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You may not know why but you probably want a 3D printer. These are intrinsically cool devices: A mix of engineering, electrical engineering, material science, chemistry, electronics and software. As an emerging technology you need to understand a bit of all of these to get the most from a hobbyist device, just as early computer …

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The cost is dependant on how you want to print the model. That is to say, how thick or thin the layers are, how much in fill you use and what type of filament (ABS/PLA).

Run your model though some slicing software, load it up in Printrun and it will tell you approximately how much filament it will take to print the model. Work out what your filament costs per meter (you can buy it buy the meter but that is an expensive way to do it. Better to buy by the kg and work out the cost per meter that way).

http://www.makerbot.com/blog/2012/02/24/a-matter-of-scales-how-much-can-you-print-with-a-single-1kg-spool/

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Lack of faith

Not one of the devices listed appeared to use parts made by itself. Doesn't say much for their abilities.

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Re: Lack of faith

I've seen a MakerBot made from a MakerBot. But obviously it was smaller than the original.

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Re: Lack of faith

So after about 10 or 20 iterations of this we will be down to the nanobot level? All hail our nanobot overlords!

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Re: Lack of faith

Guessing you're aware of the vast array of rep-rap variants out there though right?

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Re: Lack of faith

I have a RepRapPro Mendel, all of the plastic parts are printed by itself.

It's even open source so they'll let you download the STLs, print the plastic bits. You can then buy a hardware kit from them or get them together yourself.

I was quite surprised not to see a RepRap in the list... they are allegedly the most used type of 3d printer.

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Re: Lack of faith

The original Printrbot was all printed parts (except for metal rods and electronics), printed on other Printrbots. However, production of these is slow and quality variable, so lasercut wood was substituted. You can still print the original Printrbot pieces if you want.

I have the Printrbot+ (big brother to the Jr. in the article), and enjoy it a lot. It is capable of very good output, and I have printed many upgrade parts designed by other users.

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Cost

Though there are a couple of models in the "affordable" range there, they seem to be the cheap junk that has poor quality output. They literally look like someone's attempt to make their own inkjet printer and though I don't doubt they work and are "good enough" for a lot of things, that's all I think of when I look at them. What are we talking about? Three stepper motors, a control board, some supporting struts, belts, chains, gears, and a heated nozzle with a box of raw plastic on top. Just what is in there to cost several thousand pounds?

When the prices come down to something *sensible* for what is basically an inkjet printer but requiring less tolerance, less specialist components, a small bit of heat, and a Z-axis motor, then I can look at them. And though a lot of inkjets are subsidised by their ink costs, there's nothing stopping a big-name manufacturer doing the same for the 3D plastic source material either (stick it in a funny-sized box with a heater, market that as "ink" for the printer, done).

I'd love to have one to tinker with but they are basically tinker-toys at the moment, so anything past £300 is out of the question, and you need to get something vaguely useful out of them for that price quite easily. We're just not there yet.

Incidentally, I went to the BETT exhibition last weekend and despite there being a 3D printer on every stall last year, this year there was nothing. Not one. They can't even sell them to schools who do have the cash to invest in them.

Honestly, I expect to pay £50-100 for a "homebrew" one of these (i.e. the price range of a half-decent commercial inkjet, or some large homebrew lego project), and £300-500 for a full commercial-quality one. Until then, I don't see what market they serve.

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@Lee Rowling Re: Cost

"Though there are a couple of models in the "affordable" range there, they seem to be the cheap junk that has poor quality output."

How are you judging the output ?... from the minimum feature size ? Have you seen the output from all these ? Enquiring minds want to know..

"They literally look like someone's attempt to make their own inkjet printer and though I don't doubt they work and are "good enough" for a lot of things, that's all I think of when I look at them. What are we talking about? Three stepper motors, a control board, some supporting struts, belts, chains, gears, and a heated nozzle with a box of raw plastic on top. Just what is in there to cost several thousand pounds?"

The cheap and nasty looking ones don't cost several thousand pounds.

"Honestly, I expect to pay £50-100 for a "homebrew" one of these (i.e. the price range of a half-decent commercial inkjet, or some large homebrew lego project), and £300-500 for a full commercial-quality one."

