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Assembling Your Own 3D Printer

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the build-to-build dept.

Printer 129

adeelarshad82 writes "Following a tour of a 3D printer factory, analysts at PCMag wanted to explore the option of building a 3D printer themselves. With the help of a 3D printer manufacturer, Buildatron, they were able to compile a step-by-step guide on how to build a 3D printer."

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!EarlyAdopter (3, Insightful)

bughunter (10093) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870347)

I think I'll wait until 3D printers can 3D print other 3D printers.

Re:!EarlyAdopter (0)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870377)

How original!

Re:!EarlyAdopter (2)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870379)

Not me. If 2D toner is more expensive by the ounce than imported Russian caviar, 3D toner will be more expensive than highly enriched uranium.

Re:!EarlyAdopter (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870521)

That's why you wait until 3rd party vendors swoop in to sell their own replacement toner for a less insane price...

Until they get hit with DMCA lawsuits and other legal bullshit, that is... []

Either way, stay far the fuck away from any 3D printer made by HP, Epson, or any other major manufacturer...

Re:!EarlyAdopter (0)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870567)

Either way, stay far the fuck away from any 3D printer made by HP, Epson, or any other major manufacturer...

The main problem with the HP 3-d printer driver, is its 12315 gigabytes, and is bundled with the yahoo toolbar.

(I'm 99% sure its HP that has 350 meg printer drivers, but aren't they also the yahoo toolbar people?)

Re:!EarlyAdopter (2)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#38872711)

I'm 99% sure its HP that has 350 meg printer drivers...

They're one of them. Sometimes you can avoid that by skipping the crap that comes with the machine and downloading the "basic" version of the driver. The bundled one is 349.5 MB of UI designed to sell you HP's ink, derived from genuine unicorn tears.

Re:!EarlyAdopter (1)

Niedi (1335165) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870577)

Not as long as the open printers still exist - and I think they are here to stay.

With the current system it's just large rolls of plastic filament in either 1.75mm or 3mm diameter. And 1kg of ABS filament is around 45$ :)

Re:!EarlyAdopter (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38874173)

Yep. Makerbot also sell their Replicator for around $200. I think this is a 2 colour version (dual print heads) and $48 for the spools. []
Interesting stuff to make too! []
More pics:,in-pictures-why-the-makerbot-replicator-is-one-of-the-best-toys-ever.aspx/1 []
from CES

Re:!EarlyAdopter (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38874255)

:( Ignore the price.... It's more like $1,800 and not $200.

Re:!EarlyAdopter (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#38875195)

Open printers still cost a lot of money to buy and the results are generally awful, being glorified coil pots made from extruded monotone plastic. That may be fine for printing plastic widgets, but it's not so good for producing artwork, or anything decorative. I think it would be a good idea for someone to produce an inkjet / powder based printer which qualifies as open because if they don't then one of the bigname printer manufacturers is bound to.

Re:!EarlyAdopter (1)

Niedi (1335165) | more than 2 years ago | (#38875265)

The results are often awful but that's because the printers are/have been quite a pain to set up and tweak. However that seems to have improved a lot with newer models. Multiple colors/materials are possible with the new multiple-extruder models, so that might become interesting. We'll soon have a dual struder makerbot replicator here in the lab to print custom parts, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do. However I must admit I'm far less interested in artwork, my focus lies on quick cheap solutions for technical problems.

The problem with powder/spray based layers is that printing will take forever since the layers will most likely be only a few microns each.

Re:!EarlyAdopter (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38870417)

I think I'll wait until 3D printers can 3D print other 3D printers.

Actually a RepRap can print 50% of a new RepRap. You just need the metal bits and circuit boards.

Re:!EarlyAdopter (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870485)

I think I'll wait until 3D printers can 3D print other 3D printers.

Actually a RepRap can print 50% of a new RepRap. You just need the metal bits and circuit boards.

There is also a hack for the original makerbot involving many little printed bolt together pieces. So makerbots can more or less replicate themselves too.

If you allow "subtractive machining" as a 3d printer in addition to your "additive machining" then metal lathes and milling machines have been replicating themselves for well over a century...

Re:!EarlyAdopter (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38871477)

Yes, metal lathes and milling machines can *only* reproduce with their own help. This always made me curious what the process is for creating a lathe / milling machine with finer tolerances than the present state of the art.

Beam epitaxy? (2)

tlambert (566799) | more than 2 years ago | (#38872535)

You can pretty much get any tolerance you want.

-- Terry

Re:!EarlyAdopter (2)

benthurston27 (1220268) | more than 2 years ago | (#38874035)

Maybe the tolerances are normally distributed around too tight and too loose so every now and then you "accidentally" make one with tighter tolerances than you started off with.

