little sense to do so.

      - 3D models are just that much harder to make and print reliably.

      That's true.

      The two examples of software you point out? Both licensed only for home use.

      For open software the choices are not that great. There's BRLCAD (which is amazing, but you only get to really make use of the awesomeness if you want to know how well your 3D model holds up under fire), OpenSCAD and for a more arty feel, Blender.

      For paid stuff, don't bother with autocad, it's awful. Solidworks is much better.

      and driver integration

      No such thing: you are under the impression that the software stack is more complex than it is. Without exception the CAD programs can emit STL files. I suppose that's the driver integration, since all 3D printing systems will accept STL files.

      why can't we combine with something Kindle-like to detect when the print job is going wrong and have the printer slice off the last layer and start it again?

      Wouldn't be very helpful. The printer always prints layers correctly. The problems are things like the model becoming unstuck from the base. Once that's happened it's time to scrape off the remainder and restart from scratch.

      Until then, it's nothing better than a hobbyist electronics kit, or someone building a high-end overclocking rig, or one of those RPi racks... the domain of someone who has so much time on their hands that they don't actually need the printer in the first place.

      No, not at all. It's like home computers in the early 80s. You need to know what you're doing to use them so they're the domain of people who either love the technology or really, really need to get some computing (or now printing) done.

      I fall into the latter category.

      • Great post. Just a couple notes:

        You either load the STL onto a micro SD card and stick that in the printer (all standard) or you connect over RS232 over USB. cat will do for sending the file but you could use pronterface ot octoprint if you prefer a nicer interface.

        My first 9-pin dot matrix was very much like this. Everything has progressed now to bi-directional data with status. A consumer 3D printer won't exist until there's a standard to read back the status. There will be a window on the screen that

    • by janoc (699997) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @05:05AM (#46572249)

      I think you have unrealistic expectations fuelled by a lot of the hype around the printers (and the companies selling them).

      Setting the poor quality and the need to constantly tinker with the calibration, belt tensions, levelling and what not aside, 3D printer is not a consumer device, even if it was plug & play today.

      It is a machine tool and a pretty complex at that. Programming and using a 3D printer is comparable to a CNC router, which is a specialized skill that usually requires some extensive training. Sure, it is not rocket science neither, but expecting this to work as a printer in Windows (push a button and paper comes out with your document) is simply unrealistic.

      Demanding things like "standardized 3D printer protocol" (hello g-code ...) or companies like HP or Epson to produce 3D printers is off the mark - why should they? They don't make other machine tools neither, the only thing a 3D printer has in common with a regular printer is the word "printer" ... These are all red herrings - those things are pretty much irrelevant. Without the engineering knowledge needed to build the part you won't be able to make a useful component beyond downloading and printing stuff someone else made. However, then you can order the parts cheaper and simpler from Shapeways or a similar place too.

      The same holds for design of the parts - people complaining about the complexity of the CAD tools are way off the mark here. The tools have to be complex in order to be actually useful, otherwise designing precise parts would be impossible. Unfortunately, a lot of people think that CAD is like Photoshop or something - it is not. If you cannot construct a piece using a ruler & compass on paper, you probably shouldn't be using CAD neither.

      • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @05:54AM (#46572393) Journal

        I think you have unrealistic expectations fuelled by a lot of the hype around the printers (and the companies selling them).

        I disagree. They're certainly not now, and it will probably 20 years before they are, but imagine where home computers were in 1979.

        Setting the poor quality and the need to constantly tinker with the calibration, belt tensions, levelling and what not aside, 3D printer is not a consumer device, even if it was plug & play today.

        Things advanced. I recently saw someone tinkering with an auto-levelling one. Basically there's a sensor of some sort very near the hot end, which measures the bed position. It tweaks the Z motor to keep things level. As for calibration, belt tensioning etc, as you can see with 2D printers, those are all solvable problems. No one's tried yet on the cheaper printers since there are still bigger fish to fry, but if you've been following 3D printers, they've advanced amazingly in the last few years.

