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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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  • by seebs ( 15766 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @03:15AM (#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?

  • 3D printing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @03:35AM (#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.

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

    by bayankaran ( 446245 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @03:37AM (#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.
  • by eggstasy ( 458692 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @03:40AM (#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 janoc ( 699997 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @06:05AM (#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.

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

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @06:29AM (#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.
  • History repeating (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fear the Clam ( 230933 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @08:14AM (#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.

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

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <> on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @08:36AM (#46572843) Homepage Journal

    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.

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