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Poll: Do you have a 3d printer?
186 points by pg on May 1, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 275 comments
I don't have one now but I may buy one.
1768 points
I'll probably never buy one.
892 points
Yes, I already have one.
245 points

You know, I never even owned a 2D printer until last year. And my girlfriend bought that.

Someone else always owned a printer and I just used it (Kinkos, library, work, school).

I would hope it would be the same with a 3D printer. I don't want to have one. I don't want to buy ink or parts or worry about it or have it obsoleted in 2 years time.

But if I want something 3D printed, I certainly hope that there will be stores nearby with high quality printers that are far better than the median at-home printer.

Edit: I should mention that MakeIt Labs[1] (hackerspace) in my little New Hampshire city already has a Replicator 2.

[1] http://makeitlabs.com/

Exactly what I thought. Given that 3D printing is a whole family of technologies, purchasing a DIY model of one type of 3D printing technology would be a waste of money (for me). Thanks to online services I can get 3D prints in all sorts of high quality materials from SLS-printed plastic to ceramics, so much so that I have no idea why I would ever print anything out of a plastic spaghetti at home (I am referring to the FDM technology used by most DIY 3D printers). The only caveat with online 3D printing services is the delivery time, but in 99% of cases I'd rather wait a week (SLS plastic) or two (ceramic) for a piece to arrive in the mail than to spend a week or two tinkering with a DIY machine in order to get something remotely similar.

Depends on who you are, and what you're using it for. If you're printing stuff out that other people designed, more likely than not, you're willing to wait.

If you're designing the object, a shorter iteration process means faster learning and better creative flow. There's a significant difference between being able to think something up and try it out within an hour vs waiting a week for it. If you're a programmer, it's the difference between having a REPL and sending a deck of punch cards for overnight batch processing.

The current designs of single head FDM machines average about 60mm/s. The fastest XY heads can achieve 400mm/s, and the deltabots are around 300mm/s or so. There is an upper limit to how fast you can move a head around, but it doesn't feel like we've hit it yet.

In addition, I think as the FDM designs get explored and played out, we'll see explorations in other possibly faster methods. So as the home desktop printers get faster, I believe it'll find a niche that's different than what you'd do with online 3D printing services.

My thoughts exactly. I'm the engineering manager (mechanical engineering) at a design / manufacturing firm and I've come to the conclusion that it's not worth it to buy our own machine. I'd prefer to have access to all the different print types (fdm / sls / sla / objet) and not deal with the upkeep and machine obsolescence issues. There are a ton of shops that can make parts now, which is driving the part cost down.

As a fellow mechanical engineer, that's exactly why my co-founder and I launched SupplyBetter.com. Our goal is to match you with the right supplier to make what you need. Especially when it comes to engineering-grade requirements, service bureaus specializing in additive manufacturing provide immense value. When desktop 3D printers can reach the consistency, accuracy, and detail of commercial printers we'll be more than happy to embrace them as well.

At least one library/community centre here in South Australia has a 3D printer, I believe. Available for the public to mess around with.

It (Grote St library) has multiple printers. There's also FabLab Adelaide which will let you use their printers too.

Over here in Austin at the Austin Hackerspace there are two 3D printers available for use, I've also seen another 3D printer that was printed from a 3D printer that one of the members had constructed, pretty neat eh?

> I don't want to buy ink or parts or worry about it or have it obsoleted in 2 years time.

I've heard that with a 3d printer you can print another 3d printer, so maybe it can upgrade itself?

It's not able to print all the necessary parts for a 3D printer, but one of the main goals of the RepRap project was to design a printer that could print most of its parts.


Yes, and I think recently wasn't a hard to make part finally constructed some gear spring thing? I can't recall what it was but I can picture it in my brain.

Wow, never thought about that. It will overturn traditional manufacture, though it cannot print all its parts now.

Friends of mine are solving this exact problem by supplying a platform where 3D printer owners can earn some money by letting others use their printer. Check them out at 3D Hubs [1].

[1]: http://www.3dhubs.com/

I agree quite much. I'm going to print 3D every day. Plus, the tech will advance fast and theres no point for me to buy a new printer every year or so.

So for the few things I may want to print each year, I'd rather go to a print shop/library/work/etc.

You're never gonna print that car at a Kinkos.

You wouldn't download a car.

Please don't leave 0 content/0 effort redditeqsue replies here. If you want to post memes and not contribute you can do that at Reddit.

For some reason, your comment reminds me of those anti-piracy adverts they show on DVDs (in the UK) that you've legitimately bought: "You wouldn't steal a car." https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2023878

If I could make a perfect copy of a car out of thin air, without depriving anyone of anything, I would "steal it". So would absolutely everyone, and the motor industry would have to change their business model.

