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3D Printer Round-Up: Cube 3D, Up! Mini, and Solidoodle

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the bang-for-your-buck dept.

Technology 91

MojoKid writes "3D printing is a fascinating new technology and an exploding new market. The process involved is pretty basic actually. Heat up some plastic, and sort of like that Play-Doh Fun Factory you were so fond of as a kid, you extrude the melted plastic out to create objects. It all started back in 2007 when the first RepRap machine was built. The idea behind RepRap was to design a machine that could build complex parts in three dimensions using extruded molten plastic and that machine could also "self-replicate" or build a copy of itself. Since then, 3D printers of all types have emerged from the community and this round-up of machines covers a few of the more prominent names in 3D printing systems. The Cube 3D, the Up! Mini and the Solidoodle 2 can all get you into 3D printing at retail consumer price points with precision down to 100 microns. The technology has very much come of age and it's going to be interesting to see where these machines can take us."

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91 comments

Keep in mind that 3D Systems is a patent troll (5, Interesting)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | about a year ago | (#42343657)

Whether or not they have a legitimate beef against FormLabs [gizmag.com], the act of dragging Kickstarter into their little patent war was absolutely inexcusable. This is a company that sees itself as threatened not only by competition, but by the existence of the marketplace itself.

If you are considering purchasing a 3D printer you could do well to pick a company that won't use your money to suppress competition through enforcement of bullshit patents on abstract ideas like photolithography. Or one whose business model is so insecure that it relies on barratry against unrelated parties.

Re:Keep in mind that 3D Systems is a patent troll (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42343731)

Whether or not they have a legitimate beef against FormLabs [gizmag.com], the act of dragging Kickstarter into their little patent war was absolutely inexcusable. This is a company that sees itself as threatened not only by competition, but by the existence of the marketplace itself.

If you are considering purchasing a 3D printer you could do well to pick a company that won't use your money to suppress competition through enforcement of bullshit patents on abstract ideas like photolithography. Or one whose business model is so insecure that it relies on barratry against unrelated parties.

FormLabs has a clearly valid patent. This is the patent system doing exactly what it is supposed to do, protecting an innovation for a period of ~20 years. Just because somebody wanted to make a cheap knockoff of their product, and FormLabs sued both the people who were selling that, and the people enabling that, doesn't make them a patent "troll."

Re:Keep in mind that 3D Systems is a patent troll (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42343781)

You mean 3D Systems? Unless they can prove that FormLabs infringed deliberately, then their "innovation" did not need "protecting," because it was evidently obvious to anyone who attempted to solve the same problem.

Leibniz vs Newton (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42343887)

Unless they can prove that FormLabs infringed deliberately, then their "innovation" did not need "protecting," because it was evidently obvious to anyone who attempted to solve the same problem.

Your claim, that it is not possible for two similar non-obvious solutions to be arrived at independently is itself open to ridicule. Since however FormLabs clearly did know about 3D Systems' technology, your ridiculous claim is, in the present context, irrelevant to boot.

It is with good reason that it is unnecessary to prove deliberate infringement.

Re:Leibniz vs Newton (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344133)

Your claim, that it is not possible for two similar non-obvious solutions to be arrived at independently is itself open to ridicule.

Sure, it's possible. That's not the question. Should it result in the issuance of a 20-year government-sanctioned monopoly?

Only a sociopath would say as much.

Re:Leibniz vs Newton (0)

overlordofmu (1422163) | about a year ago | (#42344455)

Mod parent up.

In many cases the holder of a patent is not the first person to discover a non-obvious meme (meme in the classic sense). The patent holder is the first to file, but not the first to discover. Finally, many a patent exists which should not. For instance many should never have been issued because the amount of existing prior art at the time the patent was granted should have invalidated it. The patent system is broken and this case is evidence of that.

Finally, how about this brilliant idea? How about the patent office's job gets changed? How about we as a society say, "Let's make the patent office's job more helpful to every person on the planet?" We could organize our labor in our own best interests. Funny how we don't do that.

How about its new job is to document, catalog and distribute patent knowledge to the whole human race? It doesn't hoard knowledge. Its job is to track science and engineering innovation and make sure other interested parties are kept informed of new developments in their fields. It would be a world library of human engineering knowledge. Then we could focus collectively on spreading our beautiful and terrible species throughout the known universe.

Or we can continue to be crabs in a pot -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crab_mentality [wikipedia.org]

Re:Leibniz vs Newton (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344183)

Your claim, that it is not possible for two similar non-obvious solutions to be arrived at independently is itself open to ridicule. Since however FormLabs clearly did know about 3D Systems' technology, your ridiculous claim is, in the present context, irrelevant to boot.

It is with good reason that it is unnecessary to prove deliberate infringement.

If you say that aloud in a Vulcan style voice...kind of like a Spock voice... it sounds really cool..

Re:Leibniz vs Newton (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#42345759)

It is with good reason that it is unnecessary to prove deliberate infringement.

If you say that aloud in a Vulcan style voice...kind of like a Spock voice... it sounds really cool...

It sounded even better when Darth Vader said it.
Luke, I patented your father!

Re:Keep in mind that 3D Systems is a patent troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42343833)

The patent is specifically about achieving better resolution in stereo-lithographic 3d printing, and something FormLabs did with their machine, so it's pretty relevant. I'm not sure why they named Kickstarter too, except that they did collect a big chunk of change on the project... but then they didn't name Amazon, as far as I know. That's seems shady, but it's hard to say.

