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Need help shopping for first printer

Posted by gogo2390 
Need help shopping for first printer
November 09, 2013 07:14PM
I've always wanted to get a 3d printer, but it was too hard to justify the cost for a hobby. I'm a mechanical engineer and the company I work for keeps paying [way too much] for rapid prototypes to be made. After just spending over $400, my plan is to get my own printer and make the prototypes for work.... then take home some extra money on the side.

I've never seen any prints from a reprap/consumer grade printer, and I don't want to get something that may be too inaccurate to be useful. What realistic resolution can I expect? How does that differ between models?

Size: at least 8"x8" Price : < $750

I like to fiddle with things and would much rather have a kit than a preassembled plug and play printer (wheres the fun in that??)

This has led me to either a prusa i3 or a Mendelmax 1.5....i2's seem really cheesy (feel free to convince me otherwise)

At this point, I'm leaning towards the MendelMax. They appear to be more sturdy/professional looking than the prusa's (extrusions instead of threaded rods), and supposedly easier to assemble.

Regardless of price and appearance I can't really tell what is good/bad in any of these kits. To a newbie, the specs all seem roughly the same. Electronics, belts/pulleys, etc.. The steppers aren't very well documented (degrees/step, holding torque), so its hard to compare those. If something is bad, I figure I can at least upgrade the parts.

The MendelMax from 3dbotic is the one I've been most interested in, but noticed that the print platform is MDF rather than aluminum...does it matter?

Here is one from 3dprintertek. At almost $1k, its more than I wanted to spend, but it seems to be the most complete kit. I'm not sure its worth 50% more than the one from 3dbotic...lcd screen is a cheap addon (is it necessary?)...fans for the motors are pennies. Is everything else just eyecandy?

I've also read some good things on here about the i3 from MakerFarm. To me it seems like a real basement kit having the filament and power supply just laying next to it on a desk with wires running everywhere. Also the wood frame is a turn off.

I'm pretty much stereotyping all of these different printers based on what I [don't] know, so any advice would be great.

Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 09, 2013 08:37PM
All of these printers push melted plastic and turn it into a printed part. That limits what you can and can not do. None of them are stereo lithography / laser based machines. After they are carefully tuned, they will all produce similar prints with similar issues. The fact that one has a 40 micron calmed this or that vs another's claimed 42 microns isn't the real issue. None of them will put a 40 micron diameter hole through a 1cm thick block.

Here's what's going to matter:

1) When you take this or that into the boss (who knows nothing about anything) one looks better than the other.
2) When you go to print something that's going to cost $650 on the outside, it's going to look pretty poor on these printers (been there / done that).
3) When you go to print something very useful that you would never have printed outside, the printer will pay for it's self. Not in a year, but on that print. You will find (what ever) for $10 and it will save you from a $xx,xxx mistake.
4) Running an expensive printer takes expensive materials / training / software. These are printers with cheap materials / training / software.
5) You have a limited range of materials with these printers. If you can't get it done with PLA or ABS, that's going to be an issue. Other materials are a bit of a risk at this point.

A printer with a big print area is better than one that has a small print area. You are more likely to use it for this or that. A fully built / good looking printer will be 2X (or more) the cost of a kit style printer. In my case the "work printer" cost 2.5 X the "home printer" and it's 1/2 the print dimensions (as in 1/8 the volume). Both printers produce the same results using ABS (work machine will only run ABS, home machine will run lots of stuff).


On a different plane. The support I've gotten on the home printer blows away anything we have gotten on the work printer. Essentialy we are taking the learning process from the home machine and mapping it (to the extent we can) to the work machine.


So - can you put a MakerFarm on a credit card and avoid a hassle? If so do it. Sneak it in under the radar and get it going. You will be glad you did. Does it all have to go through the big guy upstairs? Go for something that costs > 2K and that looks pretty.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/09/2013 08:41PM by uncle_bob.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 09, 2013 10:08PM
Yea we don't make anything that needs super high quality precision.. All of the prints we get now are made out of ABS. It can afford to suffer some quality and still be useful. According to the website where we get them done now, the smallest layer height he can print is only 0.007 in (0.18mm) so I don't think I'd be too far away anyway.