        It is a machine tool and a pretty complex at that. Programming and using a 3D printer is comparable to a CNC router, which is a specialized skill that usually requires some extensive training. Sure, it is not rocket science neither, but expecting this to work as a printer in Windows (push a button and paper comes out with your document) is simply unrealistic.

        It is a machine tool, but I disagree about the difficulty. I've done a few bits and bobs on a CNC mill, and I've done a bunch oin a 3D printer. Programming both is "easy" since someone else does the hard part. You generate the model and software generates the toolpath for you. 3D printers are relatively easy to generate toolpaths for compared to CNC mills and the software is OSS, stable, reliable, portable and fast.

        If you already have a 3D design available, you load it into slic3r, hit the export button and then load the g-code onto an SD card/into pronterface/into octoprint. Once slic3r is calibrated it's straightforward.

        For custom stuff, the main thing is creating the 3D models, but that's not got nearly so much to do with 3D printing per-se.

        For 3D printing the most you generally have to do is make sure the thing is a sensible way up. You don't have to screw around with clamping, datuming, multiple passes after re-clamping and re-datuming (ok less of a problem on a 5 axis, but certainly one on a 3 axis machine) etc etc etc. I've done both and 3D printing is way easier than CNC milling.

        Technically, I've never used a CNC router, but I assume they're basically like a wussy Bridgeport :)

        They're certainly not at the stage of push a button and a print comes out, but they are approaching that remarkably quickly. Just remember how faffy printers used to be. The sodding things couldn't even feed paper reliably which is why they had sprocketed fanfold. Oh and don't forget to be careful with the colours otherwise you get black ink all over the yellow ribbon and screw up future colour prints. Never mind that a full res A4 colour print on a 9 pin took about 45 minutes (yes I did time it way back then). Actually, come to think of it, printers seem to be one of the most universally reviled, hateful classes of hardware.

        Without the engineering knowledge needed to build the part you won't be able to make a useful component beyond downloading and printing stuff someone else made. However, then you can order the parts cheaper and simpler from Shapeways or a similar place too.

        Not my experience. Personally, I'm an engineer so I don't count from this perspective. I use a shared printer at a hackspace. The range of users is quite broad and includes plenty of people who aren't formally trained engineers. I guess they're not easily put off.


        The same holds for design of the parts - people complaining about the complexity of the CAD tools are way off the mark here. The tools have to be complex in order to be actually useful, otherwise designing precise parts would be impossible. Unfortunately, a lot of

      • Unfortunately, a lot of people think that CAD is like Photoshop or something - it is not. If you cannot construct a piece using a ruler & compass on paper, you probably shouldn't be using CAD neither.

        They should try programming, instead. Everyone knows that if a child can do the software equivalent of drawing with ruler and compass, they're fully qualified to replace a team of those greedy expensive professional programmers on enterprise-level projects.

        • Everyone knows that if a child can do the software equivalent of drawing with ruler and compass...

          You mean like programming in assembly, using a text editor instead of an IDE? FYI, drafting by hand is actually harder than using a CAD program -- you have to still know how to define what you want (dimensioning, tolerances, etc.) but then you also have to have the manual dexterity to draw it without having the software help you fix the proportions and such.

          ...they're fully qualified to replace a team of those

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      And it just works. Every time. I print, it comes out exactly as it is on the screen.

      Dude, I'd pay good money for a 2D printer that can do that. Lasers are close but the desktop software side tends to ruin it for them. Open an A3 PDF, zoom in to the section you want to print and try to make that appear on a sheet of paper, exactly as you see it on screen.

    • by LoRdTAW (99712)

      - Too much faffing about to build the things (or too much cost to acquire them pre-built).
      - Too much faffing about having to calibrate, adjust, tinker and play with them to get good results.

      These are early prototype designs, DI and open source projects. There are commercial printers of varying size that come assembled and ready to go.

      - Too fragile (i.e. you can't throw them about, take them to a friend's house).

