My Journey with 3D Printing.

In March of 2015 I thought of something confidential with the potential to change the world. I am rapidly prototyping an educational toy that has a shot at making it so my grandchildren will not be worried about global warming or death by cancer. Teaching myself 3d printing has been a hard road but it didn’t have to be this hard. I want my company, Pintstein, to help people purchase easier, more convenient innovation.

If you’ve gotta have a 3d printer A.S.A.P., buy a “Printrbot Play” $399+$35 shipping or maybe “the micro” from M3D $350+$25 shipping but before ordering I hope you will read the rest of my journey with rapid prototyping machines.

M3D – The Largest Kick starter ever has come through on its promises and is delivering beautiful printers to backers who checked the “I have a windows computer” box. M3D’s first model, the micro is smooth and looks like something from the future but do you want to be a beta tester? For those of you that don’t even know what a beta tester is, here is an explanation, “In software development, a beta test is the second phase of softwaretesting in which a sampling of the intended audience tries the product out. (Beta is the second letter of the Greek alphabet.) Originally, the term alpha test meant the first phase of testing in a software development process.”  The majority of consumers do not want to be a beta tester. My journey with 3d printing tells me that the technology is on the verge of being configured into something that typical consumers love but it is not there yet.

Printrbot– This company will ship you something the day after you order it and it will be an elegant design. Printrbot is embracing rapid prototyping so much that my model, the “Printrbot simple maker 1405”, is already obsolete. The metal frames that you see on most of the company’s products are superior because some wood frames will warp with summer humidity.

Now let’s get into the nitty gritty details. If you are still reading this blog you are the 1%. My experience with consumers is that 99% just want the short and sweet punch line that I listed above. If you are about to order a printer without reading the rest of this blog post, here is one last punch line; don’t purchase ABS filament. PLA filament will give you a lot fewer headaches.

I own three 3d printers and all of them have given me a lot of problems. I ordered my M3D micro on March 3rd of 2015 and received it June 6th. I checked the “I have a mac” box and learned that I should have checked the “I have a windows” box on May 23rd. My attempts to print with the micro have all failed because of print shifting, the print head becomes displaced and the next layer is deposited in the wrong location.  I am not the only one experiencing this problem I wish I could share this link with you but unless you have an M3D printer you can’t log into the M3D forums. So I will copy and paste what M3D user-ptcg says: “It takes almost no force at all to stop the motors.  This is what I’ve been saying all along.  It’s not a software issue, it’s hardware.  The motors are too weak to keep accurate positioning with even the slightest thing going wrong.  Add up the drag from the filament, friction on the rails, inconsistent filament heating, then throw in a bump on the printed object, or it curling up off the bed, and whammo.. shifting.  I think we’ve now seen evidence that M3D is aware of this, since they slowed down the print speed to stop shifting.

I’ve printed huge, complex prints that came out just fine.  I’ve printed tiny, very simple objects that drifted, and vice versa.  There’s no rhyme or reason to it.  They might be able to limit how much or how often it shifts by slowing it down, and increasing the temperature, but I don’t see this issue ever getting resolved strictly in software alone.”

I ordered my printrbot on a April 13th and received it on a April 17th. The design for the self assembly is really elegant. The skeleton is made of laser cut wood and I like the esthetic of a 3d printed 3d printer. It took me a bout a week to assemble the printer and another week to calibrate everything right. Setting the z probe height was really challenging for me.

There are so many iterations of each of the printrbot models and they come out so fast that the instructions can be difficult to follow. I wound up looking at a sub set of instructions (instructions within instructions) and wondering if these instructions were meant for just the printrbot simple metal or if they are also instructions for the printrbot simple maker.

to date (7/3/15): My Printrbot is my most successful printer and it has broken down and no longer talks to Cura or Repetier (software on my computer). I will eventually figure out how to replace the firmware and then hopefully its will start talking to software on my computer again. I was getting some weird software bugs before it stopped talking to my computer’s software.

Update (7/21/15): My Printrbot is still my most successful printer.  Running it gcode off of an SD card allows it to behave much more reliably than it ever did when it could connect to my computer’s software.  I went to a meeting of 3d printer enthusiasts last night.  We had 6 printers in the room and my Printrbot was the most functional printer in the room. Four of the six printers were completely non-operational.

I purchased my Velleman K8200 on May 29th from a gentleman who was disgusted with how much time it was taking him to get it operational. I have not gotten much further with it than he got but it has not been my highest priority.

If you reached the end of this blog post and you still want to know more than I have told you about 3d printers check out this site. It has the most comprehensive list of printer models with consumer ratings that I can find.

Want to see and touch things for yourself?  Pintstein will be relocating to the reception desk at my mother’s law firm 7/6/15. 1539 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105

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