The Different Flavors of Home 3D Printers

By on February 2nd, 2011 in Hardware, Ideas

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We’ve been reading a long thread on the MakerBot Operator’s Google Group initiated by Shawn M, who is considering purchasing a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic 3D printer. He asks about the level of effort required to produce high-quality parts with this particular device. 
As is often the case, a simple question led to some insights. A very long discussion ensued with commenters pointing out the differences between various personal 3D printers, including the CupCake, Thing-O-Matic, Up!, BfB and RepRap Mendel.
The gist of the thinking was that there are several different flavours of personal 3D printers that lie upon a range of characteristics. It’s more than just the cost difference between these models. There are other factors to consider:
  • Durability and robustness of the design and the parts that make it up
  • Time required to correctly assemble the device; or not at all if it’s already assembled
  • Level of flexibility afforded by access to hardware and software parameters
  • Effort required to maintain operability
  • Level of manufacturer and community support 
  • Device capabilities, including build envelope, resolution, materials, etc.
It all makes for a difficult choice that ultimately depends on what you seek as an operator and your willingness to spend dollars and/or time. Generally, the lower the price, the more time and effort you’ll have to put in yourself. 
Nevertheless, we thought commenter Zip Zap had it right with this thought:
All 3D printers are time hogs
That may be true, but they are also amazing, and there’s a price for that.

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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