3D Printing – Checking Out What’s Out There

From time to time I have wondered about 3D printing and have never really carried it much farther than the wondering part. This time I got a little more serious and started some investigation.

I’m thrifty (cheap) and I don’t really know how much I would get into this so I kept my investigations to the low priced printers. I looked at 5 (so far): Creality Ender 3, Monoprice Select Mini, Anet A8, TEVO Tarantula and Monoprice Mini Delta.

All except the Monoprice Mini Delta are cartesian coordinate (XYZ) printers. The Mini Delta is a different animal in that it uses the delta style (use your favorite search engine) of positioning.

Each of these printers have their own issues. Some more than others but none of the issues are things I couldn’t resolve myself. There is LOTS of help out there about the issues and how to solve them. Often they involve printing replacement or supplementary parts on the printer itself.

Do I have a favorite? Of course! It’s looking like the Monoprice Mini Delta is going to be the winner for several reasons:

  • It has a heated bed. This makes getting the part to stick to the bed easier.
  • The bed is auto leveling – a necessity for any delta style printer. This is a time consuming manual process on the other printers.
  • It’s faster than all of the others mostly because it uses the delta system.
  • It’s fully assembled out of the box. The others, except the Monoprice Select Mini, are kits. REAL kits with a pile of parts and various levels of instructions for assembly.
  • The frame is all metal and quite rigid.

Does it have flaws? Of course! It doesn’t have an on/off switch (stupid but easily solved). The bed size is small but I wasn’t planning on printing anything big anyway. The main board fan is overly loud. It has problems feeding non-rigid filament stock. It requires some tweaking of the software slicer (pretty easy to fix).  The wifi interface is unreliable but I probably wouldn’t use it anyway.

All of these things (except the print size) are fixable or can be ignored (wifi).

All of these printers can print with a variety of materials such as PLA (by far the most popular material) and ABS. PLA (polylactic acid) operates at a lower temperature and is easy to work with and inexpensive. ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene – LEGO bricks) produces much sturdier parts but needs higher temperature and gives off nasty fumes.

I haven’t bought a 3D printer yet but with this much research (several days now) and the itch to buy myself a Christmas present you know it can’t be long now.

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