Re:!EarlyAdopter (1)

daid303 (843777) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870489)

Which is the silly part, as the metal bits are the most expensive part of the machine (happy Ultimaker 3D printer owner here)

Re:!EarlyAdopter (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870607)

50%? I think you might be seriously underestimating the importance of "the metal bits and circuit boards". ;)

Re:!EarlyAdopter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38871527)

They measure the percentage of "replication" by weight, not by "value". It's hard to measure, because the parts that you can print have extremely low cost (i.e. raw plastic and printing time) while the other parts have to be bought from a supplier, with shipping, distribution, marketing, etc.

In terms of "value", of course the controller and motors and rods are important, but so are all of the brackets, extruder, etc. The reprap project's goal ( is to eventually make a printer that can self-replicate 100% of its parts, but for now the best way to appreciate the reprap is that they self-replicate analogously to flowers. That is, flowers form an ecosystem with dirt, rain, sunlight, bees, etc., such that flowers can make more flowers. Similarly to how bees eat nectar from flowers, makers make 3D printers in order to be able to make stuff, and then print the parts for more 3D printers, and more makers take those parts, add in the "metal bits" and make more printers.

Of course, in the long run they're working on making the printers fully able to print more printers, but realistically that's pretty far away, because it'd be nearly impossible to print a CPU, for example. But they're making good progress on making printable replacements for the metal rods, which would increase the percentage that's printable by quite a bit.

Re:!EarlyAdopter (2)

durrr (1316311) | more than 2 years ago | (#38873893)

Amusingly, the Buildatron in the opening article IS THE FUCKING REPRAP!

They took an opensource project, added some shoe polish to some parts, then put a huge metal box around it and cut their name into the box.(also, price markup).

Re:!EarlyAdopter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38870459)

Nah, it will be easier for a 3D printer to split into two smaller 3D printers. That way we don't have to worry about accidentally destroying all of the resources of the Universe.

Re:!EarlyAdopter (1)

djh101010 (656795) | more than 2 years ago | (#38873519)

google "ronthomp mendel", it's at about 80% now.

Can't they self replicate? (0)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870363)

Can't I just have someone with a 3D printer print me out a 3D printer of my own? If it takes 24 hours to print one out, it would only take a few weeks to print out a million of them.

Re:Can't they self replicate? (-1, Troll)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870409)

How original!!

Re:Can't they self replicate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38871561)

Well they can print parts... you still need to assemble them. Good luck doing that with millions of them in only a few weeks.

Re:Can't they self replicate? (2)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#38874387)

Well they can print parts... you still need to assemble them. Good luck doing that with millions of them in only a few weeks.

So it's an assembler bot you need? They're a bit harder to assemble and it normally takes a woman 9 months to produce one and then lots of further work until it can actually assemble things itself, but with enough women you should be able to produce your assembler bot army in a few weeks.

Complicated (0)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870369)

Looks very complicated, but I suppose that once you've built your first you can simply use it to build all future printers for nothing.

Suckers :)

Re:Complicated (-1, Redundant)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870425)

How original!!!

Re:Complicated (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870453)

How original!!!

Yeah, your comment is very original. It's only the third time you make it in the discussion of this story. :-)

Re:Complicated (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870637)

Sorry guys my 3d printer made three copies of bennomatic, now look what happens.

Re:Complicated (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871513)

:) Suddenly I'm thinking of the Simpsons episode where Homer duplicates himself with the cursed hammock.

Re:Complicated (2)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871507)

I couldn't resist, with the first three comments being about how people wanted 3d printers that could print 3d printers, which accomplishment has already been achieved some time back.

Re:Complicated (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871523)

Plus, didn't you notice? I used one exclamation point the first time, two the second, and three the third. It was meta-commentary.

Re:Complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38870457)

How original!!!

Hmm (3, Insightful)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870381)

Looks a lot like someone put a RepRap Prusa Mendel in a box, and pretended it was a new product.

Re:Hmm (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38870471)

Funny how a Kit ends up looking like the product isn't it.

Re:Hmm (1)

ehntoo (1692256) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870541)

From their website's store:
*Based off of the Prusa Mendel architecture

So yes, they put a Prusa in a box.

Re:Hmm (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870549)

Looks a lot like someone put a RepRap Prusa Mendel in a box, and pretended it was a new product.

Hilariously, that's how they self describe themselves, more or less []

If you know the relationship of Ubuntu to Debian, then buildatron to reprap is a pretty close analogy. Not exact, but close enough. I like them. I'm still building my own Mendel by myself instead of getting an assembled model from buildatron, but not being one of their customers doesn't mean I can't think they're good people. (Am I too negative?)

