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

Unknown Lamer posted about 7 months ago | from the well-have-you? dept.

Printer 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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How many unhatched chickens? So many. (4, Insightful)

seebs (15766) | about 7 months ago | (#46571787)

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?

Re:How many unhatched chickens? So many. (5, Interesting)

gl4ss (559668) | about 7 months ago | (#46571881)

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.

Re:How many unhatched chickens? So many. (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about 7 months ago | (#46572015)

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.

Re:How many unhatched chickens? So many. (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 7 months ago | (#46572437)

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

Re:How many unhatched chickens? So many. (4, Interesting)

dreamchaser (49529) | about 7 months ago | (#46572481)

There are 3D printers that can handle metal so yes you can print gold. Unfortunately you also have to provide said gold ;)

Its about material as well as cost. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571801)

Once they have a sub $1000, metal 3d printer they will become attractive to people with the same free capitol to buy a poor used car, gun, or good computer, then they will become mainstream.

Once they can print circuit boards and other such complicated things for less than 3-5K they will become a necessity for any business.

Low profile ones (2)

Ingcuervo (1349561) | about 7 months ago | (#46571829)

I am not an expert in the field, but because of the prices, i think you are aiming for a "home user" kind, this might work nice and cool for a "HOME USER" :), but i dont think the idea of making money out of it would work if you dont really use a professional tool. either way is good that you get skills that later on you can use if you decide to really go serious

3D printing (5, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | about 7 months ago | (#46571833)

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 (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572623)

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

Re:3D printing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572927)

Hey, installed any good fuseboxes lately, bro?

Re:3D printing (5, Informative)

frinsore (153020) | about 7 months ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#46572307)

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.

Re:3D printing (2)

frinsore (153020) | about 7 months ago | (#46572627)

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 still have a better printer then the one I may have at home.

Re:3D printing (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 7 months ago | (#46572843)

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.

3D printing rocks! (3, Informative)

Kludge (13653) | about 7 months ago | (#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 (2)

rusty0101 (565565) | about 7 months ago | (#46571921)

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 actually interested in both, though neither is a part of the domain I work in. That's true of several other interests of mine as well.

Re:3D printing (2)

DamonHD (794830) | about 7 months ago | (#46571931)

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

Re:3D printing (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about 7 months ago | (#46571945)

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 get prints without hassle.

Re:3D printing (2)

Plammox (717738) | about 7 months ago | (#46572411)

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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571963)

Do you have a real need to 3D print anything?

If you can't be bothered with a 3D printer, but still want to 3D print something, there's no shortage of 3D printing services (Ponoko, Shapeways, etc). The only downsides are cost and turnaround time.

Re:3D printing (5, Informative)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 7 months ago | (#46572007)

- 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.

3D printers cannot be consumer hardware (5, Insightful)

janoc (699997) | about 7 months ago | (#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 printers cannot be consumer hardware (3, Informative)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 7 months ago | (#46572393)

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 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.

Depends what you mean. Often with parts, there are a few critical dimensions and the rest is just not that important, especially if you wish to include some sort of artistic element. For most stuff also, bringing the full weight of a high-end parametric cad package to bear on a problem is overkill.

Personally, I like the design of ImplicitCAD since I think in a functional/programmitic way, but it's a shame it's slow, unstable and brittle.

I think you're assuming that everyone is going to be doing the things you envision doing with a 3D printer. In practice, there are far more opions available. I saw one very interesting thing recently from an artist.

Take a base model, and print it out nice and large. Then, work on the large printout by hand to add more details, reshape, etc. Scan it in a 3D scanner and print it out small. The small model now has really fine detail that would be much harder to do by hand. The small model was then printed out, and used to cast a metal part.

Not something I would have thought of doing, but it doesn't require the high-end CAD packages of what you speak. About the best alternative is to either become extremely proficient in 3D modelling software like Blender, or put in the 10k hours to get extreme manual dexterity.

Re:3D printers cannot be consumer hardware (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 7 months ago | (#46572603)

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.

