back to article Ten 3D printers for this year's modellers

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 …

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  1. James 51 Silver badge

    £300! Had no idea there were kits at that price. All we need now are the 3D scanners so we can scan an example we would like to get again (sorry, we don't make that widget any more, not a problem).

    1. Roger B

      and all available from Amazon apparently, must be something wrong with the links, the Amazon search results don't show them, such a pity Amazon have just left the Nectar scheme.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      2. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Yes, El Reg missed a trick there. Should have set up an Amazon Associates account, just in case any of us with more money than sense was in "impulse buying" mode.

        1. Comments are attributed to your handle

          Amazon Associates

          They do have an account. Notice tag=regtopten-20 in the URL when you click the button (after you are redirected.)

    2. Andrew Moore

      I have access to a 3d scanner- A Leica HDS C10. But at €70,000, it might be a little expensive for the average hobbyist.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Cheap 3D scanners

        There is the XBOX Kinect at just over £100, using open source software, and also the pricier Windows Kinect with either open source software or the MS SDK. More suitable for body-sozed figures than faces. There are also software solutions- for free is Autodesk's 123D which can create a 3D STL file from a series of 2D images.

        Other software solutions use a web-cam plus a cheap (£30) line-laser.

        1. James 51 Silver badge

          Re: Cheap 3D scanners

          What about something like a nut with an internal thread?

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Cheap 3D scanners

            >What about something like a nut with an internal thread?

            Most of the engineering CAD packages have 'feature recognition', so scanned meshes are converted (if possible) into geometric data. e.g, if you scan a cylinder, the result will be an approximation- a collection of triangles. Feature Recognition will attempt to turn this collection of triangles back into an ideal cylinder, with a smooth surface defined as being a constant from a central axis. This parametric model allows you more control, parts can be defined relative to each other, so design changes result in the entire model being updated. An internal thread will be the same- it is better if the CAD software re-creates it (threads are often included in the parts library) or just creates a plain hole that can be tapped after the shape is printed or milled.

            The amount of user 'massaging' of the data seems to vary on the 3D scanning method, software and subject.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "£300! Had no idea there were kits at that price"

      Well, let's see any of these print a moon base out of a hopper full of dust. Not only will NASA be pleased, I shall be VERY impressed.

      1. annodomini2

        @Ledswinger

        An artist has already built a Solar powered unit to work with sand.

        http://boingboing.net/2011/06/25/solar-powered-3d-san.html

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wonderfest will never be the same again

  3. Geoff Campbell
    Pirate

    No RepRap?

    I guess it's a sign of how far we've come that you can fill a "10 3D printers" article with credible suggestions, and still leave out some of the biggest names.

    GJC

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Marvin the Martian
      Stop

      Re: No RepRap?

      But owning one still don't make much sense (except the £300 hobbyist kits, possibly). If you actually need the produced output (like the mentioned "no we don't make that anymore" cases), you get it from a place like http://www.emachineshop.com/ --- then you can have it in either a useful form (say metal), instead of some doubtful plastic ('has a shelf life').

      Because in the real world, you need stuff from specific plastics, or spring steel, or sterling silver, or other; and you need it moulded, extruded, milled or etched. These are one-trick ponies, some with arguably useless tricks ('good for hearing devices' but the plastic degrades rapidly?).

      Possible exceptions I can imagine, like the architecture firm that can fire its model maker, and would be OK with printing in some brittle plastic as long as a large spectrum of colours is available (with surface possibly hand-finished). But on the whole each of them seems quite limited or too expensive.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: No RepRap?

        One of the best things about 3D printing is when you use a casting wax to print the model.

        What do you mean everyone doesn't have a foundry in the backyard?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No RepRap?

          Some of us don't even have backyards, you insensitive clod!

          I would love to have a backyard foundry, I just need enough money for a backyard :-(

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No RepRap?

            I'll supply the back yard - mine's just gathering weeds, you supply the foundry...

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: No RepRap?

        If you actually need the produced output (like the mentioned "no we don't make that anymore" cases), you get it from a place like http://www.emachineshop.com/ --- then you can have it in either a useful form (say metal), instead of some doubtful plastic ('has a shelf life').