Re:Hmm (1)

durrr (1316311) | more than 2 years ago | (#38873921)

"Buildatron is the new definition of made in America manufacturing. "

Making cash from someone elses product,call it your own by slapping a catchy logo onto it.
Good going America, you're doing it the chinese way, only a shitton more expensive.

Re:Hmm (5, Informative)

daid303 (843777) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870597)

Indeed. And the worst part is, it's silly expensive!

If you want a 3D printer DO NOT GET THIS. Get something from Makerbot or Ultimaker, they sell easier to build kits that give higher quality prints for less money. RepRap is a fun project, but it takes quite a while to get usable results (lots and lots of tweaking). I have an Ultimaker myself, and took me 8 hours to build and get my first print working.

As for people wondering about the quality of these kinds of machines: [] this is printed on mine.

Re:Hmm (1)

GenP (686381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871063)

PLA I'm guessing. What kind of layer height? 0.2mm?

Re:Hmm (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870605)

Yep. And not only that, this guide could easily be titled "an incredibly abbreviated guide to assembling somebodies partially customised Mendel variant".

How Original! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38870445)

Oh look! A reprap in a BOX!

3D printers suck (5, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870689)

Sorry, but these things suck. Every non-mechanically inclined "geek" I know wants one... then I point out that a Combo Lathe/Mill is far far far more useful, can do metal, plastic, wood, whatever you want... and they still tell me this is better somehow... when there's only a single material medium it can work in, and that medium has an ultra low melting point for obvious reasons, isn't very durable and the damned printer costs as much as some of the nicer mills out there. Granted you can blow $100k on a mill if you really wanted to, but you could do everything you can do with a 3D printer with a mill thats under $1k and spend another $500 making it CNC... and the objects you build with it could be made out of nearly any material you can think of short of solid rock...

Re:3D printers suck (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870803)

To some extent you can bolt an extruder onto your existing CNC mill. That is my "rep-strapping" plan. Lots of details at this link.

Most of the time and money is in the 3-d robot part that does all the positioning. An extruder is actually pretty cheap. []

The other issue, as a machinist, I can verify that accessories that a mill requires are about twice the cost of the mill, and the accessories a lathe requires are about the cost of a lathe. So, I bolt my $350 rotary table to my $500 mill, stick the $50 7/8 inch gearcutting arbor in the spindle, clamp a $50 expanding arbor into my $125 chuck attached to the rotab, supported on the other side by my semi-homemade tailstock that cost about $100, then stick a $25 involute gear cutter in the arbor, I'm not gonna add it up, but just to cut a simple gear out of a blank machined on my lathe, is gonna cost almost as much in accessories as the mill itself. Then add a bunch of clamps, a decent vise, a much of endmill holders unless you're one of those collet people, it adds up, man.

At least theoretically a "utilimaker" thing only requires the additional purchase of a power cord.

Re:3D printers suck (4, Informative)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871285)

A friend who has done this tells me it's somewhat of a waste of time because the 3D printer wants to move an order of magnitude faster than the max speeds most mills are capable of driving. (Since it's adding toothpaste, rather than cutting away metal, maybe that's not so surprising.) He ended up buying a Thing-o-Matic (and doing a *lot* of re-engineering to get it working reliably) but now he's thrilled with it. It doesn't replace his mills and lathes, but it sure is a convenient addition. He's all oh the thumbwheel broke off my micrometer: I'll print a new thumbwheel bracket. The windshield mount on my recumbent broke, so I'll print a new one. He's printed plumbing parts, cookie cutters [] , centering adapters for optics, replacement bar handle clamps [] , you name it, and there's no setup or clamping or accessories or anything like that -- not even alignment. He just emails the completed gcode to the machine and goes in twenty minutes later and takes his new item off the stage. I'm dead envious.
That might be different if you're using a servo-based mill with fast ballscrews, but for steppers with fine-pitch threads, well, my CNC is pretty rattly and jiggly when it's driving around at 10ipm and his Thing-o-Matic can run at 500ipm.

Re:3D printers suck (2)

asdf7890 (1518587) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871603)

It doesn't replace his mills and lathes, but it sure is a convenient addition.

Ah, the sign of someone who knows their trade, rather than a boy playing with toys: knowing the right tool for the job.

Re:3D printers suck (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870857)

Do you have some recommendations for a combo late/mill in the $1.5k category? I was unaware they had gotten so cheap.

Re:3D printers suck (2)

Bodhammer (559311) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870967)

Re:3D printers suck (1)

djlemma (1053860) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871803)

Ack!! Have you actually USED any benchtop tools from Harbor Freight? Or any power tools at all? That place is terrible. Also, none of those mills are CNC, so comparing them to 3D printers is not particularly telling.

