This is a diversion from the usual photography posts but thought worth sharing my experiences.

This year I have been long thinking about getting a 3D printer.  I don’t really have any specific projects in mind for this and perhaps that is why I procrastinated for such a long time.  A friend of mine who has one and uses it for fabricating parts for a race car project had said to me that outside of that specific use the printer has become extremely helpful and payed for itself by making replacement parts for household items and other things like that.

That kind of statement got me thinking about whether it was something that was worth owning.  They can be a lot of money and so such an expense needed proper consideration.

3D printing has come a long way and I, like many others, see a time when most household items will just be made at home and in the same way much of the small batch printing industry has gone (and to some extent the music industry) the future of small plastic objects will move into the design and file download services rather than manufacture and distribution.  I felt like it was time to start understanding this new business.

I did some research and picked out a model that I though would suit my needs in the event that I decide to pull the trigger.  My consideration was based upon a few criteria;

  • Size of bed – which dictates the maximum size of the things you can make.
  • Supported materials – most things are made in some sort of plastic but there are also metal and wood based materials that can be used too so if you think you might use those then the machine needs to support it.
  • Simplicity of use – I am a beginner at this so it had to be a a fairly basic unit but also, I didn’t want to outgrow it too quickly either – the investment had to have longevity.
  • Cost – I don’t have a fortune to waste on toys and whims 🙂

The machine I picked out was the Monoprice Maker Select V2; it had good reviews and seemed very capable and yet was not excessively priced.

That’s where I stopped until a couple of months later my wife picked the subject up again with me; Christmas and Black Friday were approaching.  I showed her what I had been looking at and we discussed further with both of us thinking it is probably a good idea.

A few more weeks passed and Black Friday arrived and again my wife raised the subject.  On looking online, the machine was indeed at a good price and we decided now was the time – a purchase was made.

While I waited for it to arrive I increased my online research watching videos of those who had gone through the pain of learning how to use these machines.  Yes Pain.  It is clear that plug and play is far from how these work and there is a lot of understanding of settings and adjustment needed to get successful results.  Also, many of the machines have recommended modifications to improve performance with those modifications being mostly in the form of things you can print that you then fit to the very device that printed them!

A few days later a large box arrived other than checking the contents nothing happened for a few more days and it sat on the floor – having a young child under one year means personal projects often have to wait 🙂

But then a few days later my wife was busy sewing and that meant I could get busy setting up the printer.

The instructions were clear and I quickly had it assembled and started the process of calibrating.  This primarily involves making sure the height of the print bed is paper thickness from the print head (or extruder) and getting the print filament fed into the print head.

It came with a few yards of sample filament which may or not be good quality but should be fine for getting started.

The unit also came with an SD card with some sample pre-prepared print files installed.  What they were was somewhat of a mystery as they were named with just the numbers 1 through 4.  I selected file number 1….

Away the machine went and an outline quickly appeared; I could tell this was going to be a butterfly (I had seen examples online before).  Time was getting late and after checking a few more times I decided to leave it going and see what the result was the next morning…

Success!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Okay so it’s pretty simple but for a first attempt I was very happy.

Next day on to test number two; this time I selected file number 4.  I got it started early in the evening and so there was no need for an over-night wait.  I was rewarded an hour or so later with a cute little elephant!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I am pretty impressed with the detail on this little thing and the finish is much nicer than I expected.  There is a minor issue; the observant of you might see the line halfway up the trunk which is a break that is probably a printing fault (possibly due to the filament quality?) – I am not going to worry too much about it.

So enough of pre-built test files, that’s not what I bought it for; I need to move onto real projects.  For that I need a design tool and also a ‘Slicer’.  Unfortunately that will have to wait as my computer is away being repaired so until I get that back I am on hold.

I will do the next installment when I have that back and I will also explain what the slicer is for and what applications I have decided to use.