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3D Printer Round-Up: Cube 3D, Up! Mini, and Solidoodle 91

MojoKid writes "3D printing is a fascinating new technology and an exploding new market. The process involved is pretty basic actually. Heat up some plastic, and sort of like that Play-Doh Fun Factory you were so fond of as a kid, you extrude the melted plastic out to create objects. It all started back in 2007 when the first RepRap machine was built. The idea behind RepRap was to design a machine that could build complex parts in three dimensions using extruded molten plastic and that machine could also "self-replicate" or build a copy of itself. Since then, 3D printers of all types have emerged from the community and this round-up of machines covers a few of the more prominent names in 3D printing systems. The Cube 3D, the Up! Mini and the Solidoodle 2 can all get you into 3D printing at retail consumer price points with precision down to 100 microns. The technology has very much come of age and it's going to be interesting to see where these machines can take us."
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3D Printer Round-Up: Cube 3D, Up! Mini, and Solidoodle

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  • by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @09:28PM (#42343657)

    Whether or not they have a legitimate beef against FormLabs [], the act of dragging Kickstarter into their little patent war was absolutely inexcusable. This is a company that sees itself as threatened not only by competition, but by the existence of the marketplace itself.

    If you are considering purchasing a 3D printer you could do well to pick a company that won't use your money to suppress competition through enforcement of bullshit patents on abstract ideas like photolithography. Or one whose business model is so insecure that it relies on barratry against unrelated parties.

  • by Guano_Jim ( 157555 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @09:48PM (#42343767)

    Disclaimer: I own a MakerBot Replicator 1, and haven't used any of the models published in the article. These printers look promising and have attractive price points, but here are my two big complaints about home 3D printing that none of them address yet, AFAIK.

    1. printing with ABS plastic literally stinks. If your printer's in the garage or shop it's probably not so bad, but woe to the user that keeps one of these printers in a home office. Good ventilation is a must, but breezes and drafts can significantly mess with your print quality. I prefer to print with PLA (corn-based) plastic, because it smells like Mrs. Butterworth's imitation maple syrup. Makerbot's already doing this with its Replicator 2-- as I understand it they've given up on ABS for their first version and only print with PLA.

    2. Overhangs. I doubt any of these printers can yet print an overhang that's more than 2mm without post-processing support. Gravity tends to pull overhangs down during the printing process, meaning the object's designer has to take the orientation of the printed object into account when designing it. As amazing as home 3D printing is, this is a pretty severe limitation once one gets past printing cubes and scans of heads.

    The first company to produce a 3D printer that can handle big overhangs has my upgrade cash.

  • by GrpA ( 691294 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @10:03PM (#42343853)

    The Mini doesn't really smell bad at all. I had it running in a small space, without much ventilation, sitting next to me for 3 hours and didn't notice the smell at all. My sense of smell isn't very good, but it is particularly acute when dealing with burning plastic smells ( honed from a lifetime working with electronics )

    I think the smell may be more to do with the plastic you're using and the temperature it's melting at.

    As for big overhangs? How about a sintering 3D printer? They seem to handle it just fine. I'd probably use such services after I've checked my models on the desktop though.


  • My thoughts, YMMV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @10:04PM (#42343867)

    I've been building my Prusa Mendel for several months now (work's been crazy, I should be able to finish it over winter break).

    I think if I had it to do again I'd get a Makerbot, the RepRap open source models promise a lot but there are a lot of pitfalls: available instructions, software and parts on eBay all seem to be at different versions at all times!

    To me it would have been worth the extra $500 to just get a box that had everything, that was guaranteed to all fit together, not look strange or different from the instructions, and have support, but to each his own. I'm definitely learning a lot -- having the wrong revision of something physical is a big deal compared to having the wrong commit of ImageMagick :) It's something OSS fab folk will have to deal with going forward.

  • Re:My thoughts, YMMV (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @11:04PM (#42344235)

    This! You wouldn't believe how much trouble it's been to build a laser-cut TechZone Remix Mendel. None of the electronics will mount properly, some pieces don't fit, and I had to find a sealant that'd work at 500F and not screw up the thrermocouple by shorting it out. Permatex may be the winner - I'll find out when it's finished.

    My printer did not have instructions sent with it. Consider yourself lucky. I've had to follow half a dozen websites to figure out how it goes together and how other people have screwed up. The first guy I followed nearly set his extruder on fire, so assembly went on a 10-month hiatus.

    What I wouldn't give for a single-board implementation like this one [] for the electronics. Instead, I get this cluster [] and have to get someone to grind a piece of wood into shape. That mounting board design plus zip ties were a godsend.

    I would have paid $500 extra if it came pre-assembled, not just in kit form. I don't even know if mine will work yet.

  • by daid303 ( 843777 ) on Thursday December 20, 2012 @07:10AM (#42346115)

    He bought it as DIY kit, we've been only selling the pre-assembleds for a few weeks. And only a few have shipped so far. We are open source. AGPL with the software, GPL with the electronics, and CC BY-NC with the mechanical drawings.

    There is no offical heated bed yet, but people have build their own, as the electronics are prepared for it. Same for dual extrusion.

    Disclaimer: I now work for Ultimaker. After developing FOSS software for the Ultimaker they hired me as full-time developer so I could spend more time on making the software even better.

We declare the names of all variables and functions. Yet the Tao has no type specifier.