Re:3D printers suck (3, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38872841)

The beauty of a Mill is that it's a self improving tool. One of a machinists favorite things to work on is his mill. There are entire forums dedicated to buying these cheap harbor freight mills and then using them to make new, better quality parts to improve them with. The real trouble is finding the material relatively cheaply to make the parts with. Buying new steel or aluminum is expensive. If you work somewhere that has scrap, or know someone that can get it, you can do it pretty cheaply. A buddy of mine built his own smelter and melts down aluminum rims and engine blocks to pour his own ingots.

If you are REALLY hardcore, you can 'almost' build a mill entirely from scratch. First you need to build a smelter, which is not very difficult, then make some parts out of wood... cast them, pour them, sand... sand... sand... then there are tricks for making parts that are totally smooth that again involve a lot of sanding. In the end you have to buy bearings, the chuck, some other odds and ends. You can make the motor, but you're really trying to do it the hard way if you do. Once you have all of that done, you have a mostly aluminum mill. Which you quickly use to make steel parts for your next mill, because it sucks. But it can be done. The point is, once you have a mill, you can make nearly anything given enough time.

Re:3D printers suck (1)

axlr8or (889713) | more than 2 years ago | (#38873387)

Yeah, avoid HF for that stuff. Instead, look up Grizzly. I have one. Fun toy and everyone comes to your back door to use it.

Re:3D printers suck (2)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871021)

*I* certainly have never seen a mill/drill under $1500 that's useful for anything other than a boat anchor. A coworker got a Smithy Granite 1224 that he thought was fairly useful, but it sure wasn't $1500. (And of course that's a pure manual machine, so you still have to add at *least* $500 of electronics to get CNC -- and for that same $500 you can buy a complete 3D printer kit [] and be printing stuff in two hours, they claim, whereas it took me about 20 hours to convert my manual mill to CNC.)

Re:3D printers suck (2)

Fallon (33975) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871233)

All the info you need to get you started. All those 7x10, 7x12, 7x16, etc. lathes come out of the Sieg factory in China then resold as Harbor Freight, Grizzle, Jet, and many other brand names. Slightly different motors & trim levels, but the same basic machine. Great starter machines that are pretty capable. Not as robust as industrial machines, but very capable none the less.

Sieg also makes some mills and lathe mill combo units. Good little starter equipment with a robust community around them.

Personally I'm restoring a Atlas/Craftsman 6x18 lathe that is older than I am... Half the fun is getting the machine restored as actually using it. You can get some pretty nice old lathes & mills for under $1k that work great after a little TLC.

Re:3D printers suck (2)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 2 years ago | (#38872753)

I've used 7x10's. I've used my Atlas -- same model as yours. I'm sticking with the Atlas, and my coworkers who have 7x10's come over and look at the finishes I can get and sigh with envy. I consider most of the 7xwhatevers to be parts kits that could be turned into a reasonable lathe if you replace all the plastic changegears with steel ones (at $40 each) and likewise the plastic gibs and don't mind that you still can't get the compound to feel solid, and spend a bunch of time scraping away at little bits that the ways hang up on when traversing.
With that said, it is a drag that I can't order a new leadscrew from Harbor Freight and have it delivered a few days later, like the 7x10 guys can: I have to scour ebay for that damned acme stub thread leadscrew Atlas saw fit to use, since Clausing has run out of them. Equipment that hasn't been in production for 40 years means some serious scrounging for parts, so there's a big plus side to new-ish.
(also by the way join the atlas618 group on yahoo -- a wealth of info.)
Basically, the way I see it is: people who want to learn machining don't want an old machine that they have to fix, because they have to understand machining to figure out what's wrong. I don't think they do much better with Chinese imports for pretty much exactly the same reasons. I learned on one of those crap AA/Sears 612's, and beat the daylights out of it learning; I'd feel terrible if I abused my Atlas that way.
And all that gets you a decent manual machine, and you still have to wade through turning that into a CNC, which is, as I could talk your ear off about, its own huge complicated set of problems to wade through, where there are even fewer people who know enough about what you're doing to offer relevant advice.
I dunno. All the options are bad. But you should totally take a look at that yahoo group.

Re:3D printers suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38872811)

You can get a toy CNC mill kit for $600 [] . They're fun to build and fun to use, but the spindle they provided is pretty weak. Though it is possible to mount a flexible shaft grinder in place of the wimpy spindle to get higher cutting speeds.