Re:3D printing (1)

Threni (635302) | about 7 months ago | (#46572597)

On the positive side, once you've invested, calibrated etc, you can now make little bits of plastic you'd previously have glued back together (if broken), improvised (if lost) or bought again (well over the odds, but for a fraction of the cost of the machine and all the plastic etc).

Re:3D printing (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 7 months ago | (#46572853)

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.

Re:3D printing (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 7 months ago | (#46572857)

- 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 fragile simply because they are DIY kits that are sloppily put together. If you have a proper case and a good build then you shouldn't have to worry about a thing.

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

I know right! Just like how a big commercial CNC machine uses off the shelf parts. If my Fanuc controller dies I can buy a new one on newegg right? If the servo dies I can just pop another on there from Sears. Sorry to be so sarcastic but welcome to the words of robotics and CNC machines. 3D printers are way more off the shelf than anything a commercial company has produced. Disclaimer: my family used to run a small CNC shop, 2 vertical milling centers and 3 turning centers. If anything broke you had to spend big bucks to get repaired boards as new boards didn't exist. Or you have Japanese guys come in who don't speak english but can repair the machine for 3 grand plus parts which was another 2-3 grand. That was for our large Wasino turning center with an OLD Fanuc controller. Talk about proprietary.

- 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 printers happily use RS274D G code [wikipedia.org] which is an international standard though there are a few slight variants (ISO, DIN, etc.). This is the same format used on CNC machines, robots and even used for making printed circuit boards via the Gerber format which is G code. There doesn't need to be an OS standard, all you need is a proper CAD + CAM program that makes it easy for the user. As of now 3D printing is still closely related to the commercial CNC process which is CAD -> CAM -> CNC. That is intimidating to say the least. 3D printer makers need to make a CAM program that is either standalone or part of a 3D CAD package or plugin that enables simple file -> print. Perhaps a template file that defines the printers volume and then use that template paired with a CAM script to make it more of a WYSIWYG type program. The CAM program should automatically upload the G code to the printer and let the printer run on its own.

- 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.

This. I will say that the main hurdle isn't the hardware (and associated software/firmware) but the software for creating the printed parts. Anything commercial is costly and you can go cheap but you get what you pay for. Autocad on a hobbiest budget? Not a chance unless you have a few grand you want to burn.
The 3D printing community needs to work on a competent CAD package. There is FreeCAD but its still very much in its Alpha stages. Then you have PyCAM so someone needs to throw development time at FreeCAD and PyCAM and make a setup that works like this: 1) Design, 2) file -> Print 3) enjoy your part.

Re:3D printing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46573041)

Grrrrr. The word is "hobbyist". As in, a person who has a hobby. Like "motorist" - a person who drives a motor-car.

"hobby" is a noun, not an adjective. A person isn't the "hobbiest" of all people. I am hobby, he is hobbier, she is the hobbiest.

No.

Now stop being retarded and learn to speak English properly.

Captcha: disdains. I certainly do.

Hype vs reality... (4, Insightful)

bayankaran (446245) | about 7 months ago | (#46571839)

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.

Re:Hype vs reality... (1)

gargleblast (683147) | about 7 months ago | (#46571903)

... 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] ".

Re:Hype vs reality... (2)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 7 months ago | (#46571979)

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..

Re:Hype vs reality... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572001)

But a really difficult task would be a flat line. Way above the origin. Consistently hard all the time; consistently high effort. A task that is as difficult to do today as it was yesterday - lots of effort to proceed. A flat line.

Re:Hype vs reality... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#46572327)

The best tasks would have asymptotic learning curves: starts utterly trivial and increasing mastery begets only increasing difficulty to an unbounded degree. Sounds a lot like math, actually.

Re:Hype vs reality... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#46572445)

... 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 curve' that people draw for various things ends up being (fairly consistently) the curve whose slope, at time X, represents the amount of 'learning' that the user is suffering at time X, and whose X axis is time.