      To be fair you can't throw about your laptop, tablet, TV or PC. The systems that are fragile are

    • by rasmusbr (2186518)

      - Too much faffing about to build the things (or too much cost to acquire them pre-built).
      - Too much faffing about having to calibrate, adjust, tinker and play with them to get good results.
      - Too fragile (i.e. you can't throw them about, take them to a friend's house).
      - Too reliant on a small set of manufacturers (for the source materials, software, etc.)

      The same could be said for automobiles in the 1910's. That didn't stop people from buying cars.

      The real question is whether or not there is a common and high value use case for 3D printers in the home.

    • by daid303 (843777)

      Dropped my Ultimaker from my bicycle. Twice. Still prints without any adjustments. Most RepRap kits are not that sturdy. You get what you pay for in this case.

      Standardization in 3D printing is STL right now. And a large standard commission is working on the next version (AMF).

      Software, oh, did I mention this yet. 3D model to toolpath. OpenSource. A few options available. My own, Cura, started as a hobby project, after 6 months I got hired by Ultimaker to make it awesome. Which it is these days. Still OpenSo

  • Hype vs reality... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bayankaran (446245) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:37AM (#46571839) Homepage
    I almost bought an entry level 3D printer in 2010. And I am glad I did not.
    3D printing is way over hyped like Segway or Bluetooth. It has its niche market/uses, but the proponents and true believers claim that will "change the world", everyone will start printing at home, things will be cheaper, more available, better, faster, stronger, wider and so on is pure BS.
    • ... everyone will start printing at home, things will be cheaper, more available, better, faster, stronger ...

      When in reality everyone will just start using pretentious newbie phrases such as "steep learning curve [wsu.edu]".

      • Steep learning curve works if it represents amount of effort needed to progress further? i.e. let's take vi, imagine you're told right away how to quit ( :q or :q!). It's very easy to open files, do the most basic scrolling, and mash ESC and :q! to get out. But you don't know how to do anything else. Then you learn how to use the i and a commands, edit text, move with hjkl or arrows, and hit ESC at the right time. Nice, but that was harder. Now you have to learn harder and harder tricks..

      • ... everyone will start printing at home, things will be cheaper, more available, better, faster, stronger ...

        When in reality everyone will just start using pretentious newbie phrases such as "steep learning curve [wsu.edu]".

        I think that the good Mr. Brians might actually have stumbled across the correct answer, possibly not recognized it, then dismissed it in his enthusiasm to accuse users of being mathematically unsophisticated idiots.

        If you think of using a tool as being a mixture of doing whatever it is you wanted to do and 'learning' (ie. swearing at the tool itself, and having things that seem like they should work not work for reasons you don't understand rather than getting what you wanted done, done), the 'learning

  • by eggstasy (458692) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:40AM (#46571843) Journal

    What could i possibly print that I don't already have?
    Most people in developed countries already have enough crap lying around.

    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:42AM (#46571847)

      I've only one thing I'd like to print right now: A replacement reverse-nozzle-thingie that goes on the end of the hoover hose.

      • I've only one thing I'd like to print right now: A replacement reverse-nozzle-thingie that goes on the end of the hoover hose.

        Replacement custom lids for the battery compartments of various devices where the original got lost or broken.

        The hinge cover that got broken off one corner of my laptop.

        A box sized and shaped to hold certain control automaion buttons and displays that I have scattered around next to my bed and make them into one tidy package that custom-fits where I want to mount it and looks nice.

        Maybe some drawer organizers better tailored to what I keep in storage than the current generic bins.