I'll be buying this printer on my own dime for my own use, then just charging them less than they'd pay this guy. I'm the only person who would even be able to use it, so I'm not going to have work buy some expensive one that will be useless to them if I'm not there. Also, I really want my own lol and It'll be good having someone fund my hobby. It's a win-win for everyone.

Anyway, I'm trying to narrow down what my best choice is. (Just assume I'm someone trying to get something that'll make potentially good prints for a reasonable cost)
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 10, 2013 01:54AM
On the 3dbotic kit you'll need to build the electronics meaning populating the board and soldering and flashing the controller. That electronics package is also more limited than that RAMPS package meaning expansion with the 3dbotics package will require an upgrade of the electronics at some point if you want to add fans or another extruder. That's a good price for a barebones MM1.5 if you want to do the electronics work yourself. The results of any kit you get are going to rely on your mechanical ability and your ability to configure the printer. Even though you have mechanical chops the learning curve is still there. I'd search here and the Web for reviews or people that have used the kits you are looking at and take it from there.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 10, 2013 05:42AM
The i3 can be very easily built, and from what I can tell, is easy to tweak to get decent prints. I've done very little in the way of calibration to mine and get decent prints out of it. There's a few youtube videos of i3's doing very fast high quality printing. A lot of it comes down to the belts being correctly installed, and having a decent hotend. The rest is down to the way you build it.

Having never done any sort of home electronics diy, I found the i3 surprisingly easy to source parts for, and build. I didn't go for a kit as in the UK the complete kits are crazily overpriced. My total build including electronics from reprapdiscount was just over £300. There are also a lot of decent improvements you can print out for the i3 on thingiverse.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 10, 2013 08:16AM
If you are getting ABS prints now and not epoxy resin stuff, these printers will do the same thing you now get. It's the same process and the same material. None of them are plug and play. They all will require a bit of calibration and babysitting. Going from a good print to an excellent one is much less the machine and much more how it's set up and operated. There is also can be a bit of cleanup / touch up between an excellent print and a finished product.

I would go with a kit for your first printer. That gives you several significant advantages:

1) You don't have to figure out which of the multitude of this or that part fit with the rest of the parts you have.
2) You will have somebody in customer support who understands exactly what you have, if there's an issue.
3) The cost of a kit can be quite close to (or lower than) the price of a bunch of parts.
4) Building a kit from a set of well written targeted instructions will save you a couple of weeks.

All that said, if you have a pile of parts already, there is very little need to go with a kit. Some people have a lot of "stuff" lying around.

Which ever way you go, I would stick with a Ramps / Marlin / Arduino electronics setup (cost effective, open source, well supported, highly flexible). I would also go with one of the open source printer designs for pretty much the same reasons. Right now the i3 is a popular choice. The MakerFarm version is one of several good choices.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 10, 2013 01:42PM
I’m still considering buying my first 3D printer kit, but my advice will be short: do not buy a kit under $1-$2K without support and references.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 10, 2013 03:21PM
Build a Prusa Mendel i3. Very nice machine, easy to build, easy to use, tons of online support!
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 10, 2013 08:56PM
If you do buy a "no name kit", do a search on "I can't get my kit to work and they aren't answering any of my emails" first. I'm sure you will turn up a lot of stories. smileys with beer

Just for reference, my kit has been built and running for a while now. Colin at MakerFarm is still answering my 9PM Sunday emails in under 3 minutes (one just came in as I'm typing this)..... I doubt he ever eats, sleeps, or says hi to the family....
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 10, 2013 11:01PM
So it seems like I'm being steered towards the MakerFarm. What Vegasloki said about the electronics really scared me away from the 3dbotic.

Just a few questions:
1. Magma nozzle vs j-head?? I think I read somewhere about problems cooling with the magma....
2. Any secrets to choosing/buying the glass and power supply?
3. What's the best way to mount the spool of filament/power supply without it just laying around?
4. Is there anything wrong with the cheap ebay filament?

