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

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @03:50AM (#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.

  • by mr.gson ( 458099 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @03:51AM (#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 [] 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.

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

    by frinsore ( 153020 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @04:01AM (#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.
  • by Skylinux ( 942824 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @04:22AM (#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!

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

    by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @04:31AM (#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.

  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @06:54AM (#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

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @07:51AM (#46572623)

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

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

    by Kludge ( 13653 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @08:50AM (#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.

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

    by samkass ( 174571 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:14AM (#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...

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

    by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:47AM (#46573303) Homepage

    If you want parametric, an elegant solution is OpenSCAD (or the even cooler ImplicitCAD).

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

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:10AM (#46573501)

    Blender doesn't do parametric modeling

    No, but FreeCAD [] does. Cost: $0. It has a nice GUI, and it uses Python as a scripting language, so if you prefer coding over using the GUI, you can whip up a python program to generate your part.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.