        And yes, I've a hoover par

    • Next to easy repairs of household items (instead of the western way of throwing things away), it all depends on your creativity level. And you need to have a bit a tinkerer mindset.
      As an example: I love to dabble in electronics in my too scarce free time. It would be fun to have totally original case designs for some of my little projects instead of the usual generic boxes.
      • by epee1221 (873140)
        Looking over the household repairs/replacements we've had to do the past couple years, I can't find anything a 3D printer would have made easier. Faucet aerator has its threads worn down? A new aerator is dirt cheap. Leaking at the base of the faucet? Spend a couple minutes with a wrench. Thermostat's temperature sensor is dying? Not going to be printing one of those. Wallpaper peels off? That's a job for a rather specialized 2D printer, or in our case, a can of paint.
  • I like the concept of 3D printing. Beining a bit of a tinkerer, albeit with too little free time, I could see myself using one in a number of creative projects.
    But the material used by most printers is an ugly ABS. Sturdy but not appealing.
    Furthermore the detail level of what I have seen so far is no match for stereolithography.
    Now progress is being made quickly. I think that within 5 years or so they will be at a reasonable hobbyist price offering a quality and flexibility level that I would be inter
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:51AM (#46571863)

    Personally I can't think of anything that I'd need to print - that would work first time.

    Sure, it's possible to print out a load of old crap, just for the fun of saying "I made that" (just as small children are so proud of their scribblings), but surely we're all past that stage by adulthood?

    The things I *would* like to fabricate would be plastic or metal parts that is part of a larger assmebly, but has broken. In that case, it's much harder to measure every dimension, put it into a design package, print off a sample, see where it doesn't fit, modify the design and repeat the whole process until I get one solitary example that fits, performs and doesn't contain any manufacturing flaws that weaken it.

    Far better to start with a piece of stock material and remove excess, bit by bit, until you get the fit you require. All the tools and materials are readily available now. Although that doesn't have any "geek" qualities: it's simply old-fashioned manual dexterity and skill.

    • Personally I can't think of anything that I'd need to print - that would work first time.

      You should seriously consider giving up. Nothing hard is worth doing.

      Sure, it's possible to print out a load of old crap, just for the fun of saying "I made that" (just as small children are so proud of their scribblings), but surely we're all past that stage by adulthood?

      If you're past the stage when you can take pride in your work you're not "grown up", you're a sad shell of a man.

      Far better to start with a piece of

      • by petes_PoV (912422)

        You should seriously consider giving up. Nothing hard is worth doing.

        Nothing hard is worth doing? I don't think there's anything particularly difficult in finding a design for a 3D printable Yoda on the web, rushing off to the shop and buying a 3D printer and then proudly displaying the fruits of your "labour".

        If you want a challenge, spend a fraction of the price on a small lathe and take the time to teach yourself how to use it correctly.

        • Nothing hard is worth doing? I don't think there's anything particularly difficult

          Well then you must be utterly useless since it was you yourself that claimed it wouldn't work first time. So which is it? Hard or easy?

          finding a design for a 3D printable Yoda on the web, rushing off to the shop and buying a 3D printer and then proudly displaying the fruits of your "labour".

          Why would I 3D print a Yoda? I've got far more interesting stuff to make.

          If you want a challenge,

          Why would I want a challenge in this man

    • by narcc (412956)

      Sure, it's possible to print out a load of old crap, just for the fun of saying "I made that" (just as small children are so proud of their scribblings), but surely we're all past that stage by adulthood?

      A quick look through any platform's app store seems to indicate that the answer to your question is a firm 'no'.

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:51AM (#46571865)

    Betteridge's Law of Headlines [wikipedia.org] still holds true.

    Too finicky, too expensive, most people myself included don't have the need for one in their home, so on etc.

    None of the "consumer" level units have come close to approaching the ease of use of a circa-1995 inkjet printer.

  • by mr.gson (458099) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:51AM (#46571867)
    I have been designing and 3D printing objects for my own use a couple of years now, and I still don't own a 3D printer. I just upload my files to Shapeways [shapeways.com] and the finished pieces are delivered to my door.

    Back in the day before digital cameras, I also used to take photos on film, but I didn't have my own darkroom. Same thing.

  • by PhantomHarlock (189617) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:53AM (#46571873)

    All the inexpensive hobby printers still make parts that look like melted spaghetti. They are useful only as test fit items, and even then only marginally so. The finish requires too much touch up and filler. One day they will get better, but not there yet.