The Y value doesn't directly represent mastery, difficulty, or any other task-related parameter, it's just that people always seem (quite possibly because of the hill-climbing analogy he proposes, and the fact that humans find pain to be a salient experience) to draw the graph such that its slope at each point correctly represents the intensity of the 'learning' at that point. The derivative of the learning curve is the one that actually has a nice task-related variable on each axis, and a relationship between them. The learning curve's Y axis isn't directly task-related at all (and the constant of integration depends on how thick the learner is).

Given that even people who haven't taken calc do it this way, I don't think that it's conscious in most cases; but it squares with what I've always observed people to mean about a task based on the "learning curve" they draw for it: The curve they draw does differ between tracking 'time' on the X axis and tracking 'degree of mastery' (if they implicitly assume that learning will occur with experience, it is time, if they acknowledge the possibility of the user quitting or being inadequate to further learning, it's degree of mastery, but no specific learning curve requires equivocating here, there just isn't a standard); but it seems to be consistently the case that the Y value means nothing directly; but emerges because the slope at each point is chosen to be meaningful, and subsequent Y values are what they are just to keep the line continuous.

Re:Hype vs reality... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572635)

subsequent Y values are what they are just to keep the line continuous.

Or maybe the integral of learning is mastery ...

Er... Warhammer figures (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572855)

Have you seen the price of Warhammer resin vehicles and figures? That there is your business model.

1. Find something plastic or resin that is obscenely overpriced
2. Scan
3. Print
4. PROFIT!

Dammit, Jim, I'm a programmer, not a designer. (4, Insightful)

eggstasy (458692) | about 7 months ago | (#46571843)

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

Re:Dammit, Jim, I'm a programmer, not a designer. (3, Interesting)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 7 months ago | (#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.

Re:Dammit, Jim, I'm a programmer, not a designer. (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 7 months ago | (#46572647)

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 part or 2 that I'd like to have to adapt various recycled attachments from an older unit onto the one I use now.

Re:Dammit, Jim, I'm a programmer, not a designer. (1)

Camembert (2891457) | about 7 months ago | (#46571871)

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.

And you thought HP ink was expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571851)

You ain't seen nothin yet. No, you ain't seen nothin yet.

Most models look and feel cheap (1)

Camembert (2891457) | about 7 months ago | (#46571853)

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 interested in buying.

It's easier to take away than to add (3, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 7 months ago | (#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.

Re:It's easier to take away than to add (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 7 months ago | (#46572023)

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 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.

Ah yeam good, old fashioned other things. Well done, you sound like a grad A luddite.

Basically you have bugger all idea what you're talking about.

It's yet another tool for the toolbox, and one that happes to be (a) automated and (b) cheaper, quieter, smaller and much less messy than just about all other CNC stuff.

Re:It's easier to take away than to add (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 7 months ago | (#46572911)

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.

Re:It's easier to take away than to add (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 7 months ago | (#46572971)

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 manner? I want to make things. Using a wildly inappropriate too for the task at hand is not a good way to go about it.

spend a fraction of the price on a small lathe

Why would I do that? I can use the mid sized lathe in the hackerspace that I'm a member of. Also, a low end metal lathe is not much different inprice from a low end 3D printer.

time to teach yourself how to use it correctly.

I already know how to use a lathe. The thing is unlike you, I'm arguing from the position of having both knowledge of and experience with all of these tools. If you think a 3D printer is a substiture for a lathe or vice versa, you're even more ignorant than you first appeared.

Re:It's easier to take away than to add (1)

narcc (412956) | about 7 months ago | (#46572037)

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'.

Re:It's easier to take away than to add (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572655)

surely we're all past that stage by adulthood?

Learning through play? No. No we aren't.

No. No. (2)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 7 months ago | (#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.

Re:No. No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571973)

Thank you. I came to say this and was pleasantly surprised to see it had already been stated. I tagged the post "betteridge" and "betteridgelaw" for good measure.