Re:3D printers suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38874383)

*I* certainly have never seen a mill/drill under $1500 that's useful for anything other than a boat anchor

Just ask Hunter Cressall... [] XD

Re:3D printers suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38871111)

They haven't at all gotten that cheap, especially when you consider basic (e.q. required) accessories. GP is a troll or uninformed

Re:3D printers suck (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38872747)

Re:3D printers suck (1)

axlr8or (889713) | more than 2 years ago | (#38873441)

Nope. Not good. It doesn't mention anything about the drill taper that I saw. Furthermore how they mount to the lathe bed isn't so hot. Grizzly has a few good cheap machines but look for the z series

Re:3D printers suck (2)

dbc (135354) | more than 2 years ago | (#38873785)

I presume you mean manual mill, not CNC mill. Even so, I'm not sure it exists at $1500. Smithy makes some combo machines. I'm not sure I'd want a combo machine. I'd rather have a separate mill and lathe. For mills, IF (big if) you can find a well taken care of 50 year old Bridgeport or clone thereof, that is the way to go if you have room for it. But you need to know what you are buying, because if the spindle bearings are shot you are looking at an expensive repair. That largely depends on how well it was maintained and how hard it was run. Sometimes you can get a Bridgeport for "haul it away, it's yours." You need to hire a mover, but machine tool movers can easily plop a Bridgeport knee mill in your garage and they are well worth the price.

Many sellers import Chinese made bench-top mills. Harbor Freight, Grizzly, MicroMark to name a few. In most cases, they are metric machines with a wierdo conversion so that one turn of the hand wheel gives you 0.0625 inches. Umm... yeah. Carry that around in your head all day long. MicroMark does what they call "True Inch" conversion so that one turn of the hand wheel gives you 0.050 inches. I can live with that much more easily. Frankly, I'd be OK if they left it in a metric round number. But the wacko conversion is annoying. One of the MicroMark benchtop mills has an R8 spindle. That is a winner -- not that the motor has enough torque and the column enough stiffness to use all the R8 tools out there, but because Bridgeports and their clones have R8 spindles you can pick up mountains of used tooling cheaply.

Benchtop lathes are sort of limited in what they can do. Just not big enough. Every time I've looked at one, I've decided any machine I have room for is too small to do what I want. In any case, a CNC mill allows you to mill a lot of things that you might at first think of doing on a lathe. Maybe it isn't optimal, but at least a CNC mill can do a nice interpolated arc. On a manual mill, it's like trying to draw a circle with an Etch-a-Sketch. Except that it's harder to hold a Bridgeport over your head and shake it, and even if you do, it doesn't put any of the metal back.

Oh... also check out Little Machine Shop -- very good place for machine tools of interest to the hobbyist.

Re:3D printers suck (1)

MatthewEarley (2451600) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870893)

This is a compelling argument, can you expand on it and provide some of the details? I have always thought of CNC milling machines to be unapproachable expensive once they are more than 3 axis, and have parts that need to be replaced and calibrated frequently.

Re:3D printers suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38871029)

I don't know what the other poster had in mind, but I've seen a chinese manual 3 axis mill locally for around 800$. Another several hundred dollars for a CNC kit and 1.5k$ sounds reasonable.

Re:3D printers suck (1)

tchuladdiass (174342) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871101)

The problem with a mill is that you are starting out with a large block and taking off pieces until you have your shape. So you end up with a lot of wasted material (of course you could probably re-cast the scrap shavings into a new block but...). Whereas the 3d printer uses only enough material to make your shape, and it can include hollow parts inside. Some of them can even make fully assembled movable parts (like say a crescent wrench).

As for the material, it would seem that eventually one would come up with a system that pulls from two different spools, which when combined has a greater hardness (similar to mixing epoxy). Not sure what is holding that up though.

3D printers suck FOR THE MOMENT... (2)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871117)

I see your point, but I think your argument is a little bit like saying (circa 1990) "why would anybody shell out hundreds of dollars for an ink-jet printer, when for the same price you could get a really nice set of drafting tools? And you could choose whatever paper and ink you like, instead of producing a fuzzy mess that runs when you get a drop of water on it."

Re:3D printers suck FOR THE MOMENT... (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#38872303)

except when inexpensive (for the time) inkjet printers did hit the market full force in the early 90's they where a godsend, cheap color, near laser quality, fast, and most importantly didnt sound like an industrial machine raping the transmission in your car

Re:3D printers suck (NOT) (2)

emorning (2465220) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871121)

two comments....

I have built both a CNC router and a 3D printer. It is *much* harder to build a milling machine because of the mechanical stiffness that the machine requires.

Take a look at the printed parts used to build a reprap - the parts have very sophisticated shapes that are *impossible* to make on the typical sub-$1000 2.5D CNC machine.

Re:3D printers suck (1)

Zelig (73519) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871153)

1) You can't get something CNC for that.

2) Harbor freight (1.5K mill linked to below) doesn't sell tools, they sell tool _kits_. If you're not prepared to disassemble, align, and otherwise fix all the stuff they busted, you're screwed. I'm a half-owner of one, I know.