What I haven't seen since this started, is if 3d Systems tried to talk to anyone at FormLabs first. Did they offer to license this for some small fee and get told to fuck off, or did they just hit them with the legal hammer without notice?

I think that makes a big difference on the, "are they evil" count.

kickstarter sucks too (0)

SuperBanana (662181) | about a year ago | (#42343899)

If you are considering purchasing a 3D printer you could do well to pick a company that won't use your money to suppress competition through enforcement of bullshit patents on abstract ideas like photolithography.

You'd also do well to purchase a 3D printer from someone who has secured real financing, is producing a real product, and via a marketplace where you'll actually have rights and protection as a customer, not one where you're restricted and your rights are muddled by a third party.

Kickstarter is essentially profiteering off fraud, just like eBay and Craigslist - willfully, too, since they're hiding failed projects.

Even if it is by patent troll, I won't shed a single tear if Kickstarter dies tomorrow.

Re: kickstarter sucks too (5, Insightful)

skitchen8 (1832190) | about a year ago | (#42344059)

Bit extreme, no? I've used Craigslist and eBay both as a buyer and seller and never once have I had a single problem. Sure fraud happens there, but fraud happens everywhere, it is not unique to either platform. All that is required is user intelligence, and kickstarter is not much different except for instead of buying a product that maybe someone will never send you you are buying a product that maybe will never exist. Besides that: Kickstarter, though it has its problems, has also had its deal of successes where people that don't have the ability to make things but have the money to buy them are paired up with people that have the ability to make things but not the money to sell them. The only people that could be mad at Kickstarter are people too dumb to read and understand what they are getting from investing in a campaign (read: good feelings for trying to help out what they perceive as a good idea). If you're backing a campaign because you want to buy a finished product you're doing it wrong.

Re:kickstarter sucks too (1)

3dr (169908) | about a year ago | (#42344231)

Oh, please. Do you know how kickstarter actually works?

Don't blame the messenger in this case. If *funded* projects aren't delivered, blame lies with the project owners.

Nice, but incremental (5, Interesting)

Guano_Jim (157555) | about a year ago | (#42343767)

Disclaimer: I own a MakerBot Replicator 1, and haven't used any of the models published in the article. These printers look promising and have attractive price points, but here are my two big complaints about home 3D printing that none of them address yet, AFAIK.

1. printing with ABS plastic literally stinks. If your printer's in the garage or shop it's probably not so bad, but woe to the user that keeps one of these printers in a home office. Good ventilation is a must, but breezes and drafts can significantly mess with your print quality. I prefer to print with PLA (corn-based) plastic, because it smells like Mrs. Butterworth's imitation maple syrup. Makerbot's already doing this with its Replicator 2-- as I understand it they've given up on ABS for their first version and only print with PLA.

2. Overhangs. I doubt any of these printers can yet print an overhang that's more than 2mm without post-processing support. Gravity tends to pull overhangs down during the printing process, meaning the object's designer has to take the orientation of the printed object into account when designing it. As amazing as home 3D printing is, this is a pretty severe limitation once one gets past printing cubes and scans of heads.

The first company to produce a 3D printer that can handle big overhangs has my upgrade cash.

Re:Nice, but incremental (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about a year ago | (#42343807)

The first company to produce a 3D printer that can handle big overhangs has my upgrade cash.

Isn't that why you want one with dual extruders, so you can use one with water-soluble material?

Re:Nice, but incremental (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#42345639)

The first company to produce a 3D printer that can handle big overhangs has my upgrade cash.

Isn't that why you want one with dual extruders, so you can use one with water-soluble material?

well yes, but that's experimental with these machines.
in other words the sw for makerbot replicator doesn't automatically do supports for one print head and the object for another. so it takes a bit of work to get it right. there's some other slicing sw that does it but none of it works straight out of box.

it's also possible to dissolve pla if you print a pla+abs combo object, but printing abs has it's own problems without a heated enclosure(for which I think there's some patents. or some other reason why no home-printer manufacturer does it. abs feels better in hand than pla too and drips less.

tear off supports isn't that bad though for most things. it just needs post processing to make the interfacing areas smooth.

I own a dualhead replicator, I don't think the abs smells bad, but getting bigger than 5cm X 5cm prints with abs is very tricky compared to pla. I also have a spool of pva(water soluble) but haven't gotten around to printing with it. also most things you can cut into pieces and glue together after printing to fight overhangs.

it's a really fun hobby if you ask me though(3d printing). it's different from 3d milling in many ways. there's some aspects to stock replicator which makes you think that makerbot is either dodging patents or that they're not very good engineers though - also if you're using a replicator.. don't use the stock fw, use sailfish(fw from couple of guys in the community).

there's a material provider promising to ship printable nylon real soon now though too. that could be interesting material.

Re:Nice, but incremental (3, Interesting)

GrpA (691294) | about a year ago | (#42343853)

The Mini doesn't really smell bad at all. I had it running in a small space, without much ventilation, sitting next to me for 3 hours and didn't notice the smell at all. My sense of smell isn't very good, but it is particularly acute when dealing with burning plastic smells ( honed from a lifetime working with electronics )

I think the smell may be more to do with the plastic you're using and the temperature it's melting at.

As for big overhangs? How about a sintering 3D printer? They seem to handle it just fine. I'd probably use such services after I've checked my models on the desktop though.