May I be the first, on behalf of the rest of the world, to apologize for things not yet being what you expect. The nerve of those manufacturers.....

"Until then, I don't see what market they serve."

Evidently not... though i'm left to wonder to whom this reflects more on.

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Re: Cost

The problem is mass production: in 1986 the price of a Canon PJ-1080A Colour Ink-Jet printer (Made in Japan) was 2644.18 Hfl., incl. 19% VAT (equivalent to 1199.88 Euro).

The serial number of my PJ-1080A is 801057, but I doubt whether 801057 printers were made. The resolution was only 85 dpi.

May be converting it to a 3D-printer is a nice hobby project.

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Re: Cost

Honestly, I expect to pay £50-100 for a "homebrew" one of these (i.e. the price range of a half-decent commercial inkjet, or some large homebrew lego project), and £300-500 for a full commercial-quality one. Until then, I don't see what market they serve.

3D printing is not new - it's been around in one form or another for the last 20 years. When they were first introduced you could easily be spending a couple of grand in consumables just for a singe average-sized "print". The printers themselves had six figure price tags. It was a restricted market but the market was there, and the people buying them were happy to pay the money. The customers were generally in product development and were realistic versus the cost of the alternative: namely hiring a model maker to make a prototype that might be ready in two weeks time if it was a simple job and he wasn't busy. The costs were comparable but printing generally had faster turn around times.

Now several key technologies are starting to come off-patent and we are looking at 1% of that cost. Suddenly that greatly reduced price tag is somehow too expensive? Sure, you can't yet print a one-off toothbrush that is cheaper than one made by the million. This surprises you? On the other hand if you have a regular requirement for fabrication of one-off custom components they are highly attractive versus making them some other way.

If your requirements are occasional rather than regular there are always the bureaux, just in the same way that the other week I had some A0 drawings printed out. I don't have an A0 printer, I don't have the space for an A0 printer. That doesn't mean I am denied the option of relatively low cost A0 printing on the high street.

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Re: Cost

@Lee Dowling

Honestly, I expect to pay £50-100 for a "homebrew" one of these (i.e. the price range of a half-decent commercial inkjet, or some large homebrew lego project), and £300-500 for a full commercial-quality one. Until then, I don't see what market they serve.

Most of the stuff you need for a 3D-printer is mechanical: rods, bearings, stepper motors and the electronics to drive them. These things are already as cheap as they can be. You may be able to skimp on the case/frame (as applicable for the design), but you'll pay in effort to get the damn thing aligned: the difference between a Mendel and a Mendel90 there is amazing, and more than offsets the somewhat higher price for the Mendel90 frame. Hotends and printbeds may get a bit cheaper still, but as those currently add up to about 25% of the total materials price tag, don't expect a price drop there to bring the total price down to your rather irrealistic expectations.

IMO, 500 Euros is quite an acceptable price for such a device.

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Linux

Re: @Lee Rowling Cost

*snerk*

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How did they make the downward pointing dragon teeth

The last printer, Up! 3D Plus, has this nice dragon model sitting on its table -- with fangs pointing downward. As the nozzle seems to be in a fixed position above the model, I wonder how they got the downward teeth printed. There seems to be no support for them.

Anybody got an idea?

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Boffin

Re: How did they make the downward pointing dragon teeth

Temporary printed supports, probably, which need to be cut away by hand afterward.

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Re: How did they make the downward pointing dragon teeth

The slicing software (the part of the software suite that converts your 3D-model into layers so that it can actually be printed) is able to detect such overhangs and can add a support. These supports are quite flimsy, and can be broken away by hand afterwards.

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Printing in wax?

It could be useful if they were to be able to print in wax, then use the lost wax method to cast things in metal.

Do any of the 3D printers do this?

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Re: Printing in wax?

This fella had some success casting aluminium by burning away the PLA print material in place of wax:

http://3dtopo.com/lostPLA/

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Re: Printing in wax?

Or just skip the whole wax stage and use laser sintering.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_laser_sintering

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Printing in wax?