    I use shapeways a lot. No one can even come close for the price vs. quality at the moment, and the materials list keeps growing.

    I make a lot of parts for large scale models of trains. Things that originally would have been cast and have complex shapes, like brackets, granb handles, brakewheels, rachets, pawls, trussrod washers. Saves a lot of time in the machine shop, and since I am only making one offs or two offs it is far cheaper and easier than making a pattern and having them cast traditionally. I use the high strength flexible plastic (PA2200) where I can for cost, and stainless RP where needed for functional parts.

    Some of these I will be offering on SW to other modelers for a few extra dollars a month in mad money. Another nice SW perk.

    I hope in five years I'll come back and say "I got my new home printer and I don't have to wait for the Shapeways delivery any more!" but the quality I need is still too expensive to own on a hobby basis.

  • I could use a printer that let me produce custom stuff. I have a wood workshop and such a thing would be neat for jigs of all kinds.

    Problem is, I am very bad at using 3D programs, unless you count sketchup. And AFAIK, these printers take input from very expensive and complicated 3D software... or have they added support for sketchup now?

    • by rusty0101 (565565)

      Sketchup is frequently used for models, and has been for years. In most cases the process involves pulling a single file out of the archive that sketchup generates, and running that file through a program that turns it into tool paths for the printer to follow. From what I recall, that was a free program as well. There is more information, and links to even more beyond it at http://www.printrbottalk.com/w... [printrbottalk.com]

    • I have a wood workshop and such a thing would be neat for jigs of all kinds.

      I think you'd be better off with a pneumatic pin gun for such things.

      or have they added support for sketchup now?

      Yes, but you're thinking about it incorrectly.

      All CAD programs, sketchup included will emit STL files.

      Software for generatig 3D printer codes all accepts STL files as input.

      No drivers or support needed. All printers "support" all CAD programes via a common intermediate format.

  • The worst examples of hype are when there is an article about something printed on a $15k printer and people say "look you can print the same way using this $100 printer". The problem is that the $100 printer is nowhere near the precision or resolution of the $15K printer. (Hint Peachy [peachyprinter.com] is crap)

    On another note melted extruded plastic is crap. The surface will always be rough and things will always slump a bit. The layers don't always fuse well. It is even difficult to make a watertight cup. The failure rate

    • The over-promising and hype has indeed hurt the reputation of the industry and it's painful every time I read some article that has the words '3D printing' and 'revolution' in the same sentence. In the mean time people who are familiar with a range of manufacturing options are getting good value out of what is there right now through services like Shapeways.

      We also use RP extensively now in aerospace and it greatly increases workflow vs. having a CNC job run for a test article. Much less cost in shop ho

    • by Tyndmyr (811713)
      A watertight cup is not particularly difficult, no. I've made a variety of them, as well as fully functional teapots and the like(albeit made of plastic, so certain heat issues exist, but hey). Slumping should not be an issue. Expansion might be. You can minimize this with the right setup(heated bed, controlling humidity, or just using a different plastic). Layers usually fuse fine once your setup is good.
    • by daid303 (843777)

      I know a guy how consistently prints watertight cups.

      PLA layers fuse very well. ABS is harder, which is why everyone is switching towards PLA.

      More expensive is usually better. But, 20k machines from 3D systems are getting the same quality as 2k hobby machines.

  • by cpuffer_hammer (31542) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @03:00AM (#46571905) Homepage

    I was very much wanting to get a 3D printer. In looking around I found a Maker Lab / Hack Space (http://rlab.org.uk/ [rlab.org.uk]). There we have a number of 3Dprinters plus laser cutter, cnc, lathe and much more. Along with people that know who to use them and help fix and adjust them.
    I have access to all this for what it would cost to buy just a 3D printer (a year). When and if I want my own I can build it there.

