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Thread: 3D Printer recommendations

  1. 3D Printer recommendations

    I think I convinced my wife that we should get a 3D printer, we have several items in our house that could be repaired if we had one, and I really want one for robot building.

    I have been reading a ton of info on these things, but I just wanted to see if anyone who owns or uses one, could give me their opinion on the type they have and whether or not they are happy with it.

    I am kind of up in the air on PLA vs. ABS right now, but I think I am leaning towards PLA.

    Any other thoughts on 3D printing that anyone has would be appreciate as well, as this is a pretty new field for the consumer user and it's hard to get real user feedback as it seems most feedback is coming from someone with an agenda.

    It seems the safest choice would be makerbot, but they are very expensive.


  2. #2

    Re: 3D Printer recommendations

    I did the same kind of research, with the same kind of goals, and talked to a bunch of local people who have 3d printers. Here's what I found:
    If you get one for actual, real work (like repairing things) then you may become disappointed. (Unless you're talking the $10k+ professional type printers)
    Yes, they kind-of work, but they require love, and attention, and very long print times.
    If you can afford it, the fully integrated nature of the Makerbot probably makes it the best affordable choice (at $2200) if you're looking to print things, rather than looking for another hobby to maintain a printer :-)
    If you want to save money, building your own Prusa Mendel or similar is likely the best option, at a cost of approximately $700 (maybe a little less.)
    There's also Type A Machines Series 1, which I know about because the makers belong to the same workshop as I do (Tech Shop.) It has a pretty big print area, and costs $1600.
    The PLA vs ABS option can be switched later -- if you don't get a heated bed, you can add that to print ABS. Or, if you get the heated bed, just don't turn it on if printing PLA.
    I decided to hold off for now. I'm still making things in aluminum or wood when needed. If I get something, It'll probably be the RepRap kit option, to optimize for low cost to get into it.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Rep Power

    Re: 3D Printer recommendations

    The cheapest option I've seen for smaller PLA-only objects would be the printrbot jr. kit. One of the scariest options I've seen is the mendelmax v2. There is at least one makerbot in the college's shop, but I've never really had a chance/need to use it yet. So many things I would love to make, I just can't make myself make them or the tools to make them.
    Please pardon the pedantry... and the profanity... and the convoluted speech pattern...
    "You have failed me, Brain!"
    gives free advice only on public threads

  4. Re: 3D Printer recommendations

    J, thanks.

    You hit on a key point which is I don't want another hobby maintaining a printer. I understand with early adoption, you cannot avoid an element of this, but I want this to be to enhance my robotics, not to replace it. Having a full time demanding job, and a family, one hobby is hard enough to keep up with

    It seems like with everything other than the Replicator, that seems to be the case as far as PLA vs ABS, but I probably am leaning towards the Replicator 2 for the point above, and have to pick an option as they have the 2 and the 2x if I go that route.

    If I had access to a workshop like you, and the time, I probably would to that route as well. The problem I have now is I am trying to make some parts and it is a time consuming, frustrating, and sometimes expensive proposition that is taking some of the fun out of the hobby.

    What is your take on the Type A machine series 1? I came across it on the maker site, and it looks really impressive to me, if it were a bigger more well known company, that would be my first choice by far.

    Tician, thanks for your feedback.

  5. #5

    Re: 3D Printer recommendations

    I think the Type A Machines company may have sold about 100 machines so far, judging from their forums. The worst bugs are worked out, and some of the prints I've seen up in San Francisco look pretty nice. I think they were "flamed" to fuse the surface smooth, though. For robotics, exact surface finish doesn't matter, but precision/repeatability probably does. They do interact with buyers on the forums, but if you need help, and are not in the bay area, I don't know how that would work out.

    The replicators are really nice as these things go; if you can afford them, I'd say go for it. There are two at the shop, although you have to sit there and watch them while they print, and you can't print for more than 4 hours at a time, which limits the size of prints, so I haven't tried them. Btw: Apparently, even with PLA prints, a heated bed helps, so definitely go for that.

  6. Re: 3D Printer recommendations

    Jwatte, Thanks again for the input. I have been reading about this stuff all night, and I am pretty sure I am going to go the build my own route, from a kit.

    I was reading the repRap site, and the point that really drove this point home was that these things break, and need a lot of love and maintenance no matter who makes them, even from Makerbot. The point was that there is no better way to be able to maintain and/or fix these things than having built it yourself.

    Also, coming from the RepRap community, if you do have a problem, it is very easy to get parts and help.

    I am pretty sure I am going to go with the MendelMax 1.5+, as there is a kit local to me that has very good feedback, and a really good price, along with incredible videos on assembly.

    I get a comparable print bed to the Type A machine Series 1, and at about half the price.

    Hopefully I won't regret this, but I think this makes the most sense for me for now, thanks again for your input!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Alameda, CA
    Rep Power

    Re: 3D Printer recommendations

    I've gotten to play a lot with two Replicator 2s and both and both of them have needed quite a bit of baby sitting. At first I was getting 3 out of 4 prints fail because of "Air printing" which means that it would stop extruding material, but the printer would keep moving. We tried everything from putting tightening the plunger to adding a dab of oil on the PLA to lubricate the system. By far the most success came from upgrading the hardware to a user designed plunger mechanism. The plunger mechanism that the Replicator 2 comes with doesn't account for variable filament thickness and creates problems.

    Using Replicator G instead of MakerWare was a big improvement as well, because the software allows you set more parameters like the filament thickness.

    If you are going to print solid parts (infill 100%), I suggest setting the 'shell' parameter to 0 which gave me much cleaner results when printing very tiny parts like PLA spacers.

    The accuracy is higher than I expected. I was able to print parts with .1mm of accuracy and be able have a tight enough fit to snap a ball bearings into place.

    Here are some parts I printed recently:

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    Even though the Replicator 2 looks very slick, it still works like a Beta product. There are a lot of gotchas, so be prepared to have been printing something for 9 hours and then it fail 3/4 of the way through.

    That being said, when it works and you get to hear that click of parts snapping into place, it makes you feel like a million dollars!! I will probably be getting my own when the next generation of Materbot comes out.

  8. Re: 3D Printer recommendations

    Alonso, thanks for your input! I have gotten a very similar sense from others that as refined as the replicator 2 looks, it is going to be just as much work as a reprap, but without the community. That is why I think I am going to go with a mendelmax reprap kit and build it myself, to give me a much more intimate understanding of the printer.

    I can only imagine the feeling it must give when you are able to design, print and use something for your own robot, hopefully that makes it all worthwhile.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    kansas City, MO
    Rep Power

    Re: 3D Printer recommendations

    Have you read this guide?

    If need to buy a printer today I would buy a Afinia. or UP! plus. They are the same printer.

  10. #10

    Re: 3D Printer recommendations

    Aren't those printers ones that use special filament cartridges, and won't work with refills or eBay spools? And isn't UP! also the one that actually puts DRM on the printing files? Or am I thinking of another printer doomed to failure here?

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