GrpA

Still doesn't pass the Thud457 test (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about a year ago | (#42347835)

Tea, Earl Grey, hot

The machine dispenses a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

Re:Nice, but incremental (1)

guises (2423402) | about a year ago | (#42360333)

Sintering looks great, but a home model is unlikely to ever be affordable. At least one of any significant size.

Re:Nice, but incremental (1)

Linkreincarnate (840046) | about a year ago | (#42421067)

Why? It's just a laser and a powder bed...

Re:Nice, but incremental (1)

guises (2423402) | about a year ago | (#42421953)

It's a high energy laser and the optics for that are rather expensive, this is why stereolithographic printers are expensive, but in addition to that cost you have more moving parts and just a physically much larger unit. The powder bed needs to be on a tray which can lower down to the volume at which you'd like to print, you need to store the source powder somewhere, and after the printing is done you need to manually clean the printed pieces into another tray which can catch the unused material powder. You basically need to devote a room to this, or at least a large portion of a garage or workshop. It's not impossible in the home, but it is impractical.

Re:Nice, but incremental (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344123)

Why don't you learn how to use a milling machine? You know, real tools? Except they were too stupid in the 19th century to call it 3D printing, so it's not cool. What, pray tell, are you making that's so important that you can throw money at it like that?

Re:Nice, but incremental (2)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about a year ago | (#42344425)

To do the kinds of things a 3D printer can do you'd likely want a CNC mill and those things are way pricier than a 3D printer. Even a mini mill with the necessary accessories is more expensive than a printer.

Milling is not like printing in that it is subtractive, not additive, and thereby more wasteful. Don't get me wrong. I love milling stuff, but there is clearly a place for both tools in the shop. Figuratively speaking of course. I'm trying to figure out where to put a 3D printer.

Re:Nice, but incremental (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344837)

Not really - there are LOTs of cheaper chinese machines out there that have operating envelopes similar to these home 3d printers. We're talking 4 axis systems with 30 cm x 20 cm x 6 cm envelope for sub 1000 USD. Not to mention that to do what you can do with a cnc mill you'd need a 3d printer from the future - eg print a material useful for something. These printers will be a lot more interesting when I can print aluminum. Not to mention tolerances on the order of a couple thou....I really wish all of these people that have an interest in 3d printers researched a little bit of modern cnc milling tech. We'd have a renascence of mechanical design in the US.

Re:Nice, but incremental (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#42344959)

Well then, do you have suggestions? From my point of view, an interesting application would be cheap creation of high tolerance metal molds (at least at the dimensions you mentioned above for an envelope) for advanced composites work.

Re:Nice, but incremental (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about a year ago | (#42344961)

OK, I'm interested in one of those cheaper machines you mentioned but ten minutes of searching doesn't produce anything. Can you post a link or two?

Re:Nice, but incremental (1)

ridgecritter (934252) | about a year ago | (#42345217)

I'm interested, as other respondents have said, and can't find links to what you say exists. I'd be interested if you could direct me. Tnx.

Re:Nice, but incremental (2)

GrpA (691294) | about a year ago | (#42345421)

I know the chinese mills exist, because I also have a small Chinese CNC Milling machine though the printer is a lot more convenient for some parts - I guess it depends on what I'm making. Printing in plastic can be handy because it highlights issues early and has very low cost. Also, it's lighter than aluminium and if the strength isn't an issue, it's fine.

Under a thousand? Yes, about that. The 6040 and 6020 CNC machines are more designed for smaller parts though... They are not really intended for chewing through thick pieces of aluminium. They will do it, but I expect it would take a while and might need a little cooling.

Just do a search on google for 6040 CNC machine

GrpA

Re:Nice, but incremental (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42346079)

Okay, so it is nowhere near the hobby price tag of CNC, but the technology exists to print in metal. Check out this Titanium Jaw' [engadget.com]!

Re:Nice, but incremental (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42345203)

And if I need a hollow cube with an inscribed sphere, exactly how will your milling machine help me? (Speaking as one who owns two Bridgeports)

Re:Nice, but incremental (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344571)

What temp are you printing at? My PLA has no smell. I upgraded the head to one that has a very small melt length though so that might be part of it too. I agree with the overhangs though. That is a huge and hard to solve issue. Gluing the object together works really well in most instances though.

Re:Nice, but incremental (2)

sgrover (1167171) | about a year ago | (#42344637)

So close yet so far. Your two complaints would seem to be a reflection of your own limited experiences. A properly tuned Replicator 1 prints ABS with little or no smell. Or just slapping on side panels and a hood does wonders to minimize that particular effect (not to mention it keeps the chamber air more stable and minimizes peeling). As for overhangs, I've seen up to 2cm with only a little issue, 1cm is about as smooth as you'd get with 2mm - depending on the model and tuning.

PLA is starch based, not corn based. In the US it just happens that corn is a cheap/easy source for starch. In New Zealand they use goats milk. So in a sense you are only partially correct about the corn. MBI has not abandoned ABS - the Rep2 removed the elements of the Rep1 that was most troublesome - i.e. a heated platform that has had electrical issues and levelling it properly (for both extruders at once) has proven to be a stumbling block for more novice users, getting rid of the second extruder also removes a bunch of headaches - some again related to levelling. Moving to PLA means they could get rid of the troublesome platform and operate at lower temperatures. But the Rep2X has already been announced which restores the heated platform and second extruder. ABS is not going away anytime soon.

Questions (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#42344661)

1) Isn't ABS stronger than the PLA? My only experience with PLA I think has been the corn based plastic used in recyclable plastic silverware, and it seems quite soft.

