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The guys in the office said yesterday the library is getting a 3D printer.  I didn't even know 3D printers existed since yesterday.  How common is it currently to have a 3D printer at home?  I have seen this one http://formlabs.com/pages/our-printer.  They say it will be released next year April for about $3500.  I believe it might be worth getting something like this if you build alot of small things.  I have wasted alot of money in my life trying to build things that never ended up working, because I am just useless with my hands, but this thing can fix that.

What do you guys think about 3D printers?
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Did you see the recent Wired magazine article on them?
Neat devices, not sure what I'd do with one.
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Nope not yet.  Will have a look thank you.  Build a robot smiley
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Hi

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How common is it currently to have a 3D printer at home?  I have seen this one http://formlabs.com/pages/our-printer.  They say it will be released next year April for about $3500.

give a look at www.reprap.org
Prusa Mendel costs about 600$  smiley-razz and you can build by yourself
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How common is it currently to have a 3D printer at home?

Not common at all. There are two main issues:

1) Price (though this is falling very rapidly)
2) Software

The second one is the kicker. The main problem is that most people can't easily use a 3D printer, with the current software that exists. To get the best use out of one, you need to have proficiency with some kind of CAD or vector art program, as well as an understanding of certain engineering fundamentals in order to create working designs. Even if you have these skills, there is still a lot of fiddling you have to do with the software (or more likely, multiple pieces of software) in order to actually print the design.

In short - the software is difficult to work with, and it isn't simple "plug-n-play". I doubt it ever will be. At best, you'll be able to download designs or print out "universal" parts (think of a 3D printer that prints "lego" or "plastic meccanno" components) that can then be assembled. For a lot of things, that might be enough; but it wouldn't be the cheapest option if you need more than a few of the components.

3D printers have their place as tools in the maker's arsenal, but they are still in their infancy (think 1980's desktop publishing). I have no doubt they'll come of age and be really useful someday (and much faster, hopefully) - but for now they are a tool for the dedicated few.

A couple more links for ya:

http://www.makerbot.com/
http://www.thingiverse.com/
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Kinda to add onto what cr0sh is saying, when I built my scrap CNC mill a few years back and I know I certainly underestimated the effort required. You spend so much time with CAD and setting the machine up that it's hard to get things done. First time never comes out right. Unless you're making a lot of parts "production" style it's always easier to make the part manually.

$3500 would buy a pretty nice metal lathe and mill. Maybe you can't sculpt a Yoda head but I can accept that.
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Kinda to add onto what cr0sh is saying, when I built my scrap CNC mill a few years back and I know I certainly underestimated the effort required. You spend so much time with CAD and setting the machine up that it's hard to get things done. First time never comes out right. Unless you're making a lot of parts "production" style it's always easier to make the part manually.

IMO, that's only true if you are already a real machinist and/or your CNC isn't as friendly as it could be.  I'm not a machinist and our CNC system is pretty awesome (the touch probe is a big part of the magic).  Almost everything made on our CNCs are one-off.

One of the students was ragging on me for using the CNC mill for a drill press (massive overkill), but the touch probe let me get things aligned very accurately and very quickly.

Of course, that touch probe system probably costs more than a "home user" CNC machine.

I suspect there are similar differences in a reprap and a $100k Stratasys, especially if you can throw in Solid Edge or similar professional level CAD/CAM software.

-j
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It's unfortunate that Autocad Inventor is so expensive because it is amazingly easy to pick up and work with.
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It is getting increasingly common, see:-
www.psfk.com/2012/09/3d-printing-store.html
They are just like hobby computers were back in 1976.
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There are a variety of very different types of 3D printing technologies, but they all share one core thing in common: they create a three dimensional object creating it layer by successive layer, until the entire object is complete.
There are many 3D printing suppliers are available. 3Dstuffmaker http://www.3dstuffmaker.com/ is one of the best 3D printer vendors. they are selling 3D printers at very affordable price.

Best Regards
David Paul
http://www.3dstuffmaker.com
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There are a variety of very different types of 3D printing technologies, but they all share one core thing in common: they create a three dimensional object creating it layer by successive layer, until the entire object is complete.
There are many 3D printing suppliers are available. 3Dstuffmaker http://www.3dstuffmaker.com/ is one of the best 3D printer vendors. they are selling 3D printers at very affordable price.

Best Regards
David Paul
http://www.3dstuffmaker.com


The printer Grumpy posted looks a ton better than yours and is cheaper.  You just made yourself look really bad.
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the software is difficult to work with, and it isn't simple "plug-n-play". I doubt it ever will be.
As a thought experiment, consider the EAGLE PCB CAD program, which a lot of people try, with a relatively small percentage reaching any level of proficiency.  Multiply the complexity by a third dimension.  (You can delete the need for electronics knowledge, but add some need for mechanical integrity...)
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the software is difficult to work with, and it isn't simple "plug-n-play". I doubt it ever will be.
As a thought experiment, consider the EAGLE PCB CAD program, which a lot of people try, with a relatively small percentage reaching any level of proficiency.  Multiply the complexity by a third dimension.  (You can delete the need for electronics knowledge, but add some need for mechanical integrity...)

That's basically what I was getting at. Likely, what we would see would be some kind of "Cricut"-like machine with downloadable designs that could be easily printed out; maybe some kind of sharing as well for those who -can- make designs for those who can't (and/or maybe a monetization system for those who want to sell their designs).

That kind of model (not sure if there is a way to "sell" them online via the site, though) already basically exists for the Makerbot and their "Thingiverse":

http://www.thingiverse.com/makerbot

...which is a really smart move, honestly. Not everybody has the skills, or can easily acquire them (or have the time to); the problem is that you are ultimately limited to what already exists. Maybe if there were software to allow some degree of customization (I'm imagining something like a gearbox sized in one manner, but such software would allow you to resize it for a different sized motor, or one with a different mounting hole pattern or such) - that could take the designs to another level. If there existed designs based on various standards (like gridbeam, NEMA, etc) for the parts needed - that would go a long way (also, designs that focused on compatibility with stuff like Lego, Vex, and Meccano/Erector, too!).

It would be a nice middle ground between needing full-on 3D design skills vs pre-designed (but "fixed") stuff; thus you could realized many ideas as a maker and be able to implement it from a somewhat off-the-shelf pre-existing designs (modified for your needs).

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The only people who praise extruder-based 3D printers are the people who haven't actually used one to make something.
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