Your local jeweller will have a wax-jet printer, as that is how they design and make rings an other custom jewellery now.

Resolution is insane - 10um.

Fantastic for small parts. Also jewellery investment casting companies and crazy cheap - here I can get a single small part cast into brass for $10

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Anonymous Coward

Will someone think about the nozzles?

20 years of blocked inkjet nozzles does not fill me with confidence ...

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Re: Will someone think about the nozzles?

The nozzles are big enough to heat and then poke with a needle...

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Re: Will someone think about the nozzles?

The filament is pushed through a temperature controlled heated nozzle. Typically gear teeth grip the cold filament, and it is heated to its plastic (and sticky) point.

For overhangs without separate soluble support material, a scaffold is built with a very thin breakaway to the overhang. Also models can be made in parts and glued, snapped or melted together, perhaps using alignment studs.

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Re: Will someone think about the nozzles?

*Flashback*

O_O trapped ties and fingers

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WTF?

Price

You do mention that the Stratasys is financially out of reach for most hobbyists. Yet you do also list the Objet Connex? And not some of the best-selling cheaper solutions such as Ultimaker and RepRap? Nice to see a list of 10 3D-printers - but I have to wonder what were the selection criteria.

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Happy

Re: Price

"I have to wonder what were the selection criteria"

...available from Amazon via a convenient;y handy Register affiliate link.

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Anonymous Coward

"it begs the question of what you might print if you take it on a plane as hand-baggage"

****PURELY HYPOTHETICAL THOUGHT EXPERIMENT not to be taken as a threat (don't want to end up like that twitter numpty)****

1. GOTO duty free buy a 1l bottle of vodka/rum

2. board plane with it hand luggage

3.smash against seat, you now have a dangerous handheld pointy object (arguable more dangerous then box cutters)

4. ?????

5. Profit (or Drone Strike)

why bother trying to bring on something that will get you an appointment with a TSA rubberglove even if it is legal

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Re: "it begs the question of what you might print if you take it on a plane as hand-baggage"

I suppose that it is a thought: my initial impression was "I wonder if the law considers that?".

I know certainly you are not allowed to board the aircraft with a "weapon" --- as I found out when my safety razor had to be put in the hold recently --- but what about weapons that are made in flight?

I'm not a lawyer, but it strikes me as something that would not have been considered by those making the laws. Is there a process for this?

Not that it would seem to change much about the rubber glove, but it is vaguely interesting as a thought experiment.

Anyhow, I'd settle to have a decent cup and plate printed: the cardboard garbage that I've been exposed to recently is appalling.

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Why No RepRap?

I'm very surprised you haven't included one of the latest RepRap versions in this list. With its open source approach, Reprap printable parts and ongoing enhancements, it surely qualifies?

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A glaring omission has been made by not including the IRIS 3D printer by Mcor Technologies. This printer uses regular office paper as the build material and is therefore the lowest cost by a wide margin and safest to operate in the industry. It also prints in full, photorealistic color. Staples is using the IRIS exclusively in its new Easy 3D print service for consumers.

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Except that's not a 3D printer in this sense.

It's a 2D printer that prints and glues a stack of paper together.

You then manually trim away the unglued paper using a sharp blade - a rather important step.

So still not safe in the "let the kids do it" sense - merely exchanging "might burn yourself if touch it when operating" for "might cut yourself if you slip".

Aside from that, the article was about 3D printers that make plastic articles, not paper ones.

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Anonymous Coward

Fantastic

I saw a rough and ready 3D printer at the Maker Faire in Newcastle and was very impressed. Glad the tech is taking off especially for circuit board and custom designs.

Now - how do I convince my finance director (wife) that this is an essential house purchase? :-)

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Angel

Re: Fantastic

"Now - how do I convince my finance director (wife) that this is an essential house purchase? :-)"

Option 1. Find something she is interested in, and tell her how you can print them for her.

Option 2. Go to one of the printing services and get her a little personalised printed thing.

Option 3. Count her shoes, and promise to never count them again, in return for permission to get a printer "for the family"..

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WTF?