So, we have a bitcoin article and a 3D printing article on the front page right now. What's the trifecta play here? A Slashvertisement? Hm, too easy. A dupe? No... too frequent, no bet. I would say global warming, but we just got that the other day... so... Snowden leak rehash!

I'm off to place my bet. Have a nice morning.

Yes, and I don't need my own printer to do it (4, Informative)

mr.gson (458099) | about 7 months ago | (#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.

Not at home, here's why. (2)

PhantomHarlock (189617) | about 7 months ago | (#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.

Re:Not at home, here's why. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571997)

Speaking of trains,

Yesterday on Reddit, someone from the 3D printing subreddit posted a cool pic of a train he was working on.

http://www.reddit.com/r/3Dprin... [reddit.com]

From what I understand... (1)

Kokuyo (549451) | about 7 months ago | (#46571875)

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?

Re:From what I understand... (1)

rusty0101 (565565) | about 7 months ago | (#46571957)

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]

Re:From what I understand... (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 7 months ago | (#46572031)

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.

Hype (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 7 months ago | (#46571879)

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 is high and the results are weak.

My advice is to save your money for a while as some very important patents have just expired and there could be some interesting things on the horizon.

Re:Hype (1)

PhantomHarlock (189617) | about 7 months ago | (#46571897)

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 hours to have a print house make a high quality plastic mockup for starters. In a few cases the RP part is the final part. (and more and more cases as time goes on.) RP is being used extensively in patternmaking for traditional casting as well.

Re:Hype (1)

Tyndmyr (811713) | about 7 months ago | (#46572909)

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.

Join you local Maker Lab or Hack Space. (4, Interesting)

cpuffer_hammer (31542) | about 7 months ago | (#46571905)

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.

Yes (1)

DamonHD (794830) | about 7 months ago | (#46571915)

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

Re:Yes (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 7 months ago | (#46572427)

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.

Hype (1)

oldhack (1037484) | about 7 months ago | (#46571967)

Today we have too many (wannabe) Steve Jobs, but not enough Steve Wozniaks.

Re:Hype (1)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 7 months ago | (#46571989)

Too many Gates, not enough Ballmers?

I have a MendelMax 1.5 (3, Informative)

Skylinux (942824) | about 7 months ago | (#46571981)

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:I have a MendelMax 1.5 (1)

Skylinux (942824) | about 7 months ago | (#46572081)

EDIT: AutoCAD 123 should be 123D Design

Re:I have a MendelMax 1.5 (2)

iluvcapra (782887) | about 7 months ago | (#46572101)

Blender?

Re:I have a MendelMax 1.5 (1)

Skylinux (942824) | about 7 months ago | (#46572567)

> 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.

Re:I have a MendelMax 1.5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572179)

Samsung Series Ultrabook is definitely an unusual choice for CAD job :)

Re:I have a MendelMax 1.5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572195)

You can try solidedge. It is not as good as solidworks (by far!), but it does the job for the simple things you can make with consumer 3d printers and it is very easy to learn if you already know other 3d tools. Not free, but cheap licenses for educational/student usage. And commercial versions also are not that expensive.

Re:I have a MendelMax 1.5 (1)

Skylinux (942824) | about 7 months ago | (#46572613)

Thanks for the tip!
I did not come across Solidedge when I searched for software.

The UI and workflow appears to be similar to Solid Works http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

P.S. Anybody interested in 3D printing might want to take a look at the above tutorial to get an idea what is involved in designing your own parts.

Re:I have a MendelMax 1.5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572691)

I hope the company will offer licenses to hobbyist soon because I hate using pirated software for everyday use.

Yeah I hope the price of cigarettes comes down soon because I hate stealing them.

No... (1)

ook_boo (1373633) | about 7 months ago | (#46572005)

...I checked, and I already have enough cheap-looking plastic smartphone cases.

as a Grandfather (1)

thephydes (727739) | about 7 months ago | (#46572061)

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.

Re:as a Grandfather (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 7 months ago | (#46572073)

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.