2) In the video review they mentioned the first one (I think the Up! Mini?) automatically adding some kind of support structures as needed, perhaps that would help address overhangs.

Re:Questions (1)

daid303 (843777) | about a year ago | (#42346129)

PLA is a lot of things, but soft it's not. It bends less then ABS before breaking. But it is very strong.

Support structures is quite a standard feature, but they leave ugly scars on the models.

(I work at Ultimaker, and we print with PLA 99% of the time, as it doesn't stink and prints nicer)

Re:Questions (1)

JuzzFunky (796384) | about a year ago | (#42346137)

Pretty much all 3D printing software can generate support material. It is intended to be torn away like the raft at the bottom of the print. Some software does a better job than others. From my experience with Up!, Makerbot and Bits from Bytes 3DTouch printers, the algorithms from the UP! software generate more reliable support structures. They tend to come away more cleanly. There are other 3D printing techniques that do not require support materials, such as the powder based printers, stereolithography printers and laser sintering but these tend to be more expensive.

Re:Nice, but incremental (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42345761)

2. Overhangs. I doubt any of these printers can yet print an overhang that's more than 2mm without post-processing support. Gravity tends to pull overhangs down during the printing process, meaning the object's designer has to take the orientation of the printed object into account when designing it. As amazing as home 3D printing is, this is a pretty severe limitation once one gets past printing cubes and scans of heads.

So what's needed is either:
1. Have one or more movable platforms that can provide support
or more flexibly
2. Print a structural support, with some method of avoiding it bonding to the surface printed on top.

Are any 3D printers able to take waste material and process it to turn it back into usable 'ink'? If so 2 could work quite well. If not, could it be done?

Re:Nice, but incremental (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42346895)

Overhangs, eh.
Why not, in the model, add supports under the overhangs, which could then be removed (using a knife, sander, whatever) afterwards?

Re:Nice, but incremental (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349225)

Themal decomposition of ABS plastics produce, among other things, formaldehyde, CO, HCN, various smelly organics. see http://fire.nist.gov/bfrlpubs/fire86/PDF/f86017.pdf

Disclaimer: I work for the company who makes the following products.

You can pretty easily solve the smell problem with a fume extraction system. My company is www.sentryair.com. These types of systems are quite cheap compared to central exhaust systems and can and do handle these types of systems regularly. Price would range from $500- $2k or so.

yes thanks for that (0)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#42343809)

3D printing is a fascinating new technology and an exploding new market. The process involved is pretty basic actually. Heat up some plastic, and sort of like that Play-Doh Fun Factory you were so fond of as a kid, you extrude the melted plastic out to create objects.

This would all be very interesting new information if Slashdot weren't running like five 3d-printing stories per week.

Re:yes thanks for that (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#42349369)

This would all be very interesting new information if Slashdot weren't running like five 3d-printing stories per week

Wait,.. so Slashdot has articles on 15-D printers? Do the string theorists know about these?

Applied 3D Printing (4, Informative)

djl4570 (801529) | about a year ago | (#42343843)

Watch a few episodes of Jay Leno's garage where they use a 3D printer to make parts and molds for vintage vehicle restorations.
This video of a sand printer is the most interesting application of 3D printing technology I've seen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8MaVaqNr3U [youtube.com]

Started in 2007?!?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42343845)

There are a variety of points where you could say "3d printing" started, but 2007 is not among them. The process that all of these things use was known for many years before 2007 as fusion deposition modeling (FDM) as commercialized by Stratasys. Open source 3d printers are not the only ones that exist...

My thoughts, YMMV (4, Interesting)

iluvcapra (782887) | about a year ago | (#42343867)

I've been building my Prusa Mendel for several months now (work's been crazy, I should be able to finish it over winter break).

I think if I had it to do again I'd get a Makerbot, the RepRap open source models promise a lot but there are a lot of pitfalls: available instructions, software and parts on eBay all seem to be at different versions at all times!

To me it would have been worth the extra $500 to just get a box that had everything, that was guaranteed to all fit together, not look strange or different from the instructions, and have support, but to each his own. I'm definitely learning a lot -- having the wrong revision of something physical is a big deal compared to having the wrong commit of ImageMagick :) It's something OSS fab folk will have to deal with going forward.

Re:My thoughts, YMMV (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344235)

This! You wouldn't believe how much trouble it's been to build a laser-cut TechZone Remix Mendel. None of the electronics will mount properly, some pieces don't fit, and I had to find a sealant that'd work at 500F and not screw up the thrermocouple by shorting it out. Permatex may be the winner - I'll find out when it's finished.

My printer did not have instructions sent with it. Consider yourself lucky. I've had to follow half a dozen websites to figure out how it goes together and how other people have screwed up. The first guy I followed nearly set his extruder on fire, so assembly went on a 10-month hiatus.

What I wouldn't give for a single-board implementation like this one [emakershop.com] for the electronics. Instead, I get this cluster [thingiverse.com] and have to get someone to grind a piece of wood into shape. That mounting board design plus zip ties were a godsend.

I would have paid $500 extra if it came pre-assembled, not just in kit form. I don't even know if mine will work yet.

Re:My thoughts, YMMV (1)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | about a year ago | (#42344281)

Permatex may be the winner - I'll find out when it's finished.

Permatex Ultra Black is really awesome stuff. It's rated for use with O2 sensors, so it will survive very high temperatures and will cure without outgassing anything corrosive to electronics.

