Let's talk 3D printers!

I have been really wanting one for a long long time. I don't know much beyond how they work. Whatever I get must be enclosed. There are a few initial questions I have.

Are they like welders? Get the biggest best you can afford off the bat.

What are some best value brands?

Is a "does it all" type fine (filament wise) or is purpose machine better?

It's basically going to be a hobby thing. I am into RC so whatever filament is usually used for tougher parts. My wife would likely also love it since she is heavy into crafts.

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Hey, I have been 3D printing for years. I too am into RC, and have designed a few of my own, pretty much completely 3d printed. I really like Gyrocopters.

Started out with a very small one, monoprice select mini. A very good printer for the money but quickly outgrew that due to the size of the bed. I still have 3 printers, and another on the way. I have good results with the FLSUN brand. They are priced pretty good and they do perform right outta the box. You will be modifying things as you go. PLA is the universal printing filament, it's easy to work with. Make sure you get a heated bed.

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The Creality Ender 3 seems to be a good choice. It is popular enough that it has an active subreddit.

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I have a Prusa. I would recommend that printer, unless you want another hobby to waste time on making it work :wink:

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+1 on Prusa. I have one a couple years ago. You can save a few bucks if you order the kit and build it your self.

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Prusa isn't precisely a "value" brand. Good hardware but not exactly bottom of the price bracket.

Personally I looked at the hobby, examined the costs and skills required (and believe me, there are many of both unless you're simply downloading models to print on a preconfigured unit) and bought a broken printer from a company called Voxelab, it's a somewhat cheaper clone of the Ender 3 v2 and as was I ended up paying £70 delivered, their returns department were basically just shifting stock as damaged/untested. My logic is thus - stripping and rebuilding the hardware from the ground up along with diagnosing the reason for its return in the first place would give me a good grounding in the mechanics and design of the printer, from that I would have a better understanding of the actual printing and how slicers affect the print.

I'm pretty happy with how it's worked out, I've gotten a far better understanding and have already been utilising the thing for other projects (even designing and printing a few pieces as they became necessary for things on the fly), including upgrading the original printer in fairly major fashion. This now means I know there is a place in my workspace/workflow where I can justify a better unit. What's more, I'll be in a good position to make best use of it and also know exactly what I need to look for in the next iteration.

The two things you need to weigh up are tool vs hobby. A cheap printer can give fantastic quality but you'll need to work at getting results and be prepared for a steep learning curve. There's more than enough material available so it's not hard to find explanations for almost anything, but the signal to noise ratio can be a little disconcerting until you get a grip on what you're looking at. On the other hand, spend a chunk more money and that becomes less relevant. You'll still need to know a bit but there will be less tinkering involved.

All in all, it's well worth taking that step and just seeing where it takes you. Don't expect to make money from it at this point, 3D printers are fairly common now and print farms are springing up all over, but you honestly can't beat the feeling of seeing a need for something, designing the answer and watching the noisy box of curse words spit it out in front of you.

For the record there are five cats and a dog here, so far we're surviving without an enclosure but I do have the hardware for a basic Lack design kicking around. Most of the furmin know to avoid buzzing things that get hot...

As an aside, I should mention that when ezlo (current owner of the Vera line of controllers) sent out new units for beta testing, they had no external cases for them, so one of their Forum members came up with a 3D printing model we could use.

Kinda neat that we live in a time when this is even possible. Wish I could justify the cost.

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I'm terrible at reading through responses, so apologies if this has already been mentioned, but I am partticularly interested in the software people use. There is a local company that offer a printing service, but I want to duplicate / combine 3D design files from ThingVerse (I think) into one print run to save costs. Anyone who has done this, I would be interested in finding out your experience and software you used.

@sburke781 , If you have the files (like a .stl) then just load them onto the slicing software and you can print multiple objects in one print. I use Cura, but there are many others. I do this a lot, once i know each design is good to print. So print singles first to prove they are good then add.

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I have been printing for 6-7 years now. Started with an Anet A8 (would not recommend). It was a very cheap printer, made with cheap parts. I recently upgraded to the Flashforge Creator Pro 2, and have really enjoyed it. Here's a few reasons why I like it, and why I think it would be good for a beginner.

  1. Out of the box assembled. I had to install the extruders (4 screws each) and a few other things, but it is all prewired and pretty much ready to go upon opening the box.

  2. Easy to calibrate. The CP2 has a touchscreen and walks you thru the menus on setting up and calibrating. Bed leveling is very easy, and they give you all the tools you need for calibration / maintenance. Sure, it takes some time to dial it in, and really learn the calibration steps. Though that is the case for any printer. I didn't really have good prints until after a couple days of playing with it, but I would say that is just how it goes with hobbyist printers. Even a seasoned pro would take some time to learn a new platform / interface, and even between 2 of the exact same printers one may be a little different than the other. Really comes down to machine tolerances, which can vary between machines.

  3. This printer is fully enclosed, and I believe most if not all of Flashforge's models are. This printer has a door on the front, and a cover on the top. The rest of the sides are fully enclosed.

