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3D Printing - "It's all about design and quality output. Not how fast the printer can run."

DSC07829L to R - Cartesian, DeltLow Cost 3D PrintersLow Cost 3D PrintersLow Cost 3D Printer

Low Cost 3D Printers

This is just my observation and experience. I am not promoting any particular brand of 3D printer. User experience depends on, well… user experience and the ability to recognize problems and make corrections. Mostly an ability to realize that about half of all beginner 3D printer “problems” are self-inflicted by the users lack of experience and inability to admit or realize their own mistakes. A tool is only as good as the user.

 I purchased kit type, low cost 3D fused filament type printers. Two styles. One is a Cartesian with direct and separate X, Y, Z motion and the other is a Delta style that uses a polar type print head movement that converts Cartesian instructions into a 3 corner continuous polar movement. I have posted pictures of both styles I own.

These printers are each in the $300 price range. Full assembly was required. They are sold as kits. The main reason for the lower cost. It is a great price for a hobbyist skilled with making things, to get involved.

A kit requires the builder to be totally responsible for proper assembly even when the instructions are slightly in error. A person with a lot of assembly experience can easily produce a proper functioning machine. That is saying, kit assembly may not be for everyone.

Over time, I have had to make some personal “engineering modifications” to both printers. I expected I would do that. Engineering minds are always searching for ways to make things work not necessarily faster, but better. I am guilty.

Both machines are now over a year old and I have made hundreds of prints on both. I have consumed at least 50 POUNDS of plastic filament in over 20 different colors and in a least two different plastic material, PLA and ABS.

There have been frustrations along the way. I have been able to overcome them. All were either machine maintenance or “fine tuning” a new plastic material for proper temperatures and printing speeds. 3D printing is not a “plug and play” activity.

I am close to that plug and play comfort now that I fully understand the limitations of the machines, the material and the process. There is always a little “fiddling” when changing materials.

My opinion as a hobbyist/enthusiast - There is nothing lost from my choice of purchasing lower cost machines. The high end (priced) machines usually require proprietary components and many times proprietary printing materials. Generic material can usually be adapted, but don’t look to the manufacture to bless any modifications. You can’t blame them for that.

Professional use demands the costlier, fully integrated systems. I will not recommend a $300 printer for anyone but a hobbyist, where learning and experimenting is all part of the desired experience. If the goal is only the finished print, then work with professional level equipment.

Hobbyists need to address and recognize their abilities with overcoming frustrations when things don’t go quite as expected. I get frustrated for a moment but I love it when I can overcome a problem or make something work better. The more you pay the more one should expect flawless performance. However, I believe the nature of 3D printing is far from commanding, “Erma, Print me the Statue of Liberty.”

I have enjoyed the experience learning the 3D fused filament printing process on low end machines. I have looked at the pricier printers now available, and I see no reason to upgrade. Not for the way and reason I use my present machines. Either style of my machines will now do excellent prints. If I had to choose one, I’d pick a larger bed size Delta machine. But it’s going to cost more.

In the photos can be seen that I operate both printers simultaneously off one computer. I print directly with a USB connection to each machine. I have two copies of the same software running in separate desktops in a Linux operating system.

Once the model slicing is accomplished, the overhead for the computer OS to feed two USB ports is very low. I have checked email and other tasks at the same time, but I usually just let the Linux machine do nothing but tend to the two printers. I don’t want to do something stupid and crash a long print job.

Three D printing does not have to be expensive. It’s taught in High School and probably earlier in many school systems. Mastering the printer is not an end goal. The goal is what leads up to printing. The design work, the CAD skills, the thinking about how something is made. Then seeing it made and thinking how to improve the design is the goal. The 3D printer is only the hammer in the toolbox.

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Linux Ubuntu with four desktops showing My Linux "Sandbox" computer

The Author

Ramblin' Dan Kautz

dankautzThere is no doubt one of my hobbies is writing about my hobbies. I read somewhere a long time ago, the best things to write about are the things you know very well. I have been writing and publishing long before the personal computer became the tool of choice.  My first printed and published club newsletter was created in the late 60's.

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Our Mission

The intention of this web site and “Ramblin’ Dan’s 3D Print Design Studio” is to promote creative design thinking and demonstrate how ideas can be changed to tangible creations through the proper application and use of Three-Dimensional Printing systems.

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