I've used it in some very delicate electronic applications that otherwise called for RTV 162. Very cheap, very effective.

Re:My thoughts, YMMV (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344617)

Techzone is known for selling crap. I'd be surprised if it wouldn't be easier just to self-source all the parts for one.

The sealant I use on mine for the heater and thermistor is muffler sealant, a sodium silicate cement, available at any auto parts store.

Re:My thoughts, YMMV (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344657)

As a person with a Prusa Mendel. I would recommend getting RAMPS, the J-head extruder, and use Marlin for the software. I realize the first two don't help if you since you probably already have parts, but if those become an issue that is what I would recommend changing to since that is what I did. The setup is fickle and the first several prints are never perfect. Making sure everything is leveled really helps cause then you know they are parallel to each other. I print PLA using painters tape swabbed with isopropyl alcohol and the print usually sticks. I would like to add a heated bed when I get the chance. It is really is not a consumer product. I get more enjoyment tweaking the machine than actually printing. You need to use your engineering intuition a lot. A degree in electrical engineering would have probably helped.

Re:My thoughts, YMMV (2)

Mark of the North (19760) | about a year ago | (#42344777)

I received a Mendel90 kit from Nop Head about three weeks ago. (Nop Head has been prolific in the Rep Rap community.) The instructions were very clear and the whole kit went together over the course of about three work-days (mostly done while watching Netflix). The few minor issues I ran into were due to my mis-reading the instructions, or not reading them at all. The kit was lacking on some heat-shrink tubing, but that's the only real criticism I have. Even for someone who hasn't picked up a soldering iron in 15 years, the build procedure was straight-forward.

The Mendel90 design is, IMHO, much better than the Mendel or even the MendelMax. The frame self-aligns to the point that there is no need to square anything up. The ribbon cables are brilliant. Of the Rep Rap variants out there, it's probably the best of the bunch at this moment. Not perfect, but very usable and straight-forward to put together.

As I write this, I'm printing up some parts for my son's worm-bin project out of glow-in-the-dark PLA. (No reason for the glow-in-the-dark other than it was in the printer.) Its been a blast to go from a sketch on paper to a finished part in a couple of hours, if that.

Another year of development on the slicing software, printer firmware/electronics, and the elimination of bridging/over-hang issues by dual-extruders and water-soluble support material will make 3D printing accessible to the masses. It's going to be fun to watch...and participate in.

Re:My thoughts, YMMV (1)

smaddox (928261) | about a year ago | (#42344861)

I'm surprised no one here seems to know about Printrbot. For $549, you can get a 6"x6"x6" build volume with everything included (including 1lb. of ABS, and a heated bed) except for an ATX power supply (which many people have sitting around). Hell, if you're lazy, you can get it shipped assembled for an extra $150.

Re:My thoughts, YMMV (1)

Applekid (993327) | about a year ago | (#42352157)

IMHO, prebuilt machines for hobby use are a terrible idea for your first printer. The big commerical machines have support contracts with dudes that come to your facility, and everyone needs training. There's a reason for that: even they can't make truly perfect machines, so what chance does a consumer grade machine stand?

With a pre-built machine, it's only a matter of time when it no longer works. And when it doesn't, you won't know enough about it's construction to effectively communicate with others about it, and won't know how to fix it on your own. Worst case scenario, you'll be at the mercy of someone else's parts forever, since they aren't always willing to share their sources or blueprints or anything of the sort.

As an example, I purchased an Ultimaker. The instructions were hazy and while I tried to update their wiki, my edits were quickly removed cabal-style. One thing that attracted me to it was that the main print head was already assembled as a unit in the kit. I feared figuring out how a hot end worked because of how important and non-obvious it is. Fast forward a few weeks of printing and the hot end jammed. It was horrible, I didn't know enough about it to diagnose it on my own, and it look several days of forum-time to even figure out that was the problem. I had assumed that since it was pre-assembled in the kit that it would be pre-assembled the right way, but evidently that turned out to not be the case. In trying to fumble my way through it, there was a very fragile part (heater barrel) that broke in half, leaving me to get two parts to repair it, both custom to the machine. Looking at the shop the replacement the two parts were an obscene price, around US$90 at the time, for just a brass threaded pipe and a small plastic mushroom shaped object. Plus shipping. Plus they weren't in stock, I would have to put my money down and wait for delivery. They never did ship anything out, and it was well over the time limit for me to contest the charges. Sure, my last complaint might be the exception instead of the rule. But I'm trying to escape software land into hardware land, and one thing that keeps coming up is "never single-source your parts". And, well, here's why.

I might have given up, but instead decided to double down and build a Prusa Mendel, mostly because I already had a 15 pounds stockpile of plastic. It was definitely harder to put together, but when something broke, I have options. Hot end issues? There are 4 or 5 quality vendors. X-end cracked? 3 store fronts that sell pre-printed parts, one to order, and anyone else with a functioning printer can do it (and hopefully you made a backup!). Things like thread pitch and formulas for steps per mm are well published and they show the work. Today my completely open source printer is printing better than I was able to ever get my Ultimaker printing. And I don't think it has to do as much with the machine design as it does with the knowledge gained in making it work.

The parallels between hobby grade 3d printing and hobby grade home computers in the late 70s are pretty interesting.

RepRap can't replicate itself (5, Insightful)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#42344179)

RepRap only makes plastic parts, not quite two-thirds of itself. Compare that with a serious milling machine (and note not even a CNC one), which can and has made over 95% of itself since the 1940s.....