  • by DamonHD (794830)

    I have the Velleman K8200 and for the OpenTRV project (opentrv.org.uk) that I'm working on we've been able to print the enclosures and well as designing the hardware (and making and stuffing PCBs) and the software in the same distributed fashion, and easily outsource to third parties for larger runs (hello Thames Valley Rep Rap User Group TVRRUG; thank you again).

    It's been fun and helped us to control more aspects of the product while still in prototype phase.

    Rgds

    Damon

    • I have the Velleman K8200

      How do you find it? I've seen some Velleman ones for sale in Maplin and the results looked quite decent, but I'd like to hear first hand.

  • by Skylinux (942824) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @03:22AM (#46571981) Homepage

    I recently purchased a MendelMax 1.5 kit because I need small plastic parts for some of my projects. The kit is less expensive then most, yet is build very well. It looks like a tank and handles like a tool, this is not a toy. I can highly recommend it.

    I decided to get a kit because it is not that easy to source all the parts in Europe and I wanted to focus on designing my objects without spending months to source the individual parts.

    That said. The 3D printer is actually very easy to build and to get going. The problems starts when you want to create your own designs......

    • AutoCAD 123 - is easy to use but it is "cloud software" that will not allow you to open locally saved designs without an active Internet connection. This is crippled desktop software, PLEASE DO NOT SUPPORT THIS!
    • OpenSCAD - looked interesting because you "code your model". Unfortunately there is a bug with some Intel video cards so I could not even finish the tutorial on my Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook.
    • Google Sketchup - this is really good for very simple designs but the over simplified UI will bite you once you start to adjust dimensions or need precision below 1mm. I also noticed a lot of holes in my 3D objects when exported from Sketchup
    • FreeCAD - Too many options and I ran into problems with some of my "complex" designs. This may replace SolidWorks one day.
    • SolidWorks - I was really disappointed by my previous CAD experience and was close to kicking my printer into a corner. I worked my way through some tutorials on YouTube and really like the experience. The major issue with SW is that the license is way to expensive for a hobbyist so I had to get a "TPB Edition".

    SolidWorks is the only software that works as promised.
    I hope the company will offer licenses to hobbyist soon because I hate using pirated software for everyday use.

    3D printers are really cool if you are a tinkerer / hobbyist but I would only recommend one if you have the need for one. You will spend days designing, printing and re-adjusting your models.
    3D printers are not hipster toys!

    • by Skylinux (942824)

      EDIT: AutoCAD 123 should be 123D Design

    • by iluvcapra (782887)
      Blender?
      • by Skylinux (942824)

        > Blender?

        Tried it but the software is made for creating 3D models used in video games and such. These kind of models are hollow shells where 3D printed parts need to be solid objects.

        There are plugins to handle 3D printing with Blender but the lack of good documentation / tutorials and the UI made me uninstall the software after a couple of hours.

    • Try DesignSpark mechanical. Works a lot like SW but it is free. Definitely more capable than sketchup.

    • by scorp1us (235526)

      I have used Solid Works and it is very good.
      I also like Rhino 3D which is cheaper.

      But these days I run Linux exclusively so I am SOL.

  • I'd love to be able to - when my grandchildren stay the night - to be able to say to little Chloe "How would you like a pink horse" "Yes Poppy Yes!" "Well lets snuggle down for this story about horses and on this new machine Poppy will make a pink horse for when you wake up". When this is possible - yes I have a grand-daughter Chloe - then 3D printers will be mainstream. Until then they are for tinkerers.
    • by Chrisq (894406)

      I'd love to be able to - when my grandchildren stay the night - to be able to say to little Chloe "How would you like a pink horse" "Yes Poppy Yes!" "Well lets snuggle down for this story about horses and on this new machine Poppy will make a pink horse for when you wake up". When this is possible - yes I have a grand-daughter Chloe - then 3D printers will be mainstream. Until then they are for tinkerers.