3) Tool pathing is still expensive / highly skilled. At your price point, you can't just turn a 3D model into a path that a mill can make.

4) Design constraints are different for the two. You can't mill internal voids.

None of which is to say I think the current batch of filament deposition printers are adequate... I've got one of them too, at our Hackerspace in Gainesville. Once they get the plastic printers sufficiently precise that they can turn out e.g. kitchen appliance replacement parts, we'll have gotten somewhere serious.

But your combo requires a bunch of skill to operate, and skill-less object production is kind of the point.

Re:3D printers suck (2)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871197)

Okay.. so how do you create a single-piece hollow sphere on your combo lathe/mill? It seems to me that there are absolutely things that you can do with a 3D printer that you couldn't do with a lathe/mill..

It doesn't necessarily mean that it's "better", but it is different. And as one of those "non-mechanically minded" folks you mention, it does seem simpler to me from both a hardware and software perspective.

Re:3D printers suck (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38873089)

Why do you need a single-piece hollow sphere? Just go to the dollar store and buy ping pong balls. You idiots and your pathetic defense of the 3D toys is sad to watch. You're KIDS, you've been HAD, your hobby is PATHETIC.

Re:3D printers suck (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38873383)

I don't have a 3D printer myself, but I did get some stuff printed last week. I just sent them the model, and 2 days later I had my first ever 3D prints. Awesome.

When our CEO saw one of my prints, he was really interested. He asked if we could perhaps use the process to do faster and cheaper creation of future prototype models, and the answer is yes. I guess his little engineering hobby is just for kids though, it's not like it's made him a millionaire or anything.. oh, wait..

Re:3D printers suck (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38873733)

So you're comparing professional prototyping to the sad toys the hucksters like Bre Pettis are selling to the gullible unwashed, unsexed masses? What's that called? Oh yeah, moving the goalposts. If you can't convince 'em with facts, lie. I get that a lot in Space Nutter threads too.

Re:3D printers suck (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38873471)

Oh, and the hollow sphere thing was what we call an "example". Ping pong balls are made in two halves, and have a significant weakness across the seam. If you can't think of any uses for being able to print objects within other objects with no assembly required (fully assembled ball bearings being a cool example), or being able to print a single piece item with a single piece external skin and an internal lattice structure, etc, that is entirely your own lack of imagination at fault. Feel free to never utilise 3D printing.

You may now continue to waste your life with your highly productive trolling.

Re:3D printers suck (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38873605)

Cognitive dissonance is very useful to justify the huge amounts of money you spent for a sad hobby. Yes, I'm sure the significant weakness across the seam (where it would actually be stronger, but never mind) is a serious handicap for a PING PONG BALL. WHATEVER SHALL THE HUMAN RACE DO NOW!? And besides, complaining about the seam of a ping pong ball when all your 3D printer can print *IS* seams is fatuous.

"If you can't think of any uses for being able to print objects within other objects with no assembly required"

That's right, I can't think of a "use" for that pathetic stunt. You do it once, show it to all the other virginal geeks at the office... Then what?

"(fully assembled ball bearings being a cool example"

Yes, and very functional and long-lasting too I bet. Idiot. These are toys, nothing more. Never be anything more. Ever.

Re:3D printers suck (1)

cpotoso (606303) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871389)

And I read "suck" and then later on "Granted you can blow $100k on a mill if you really wanted to"... Somehow I read MILF :)

Re:3D printers suck (4, Informative)

Brietech (668850) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871537)

I have a Makerbot Thing-o-Matic, and have also used smaller CNC milling machines before. There really are some crucial differences:

1) There's an actual fundamental difference in the types of objects that can be created with an additive process like the ToM uses, and a reductive process like a CNC milling machine uses. Creating lightweight, hollow objects is basically impossible with a mill but trivial with my ToM (I frequently print out multi-layer gear objects for mechanical widgets I'm building).

2) I can operate a small 3D printer in my apartment. It's roughly as loud as my laser printer, and doesn't produce any mess/dust-clouds/bad smells. I would never use a CNC mill in my living room. At best it is way louder, produces way more mess, and basically requires a shop-vac to be running the whole time.

3) Finally - having used a range of both cheap 3D printers and cheap (and not-so-cheap) CNC milling machines - I can get a low-end 3D printer like a makerbot that actually produces useful parts for under $2000. Ever CNC mill I've seen for under $3000 has been crap. If you can spend $5000 (and have at least some background in machining) you can get a pretty good small CNC milling machine and maintain it.

Re:3D printers suck (5, Informative)

dbc (135354) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871581)

Well, I see you have been modded +5 insightful. Yet, you don't seem to have any experience wither either mills or 3D printers, at least you don't claim to have any.

I own one of each, and have access to other CNC mills and 3D printers.