It's a toy for making cute plastic parts.....

Re:RepRap can't replicate itself (3, Insightful)

Scytheford (958819) | about a year ago | (#42345621)

Yeah OK, I'll bite.

A) Skill
Nearly anyone can operate a 3D printer quietly, cleanly, inexpensively and safely. Comparing a lathe or mill to a 3D printer is akin to rubbishing a Ford Focus because it's not an F-15. Someone having read a wiki can download an STL from thingiverse, click print and enjoy the results. Getting good at machining takes years of dedication.

B) Cost
A reprap can be built for under $800 and a little elbow grease. The cheapest vertical mill is about USD$4k, not including shipping, installation, and replacing the shitty bits. Running costs for a reprap are far lower also, both in terms of power consumption, tooling and stock.

C) Part strength
Obviously this is where Fused Deposition Method (FDM) printing can't keep up to a part machined from steel or aluminium, but that's not the point. There are a great many things around the average house or workshop for which a 3D-printed part would be perfectly suitable. Examples:

Buckle clip:
http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1272 [thingiverse.com]
Wifi-driven tank (Disclaimer: mine):
http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:13496 [thingiverse.com]
Goddamned quadcopter (also mine):
http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:26041 [thingiverse.com]
Angle brackets:
http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:34422 [thingiverse.com]
Storage bins:
http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:38194 [thingiverse.com]
Tape dispenser:
http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:34816 [thingiverse.com]

In summary: Nobody is going to install a mill in their home office. 3D printed parts are suitable for many actually useful applications, not just trivial frippery.

Re:RepRap can't replicate itself (2)

khakipuce (625944) | about a year ago | (#42346451)

Actually I've wanted a 3d printer for a while, I've also wanted a Milling machine for longer. Having nearly gone off and bought the bits for a 3D printer I stopped and thought about it.

A milling machine with bigger overall capacity than most home-built 3D printers (i.e. about a cubic foot) can be had new for under £1000 which (all-in) is not much more than a large, rigid 3D printer kit would be. Add in a CNC set up (about another £300) and make an extruder (we now have a milling machine so making an accurate extruder should not be to difficult) and you have a milling machine and a 3D printer, for significantly less than the cost of both, and a much more capable set up.

So my current plan is to save up a bit more money and buy a milling mahine and then mod it to be a 3D printer.

Re:RepRap can't replicate itself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42349187)

Warning: there are a lot of easily printable shapes that are impossible on a milling machine.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO MAKE? What shapes, what materials? This should be the one and only question you answer before deciding printing vs milling.

Re:RepRap can't replicate itself (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#42351377)

Warning: there are a lot of easily printable shapes that are impossible on a milling machine.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO MAKE? What shapes, what materials? This should be the one and only question you answer before deciding printing vs milling.

I bought a 3d printer. it's a lot cleaner than milling. I'd like a cnc mill too but that's a lot less feasible to keep in an apartment, has higher keep up and so on. a lot noisier too.

whenever someone asks why I got the thing, I tell 'em it's for fun and show some useless stuff. http://www.flickr.com/photos/glasslife/8212289302/ [flickr.com] and custom keychains, xmas tree decorations.. for custom stuff it's a really cool thing to have.

but actually making things with it is definitely not as easy as pressing a button - and people who bitch about overhangs lack imagination and don't seem to understand that you can't injection mold or mill all parts in one piece either. they're free to buy an expensive objet printer though. the real thing that limits usability is speed. it takes an awful long time to create big parts.

for making a lot of real things of "commercial quality", like real tools, you'd probably be better off having both, a mill and a 3d printer.

Re:RepRap can't replicate itself (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about a year ago | (#42348039)

You DO realize that putting designs in thingiverse, that you're giving tools to Skynet to kill all humans, right?

Anyhow, thingiverse is still woefully lacking [thingiverse.com].

Re:RepRap can't replicate itself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42346149)

Perhaps you should compare high-end professional equipment with high-end professional equipment instead of with stuff consumers can afford. 3D-printing in titanium is used for making medical implants, for instance. A Belgian woman whose lower jaw was being eaten away by an infection received a replacement [gizmag.com] printed in 3D [youtube.com]. That part isn't cute and the equipment used is not a toy. I don't know the history of the development of that 3D printer, but I would't be surprised if hobbyists playing with producing cute plastic parts gave them ideas.

The Solidoodle's cartridge bothers me (1)

scourfish (573542) | about a year ago | (#42344459)

I was wondering how a company was going to try to lock people down from buying their own spools of abs plastic.

Re:The Solidoodle's cartridge bothers me (4, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | about a year ago | (#42344621)

What? The Solidoodle uses a plain spool. It's the 3D Systems unit that uses a cartridge.

Re:The Solidoodle's cartridge bothers me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42345351)

Still, those spools are expensive! Last I heard they were ~$250 each!

Re:The Solidoodle's cartridge bothers me (1)

compro01 (777531) | about a year ago | (#42349601)

Either your information is out of date or you're looking at atypically large spools. The 2lbs spools of ABS sold by Solidoodle for their printers are $43.

Can... Can it print a 3D printer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42344683)

Can... Can it print a 3D printer?