Thanks for all the help.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 11, 2013 12:37AM
another option to makerfarm, check out diytechsop i3x kit.
if $ is your concern
wood structure vs metal farm
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 11, 2013 02:43AM
The board with that Mendel Max kit isn't too difficult in terms of build but you do have to build it. They offer it pre built but it's more. Look to spend about US$80-100 for a basic electronics board for your printer if you source your own parts. The difference between the Mendel Max variants and the i3 come down to primarily build envelope size and speed. The extrusion frames can be more stable which allows for faster printing and are easier to scale the build envelope. That said, I suggest an i3 for a first kit if nothing else for the number of users in the community for help. There will be a learning curve and while getting a kit will shorten the curve, it's still going to be a little while before you have it mastered. A 200 cu/mm envelope is plenty big for starting out and many don't ever need more than that.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 11, 2013 02:55AM
Just a few questions:

1. With Magma you will not be able to print with PLA. For both Magma and J-Head you should use fan. With Prusa i3 kit from Makerfarm shelf you will be able print only with 3mm filament (Magma or J-head hot end options from Makerfarm).
2. About power supply – take a look at industrial power supply Mean Well 12V 29A 350W (NES-350-12).
4. Problems may cause filament diameter variations, roundness deviations and dirtiness (also air bubbles in filament). Check this, for example. [richrap.blogspot.nl]
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 11, 2013 07:46AM
You can put a 1.75 mm extruder on the MakerFarm printer. It will fit and it will work fine. If this is your first printer and you don't have an inventory of filament, you need to pick one or the other diameter. There is no real cost advantage to either one. I have not seen a significant difference in the availability of 1.75 vs 3.0. There are a couple dealers who are focused on one or the other, but most will sell you either diameter.

I must admit I have actually had a brief good experience with cheap filament. I got some in and the first roll was fine. I ran through it and opened up the second roll. Physically (stiffness, bend resistance) it is nothing like the first roll. The first roll would print anywhere from 210 to 240C (it's ABS) with feed rates over quite a wide range. The second roll just loves to jam at any temp and feed rate. I'm getting real tired of fishing black lumps of crud out of the extruder. Third roll (unfortunately) is just like the second one. At least around here, even with shipping, the saving on the cheap stuff does not seem to be worth the hassle. I think I saved $5 a roll over the next best option.

Cheap glass from the hardware store works fine. Just make sure you get it cut to the right dimensions. Double check them before you leave the store. It's cheap stuff and you might save an expensive trip back.

The Magma hot end appears to work fine with the cooling set up the way MakerFarm has it. Change the cooling and it doesn't work as well. There's nothing Magma specific about the design, you can put a lot of different hot ends on the machine. For PLA the J-Head is a good choice, it's not quite as good for ABS due to it's upper temperature limit.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 11, 2013 07:04PM
A good place to start is with a .5 JHead and 3 mm material. That combo is pretty forgiving for someone just learning a machine. You can use plain glass though it's possible to thermal shock it with impact when hot or extreme temp change though I haven't seen conditions of a temp change that can cause it, I have cracked plain window glass. A piece of quality borosilicate glass will be $25 or so shipped and is optimum but not required.

Edit: Brian, the JHead guy just did another comparison of his JHeads against the JHeads others sell. [jheadnozzle.blogspot.com]

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/11/2013 07:06PM by vegasloki.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 11, 2013 08:41PM
I have been abusing window glass on my printer. So far I have not found a way to shatter the stuff. I'm sure it's less durable than the lab grade glass. Weather you really need that is up to you. The window glass is quite a bit cheaper. Compared to the price of a printer neither one is very expensive. One nice touch on the "good glass" - they often grind the edges down so they are nice and smooth. That saves you having to tape your computer power cord back together when you find the unfinished edge on the widow glass is fairly sharp (yes I have empirical data ....).
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 13, 2013 02:18PM
Ordered an 8 inch i3 from Makerfarm!!!

Now its time to stalk ups tracker until it gets here.