Guess what? They both have their place. They both have their limits. Use a machine tool within it's limits, and you will be happy. Try to push beyond its maximum work envelope, and you will be frustrated. I have done a lot of good stuff with both. My clunky Makerbot Cupcake has printed a lot of robot parts and other stuff. It is quick to draw something up and bang it out. And it lives in my living room. Guess what, my mill doesn't live in my living room. So I'm very happy with the clunky state of at-home 3D printing. Do I want more resolution and a bigger work envelope? Yup. But I've still done a lot of good stuff with it.

CNC mills are great, but it also is a whole heck of a lot more work to go from a drawing to a part. And more expensive, too, by a lot. I could buy several Cupcakes for what I have invested in cutters, collets, measuring tools, vises, clamps, etc, etc., not counting the mill itself. And there is no comparison between the learning curve. You will be a 3D printing expert long before you have mastered creating G-code for CNC milling.

As to your cost comparison, there is no $1500 CNC mill worth having. I've seen the output. I've talked with owners. I've done the math and understand the work envelope. $1500 spent on a RepRap style machine can do a lot of good stuff. $1500 spent on a CNC mill.... is a sloppy, weak columned, backlash-plagued wimp with a work envelope so small you can't produce parts as big as you can on a cupcake, and you *still* haven't bought any tools. The $1500 CNC mill can work in aluminum and free-machining brass. The RepRap can work in ABS and PLA. Well designed ABS or PLA parts can be pretty strong, and can be glued up into strong large parts.

Face it, all you have said is: "Grapes are awful, they don't taste like chicken."

PS. In case anyone is wondering "Well, what *is* the cheapest CNC mill worth owning?" I would say choose between a Tormach PCNC 1100 or a Mikini 1610L. This is what Sherline owners move up to after they have figured out that the Sherline can't do what they wanted to do. This is not because Sherline is bad, or that Sherline lies in their spec sheet. It is because beginners don't understand what the Sherline spec sheet is trying to tell them, and so they don't realize it can't come close to doing what they think it will. The other thing to remember is that when you go to buy a dial indicator or a carbide cutter or some other widget, it costs you exactly the same amount of money whether you are going to use it on a Sherline or an Akira-Sieki. CNC machining is a spendy hobby, that's just life.

Re:3D printers suck (1)

benthurston27 (1220268) | more than 2 years ago | (#38874157)

I keep wondering, doesn't abs plastic melt in acetone? Why don't people just melt it down that way and then cast it, or doesn't it go back to it's original strength?

3D printers Aren't (Yet) For Noobs (1)

cmholm (69081) | more than 2 years ago | (#38872161)

You make good points. However, neither a 3D printer nor a lathe/mill is really geared for someone who isn't prepped to put in a lot of time learning the tool. Then, there's the issue of right-tool-for-the-job. I think 3D printers are still best suited as a prototyping tool, although once tuned up they can also work well for creating plastic parts that would be a wee bit of a challenge on a mill (eg. gears). I've seen print tests with porcelain mix that put out complex shapes ready to fire... a niche I doubt you'd see handled by a mill.

Finally, we're starting to see complete printing kits below the US$500 mark. If they prove out their promises to assemble and print (decently) within a weekend or a day, it may prove the tipping point that leads to mass marketed $200 printers from - hell, pick a name - HP, Samsung, Lenovo, or currently-unknown-Chinese brand. At that point, 3D printers and low end mills wouldn't be an either-or choice... buy both.

Why are these so damn expensive? (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870713)

I know it's a cool idea to 3d print the parts but can someone please finally mass produce fully assembled units so we can have $200 3d printers already?

Assembling the machine is the easy part (3, Informative)

emorning (2465220) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870807)

I assembled a RepRap Prusa in a weekend but it took me 8 weekends to figure out... ...what software to use to drive the machine (RepSnapper). ...what driver to use on the electronics (Sprinter), and how to configure and recompile it for my machine ...what slicing software to use (Skeinforge), and how to configure it (properly configuring Skeinforge can be a fulltime job). ...what 3d design software to use (current using OPENscad)

Re:Assembling the machine is the easy part (1)

What the Frag (951841) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871015)

I'd suggest #reprap on Freenode for being the easiest way to get information like this. In fact, you should try out Printrun and Slic3r.

Re:Assembling the machine is the easy part (1)

emorning (2465220) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871325)

Thanks for the tips, I will do all that...

Re:Assembling the machine is the easy part (1)

djh101010 (656795) | more than 2 years ago | (#38873577)

ReplicatorG (from integrates the current Skeinforge, and does a great job of combining the visualiser, slicer, and gcode generator. Worth a look, works great with my Makerbot.