        The commercial shops that can print $stuff in materials other than PLA or ABS are (still) quite expensive, so you may want to print your design on one of these, test if the design actually fits, tweak it, print it again, lather, rinse, repeat, and only then send it off to be printed in the actual required material. For myself, I've printed a headlight clamp for my bike, and at the hackerspace we print (on a Mendel90) all kinds of brackets, frames and other such mounting widgets and doodads. Using PLA; its strength and durability is more than sufficient for almost all the desired applications.

        Architecture firms tend to employ laser cutting to build their models (faster, and you can easily build models larger than the cutting bed size), unless it's a horribly convoluted curvy shape.

      3. Naughtyhorse

        Re: No RepRap?

        agreed its not like the replicator from voyager, but ffs it's early days!

        for £300 i would have thought just making cool crap to clutter up the house would be fine, if i want a new crankshaft for my 'rarri then of course i need a real engineering firm

    3. No, I will not fix your computer
      Thumb Down

      Re: No RepRap?

      Not only leaving out the biggest names (such as RepRap), but also the fact that you can buy a complete Mendel kit for about £500, means that people who are genuinely interested may not know that some of the most important kits out there are even available, also the whole MakerBot open/closed source history is a story in it own right.

  4. JetSetJim Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Question from ignorance...

    Do they all support a common file-format for upload of designs so I can download my latest Nike's from ThePirateBay?

    1. Arrrggghh-otron

      Re: Question from ignorance...

      I can only vouch for a few of the open sourced printer software suites that I have tried but they are STL based. Most 3d packages are capable of exporting STL files. STL is the usually offered file format on Thingiverse.

    2. 123465789

      Re: Question from ignorance...

      That is of course assuming that you want Nike's from ABS or PLA.

  5. Troy Peterson
    Linux

    Wot no Ultimaker?

    Pity that the best hobbiest 3d printer isn't listed.... The Ultimaker (www.ultimaker.com). I print on mine at 0.08mm layer height and have gone down as low as 0.04.... I've compared directly with prints from most of the printers on this list and the Ultimaker blows them all away. As a plywood contraption it doesn't look as good as some of these,but it excels where it counts.

    Also, I just have to toss in my 2p on the Replicator.... Makerbot are going the way of Apple... they had a great hacker community but now they've evolved into a corporate environment and have close-sourced everything and are moving towards a closed non hacker-friendly eco-system. They've taken work done by the community and have built proprietary work on it without giving anything back.

    Cheers,

    Troy.

  6. ukgnome
    Thumb Up

    I have no need for a 3D printer but for some strange reason I want one.

    1. Paul Leigh
      Thumb Up

      Copied

      I liked your quote so much, I have copied and reprinted it to use as my own statement too.....

      I have no need for a 3D printer but for some strange reason I want one.

      1. Jedit

        "I liked your quote so much, I have copied and reprinted it"

        But not in 3D, so I guess you do need a 3D printer!

    2. TeeCee Gold badge
      Coat

      Postulate: 3D printers are to techies as designer shoes are to women.

      Discuss.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Postulate: 3D printers are to techies as designer shoes are to women."

        I do have a use for a 3D printer. As an amateur modeller in clay - my moulding and casting is currently outsourced to a workshop. I've done the masterclass on the process - but decided it needs too much practice, and some specialised equipment, to achieve the best results. Months of work can be ruined if the the moulding process goes awry.

        I always take lots of pictures of a finished clay piece. The hope is that one day 3D capture from the pictures will enable me to use 3D printing. Is there a viable product yet?

        The cost of 3D printing seems almost economical. PLA stock seems to be about £30 for 0.75kg - unfortunately with no indication of the volume that it would produce. Compare that with traditional silicone moulding and cold casting at typically £200 for the mould and ca £70 for each cast from it. However it could be argued that cold-cast bronze-loaded resin is a superior exhibition material to plain plastic.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Photogrammetry

          "The hope is that one day 3D capture from the pictures will enable me to use 3D printing. Is there a viable product yet?"