Re:as a Grandfather (1)

thephydes (727739) | about 7 months ago | (#46572095)

Sadly I suspect that you are right ...

Re:as a Grandfather (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 7 months ago | (#46572453)

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 between printing out pink ponies for your granddaughter (I prefer white unicorns myself) and tinkerers. How about you know, people who make shit?

Re:as a Grandfather (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572685)

When this is possible - yes I have a grand-daughter Chloe - then 3D printers will be mainstream. Until then they are for tinkerers.

I'm a bit surprised. While I don't have any children of my own, from what I have seen pink plastic horses have been largely replaced by virtual ones. Pink virtual horses are available for download now and they move.

Improve my skills first ... (1)

MacTO (1161105) | about 7 months ago | (#46572103)

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 will become more reliable, but it will never become convenient.) It does mean that the people who end up using it will have a mindset where they want to create their own stuff. Some of those people will be inventive, while others will want to know how their stuff work. Some will be tinkerers, while others will take pride in what they create.

So please stop with the negativity. If it's not for you, that's fine. If you can't honestly recommend it to other people, that's fine. But also understand that there are other people who want to use 3-D printing and have good uses for 3-D printing.

Re:Improve my skills first ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572345)

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.

Yep, the kind of person that says "OK, it clearly doesn't work as a 3D-printer, but I can use it as a 2D-printed for thicker prints."

Yes and I am earning money with it (2)

robbio33 (1256094) | about 7 months ago | (#46572107)

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 at the surface finish of the different planes: side, bottom and top have different qualities due to the nature of FDM printing.

Printers that are up to par imo: The Up and the Zortrax M200. Below par: Makerbot, most repraps.

I own a Zortrax printer and I am satisfied with the results. I deliver series of small parts to a company that I happen to know (and earned about 350 euros with it sofar, delivering about 150 items). They could order at Shapeways too, but I am cheaper and deliver faster.
FYI: 2 weeks after I placed my order Shapeways sent me an enthusiastic email : "We started printing your order!". They have a production problem. It appears that their printer-manufacturer can not deliver enough of the needed printers to keep up with increasing demand. So it is not so difficult competing with that : ).

I hooked up at 3DHubs aswell to do printjobs for others, but I am not sure yet if that is worth the trouble for the money that it earns. Maybe I need bigger printjobs / need to set the setup cost higher and cost per cm2 lower.

Next to that I designed some small objects and I am working at selling them to local retailers as promotional gifts, they are interrested, but I still need to strike a deal.
My conclusion sofar: although 3D printing is perfect for customization, for earning money: print small series. That makes it worthwhile.

Rob.

3d printing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572157)

Does a lexmark inkjet with the controlled discharge of a well endowed porn star count?

Car parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572387)

Currently I'm only interested in 3D printing through my hobby of car restoration.... There are a gazzillion plastic parts in cars that you can't buy separate if they broke, and this is where 3D printing would be of use to me...

But it's not just about owning a printer.... I'd need to learn 3D modeling too, which is something I've tried in the past, but can't seem to grasp (maybe it's blenders fault?)

Afinia / UP Printer (2)

captjc (453680) | about 7 months ago | (#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.

Which CAD software? (2)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 7 months ago | (#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?)

3D printing is in the early stages... (1)

laird (2705) | about 7 months ago | (#46572661)

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 consumer printers from Makerbot (the "market leader" in a sense) you'll see that they are nice looking, have extruders and guided bed leveling that should be much easier for people to deal with, have consumer-friendly software and controls, etc., in marked contrast to the previous generations. Other printers (DeltaMaker, etc.) have automated bed leveling. So what you're seeing is still a fluid situation where competition is driving rapid improvement, which is what happens just before things get "good enough" and the market expands and things get even cheaper because they're cranking them out by the million instead of by the thousand.

