Seven Things You Must Know About 3D Printing

By on June 11th, 2013 in Ideas


Many Fabbaloo readers are new to the idea of 3D printing. You may have been attracted to the technology because you’ve seen it on the web, or perhaps someone told you about it. But not having experienced it directly, there are some things you should know. 
It’s Slow. Do not expect Star Trek Replicator speed with today’s 3D printers. The most expensive commercial units take many hours, or even days, to produce even medium-sized objects. Consumer-grade 3D printers can be even slower. Your fastest print will be small objects, and even then expect to take at least one or two hours to print. 
It’s Expensive. Today you can buy small plastic objects at the store for practically nothing. This is not the case when producing a similar object on a consumer-grade 3D printer. The plastic can be relatively expensive and this means your coat hook could cost a lot more than one you can buy. Oh, and did we mention that you have to buy the 3D printer first? 
It’s Frustrating. When you print a page on your 2D paper printer, it generally works quite well. You might occasionally get a paper jam or require refreshing the ink cartridges, but your print rarely fails. Not so with personal 3D printers, and even commercial 3D printers; failures are common. Prints fall off the bed, a glitch in the feed, heat discoloration or simply a power failure during a very long print can all happen – and do. 
It’s Rough. Store-bought items are typically smooth and glossy. 3D printed objects generally are not. They usually exhibit “layering” where you can directly examine the resolution of the 3D printer. There are ways to post-process 3D printed objects to clean them up, but you probably won’t do so.  
It’s Limited. Most personal 3D printers can produce plastic objects, some in several kinds of plastic. It is possible to print in many other substances, including metal, food, ceramic, glass and more, but you either have to buy an expensive commercial 3D printer or build your own machine to print alternate materials. 
It’s Changing. 3D printing’s rate of technological change is very rapid. Today’s personal 3D printers are astronomically better than those offered two years ago – and we can expect the same (or more) rapid progress to occur. If you are not satisfied with current offerings, just wait.  
It’s Amazing. While the facts above may detract from personal 3D printing, it is still amazing. There is magic in watching an item simply appear in front of your eyes right out of thin air. This is why most personal 3D printers are open air or have windows – so you can see it happen, and be amazed. 

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!