          If you don't already know, photogrammetry is what you are looking for. A quick google search returns...

          http://www.creativebloq.com/iphone/photos-3d-models-iphone-912732

        2. Aslan
          Flame

          You can cast aluminum direct from a 3D print

          You can cast aluminum direct from a 3D print

          "Lost PLA Casting from 3D Prints

          http://3dtopo.com/lostPLA/

          This page describes my first successful attempt casting aluminum parts directly from 3D printed PLA parts. The process is practically identical to lost wax, but instead of burning out the wax, I burned out the PLA plastic (which is a bio-plastic)."

          Not me not my site. I'm going to give that a try at some point. The process is involved, but allows one to preform all steps oneself at home. I have a Robo 3D http://www.robo3dprinter.com/ on order and am on the list for a Filabot http://filabot.com/ to bring my costs down.

          1. Miguel 1
            Thumb Up

            Re: You can cast aluminum direct from a 3D print

            That's a pretty good step-by-step guide for those of us who still don't know much about practical applications. Has made worthwhile reading the comments, thanks!

      2. Androgynous Crackwhore
        Mushroom

        @TeeCee

        If only you'd said "...as designer shoes are to fashionistas" or even more fitting around here: "...as iPhones are to baristas" you'd have earned a hearty upvote from this commentard - instead of a slightly irked downvote.

      3. Ogi
        Happy

        "Postulate: 3D printers are to techies as designer shoes are to women"

        I sure have a use for a 3D printer, and it is on my list as soon as my savings account has enough money (probably go with a reprap, but might go with a commercial offering, we will see).

        For me, the biggest benefit is to make small/medium plastic parts, either because I want to fix something, or change it. Things that pop right into my mind are:

        * small cases for electronics projects (I can get away with beige boxes, but not the best finish)

        * Custom parts for case mods (e.g. I need a hard disk caddy for my current case, and so far have been unable to make a decent one that lasts. Currently using some glued together acylic).

        * Custom car parts. My car is a classic, my choice of plastic parts are usually from scrapyards, and the plastic is brittle after so many years. Otherwise I can pay an extortionate amount to the car manufacturer for some "new old stock", if they even have it anymore. The ability to print my own will be a godsend.

        * I also like (astro)photgraphy, and being able to manufacture my own custom lens mounts, interconnects, filter mounts, tubes, etc... would be nice.

        If I had a backyard I would have a foundry, and then use the lost wax casting technique to make my own aluminum parts as well.

        When I see 3D printers, I see so much opportunity, it just fires my imagination, they are as far away as the possible to the concept of "designer shoes" to me. I have a lot of practical ideas for one :)

        (if this home manufacturing trend continues, then they future may well be more awesome than I expected)

        1. annodomini2
          Thumb Down

          @Ogi

          That's the principle, the reality is far different!

          Unfortunately to get these things working correctly takes hours and hours of fiddling with the machine, then hours and hours of fiddling with the models to get what you want.

          Yes that plastic clip for a 40-50yo car costs £20, but if you include your time, usually it's cheaper to just buy the clip and enjoy the car.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: @Ogi

            @annodomini

            So? Hours and hours fiddling with the machine to get it right? You seem to be blissfully unaware of how much time a dedicated owner of a classic vehicle spends in maintaining it, scouring fleamarkets and swapfests for that one part they need to keep it running, keep it looking tiptop, and their budget spent on special tools and workshop equipment. Even spending days would be considered a trifle.

            And some printers don't even need 'hours and hours' of fiddling to get the adjustment right. The RepRap Mendel90 we have at the hackerspace (and which I'm going to build for myself) took maybe fifteen minutes.

            Yes that plastic clip for a 40-50yo car costs £20, but if you include your time, usually it's cheaper to just buy the clip and enjoy the car.

            That applies only if you can still buy the damn clip in the first place. And if you need a dozen of them to hold some panel trim, printing them yourself becomes more than tempting. Plus, you can then sell them to your fellow car owners for £2, and both you and them will benefit.

      4. ecofeco Silver badge
        Holmes

        3D printers are what the first inkjets were to techies.

        Do try and keep up.

      5. ecofeco Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Where's my reply?

    3. Andrew Moore

      Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee tooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    4. teebie

      I think you have just described the 3D printer industry's business model

    5. MJI Silver badge

      I want one

      But was working out if it can go long enough.

      Make your own model railway bits, but can I do a whole body shell?

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        @MJI Re: I want one

        Make your own model railway bits, but can I do a whole body shell?

