After some thinking, I am beginning to use 3D printers (Fused Filament type).
There is a lot of hype around 3D printing, but it cannot (yet) fulfil all the dreams and aims some want for home use.
However, what decided me is that there is some evolution in materials and you can print what some calls ‘technical plastics’.
Some of these technical plastic are quite difficult to use and need relatively developed machine (heated bed, enclosed machine).
Even if the printing time is quite long, this is the machine which is working, and that is the fastest way to go from the computer to a real part.
First I bought a simple machine kit, the RepRapPro Fisher Delta, which have no heated bed, nor is enclosed, then I designed and built my own enclosed delta the D-Box, then the Lily with the Fisher parts and finally published the Lily ‘Big’ design which is the D-Box mechanics enclosed in a Lily box style.
I tested a material which is considered ‘new’ in 3D printing, the PETG. This material is improved over PET (notably in durability). It proofed to be possibly printed on a simple non heated ‘Buildtak’ surface, with reasonable print quality.
My use of the printer will be mainly for model engineering, where such tool offer a lot of possibilities.
For the amateur, finding a good 3D CAD is difficult (if you don’t want to use pirated versions) and for now I settled on a very specific tool OpenSCAD.
The Fisher delta, kit I bought in ‘Beta’ phase and assembled without major difficulties. I made a few modifications on this printer.
I am not trusting much that 3D printing is the third industrial revolution as some have written in book and that everyone will be printing parts home anytime soon, notably because designing parts is a complex process and the tool-chain available yet is particularly lacking, as I don’t want to have anything in ‘the cloud’ evaporating with companies strategies.
We already are in the process of industries trying to ‘recapture’ the market which was yet leaded by hobbyists.
In industrial area, there are a lot of evolutions and metal printing is something very promising.
Home 3D printing is very immature yet, with complex processes, insufficient standardisation, safety concerns, filament containing toxic agents at levels way above legal limits, market fragmentation and broken promises.
The worse is that some companies are going like with inkjet printers, making margin on the filament and not on the printer. This is a shame and those printers shall be avoided at all costs.
But for artists, designers, modellers, figures lovers or tinkerers, while a long process, there is some magic in 3D printing and more if you design yourself the parts.
More than ten years ago, I was at the beginning of the amateur CNC and this is really a step further, which could expand on a larger scale.
It is clear for me that for avid do-it yourselfers, a lot of home workshops will someday have a CNC, a laser cutter and a 3D printer.
There are many resources about 3D printing. A lot of them are just news without deep or practical knowledges.
A few selected resources:
RepRap Wiki While in principle dedicated to self-replicable printers, it is of general interest for anyone using a printer
RepRap Forum The forum about RepRap printers … and many other general printing topics
Google Deltabot forum Forum in principle dedicated to deltas, with often very detailed general printer engineering posts (deltas are magnets for engineers…)
Thomas Sanladerer Youtube channel One of the best 3D printing video channel, covering a wide set of topics (more than 200 videos).
Maker’s muse Also a well reputed Youtube channel, with clear advices and common sense judgement, one of the rare who resisted to the invading corruption of Chinese sellers.