When people have 3d printers by the millions, that will change the kind of people that use them. The people that bought the original RepRaps were tinkerers who wanted to learn a new technology. More people bought the Replicator 2 generation of printers, which are packaged printers with more polished software, sold to designers who want to print, not people who want to "hot rod" their printers. And the latest generation aims to expand the market even more, out to people who aren't designers, but want to download and print stuff, or use really easy modeling tools such as TinkerCad. And it's all good - as the printers get easier and easier to use, more and more people will be able to use them, and some of those people will learn how to do real design work, etc. And lots of them will be happy just downloading and printing, perhaps with a little customizing or tweaking. And that's fine - while everyone should be empowered to be able to design stuff if they want, they shouldn't be required to do so!

What the heck would I make? (1)

Bruinwar (1034968) | about 7 months ago | (#46572671)

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.

Re:What the heck would I make? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572861)

That's because you can see the emperor has no clothes. I have a theory that we've reached the peak in many technologies, so people who are used to new things every few years start getting withdrawal symptoms, so they need to quickly make up something "new". Even though 3D printing is decades old.

Great for hobby projects, rarely sell anything. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 7 months ago | (#46572715)

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 moving tray the printer itself moves and is permanently mounted under a 3 meter run of cabinets over my work bench, so I can print really big parts for armatures or chassis, or run off a series of multiple smaller items mostly unattended. This requires knowledge of home construction to float floors & walls, and reinforce cabinets such that settling and shifting of the garage doesn't affect calibration and the workbench can be adjusted for squareness with the cabinets. It's essentially a small part of a building within a building. Construction was not for the faint of heart. I don't think I'd be able to tackle it without having prior experience in robotics, electronics, home building, and as an electrician -- the bench surface is several aluminium hotbeds with manually adjustable variable temperature for attaching / detaching and cleaning off thermoplastics with different characteristics (got tired of screwing with strategic placement of Kapton tape).

Fellow tinkerers occasionally want to try producing some custom thing, but if I don't have to design the object I usually don't charge anything for using my printers. Girls and boys young and old enjoy hanging out in the garage and "helping" print, build, program, and play with bots. The plastic isn't so expensive I can't let folks play at designing something. IMO, that's the real benefit of having a 3D printer. Humans are tool using creatures, once they know they can make new tools they start finding more excuses to do so.

One neighbourhood kid has become quite the enthusiast and has told his parents that he only wanted a 3D printer for Christmas. "Then I can make as many toys as I want!" - It's like wishing for more wishes.

History repeating (4, Insightful)

Fear the Clam (230933) | about 7 months ago | (#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.

Just for personal gain. (1)

B33rNinj4 (666756) | about 7 months ago | (#46572757)

I've been wanted to get into it for creating terrain and weapons/armor/accessories for gaming. I don't have the skill to take it to the level of making money off it.

Yes (1)

Tyndmyr (811713) | about 7 months ago | (#46572771)

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 make a rapid prototyping shop or the like including 3d printing, but I already own one business, I honestly don't have time for another. I barely have the time to indulge my hobbies, it seems. But yeah, it's more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

No and no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572839)

This stuff has been around for decades. Anything that can have any value has already been done. It is at the "golly gee whiz" 21st century whittling phase. Don't believe me? Every single 3D printing technology out there now was talked about 20 years ago by Don Lancaster in his June 1994 Hardware Hacker column, where he called the whole concept a "Santa Claus Machine". In which these technologies were already mainstream. In 1994.

At the consumer level, it's just like model rocketry, crochet, home sewing machines, pet rocks, velvet string Elvis art, and dozens of other fads. Fun? Sure, I guess, if you're inclined that way. Some sort of revolution? No, not even close.

Re:No and no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46572849)

Here, for your education.

http://www.tinaja.com/glib/hac... [tinaja.com]

I designed and built my own 3D printer (1)

oscrivellodds (1124383) | about 7 months ago | (#46572917)

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 require controlling the motion of the entire printer. You don't want anything wobbling or flopping around.