        Just look at the specs, The larger ones can probably do a H0 or TT scale model shell just fine. With scale 0 and up you'll have to break up the design into several parts, which might not be a bad strategy anyway: for a steam locomotive for instance you'd want to print the boiler vertically. For N or Z they may be too crude.

  7. Mage Silver badge

    MX80

    It's impressive, but I suspect the results of many are at the level of an MX80 doing graphics. But back in 1982 a plotter was horribly expensive and an MX80 could do images not just charts.

    Does just one on the list do voids / overhangs? I think that's more important than colour. I like the dual function idea of fitting a Dremel too for hobbyist (small PCBs, tiny aluminium parts, accurate smooth holes) but really you need very beefy chassis and very level bed to even for a Dremel based CNC/Mill.

    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: MX80

      PCB mills have been available for years for a fraction of the price that can do pretty much anything relatively flat, not quite as powerful as a Dremel but certainly a match for the traditional PCB or dentist drills. I have one here that'll take full 12x18 boards I bought a couple of years ago for under £500. It's useful for what it can do - relatively quick and the resulting boards are fairly cheap. It's also really nice being able cut and drill on the same machine with just a change of tool. The downside is that very small burrs don't seem to be available which affects how fine you can go - if you want to mount ½mm pitch SMDs you'll be out of luck.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: MX80

      Have a look at this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/digital-nuisance/8397892203/in/pool-hack42 and the adjacent pics in the pool.

      (7cm high, printed on a Mendel90 with a 0.35 nozzle)

      Overhangs are handled by the slicing software, the bit that converts STL to the stuff the printer understands.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've a an idea to make a fortune......

    ....make Toilet flush buttons, the ones on top of cisterns you'll make a bloody fortune.

    10p bit of plastic broken? New Cistern please.

    1. Bif
      Thumb Up

      Re: I've a an idea to make a fortune......

      Take out the metal ring which surrounds the flush button. Grease the inside, and put it upside down on a flat greased surface. Press in hot polymorph (http://www.maplin.co.uk/productsearch?criteria=polymorph). Bingo.

    2. Old Handle
      IT Angle

      Re: I've a an idea to make a fortune......

      Toilets have buttons over there? How weird.

  9. Chris Miller

    For printers, the biggest cost is always the consumables, not the purchase price. I don't suppose many people (yet) are using these devices to produce large numbers of objects, but it would be useful to know how much it costs to produce a model of (say) 1 cm3.

    1. Arrrggghh-otron

      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/

  10. Paul Smith

    Lack of faith

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

    1. Andrew Moore

      Re: Lack of faith

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

      1. Steve Brooks

        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!

    2. Matt Bucknall

      Re: Lack of faith

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

    3. pauldiabolo

      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.

    4. Steve Lionel

      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.

  11. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    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.

    1. Tim Parker

      @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.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: @Lee Rowling Cost

        *snerk*

    2. harmjschoonhoven

      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.

    3. the spectacularly refined chap

      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.

    4. Stoneshop Silver badge

      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.

  12. Schultz

    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?

    1. Captain TickTock
      Boffin

      Re: How did they make the downward pointing dragon teeth

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

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      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.

  13. Chris Rowland

    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?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      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/

    2. Grahame 2

      Re: Printing in wax?

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

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

    3. Anonymous Coward
      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

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will someone think about the nozzles?

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

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Will someone think about the nozzles?

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

    2. Robert Forsyth

      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.

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: Will someone think about the nozzles?

      *Flashback*

      O_O trapped ties and fingers

  15. 123465789
    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.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Price

      "I have to wonder what were the selection criteria"

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

  16. Anonymous Coward
    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

    1. Gavin King

      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.

  17. markv

    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?

  18. jareece611

    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.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      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.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    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? :-)

    1. John Bailey
      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"..

  20. Bob H
    WTF?

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

  21. Simon Rockman

    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.

    1. dssf

      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!

  22. Mark York 3 Silver badge
    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.

  23. Stevie Silver badge

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Re: Bah!

      Bah!

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

    2. ecofeco Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Bah!

      Get a grip, man!

  24. STGM

    Finally

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

  25. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  26. Simon Rockman

    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.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      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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