Gimme a 3D photo copier (1)

Pugzly (441999) | about a year ago | (#42344737)

step 1. get 3d scanner
step 2. get 3d printer
step 3. provide champagne, flowers and ramantic music

and in no time... 3D copier... :)

Re:Gimme a 3D photo copier (1)

GrpA (691294) | about a year ago | (#42346177)

They already have 3D scanners. Basically a Kinetic I think.... And you can make models of people with it.

But IIRC, the Japanese even have a photobooth that does that. Instant 3D memoir of your date.

GrpA

3D printing was interesting last year. (1)

djh101010 (656795) | about a year ago | (#42344831)

Sorry, but the Makerbot and other FDM printers are a dead end. The overhang issue and the fluid dynamics problems limit this specific technology to "bleeding edge", and will never progress past 'cutting edge'. UV hardened resins are where it's at, but predatory patent trolls have locked that up in patent hell for the next few decades. FDM has come a long way in the last 2 years, but, at the end of the day, it's still dropping a noodle onto other noodles, with a very limited choice of materials which have varying qualities of unusability. I say this as someone with a 1st generation Makerbot, who in a year saw 4 generations of newer product, with no real improvement against the fundamental design flaws of FDM. Bigger tables and improved software don't fix the fact that you just plain can't set a melted noodle on top of empty air. FDM is the "aluminized paper dot matrix printer using arcs to produce ozone and dark spots" of this generation's printers. It's a necessary step to get to the real answer, but, 5 years from now nobody will take them seriously, if they even remember them.

Re:3D printing was interesting last year. (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#42345099)

Sorry, but the Makerbot and other FDM printers are a dead end. ... FDM has come a long way in the last 2 years, but, at the end of the day, it's still dropping a noodle onto other noodles, with a very limited choice of materials which have varying qualities of unusability.

I tend to agree. Trying to weld a hot thing to a cold thing never works well. The process is touchy and unreliable. I've suggested using a laser aimed at the weld point, or just ahead of it, to heat the other side of the joint, and an IR thermometer to monitor the welds. I've been to Makerbot meetups, and everybody seems to be fussing with frame and table drive designs. Those are not the problem. The business end of the extruder/welder is where work is needed.

Some days I think that half the output of the RepRap/MakerBot crowd consists of the same demo files, mostly the Yoda and Darth Vader heads. The stereolithography users make real parts.

UV hardened resins are where it's at, but predatory patent trolls have locked that up in patent hell for the next few decades.

Maybe on both items. Stereolithography machines do a good job, but you're limited to materials that polymerize when hit by UV. The patent problems should be resolved soon. The basic patent [google.com] was filed in 1984 and has expired. 3D Systems and Envisiontech settled last week. The infringement complaint against Formlabs involves a rather minor improvement which Formlabs can probably work around.

FDM is the "aluminized paper dot matrix printer using arcs to produce ozone and dark spots" of this generation's printers.

I once suggested using those printers as a log medium for a voting machine project. They're cheap and reliable. The output is permanent and hard to tamper with. Unlike thermal printers, the paper does not turn brown and become unreadable when stored in a warm warehouse. Unlike inkjets, you can't run out of ink. But you can't get those printers any more.

Re:3D printing was interesting last year. (1)

Zeussy (868062) | about a year ago | (#42346547)

I tend to agree. Trying to weld a hot thing to a cold thing never works well. The process is touchy and unreliable.

I think I may of replied to you before, but parts from my Solidoodle are very strong. The heat transfer from the extruder when printing at 0.3mm is more than enough to slightly melt the previous layer and fuse them. Printing at 0.1mm makes an almost seamless print. When printing with a heated bed, in an enclosed space the whole print is slightly tacky and soft. The prints do have a grain, and that is the weakest part, but you can design items with that in mind. If you are worried about printing something out of ABS/PLA that is going to fail due to stress, having it injection molded isn't going to increase the strength factor by enough margin to stop it breaking.

Re:3D printing was interesting last year. (1)

iplayfast (166447) | about a year ago | (#42345131)

I've got a makerbot and have had no problems with overhang. I've been able to bridge 2.5 cm's and it's perfect. There were some minor problems with the kit, but it was a very enjoyable project. If you have any skills at building things at all you can do it, and it's fun.

Re:3D printing was interesting last year. (1)

djh101010 (656795) | about a year ago | (#42349017)

Bridging and overhang are two different things, though. The support materials problem is a big one. Sounds like maybe those patent issues are being worked out, according to someone else's post though...

Re:3D printing was interesting last year. (1)

Turbio (1814644) | about a year ago | (#42345199)

You are missing it's main niche: fast prototyping, that shortens design time. The objects are not intended to be used, but to see an approximation of their shape.
And there is the matter of printing cost: ABS/PLA is cheap.
Sure, flying cars will be much better than ground going ones, and wheeled vehicles are a dead end. Maybe, but not it 5 years.

Re:3D printing was interesting last year. (1)

Silicon_Knight (66140) | about a year ago | (#42345845)

Wrong. FDM is used commercially to produce parts - including airplane parts. (I know, because one of my (OpenBeamUSA.com) vendors is printing cosmetic trim pieces for the Airbus A380). Commercial systems have no problem with overhang because they use a water soluble support system. And if you want something prototyped out of production representative material, it is one of the faster (and hands off) way to do it. I've used FDM for Ultem, Polycarbonate and ABS parts before.

The reason you don't see this in the hobby market, is because Dimension's patent on water soluble support, and heated build chamber, is valid until 2014 (or 2016). That's why there is no hobby grade 3D Printer on the market that is completely enclosed and they only have a heated bed. Most people enclose their printers if they are printing with ABS for a variety of reasons.