If you think you want to make money printing stuff, I recommend talking to a local oral maxillofacial surgeon. When they do reconstruction surgery for people who have experienced trauma or are otherwise disfigured, they frequently get 3D models printed to aid in planning of the surgery. One of the local guys here says a complete skull costs $1500 and a partial skull typically about $500. That's a lot better than you can do on etsy! You'll have to figure out how to extract the data from a CT scan (try DeVide or Osirix, combined with Blender, Meshlab, and Netfabb) to create a printable model, but if I can figure it out, you can too.

Lately I have been experimenting with an extruder design of my own invention. It uses counter-rotating nuts to drive the filament into the hot-end. It is working but still requires some tweaking of firmware and slicing options to get best results. You can see it running here: https://vimeo.com/89872411 [vimeo.com]
and download the files to print one here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... [thingiverse.com]

I use Sketchup for a lot of my models because it is fast and easy, but I do run into its limitations quite often. For those situations I use Designspark Mechanical, another freebie that works well but has a little steeper learning curve. If you're going to do a lot of this stuff (and you will once you have a printer) invest in a 3D mouse. I picked up a SpacePilot Pro on ebay for $200 and it was the best $200 I have spent in a long time. Once you get used to using it you won't want to touch CAD without it. I am hoping someone will release a good CAD package that runs under Linux so I can ditch Windows forever. The existing packages for linux just aren't quite there yet.

Parts are too small (1)

aclarke (307017) | about 7 months ago | (#46572931)

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.

It's only called making money if... (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 7 months ago | (#46572951)

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 railroading to make custom parts for themselves. They then make parts for others to offset their initial investment, but very few of them would ever say they are making money. I look at it this way, my father-in-law used to hunt raccoons. He would always say the sale of the fur helped offset the cost of the food and vet care for the dogs, but you never really made money, just reduced the costs of his hobby. The same would apply for 3D printing, at least from the small consumer printers.

Quantum Apostrophe says: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46573023)

I'm pretty happy to see at least SOME critical thinking and reality-based posts in here. There was a time when the incessant hype and unrealistic expectations were painful to read. Yeah yeah, it's going to change the world, just like leisure-society virtual-reality nanotechnology did, right?

Ultimaker (1)

coofercat (719737) | about 7 months ago | (#46573051)

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) and then recommended I upgrade my extruder (which you can buy from the shop, or print your own - so I did the latter). Since then, it's been brilliant - pretty much just switch on and print. I've printed some really big, complex things on it too.

If you're wondering, my tool chain is Google Sketchup 8 (later versions are turning a bit too commercial for my liking), and the very excellent Cura. That's literally all that you need. I'm looking to switch to Blender or other for design though. I'm also looking to use a Raspberry Pi as my gcode sender instead of needing my laptop to be connected to the printer (newer Ultimaker models use SD cards instead of USB printing, but mine still works over USB). I figure I can get my Pi to run CUPS so that I can literally right click on a .gcode file and say "print", and then use my phone to monitor how it's getting on. Time will tell how I get on with that little project mind you ;-)

Two years ago you were a very early adopter if you bought a 3D printer. These days, the newer printer models are much more "easy care" than before, there are also a bunch of (decent) filament suppliers to choose from (eg. Faberdashery). Some of the newer printers use easy to source parts (liek the Ultimaker), so apart from maybe some really specialist stuff, you can get things locally if you need to (although apart from upgrades, I haven't needed many new parts). You can use entirely free software to design and print stuff, and if you put the Ultimaker into its highest quality mode, you gets results out of it that rival some of the much more expensive printers (although I find some dimensions of small things like holes or posts sometimes aren't exactly what you specify, which I assume the $10K printers get right). The interesting thing is that the latest generation of printers aren't actually much more capable than the Ultimaker 1 - instead, they're got more convenience features, so are easier to use, but don't actually offer a huge amount more in terms of raw quality/capability.

As for what to make with it - well, I've made all sorts of things. It's been great for making small engineering parts that help make something else easier to construct, but I've made a few 'finished products' with it too. As for making money out of it - IMHO, not likely, unless you're using it to add value to something you're already making money out of.

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