  4. The CP2 came with 2 full rolls of filament. Maybe not an issue, but 2 full rolls is a lot of print time. I probably have over 100 hours of printing on mine now, and I am about halfway thru the first roll, and the second is mostly full.

  5. Multiple Facebook groups and reddit groups supporting the printers. Some are Flashforge generic groups, and others are specific to a certain model printer. I have found a decent amount of info on these groups.

The CP2 has most of the bells and whistles of a higher end 3D Printer. The only thing I wish it had was auto bed leveling. Not a deal breaker for myself though, because really once you get the bed leveled well it is good for a long time.

The CP2 I would like to think is more advanced, and fairly expensive at $650. It features IDEX which means the X-axis for the extruders are split so you can print 2 things at once, and offers better dual filament printing properties. This is probably unnecessary for most beginners though.

I would recommend taking a look at the Adventurer 3 or Adventurer 3 Lite. It is probably a better beginner level printer. Features auto bed leveling, wifi, heated bed, and many other features. It is also a good price AV3) $369, and the lite is $349. So not too much money out if you get it and decide its too much of a hassle, etc.

I got an Elegoo Neptune 2 about four or five months ago. It's basically another Ender 3 clone. Definitely on the budget end from a price standpoint (less than $200 US) but pretty solid despite that. I've put another $100 or so in upgrades to make for a better/smoother experience; an automatic bed-leveler being the most significant. (Whichever model printer you end up getting, I highly recommend making sure it has auto bed-leveling capabilities either as a default or an add-on. Trying to level your bed manually is a PITA, and it's pretty critical to getting decent prints.)

Although I have printed a handful of fun items for myself, I view it more as a tool. I can produce functional items that either don't exist to my particular specifications or are frustratingly difficult to get a hold of. I just repaired the broken wheel chassis on my vacuum by printing a new one; I could've ordered a replacement chassis but it's a $10 part plus the cost and time to ship it from China. I had my vacuum up and running in 2 hours instead of a month or longer if I had to order a new part. Most of my prints only need to meet a "good enough" standard like that (how much time does anyone spend looking at the wheel chassis on a vacuum, after all?) so I don't spend a lot of time fine-tuning designs or optimizing printer settings or anything.

The cheaper end of printers probably aren't the way to go if you're looking for "finished" pieces. Stuff you want to sell on Etsy or whatever. You can print stuff that certainly looks good, but the time/energy you would need to getting those results consistently probably isn't worth it. But if you're more interested in using it for practical applications where the occasional blemish or slight warping isn't a big concern, the cheaper ones are probably fine. I've been happy with the Neptune 2, but I can easily see how it wouldn't be a good choice for some people.

I use a Wanhao Duplicator i3+. middle of the road printer. Mostly use it for custom electronics cases, etc. Printed some mods for it to strengthen the frame, belt tensioners, bed leveling thumb screws, etc. It was pretty good out of the box.

Don't rule out an open printer as you can always purchase or build an enclosure. Something called a "lack" IIRC from Ikea seems popular.

From what I've read (no personal knowledge) an enclosure only seems necessary when printing ABS filaments as they emit odor when heated and you get better results with a heated print chamber. And it would require venting to outside.

Whatever printers you start to narrow down to (price, size, etc) look for an active online community!

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I definitely consider a 3D Printer a useful tool to have as well. I'm a mechanical engineer by trade, so having a lot of design experience is also a plus. Though with websites like thingiverse and grabcad, it makes it easy for even someone without design experience to get started. There is plenty of models available for almost any application you can think of on those sites.

There has definitely been times something has broke on me and I have whipped out a quick design and print to fix the issue. The best application I have had was a license plate light bulb holder for my wife's car. For whatever reason I couldn't find a replacement part, so I used some transparent white ABS to print a new holder. Lets the light thru, and nicely illuminates the plate with the new holder. This was back in 2017, so it has held up for about 5 years out in the elements (car is not ever in a garage, and in the wonderful IL winters too). There has been other items I have done similarly for as well. The filament is so cheap, if you are able to design (or download) a replacement part for what you need, it is practically a free repair.

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I liked this one, including the built-in camera to monitor prints remotely (along w/auto-leveling, heat bed, etc.). If I get one it be simplest to keep it in the garage, and it would be nice to be able to check progress from the house. The price is not too crazy for a "silly hobby" purchase (how my wife will refer to it :wink: ) and it seems like a pretty complete system.

Will this live/work OK in a garage that has no temp control? In SoCal, but it gets hot (>95) in the hottest part of the summer, and cold (down to 30's if you can believe it) in the winter.

Does this printer have any particular strengths/weaknesses that stand out, or pretty much normal range of capabilities for this price range?

And do 3D printers need a "permanent" home where they stay (on a workbench or something like that), or could I put it on top of a rolling cart? I have my tennis racquet stringing machine bolted to the top of a four-wheel cart and find it very convenient to store it away and then bring it out when I need it. Thinking it would be good if I can do that w/the printer as well. Obviously I'd refrain from driving it around the house while printing. :slight_smile:

I have had good luck with my two generations of Snapmaker devices. I had a Thing-O-Matic before those (and parts for a couple things in between that never got assembled).