What would that business model look like?

Designing better cars; making parts for the 3d printers that built the cars.

What do you mean by designing better cars? How would that help?

Also wouldn't there already be an industry that makes 3D printers? Why would the car companies try to go into that business?

Give away the car for free and make money on servicing.

"Low Interest" loans


Open-source car development, perhaps? Could be neat.

I agree, it would definitely be neat. What would the business model be like though? How would they generate revenue?

Here's a story. I always wanted to make a CNC machine. I got a bunch of parts off Craigslist from a guy, got some stuff off eBay, I was in college at the time so I never really had time to do anything with it (and money was tight), so I couldn't get it finished. But in college I saw some 3D printers, decided I wanted one.

Moved back home with my parents, christmas / birthday was coming up. I was looking into some printers (I was going to get the Solidoodle 2) to get. I was talking to my friend about it one night, said to myself "Whatever, I'll just make it!" (not sure why that thought popped in my head). 6 weeks after that, I have this thing: http://imgur.com/a/FZfp9 in my room. Wish I would have documented the build process better.

I wanted one because I'm making a cool product and needed to make some cases for it.

I use LinuxCNC to run it with a HobbyCNC stepper driver board, and it actually works pretty well! If I could make one 'enhancement' for it, I would make native gcode arcs work in slic3r, as I can hit 60-80 mm/s on a straight away, but around corners it gets to ~25 mm/s.

I've found two 'killer' uses. My nieces and nephew come over, they want to make something (my nephew asked for keys one day). We pulled up thingiverse, he picked one out that he liked, 45 minutes later he has keys.

The second one is being able to design something and see it almost instantaneously. Is this going to fit? How does this look? Would it work better this way? You don't need to sit and twiddle your thumbs for so long, as you can test out a ton of ideas.

One of the pains is the calibration for this thing - I made this script (which definitely needs some work) https://github.com/MercuryRising/dic3r to aid in calibration. You can calibrate your build plate (it makes a skirt of your platform size, so you can even it out while it's running) and I think it does extrusion multiplier calibration. The one thing that I think is really cool for it is variable density (specify a Z height to merge two different slices of stl). You can make stuff like this: http://imgur.com/a/B26e5 with different infill patterns.

I have to agree here, that one of the magical experiences of having a 3D printer is to be able to think something up, design it, and have it in your hands within an hour or two. Until people are able to experience that themselves, I think people won't really understand 3D printing. Currently, 3D printers and 3D modeling software doesn't make this easy, but I think there's a lot of effort being put into ease of use.

I'll add another data point to this. While working for Thalmic Labs (of the MYO fame) last semester, one of the best purchases decision was to buy a 3D printer. We were able to find a big, cupboard size professional 3D printer for a great price, and we bought it. It ended up being invaluable for prototyping the design of the product. The difference between the first prototype, and what the final product is going to look like is incredible. In addition to simply prototyping, it also greatly helped in demos and testing, as we essentially had a prototype that for all intents and purposes looked fully ready at every demo, which definitely helped with testing the different sensor design, and form factor designs and getting valuable feedback from it.

I wholeheartedly agree: For any organization developing hardware, a 3D printer is a productivity and creativity boost that is hard to replicate otherwise. We have a quarter million dollar 3D printer at my work (a research lab) and getting used to having access to such a tool is an amazing journey. First you just print the same designs that you would have machined otherwise. But soon you end up embracing the possibilities and design things that would be extremely difficult or even impossible to create otherwise. Of course you get spoilt quickly and start complaining about issues like the fact that using the rubber-like material requires a 90 minute material change procedure.

I'm excited by the potential of 3D printers but they aren't quite at the price/convenience/quality intersection I'm waiting for.

I'd pay current prices for machines (the relatively consumer-level ones that are like $500-2000) that are faster and produce better output without having to do acetone-based "post-processing". I'd pay less than current prices for the current tech just to dick around with, but I don't want to pay the current prices for the current tech. As impressive as the price levels are already, I'm unlikely to get enough practical benefit out of one to make it worth laying down "real money".

I'm absolutely sure I will own one sooner or later, but not today.

What would you do with a 3d printer in your house? For manufacturing and business use, it kind of makes sense to me. But personal use? After you print off a few cups and toy soldier molds, what would you want to do with a 3d printer?

You print out the things you weren't able to imagine, but other people were.

3D printers allow objects that don't need the economy of scale to work in its favor to come into being. If you're to compare 3D printed objects to things you can buy at Walmart, then of course, in most specs the 3D printer would lose. However, what a 3D printer allows you to make are all the things that you can't get at Walmart, either because the volume wasn't big enough to get it made, or people that could imagine didn't know how to get something made.

