Monday, January 19, 2015

Partwork season - 3D printerfest

3D printing is the latest technology (assuming by latest, you ignore it having been around in various forms for the best part of 30 years) to have been spotted by the mainstream media. Certainly the BBC can't get enough of it at the moment even if I'm not convinced they get most of the details beyond "Wow, coloured plastic thing look at the pretty colours!".

Anyway, a 3D printer is the latest toy everyone wants and amazingly, you can build one as a partwork. Not once, but twice.

Spotted in my local WH Smiths, we have the V3 3D Printer. Supported by TV advertising, the machine certainly looks pretty.

The spec is:

  • Single jet nozzle: 0.20mm
  • Can print with compostable PLA or strong, recyclable ABS
  • Layer thickness: 0.20mm
  • Zero waste – prints one layer at a time using only the amount of material required for each object
  • Prints any object up to 140mm x 140mm x 135mm
  • Print speed: 10–100cm3/h
  • Printer weight: 8kg
  • Printer size: 400mm x 295mm x 356mm
  • Power requirements: 100–240VAC, 144W
  • Input format: STL
  • Computer compatibility: Windows XP, Windows 7, Mac OSX 10.7+
  • Printer interface software: a customised version of Repetier-Host (provided with the printer parts)

  • Price £625 although you can buy the whole lot in one go for £699 if you can't wait a year.

    While digging on t'Internet, I then found the Build your Own 3D Printer version. Not as pretty but a slightly higher spec:

    • Body size: 250 (width) × 250 (depth) × 275 (height) mm
    • Weight: about 5kg
    • Modeling method: Fused deposition modeling
    • Maximum modeling Size: 150 (width) × 130 (depth) × 100 (height) mm
    • Nozzle diameter: 0.4mm
    • Stacking pitch: 0.1mm
    • Modeling speed: 100mm per second
    • Filament size: PLA, ABS* each 1.75mm
    • Corresponding OS: Windows 7 or more, Mac OS X
    • Use the software - AutoDesk123D: Design to create an object or 3D artwork.
    • Corresponding 3D printing software: Repetier Host is scheduled to idbox customized version. Software is subject to change, but you can use the ones you have customized for idbox!
    Price £839 over 12 months.

    Both look like interesting machines and if someone offered me one for free, I'd jump at the chance. Even with 0.2mm resolution it would be a lot of fun although too coarse for many serious model making applications. As a test before having a bureau print the final high-res version, you could save an awful lot of time by having on on the end of the workbench.

    However, if you want to dip your toe in to the world of 3D print, and can stump up a pile of cash in one go, a better bet might be to head to Hattons for the Printrbot Simple Simple desktop 3D printer.

    OK, it's fallen out of the ugly tree and hit a few branches on the way down, but the spec looks OK:
    • Filament type: PLA 1.75mm
    • Build volume: 100 x 100 x 100mm
    • Temperature: 180-210 C
    • Layer height: 0.1-0.4mm
    • Nozzle size: 0.4mm
    • Power: 110-240V AC, 50/60Hz
    • Connections: USB
    • Software: User download, Repetier Host recommended
    • Formats read: .stl .obj
    • Operating systems: Windows (XP to 8), Mac OSX 10.6 and after, Linux/Ubuntu
    • Printer dimensions: 265h x 195w x 290d mm
    • Printer weight: 2.79kgs / 6.2lbs
    Price £380

    The V3 printer looks fantastic and I love the idea of assembling it myself. Cudos to the team who worked out how to turn it in to a partwork too. I wonder how many will be bought and built? I'd be tempted to buy it all in one go though. After all, by the time the machine is finished, technology is likely to have moved on - will it be obsolete by the time it's ready to use?

    Personally, I'll be checking out the car boot sales in 12 months as I have a feeling these are the new coffee makers - people will find that CAD isn't nearly as easy as you think and there is limited fun to be had with freely downloadable files. The results won't look like they came out of an injection moulding machine either.

    However, this is proper technology for making things being turned in to a consumer item. Even if a tiny number of people who play with these things decide to delve further than develop their skills then we all could reap the benefits. After all, it worked with Sinclair computers back in the 1980s...


    Andy from Workshopshed said...

    Yes, building your own printer does seem a worth project but I'm not sure doing it over quite so many weeks would work for me. It might be nice if it was bundled into say 10 packs that you could order as you like / can afford. It's quite a lot for a basic printer specially as other printers are going down in price.

    Phil Parker said...

    The second printer is sold in 12 lumps but I think that's still over a year, and it costs more.

    If you look around there are lots of options for this sort of kit out there and I wonder if the sort of perso n who doesn't do a bit of research is really an ideal candidate to lern how to use one of these.

    Ed Smith said...

    We've been using 3d printing over the past year (in parts) on our N gauge model railway Thornycroft, Using a RepRapPro Ormerod which is a kit built printer circa £500. We had a few headaches with it to begin with, which I suspect you'll get with most. You definitely need to know what you are doing, we've wasted quite a bit of PLA just calibrating it. Once we "tuned" it in we've had some pretty good results.