What about the Solidoodle! That seems a bargain compared to half of these?

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Selection

I wanted to do a round-up, giving some idea of future direction. The objet might be way out of a hobbyist's reach and the materials costs for it are eye-watering. Something that would cost 20p on a makerbot will cost £50 on an Objet, but it is where I think the future is going.

I really didn't want this to just be FDM printers but haven't enough experience of powder deposition.

I didn't include a rep-rap as whatever I said about them was open to "it depends on how you build it" so it's very hard to have an opinion.

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Re: Selection

Please ask the device makers how much it might cost to replicate a 1/350 scale model ship of, say, a destroyer or submarine, and a 1/72 airplane. It could give an idea of what THEY know their machines will do. The calculator is fine, but we need to know that the manufacturers of the devices know. Otherwise, the article really just seems to be a revisit/review. Nice, and informative, but doesn't help me since I want to figure out replicating airplanes and ships, what I can expect to expend, recoup, and charge.

But, these devices seem great for prototyping things like tablet and phone stands, tablets, future laptop designs, mugs, camera chassis, and so on, even bottles, bottle, and kitchen utensils. Not for actual use, but something to hold or manipulate before going to a mold maker or manufacturer who might hold inordinate leverage over entrepreneurs.

Nice devices!

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Pint

Makerbot Replicator 2

I have one of these beasts, it still has a habit of printing air at times, there's a modification which I'm putting in.

That said I have fairly successfully printed components for a 2005 Dalek weapon, dome light cages, the small collar slat (blocks arranged the shoulder section) & the gun rod supports for a 1963 Dalek. Throw in a couple of parts for a R2 builder.

As I get to grips with Sketchup, I'm replicating a replacement for a snapped obsolete Brio wooden track part for a friends daughter.

It rates really highly on the coolness factor when shown to visitors or demonstrating the printed item down the pub.

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Bah!

Hard to see what the point of this article was. No real discussion of what the capabilities in terms of resolution was, at least not comparatively, ridiculous Top Gear supercars showcased next to Nova kit-car-on-a-VW (figuratively speaking) and Rep Rap - probably the most popular hobby printer in the world but I can't say for sure ion the basis of this article - nowhere in sight.

So, not a potential buyer's guide, not a technical comparison, not even a proper price guide and no real idea of who the article was pitched at.

A potentially interesting article rendered (hurhur) worthless in the execution.

Thanks for nothing.

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Thumb Down

Re: Bah!

Bah!

Hard to see what the point of this comment was...

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Childcatcher

Re: Bah!

Get a grip, man!

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Finally

I can download a car. Get that up ye MPAA!

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Anonymous Coward

UP!

The UP has onboard storage, and can reprint from internal memory.

Current layer height is 0.15 minimum, but as time has gone by, I have moved to printing things at coarser settings.

The print software if far simpler than the complicated freeware stack of rep-raps etc.

For me the big benefit is in prototyping parts before sending them out for CNC. As a CNC job actually costs about $1000, the printer only cost 3 mistakes / repeats. ie paid for itself in the first month.

Here in NZ, support has been excellent when I have had problems, and being cheap chinese, they send out spare parts without batting an eyelid.

I have put over 10kg of ABS through mine, thats a lot of little parts.

I expect some problems with type of thing (high temperatures, molten plastic - thats just got to be plain sailing right?)

After a while ABS seems to caramelise inside the nozzles, and you get intermittant feed problems. So

I recommend having a spare nozzle, which I leave in MEK to dissolve out the gunk. Now as soon as there is a hint of a feed problem, I swap the clean nozzle in.

I don't use PLA.

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The feature I want..

Is a small CCD camera built in which saves a picture of the build at each layer to the SD card used for the model, then I can do a time-lapse based on layers on time. Ideally with the head out of the way of the model for each frame.

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Re: The feature I want..

Just get yourself a moderately recent Canon Ixus or Powershot, load CHDK on it, print some kind of fixture so that it can be attached to the printer, and hook it up to the controller board so that it takes a snap at every Z-increment. I'm not sure if moving the head out of the way at every layer is a good idea, though.

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