As for your questions:

  1. No temp control? That CAN be a problem, in that the hot end needs to be a certain temperature to melt whatever filament you are using. Cooler temperatures make it more difficult. It will also cause problems with the heated bed most devices have. Your summer temperatures should not be an issue (as long as it does not swing too badly while performing a long print).
  2. Not familiar with that one, so I will leave it for someone else.
  3. They do NOT need a permanent home but depending on how they are made you do want them pretty stable when they are running. My Thing-O-Matic and 1st Gen Snapmaker I used to lug all around. Heck, the Thing-O-Matic still has a desktop PC carrying strap setup. But when I would print I would make sure they were level and stable. So if you put it on a cart make sure it has locking casters and does not sway around (you could always put some extra weight below it in the cart to dampen it).
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I have the creator pro 2, so I am not very familiar with the adventurer 3. Though I can comment on some generic printer stuff. I will say I haven't had my CP2 very long, but it has been a pretty good printing experience so far. Just ran about 10-11 hours worth of printing on it today.

Regarding the garage placement, personally I wouldn't recommend it. I have noticed changes in printability even from summer indoor temps to winter indoor temps. So a change from around 74°F to 69°F has made a noticeable difference. The other, probably more important factor here is humidity. The filament absorbs moisture in the air and leaving them out too long causes it to print like crap. For my Anet A8 printer I picked up a filament heater which the spool sat in and it kept it warm to reduce moisture in the spool.

With my Anet A8 (unenclosed printer) I printed mainly ABS, and it would struggle in the winter time. Usually with bed adhesion, and it had a heated bed. I normally had to crank up the bed temp a little more to get prints to stick / avoid warping. I ended up moving it into my office's walk in closet. When I printed I just shut the door and it kept the temp really nice. It was probably a 6'x4' room, so it was small enough it would be noticeably warmer in there after an hour or so of the printer running. Also was nice to keep the bad ABS smell locked up in a room, and it is probably safer too. I thought about moving the printer into my basement, but considering it is usually around 60°F there, I thought it might be too cold to print reliably.

I have my CP2 printer sitting on an Ikea Alex (the shorter wide one). This is great, as this base is very stable, and resists motion when pushed or bumped into. There is also some space around the printer to leave my tools for setup / taking prints off the bed. A wheeled cart might be fine, the biggest issue would be if someone were to bump into it while printing. If that happened, then your print could get screwed up, or have a noticeable defect. My old Anet was sitting on a pressboard table, which was fairly sturdy, but if I pushed the top of it fairly hard it would wiggle a little bit. Given the location though, I was never worried about it getting bumped. The cart you posted would probably be fine, I would maybe recommend locking the wheels while printing. Also keep the wood top so you have a nice flat surface for the feet to sit on.

I used to have a standard HP paper printer on a TV tray, and when it was printing the whole tray would shake back and forth. Same concept applies here, mass moving around on the gantry can cause the table to shake if not sturdy enough. A TV tray would definitely be too flimsy for a 3D printer. The other result to avoiding this is to slowdown the print speed, but no one wants to wait longer for a print to finish, or maybe I'm just too impatient :joy:

Just to reiterate, the more sturdy of a base you can get, the better. But as long as it doesn't wobble around very easily should be fine. And doing what you can to prevent it from being bumped into will only give you the best results. Also, keeping it in a temp controlled room is best, if possible for temp and humidity.

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I've been terrified to even dip my toes into 3D printing assuming the costs were stupid high.

Well as with so many other things, Amazon had a sale when I had a bonus on my check...

I grabbed the Voxelab Aquila for less than I have paid for my last 3 Inkjet printers

Did a lot of reading and it looks like it has the features I need to do what I want to do, and has a large following, most likely based on price. They seem to regularly go for about $190.00, the lightning deal was at $140.00 so I kind of couldn't pass it up. I have some obsolete parts for my 20 year old Ryobi table saw, and my Iris keypads that need to be made, as well as mounts for Echo dots trhough the house. I figured by the time the miter fence ends, and Echo Dot mounts themselves are done, I have paid for the printer, and come out slightly ahead after factoring in filament. I am already pretty adept at Sketchup, so I just needed to figure out the slicing software, and all that jazz....

Looked at Cura slicing software, then saw the licensing fees, and am going with VoxelMaker. I don't need fancy, and sure can't do expensive, but effective works for me...

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Cura should be free to use, unless something has changed in the last couple months. Been using it for years with my Anet, and it has been solid. Don't use it much anymore as I have a Flashforge now, and their slicer is best with their printers.

It's paid only for the enterprise version. Otherwise free .

Thanks, I am figuring it out slowly.

I see, well, "drivers" fro all sorts of 3D printers, but nothing for the Voxelab Aquila. I need to fix that bit but yes I at least have the free / open source version of the slicer...

Looks like the profile for the Ender 3 is deal on for the Aquila so I will try that...

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