Update: This article will be updated occasionally with new information as I run across itâ¦.
Gonna be a long 4 to 6 weeks…
I just ordered an Ultimaker 3D printer after a few weeks of on and off research into the subject of 3D printing. It has a 4 to 6 week lead time.
- Larger build envelope than the Makerbot and faster, too.
- Extremely precise print capabilities.
- Less finicky than the Mendel, so it seems from the various forums, etc.
- The Netfabb software seems to be well regarded.
- Elegant print head design.
- Highly customizable, open source hardware / software / platform.
- PLA preferred (PLA is Polylactic Acid and is a biodegradable, non-toxic, material)
Any of the 3D printers would have been a good choice and each of the ones not chosen have advantages; the makerbot has an automatic object ejector for continuous duty printing, the UP! is a really nice design (easy to use), and the RepRap has an awesome community supporting it that has built a very versatile/customizable platform.
There are, of course, a large number of commercial printers. The UP! is about the cheapest of the lot and pricing ranges right on up to $unobtanium. Extrusion based printing is not the only solution, either, by any means, but it is currently the most accessible, as far as I can tell.
In the end, the elegant extruder design, overall machine design, speed and — most importantly — accuracy of the Ultimaker won out. I suspect I’ll eventually build a 3D printer of some sort, possibly a RepRap, or, at the least, print parts for someone else and help them put it together. Seems like a fun project and, overall, 3D printing is likely to be a huge industry in the coming years.
I have about a zillion little projects around the house that I can knock off with a 3D printer:
- new shower bar end cap so the shower door doesn’t bump into it
- proper clips to hold the art glass in the cabinet doors throughout the kitchen (the glass is a nonstandard thickness)
- seal for my bike light
- Lens hoods for my various lenses
- seed baskets for an AeroGarden (found a 7 hole one for $5 at a garage sale)
- seed/grow baskets for a homebrew aeroponics/aquaponics system I’m contemplating (I want fresh salad all winter long, thanks!)
- iPad stand
- various cable keepers
- deflector for the front of a meat grinder to keep it from squirting blood everywhere
- fully customized project boxes
- custom Legos
- custom LED/CFL lighting fixtures
- whatever the hell Roger wants to print
That last one is the most important. I can only imagine how awesome it would have been to have a 3D printer when I was 11 years old. Should be a great educational tool for him. It’ll also be fun to put it together with him. He is both a talented solderer and totally enjoyed putting together the Egg-Bot (speaking of — I wonder if I can print the mechanics for a new, larger, Egg-Bot).
There was a Kickstarter for Printrbot: Your First 3D Printer. I bought into that at the $424 level; I should receive everything to make one, save for the parts that I’ll need to print on the Ultimaker.
The goal isn’t to have 2 3D printers, but to use the Printrbot as a hacking target for some other ideas I have.
To answer some questions:
Are you taking third party orders? I have a homebrew mount for my mobile phone in my car made out of foamboard that I would love to have a less-ghetto version. Can you build up a 3-D model from basic geometrics shapes and print that without a physical model?
Sure and Yes, you can. There are all kinds of ways to build up printable models. You can start with just about any of the models on Thingiverse. Or you can use any of a number of third party tools, both in the drawing realm and in the algorithmic/parametric realm, to generate models. The trick will be to learn how to produce models that are both usable and print well; there are limits to how much overhang and the like you can have.
(Ooh! Cool! Custom Lego!)
Do you have an estimate of how much the PLA plastic costs for some of the items on your list?
It looks like PLA is pretty much a commodity item and the price is varying day by day. I picked up two 5 lbs reels (one black, one white) for ~$60/each. I don’t yet know how far that will go, but I do know that it is largely a function of the models being printed, how “solid” the interiors need to be (which is largely dictated by model) and, of course, how many times I screw up!