      Unfortunately by that time the machine will tell you that Apple has a patent on "producing toy animals of colours attractive to children" and ask if you want to pay the $5 fee by paypal. It will probably still be cheaper to get something off the shelf at walmart because of their bulk licensing.

    • When this is possible

      It is, but currently requires a bit of learning before you get that far. The first 10 printouts will fail. After you get used to them, running an overnight print is no big thing. I expect there's a good library of such things on thingiverse. If you want to be able to do such things with no learning effors then no you can't. If you don't like learning, why are you here though?

      Until then they are for tinkerers.

      Aaaaand now the random dismissiveness, because there's no middle ground betwe

  • I need to improve my knowledge and skills related to 3-D printing first, then I'll make the plunge.

    As many have noted, 3-D printing isn't easy. A big part of the reason is that the technology isn't well developed yet. As others have noted, 3-D printing is also over hyped. A big part of the reason is that the idea is exciting, but it takes a particular type of personality to have a use for it.

    Yet this simply means that 3-D printing is of limited value as it stands, and as it will continue to stand. (It w

  • Yes I have taken the plunge and I am earning money with it. But not with one of those really cheap printers . Have a close look at the quality that most printers give you and most are just disappointing. But there are some very good printers which allow you to start printing immediately and have good result for a bit more money, (mine was $1900).

    Be aware: when evaluating 3D printers just know that they are in the matrix-printer phase: yes they work, but are slow and results vary widely.
    Also have a good look

  • by captjc (453680) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @06:24AM (#46572499)

    This is my favorite printer. It has a pretty decent resolution, the software is easy to use, it is practically print-ready from the box and has a decent print area of 5"*5"*5". Once calibrated, I have had very little trouble with it and the parts I print are fairly nice (for ABS plastic). I have made custom models and toys, keychains for cousins business, device mounting fixtures for work, household objects, and stuff for my Mom's crafts. For the ~$1500 price tag, I have nothing but praise.

    However this is a hobby printer. Do not go into this thinking you can start a business of making and selling parts. It only prints in one color. Except for the smallest parts, builds take hours. For large objects, layers can warp and crack. Parts can be a pain to remove the support material from. This advice applies to pretty much any hobbyist printer on the market. They are pretty much more trouble than it's worth.

    If you want to do printing as a hobby or have a hobby / job where designing and / or making custom plastic parts is important, by all means buy one. They are a great deal of fun and making your own custom parts can be a huge time and money saver. However, If you think you are going to spin this off into some sort of business, don't bother, we are not there yet.

  • by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @06:32AM (#46572529)

    This is currently what I'm struggling to find. The main thing I've established is FreeCAD just isn't ready yet - very buggy and I can not get it to work, but parametric modelling is an interesting concept.

    What else are people using for dimensioning parts which need to fit together? (i.e. part design, rather then modelling I guess?)

    • by daid303 (843777)

      For part design I've switched to DesignSpark Mechanical. It's not really 100% free. But I really like the interface and how stuff works. It's a bit like SketchUp on steroids, but then made for CAD.

      • by captjc (453680)

        Second. I wish it was more featureful as it's parent program SpaceClaim, but it is pretty easy and moderately powerful. I also wished it could export STEP files, but oh well.

  • 3D printing is in the early stages, comparable to just after 2D printing went from industrial line printers that cost $10K to home printers that cost "only $1000") and in the process of transitioning to the $100 home printers. That is, the $10K printers are super-expensive to run but produce real production-quality output, the $1000 printers are affordable for the home but with lots of tweaking, and every generation of home 3D printers is markedly easier to use. For example, if you look at the latest consum

  • What the heck would I make if I bought a 3D printer? I do 3D modeling for a living & I really can't think of anything I need. Except maybe an imagination I guess. Any suggestions? Creating 3D models is actually fun, I love to do it. They were selling 3D printers at the Maker fair that came around last year & I was not impressed with what they were making.
    • by scorp1us (235526)

      Things on my list:
      - Custom lego parts.
      - A grill to help my laptop breathe when it is on a pillow.
      - Phone stands, cases at a price they can't be bought for or a niche that does not exist in the mass market.
      - Replacement parts like clips (most are plastic anyway)

  • Every once in a while someone will insist on paying me for fabricating some doodad, like a piece of an automotive door-lock assembly or some of my beer opener / keepers (works like a mason jar; useful for when you want to drink part of a bigger homebrew beer bottle).

