Jun.13, 2012

Since our recent post "What is your experience with 3D printer", a few readers sent to us their insights and experiences with 3D printers. Stefaan from Belgium notes, "When buying a 3D printer kit, there is a high learning curve." And Steve from US says "this is the bleeding edge".

Here is what Stefaan says:

When buying a 3D printer kit, there is a high learning curve.

Building the printer with no or minimal documentation, learning the firmware part (expl marlin firmware), the printer software's (example: pronterface and slic3r), building experience on the plastics (temperature to use, printer speed, settings ...), solving small hardware problems (filament blocks, unwanted noises,...), tweaking the printer (leveling the printer bed, ...).

In my case I was the first to buy a 3D printer (nobody I know had one) and had almost no support (only via forums, websites,...). Overall, I was able to get the printer working in a few days and was very satisfactied when I got it working. Only the time between buying and printing some successful "things" was frustrating. I think that many less motivated people and people with low troubleshooting/technical capacities would give up during that time.

From Steve:

I built a Makerbot Thing-O-Matic from a kit. The instructions were ok, but there were instructions omitted and some parts didn't match the description. I also make kits so I guess I'm a bit more understanding of how hard it is to keep documentation up to date when you have to change the parts in the kit. It happens a lot, and it's hard to know what to do when you know you have kits out there with the old parts and kits out there with the new parts.

Anyway, it was an incredibly challenging build on almost every level. I'm experienced at building kits, and it was hard. The challenges don't end once you get the kit together, either. Running any 3d printer is going to be *full* of problems because of the crazy complexity of the task you're trying to do. There are mechanical things, hot things, sensors, moving wires, melting plastic, and then a dizzying number of parameters for *how* you print.

I'll freely admit that it took about a month to get my printer working, and then it took me about 5 months to stop regretting my purchase. Now I know how it works and usually know why it stops working, and usually know how to fix it. All of the poorly designed parts have failed, I've re-ordered replacements, and taken steps to modify by bot to relieve the source of the problem that caused the failures so hopefully it won't happen again.

This is the bleeding edge. Sit on it long enough and you'll see that the cuts you get heal up just fine and you'll have cool scars to prove it.


3D printing is gaining in popularity, but the product is so new that they could have a risk of being unstable, limited support, uncaught problems, compatability issues and lead beta-testers to spend more money and time in order to make use of them.

At this stage, this new technology is not ready to be implemented widely and immediately - far from it. We need to always be aware that the products we are developing is for making the lives of our users easier, not vice versa, to make it overly complicated and expect users to constantly adjust to it because it is "new technology".


Posted in 3D Printers



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