-=- Terence

Re:3D printing was interesting last year. (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a year ago | (#42351327)

It sounds like you are only aware of the hobby-level printers.

FDM printers are a dead end.

Be aware that they have been around for over a decade. They are very common in engineering companies, ever since they replaced the UV hardened resin printers that came before them. The resins look pretty, but they are brittle and photo-degrade. They still have their place though.

...the overhang issue and the fluid dynamics problems limit this specific technology to "bleeding edge

The overhang issue was solved long ago by using soluble support-material. The hobby-level printers just don't include support for it.

Ultimaker. Period. (2)

Turbio (1814644) | about a year ago | (#42345137)

Let's see... a layer size of 40 microns, maximum speed of 250 mm/s, build volume of 21x21x21 cm for only 1200 euros the DYI kit (or EUR 1700 pre-built). It beats everyone else in every department. Period.
Ok, it is still missing a second extruder or hotbed, and printing is still an art that takes skill and patience, as with any of the 3D printers in this price range.
Disclaimer: I own an Ultimaker, oh yeah.

Re:Ultimaker. Period. (1)

Herve5 (879674) | about a year ago | (#42345917)

open source, thus interesting.
did you build it or buy it prebuilt?

Re:Ultimaker. Period. (3, Interesting)

daid303 (843777) | about a year ago | (#42346115)

He bought it as DIY kit, we've been only selling the pre-assembleds for a few weeks. And only a few have shipped so far. We are open source. AGPL with the software, GPL with the electronics, and CC BY-NC with the mechanical drawings.

There is no offical heated bed yet, but people have build their own, as the electronics are prepared for it. Same for dual extrusion.

Disclaimer: I now work for Ultimaker. After developing FOSS software for the Ultimaker they hired me as full-time developer so I could spend more time on making the software even better.

Re:Ultimaker. Period. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42352213)

open source, thus interesting.
did you build it or buy it prebuilt?

Not open source, faux open source. You're not going to find specs on a lot of custom parts used in the Ultimaker. Some aspects are open, but if you wanted to build one for yourself you're going to have to be able to think on your feet and substitute as you encounter them.

Beware the Wolf in Sheep's clothing! (2)

Dr Black Adder (1764714) | about a year ago | (#42345245)

If you're looking at getting into 3D printing, take heed that 3D Systems (maker of theCube 3D)are currently suing Formlabs (Kickstarter company pushing insane 3D technologies to consumer prices) over a seemingly ungrounded patent infringement. Read up either here: [wired.com]http://www.wired.com/design/2012/11/3d-systems-formlabs-lawsuit/ [wired.com] or google up a storm! I'm always careful to make sure I'm backing the innovators, not the litigators!

overhang (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42345247)

I noticed a lot of complaints about overhang. Has anyone considered a clamping device for the first layer and then rotating the platform as needed so that overhang never occurs too much?

Re:overhang (1)

Dr Black Adder (1764714) | about a year ago | (#42345283)

That's crazy, but it just might work. I can't imagine the complexity of the slicing that would be required! One solution that exists and is slowly pushing its way down to home-brew 3D printing is the use of dissovable support structure: using two extruders. And +1 for the flying cars comment, I can't believe we still drive cars when airplanes have proven the superior transport mechanism. Oh wait a minute, I can't afford an airplane...

Errata (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42345335)

"It all started back in 2007 when the first RepRap machine was built." Excuse me? 3D printing began in the 80's, namely by Chuck Hull., CEO of 3D Systems.

Nice to see some 3d Printer coverage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42346491)

That doesn't feel like a plug for the makerbot.

Essentially I was recently offered carte blanche when it came to a desktop 3D printer. After careful consideration I ended up going with a Solidoodle2. I felt the price was certainly decent and it offered the proper balance of professional quality and homebrew tinkerability.

Definitive? Are you kidding? (1)

coofercat (719737) | about a year ago | (#42346605)

The URL says "The-Definitive-3D-Printer-Roundup-Cubify-Up-Solidoodle" - lucky the page doesn't, because there are a lot more than 3 printers in the world. You have to pay $7 for it, but the MAKE magazine "definitive" guide to 3D printing is way, way better than this.

For me, the Ultimaker is the best. Mostly because that's the machine I own, but partly because it's not Makerbot, not proprietary like the Up!, and has a decent community behind it. YMMV.

Affordable 3d Jewelry Modeler (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42347731)

I'm actually looking for something affordable to create castable models at my jewelry shop. Does anyone know if any of these machines use a material that can be burned out in a kiln during the casting Process? I've looked at a few wax printers by Solidscape, but their machines are $15k+

Re:Affordable 3d Jewelry Modeler (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#42351449)

I'm actually looking for something affordable to create castable models at my jewelry shop. Does anyone know if any of these machines use a material that can be burned out in a kiln during the casting Process? I've looked at a few wax printers by Solidscape, but their machines are $15k+

with these you have to make a mold, then use that mold to make the sacrificial mold. you can print the mold straight in two parts though. ymmv.

Portabee is awesome too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42353501)

Hey check out the portabee http://portabee3dprinter.com

Under $500, kickin ass on the price front =P

Just what I needed (1)

Rastl (955935) | about a year ago | (#42359975)

I've got a business making gaming miniatures and while I prefer the look of hand sculpted ones 3D printing is what's becoming more common. Gee thanks for making it more tempting to get a 3D printer.

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