    I always have several robotics/cybernetics hobby projects and use a RepRapPro-Huxley model to create many small parts. I used it to print the tracks and guides for a custom design 3D printer based on a heavily modified Huxley. Instead of a movi

    • If you want to have a business, you have to approach it as a business. Don't buy/build a printer then go looking for stuff to print and customers to sell those things to. You pick your market, find out what it needs, figure out if you can make money doing it, and then invest in a printer that does what is needed. You can print plastic trees for model railroaders and sell them for $0.25 each or you can go after the medical market and print titanium bones for $5000 each, or something in between. It all de

  • History repeating (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fear the Clam (230933) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @07:14AM (#46572737)

    I think I've picked up a few skills and I can actually see myself making a little money on the side creating and selling items.

    Just like everyone in the late '80s was going to use desktop publishing to make a mint doing flyers and low-end restaurant menus and ten years later everyone was going to make a mint designing websites.

  • by Tyndmyr (811713)
    Yeah, I've got two now, they're fun toys. Made a lot of various gadgets, including a few firearms that resulted in some brief notoriety. Don't know that it's been a net profitable project so far, but really, it's not as if I bought my first(the Cube) with a business plan in mind or anything...it was just awesome, and I'd been eagerly watching the developments for quite some time, and really wanted to try it out for myself. Not everything's about money. If you were motivated to do so, you certainly could mak
  • from mostly surplus machine parts. I designed it to have a build capacity sufficient to print full-size human skulls extracted from CT scan data. So far I have spent many hundreds of hours and about $1k on the machine.

    Skip the low end of the printer market. They will not produce quality prints and build capacity is too small to satisfy for very long. First and foremost, look for a machine with a rigid frame (not plywood!). Avoid machines that have unsupported guide rail or screw ends. Quality prints

  • Anything I can think of wanting to spend the time designing and printing is too big to fit in hobbyist printers. I thought about printing a replacement dash for my '80s Land Rover. Clearly even breaking that into pieces it was going to be too big for most printers. Then I looked at the cost of having it made, and decided I'd rather just go to a metal shop and have them bend something up for me out of stainless steel or aluminium.

    Then I just puit my crappy old dash back in.
  • After a week or so of design work and printing out many items, I think I've picked up a few skills and I can actually see myself making a little money on the side creating and selling items. I don't think I'd trade my current job for one designing and printing items, but it is nice to have a little income on the side if I choose to do that.

    It's only called making money if you cover the cost of production, including the printer, supplies, computer, etc. And remember, that little income on the side is reportable to the IRS as hobby income in total, whereas the expenses come from itemized deductions, unless you truly start a side business doing this. If so, you probably aren't going to be using one of the below $500 printers as they are pretty slow.

    Most of the people I know are using 3D printers as part of one of their hobbies, such as model r

  • I have an Ultimaker 1, bought about 2 years ago. When I bought it, it was indeed a tinkering nightmare - all the software was horrible beta, and you needed to follow a dozen wiki pages to get anything to work at all. They got started on the software fixes, and gradually things got much, much better.

    Fast forward to now - I had my printer packed away for about a year. I unpacked it, downloaded the latest software and got started right away. It helped me level the bed (which was all but perfectly level already

  • They are neat tech, and they are affordable, but for the majority of people out there I just don't see them as particularly useful. We picked up a Makerbot for our lab at work, and it is proven to be extremely useful. We have a Solidworks guy and it is trivial for him to design and fabricate custom mounts and such that we would otherwise have had to kludge up some other solution because it wouldn't have been worth the time and money to have something temporary mount made in a machine shop.

    However, for the

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