If you want to print out things you weren't able to imagine, but other people were - then it's an argument for not getting a 3D printer but having it printed at a 3d-printing service; it will be cheaper, higher quality, less hassle, and more options for materials/techniques than a single printer can provide.

Somewhat. It depends on what you value. There are other considerations. If price is important to you, but time is not, it's cheaper to have a home desktop printer. 3D printing services are quite expensive. The size of the object also affects your decision. The larger the object, the more economic it is to print it yourself.

If price is less of a consideration, but time is more important, then you may find it's better to use a 3D printed service, so you don't have to maintain the machine. Or if you don't print very often. Or the object you want to print is relatively small, so it doesn't break your wallet.

The advantages you cite, such as higher quality and less hassle, will diminish, given the pace and directions for improvement of the current generation of 3D printers. I believe different materials and hence printing techniques, will remain a differentiator of online printing services for the foreseeable future.

Any examples?

These are useless gimmicks, and in the worst case they can't be recycled. I didn't know of shapeways before, and I couldn't find a single useful thing on it. Are there more pragmatic 3D printing sites?

One person's useless gimmicks are another person's stylish nick-knacks. I can't see myself buying a 3D printer just for stuff like that, but the ability to accent my home in an individual fashion is not unappealing to me.

Not everything is the world is purely functional.

Not everything is the world is purely functional.

Absolutely agreed. I love a stylish nick-knacks and neat design details as much as the next person but there seems to be a disconnect in the 3D printing world. On the one hand everybody talks about the revolutionary effect of home 3d printers, and on the other hand the only examples people have ever shown me are children's toys and stylish nick-knacks. Where are the at least mostly functional examples?

Here's an example that is not sexy but is at least functional: http://www.shapeways.com/blog/archives/940-how-to-repair-a-b...

Also note Clay Shirky's belief that the most disruptive tech initially appears to be a toy to most.

I have to admit, I have the same problem with 3d printing and think that some of the newer materials (stainless steel for example) will really improve the functional designs, especially as the cost decreases.

Disclaimer: I work at Shapeways

I absolutely agree with your last sentence, but why can't it at least be sustainable? (It's really only the non-biodegradable stuff that I have a problem with)

I also know that people should have fun in their lives, and yet I can't help but facepalm at people happily driving SUVs around. In the grand scheme of things, the impact of each is tiny, but it confuses me that it's being celebrated by so many smart people. :/

...and I think that this might simply be the case because 3D printing was oversold to me personally :)

Since it enables you to make things you can't imagine, lots of people will make a large variety of things--a long tail of objects. For any subset of examples that people give you, it's easy to dismiss it as gimmicky. You'll need to find your own subset that means something to you.

Thanks for posting this, cschmidt! Those are some of my favorite Shapeways products as well :D

Disclaimer: I work for shapeways

http://www.thingiverse.com/ has models you can download and print. Lens caps and earbud-wrappers are popular.

Why you'd want a 3D printer? Isn't that kinda obvious? To make parts for your next 3D printer of course!

Joking aside: I have a few spare time projects where I am going to need some way of producing mechanical parts. For instance I am designing an integrated device for controlling the flow rate of dialysis fluid during peritoneal dialysis fluid exchange. I've been working on this for a while and have gone through many designs. Mostly as a learning exercise.

I think that in a few years it will be more common for people to make simple objects in their home. Brackets, mounts, adapters etc. I'm not sure if a lot of people will necessarily be involved in designing parts, but through the wonder that is the internet: you'll have vast repositories of ready made designs that can be printed.

You joke, but I bought a MakerBot and pretty much the only things I've printed are "upgrades" for the printer itself.

Like there old russian saying goes: there is element of joke in every joke.

A friend of mine got a 3D printer and I think he spent the first few weeks printing upgrades to the printer itself. Then he started printing parts for his CNC machine. And right now he is building a really exciting-looking, large 3D printer from scratch using ... his 3D printer.

But he also prints parts for lots of other projects. Among them various DIY medical equipment that we have been designing together.

I think the biggest obstacle for putting 3D printers to good use is that people just are not used to having the capability to make physical objects. It is like when the first personal computers came on the market: people played around with them and in theory you could do useful things with them -- but programming was new to people. It took a good decade or so before computers were useful at home, but in that time they had served a much more important purpose: to make programming a relatively mainstream skill.

Designing mechanical objects is unfamiliar territory for most of us. Traditionally this has required really, really expensive, specialized software that up until now only professionals were into. Compare it to when digital photography went mainstream and companies like Adobe were too dumb to catch on -- I still hear people defend the exorbitant price of Photoshop with "oh, only professionals would want that kind of power". Which is utter nonsense.