He was out of stock on the spool holders.....what do I do? do I need one?
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 13, 2013 06:11PM
It's been about 10,000 years since he last had spool holders in stock smiling bouncing smiley

You can print some arms that will hold a spool on top of the printer. There are multiple designs. You can also build one out of pipe (PVC or metal). What you need depends a lot on how you set up your work area.

A few things to do while you wait:

1) Watch the videos
2) Get some glass cut at the hardware store (or buy some on eBay)
3) Get a power supply if you don't have one already
4) Clear out some space to build the printer. Count on it taking a week or so if you can't spend all your time building it.
5) If you didn't order filament with the printer, get some known good stuff (as in from a real dealer). Play with the Amazon or eBay stuff later
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 14, 2013 12:00AM
Ordered some filament from him with the printer. Will it feed on its own if i just let it sit on the table next to the printer? (The spool holder on thingiverse will be one of the first things I print...but until then ...?? Lol)

I do feel like a little kid waiting for santa right now.

What is best for the print surface? Ive read some things about using either kapton tape, painters tape, hair spray or some paste that is a mixture of acetone/abs.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 14, 2013 07:19AM
If you have any of these printers, glass and hair spray work fine for ABS. If you are somewhere outside the US, hairspray may or may not be an option. Then you need to figure out something else. In the US, Walmart has the "right" hairspray for about $3.48. It's not on the web site, but it's on the shelf in the stores.

You don't need a spool holder for your first few prints. There are a lot of ways you can improvise filament feed. One is to measure / cut a piece and just let it hang loose. Not very efficient, but no feed issues. Another is to hand feed it off the spool.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 14, 2013 03:48PM
I've got one of Colin's spool holders I haven't used in some time. It works great with his spools but now I use Ultimachine material and the holder isn't wide enough and now use industrial PSUs. Attached is a pic of what I use now though it needs some adaptation for a Makerfarm.

I've found the best bed prep to be UHU stick. It's a German crafts glue that is available in the US. I get mine at Blick.


Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 14, 2013 06:25PM
Are you using the Ultimachine PLA or their ABS? I'm playing with some of their ABS at the moment and it's interesting stuff.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 14, 2013 07:49PM
I use both. It's some of the best quality material I've found in the US.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 14, 2013 08:27PM
At least on my printer, the ABS seems to like it hot. A lot like the feed stock for an Afina (260C) printer.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 14, 2013 09:21PM
Web use a little Lazy Susan from Target and it works great!
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 14, 2013 09:34PM
I think you will like building and using your i3, we certainly do. If you get a kit with all the parts, it should take about a day to assemble and another half a day to get it all adjusted.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 20, 2013 04:33PM
What kind of tools will i need?
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 20, 2013 08:52PM
You will need a small philips head screw drive, a few wrenches for hex head screws (metric) and a small adjustable wrench. All of that should be pretty normal hand tool stuff around the house.

You will need a soldering iron that will do small wires and some solder. If you don't have one, get a small pencil style iron. I'd suggest a digital volt meter as a needed item, though it's not strictly required. A cheap one will do fine.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 21, 2013 12:26PM

I started putting it together and am having a hell of a time snapping the wood pieces together. The fitment is way too tight. Ive had to shave wood away with a knife. I even split the frame for the lcd when putting the ends on.

The other problem im having is the screws holding the brackets for the linear bearings on the bottom of the bed is hitting the lower cross beam of the frame. I made the inital mistake of having the lock nuts on the bottom but even after fixing it, it still hit. I ended up grinding away portions of the beam that are hitting the screws. Seems like a crappy way of fixing it.
Re: Need help shopping for first printer
November 21, 2013 12:37PM
You need to get all the little shavings / laser kerf off of the parts before you shove them together to hard. A pocket knife gets the job done pretty quickly.

The clearance to the bracket is normally ok *if* you shift the thread rods to get things to all line up. Things will / can hit (been there, done that) if the thread rods are a bit off. More or less you get everything snug (but not tight), line it all up so it clears, and then tighten / check / tighten. The same rod adjustments can be used to get the very front most frame / main frame / back frame square with each other.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/21/2013 12:38PM by uncle_bob.
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