Current 3D printer for a computer club?

Discussion in 'Hobby Engineering' started by Agg, Feb 3, 2014.

  1. Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

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    A friend of mine runs a "community technology centre" and is always looking for ideas. I casually mentioned 3D printers and he's really run with the concept and has ideas of printing bits for local RC clubs and making souvenirs and stuff (being aware of the timeframes and expense involved). Anyway, I haven't been keeping up with things in too much detail, but he wants some pointers as to which units he should be considering.

    Soooo.. what's the current state of things? Are there a couple of major players to choose between? Or is it still very much DIY? What would be a realistic budget for him to put to his club board?
     
  2. SLATYE

    SLATYE SLATYE, not SLAYTE

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    As far as I can tell, the options are basically:

    Cheap printers (under $500) - questionable reliability, questionable availability, some potentially nice ones on the horizon. Good if you really enjoy tinkering, not so good if you're expecting something that just works. Examples include the Makibox (got one of these, waiting for replacement parts), PrintrBot, Peachy (funding this but not available yet), and the many RepRap derivatives.


    Mid-range printers ($1000ish to $5000ish) - more or less commercial options. The Makerbot ones (now owned by Stratasys) are probably the most common ones you'd see around. There's also the Ultimaker and the Up! that I can think of. These are generally more refined versions of the cheap ones - so what you're paying for is somewhat better performance and much better reliability. There's also the Form1, which looks to be a great printer but isn't available for order just yet.


    High-end printers - stuff like the Stratasys uPrint line. These tend to be further refined and with handy features added. In particular, the uPrint can do a soluble support material that allows for much more complex objects. On the other hand, they're not cheap and they tend to require consumables to be bought from the manufacturer.


    For a community printer, I'd suggest not buying a cheap printer. Great for a hobbyist that quickly learns to deal with the various quirks, but for community use it'll just be annoying. The high-end ones are great but can be very expensive to run (mostly because their abilities mean that people print horribly complex jobs on them) and obviously setup cost is high.

    That leaves the mid-range ones as a decent option. These are still capable of doing very nice parts, but they tend to be functional rather than beautiful - and when designing them you do have to pay attention to the printer's limitations.
     
  3. aXis

    aXis Member

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    I've got one of the cheap printers ($500 solidoodle) and can confirm Slayte's opinion on the cheap end. I've got it working generally OK now but there was a lot of failed prints and it took a fair bit of tinkering to get improvements.

    Print times will be a big issue for most clubs and you might find they'd only get 1 or 2 large prints per day (eg 8 cm cube), or max 10 small ones (eg 3cm cube).
     
  4. Betzie

    Betzie Member

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    A while ago I was looking at what desktop options were out there and by far the best was the bitsforbytes 3000, looks like it is now discontinued.

    http://cubify.com/legacy/

    They were about $3000 delivered from the UK assembled and had the largest print area of the sub $8000 range, they also did a teaching edition and they were significantly cheaper if you built them yourself.

    They seem to have been bought out by http://www.3dsystems.com/au/3d-printers/personal/overview

    The above probably doesn't help much but if you can find one of the bfb 3000 on ebay or the like it might be a good option.
     
  5. RyoSaeba

    RyoSaeba Member

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    Seen a review of the Form1 from some guy who got it from the kickstart project. The details of it is much better compared to cheaper ones like makerbots and pretty much anything that uses the same tech as makerbots. However it's costlier in comparison.
     
  6. Billzilla

    Billzilla Member

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    I reckon get an UP. I've been using mine for a year or two and it's been pretty darn good.
     
  7. PureFire

    PureFire Member

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    For those that already have a 3d printer, can you post some pics of your best results.
     
  8. Billzilla

    Billzilla Member

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    For some reason I find it really difficult to get a good photo of anything I print. They come out much nicer than the photos look.
    But here's the saucer section of the Enterprise being printed. It was large enough so that I had to turn it 45° to fit it on the print platform.

    [​IMG]
     

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