Assembling Your Own 3D Printer (1)

ve3oat (884827) | more than 2 years ago | (#38870877)

out of Leggo. Now that would be something!

Re:Assembling Your Own 3D Printer (2)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871199)

Here's a good start:

Mindstorms Autofabrik []

Print Escher stairs? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38870927)

Give that this device basically lets you print 3D objects you can draw on the computer screen, should I expect to be able to finally have a real life Escher stairs and the such?

Re:Print Escher stairs? (1)

yurtinus (1590157) | more than 2 years ago | (#38872307)

Well sure, but I don't know why you'd bother using a 3d printer to etch a 2d object when it's cheaper and easier to just use a regular printer...

Re:Print Escher stairs? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#38872319)

sure can, you just have to model it in 3D first

Re:Print Escher stairs? (2)

benthurston27 (1220268) | more than 2 years ago | (#38874181)

You can but they only look right from a certain perspective. One part where they look like they connect is actually forced perspective of two parts farther apart.

Am I missing something (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871023)

Don't these 3D printer kits already come with step-by-step guides, usually referred to as instruction manuals or assembly instructions?

Re:Am I missing something (1)

djh101010 (656795) | more than 2 years ago | (#38873615)

Not so much, the makerbot "kits" at least, 6 months ago, are infested with guess gaps. If you're not pretty hardcore geeky, and persistent, expect to be frustrated. Makerbot has gone from kits to pre-assembled systems now, with the spoken goal being less support call overhead (paraphrased) so they can focus on development rather than support. If you're not a pretty hardcore geek, it might overwhelm you. In 1981, I got my first printer. It was a 7-pin, dot matrix printer that printed on 2.5" wide aluminized paper, and made the characters by arcing from the printhead to the "paper". Ozone fumes and shitty print quality, big time. 10 years later, you could buy a decent 9 pin printer for $400. I'm pretty sure that my Makerbot in the first 3,000 or so units, is the equivalent of that aluminized paper printer of decades ago. Just like then, I'm having fun being on the bleeding edge and I'm perfectly content with 1 out of 10 prints failing in a dramatic but informative manner. In 10 years, these things will be somewhat common, and in 20 years, they'll be everywhere.

Re:Am I missing something (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38874683)

You got shafted with your printer, 7 pin dot matrix printers with ink ribbons have been around since 1970, the technology was invented in 1964. in 1990 9 pin printers wouldn't have been very popular as 24pin was common by then. Makerbot moving to pre-assembled systems isn't just to save money supporting it, they will also save money producing it in a ready-made state.

Re:Am I missing something (1)

gnapster (1401889) | more than 2 years ago | (#38873645)

No kidding. From the summary, I thought this would be a guide to sourcing parts. Once I started reading, I quickly started losing interest since I didn't already have the kit to assemble. Next week: "Applying toothpaste to your own toothbrush."

Oops, sorry. Car analogy: "Refueling your own hatchback."

Costs still seem to high... (1)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | more than 2 years ago | (#38871055)

I'll get me one, as soon as it gets cheaper to print out a WH40k army, than to buy it. Bonus points if it comes out sufficiently coloured.
At that point, I'm all set to jump on this new piracy train WOOOOP WOOOOP

Re:Costs still seem to high... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38874325)

It already is, bro.

If you don't count the cost of the printer, it's many times cheaper.
If you do count the cost of the printer, before you print your WH40K stuff, print another printer, and sell it, to make back your cash. Then it still is many times cheaper.

I own a 3D printer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38871247)

I bought the RapMan 3.1. Similar to this printer, it came flat in a box and everything had to be put together. It took about 24 hours to do it, but with help it might have been faster (depends on the help). Had I another printer to use, I could have printed 75% of the parts I was putting together and shaved a TON of time.

I couldn't be happier with it. If you have 100 ideas for what you could do with one, you will discover 1000 more once you own one. Prices are dropping on them, but put a little perspective on it. They cost about as much as a low end laptop or a decent desktop computer. They are, without a doubt, worth the investment. Even if you don't have a practical use for it, they are fun as hell to play with until you do find a use.

Space Nutter vs 3D printing Nutter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38872883)

If 3D printers will let us manufacture to atomic tolerances in less than 10 years (an actual 3D Nutter comment on slash), why do we need zero-g orbital manufacturing?

Whose (so-called) brain will blow up first from the cognitive dissonance?

Re:Space Nutter vs 3D printing Nutter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38873531)

What machine do you think they are manufacturing with?

Re:Space Nutter vs 3D printing Nutter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38875417)

They aren't, and that's my point. It's hype, it's delusional and it's insane. I was just wondering which delusion is stronger among the software geeks, that we'll have replicators (bahahahaha) or orbital manufacturing (Aahahahaaahahahahah), since either is delusional.
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