I have to say that Autodesk have impressed me in this respect. Although their software lineup is extremely confusing at times they have released some really neat software for free. For instance I have been using Inventor Fusion lately and it is great. (I've also used Fusion 360, which is not so great because their intent seems to be to combine it with some cloud service, and that cloud service is very far from being usable. They probably saw Thingiverse and figured they wanted a piece of that action). But I think it is brilliant of them to make good tools available for the Mac -- the people you want to reach use Macs and Linux).

Also, designing physical objects requires skills that are not mainstream. I find myself looking at objects in a very new way. I try to understand how the shape is modeled, how it is supposed to deal with stress etc.

These are very exciting times. I wish I was 18 again.

One popular use is newly designed custom Rubik's Cube type puzzles. In all sorts of polyhedral shapes that go way beyond cubes. There's a thriving forum at twistypuzzles.com with all sorts of new inventions that can be realized quickly with 3D printing.

Some examples:




Custom miniatures for D&D night!

I could even see custom modeling my own miniatures for other games, either tabletop RPGs like D&D or wargames like Warhammer or any of the others.

I can see how it has application to very small micro needs like this, but seriously....is this what all the 3d printing hype is about? With all the hype I read from VCs, you'd think 3d printers are the next personal computer. I'm really trying to make the connection, but it feels more like the venture capital IPO machine is in full force just to crank up the IRR on their funds.

I think that it could be very plausible to say that "it feels more like the venture capital IPO machine is in full force just to crank up the IRR on their funds", but I think that you are missing that the powerful thing about personal computer wasn't that everyone would do the same thing (I suppose it was general computing calculations), but that people were free to explore many different things (solve individual pain points) in the same way 3d printing will (I think it may be even more than that but I'm limited by the contraints of my own insight into potential future applications[imagination] at this time).

I guess if you even look back on the origins of the personal computer, people gave very narrow reasons for its use and failed to make the connection to how it could be valuable outside of those reasons (outside of the angels/venture capitalists and entrepreneurs).

Mostly enclosures for electronics projects in my case, it would be nice to use something more custom made for the device than an altoids tin or plain ugly project box.

You can get a laser cutting machine for about 1.5 grand off Amazon. I might consider one in few years if my projecting gets more serious. The Adafruit ice cube clock enclosure is laser cut and it looks sharp.

Currently, I'm working on getting my first laser cutting order through Ponoko. Hopefully that's all going to work out.

I use it to fix things. Ever broken a handle off a drawer or snapped a catch on something? Print it, sand it and paint it. Done. I also use it for making little plastic doodads (like those you see on home shopping channels) where the idea was the hard part but reproducing it is pretty easy (think wall mounted bag hooks or egg cutters). Not the most practical uses but I see them as a way of answering the "what if I had that?" type of question.

I think this is the most useful use for one I've heard so far, but when I think about how often do I need a little plastic knob - maybe once a year? I'm sure a couple of shops could do this as a business but other than that it seems crazy to think people will buy these things en-masse for homes.

I do mobile robotics. Printing off a frame for a small robot or a sensor enclosure at home is a lot easier than sending away to commercial shops. And 3d printers are a lot "cleaner" than a mill (CNC or manual). I can also use it for prototyping basic gearboxes and such for larger robots.

I have a Replicator 2X coming in the mail within a month.

Seeing what me and my friends already do with firearms and the like, i can say addons and mods. But thats just one application, i'm sure there are many others in other niches.

A buddy has one at work: he prints replacement appliance knobs. Think of all the little things that break and there's really no easy way to get replacements.

I have a Solidoodle 2. I've replaced the extruder with a printed one that's much better than the laser-cut acrylic that's included, but otherwise, it's been an excellent piece of hardware.

Lately I've started printing in "618 Nylon," a polymer which prints detail more easily than ABS, does not require bed heating (saves lots of time), and is much stronger than PLA.

I don't feel that 3D printing lets me do anything I couldn't before, but, as someone who makes things, it does let me take hardware from idea to conclusion much more quickly. So far I use it mostly to make parts for hobby projects, like the frame and landing gear for my quadcopter as well as enclosures and fastening hardware for an electric bike and control system.

I don't see FDM 3D printing disrupting traditional volume manufacturing in almost any industry simply because it's slow and finicky compared to subtractive CNC (milling) or molding. However, if you make things personally or professionally 3D printing turns any situation where you'd be Dremeling, drilling, and sanding a prototype to test before paying a shop to make samples for you into a pleasurable and cheap experience instead of a painful and expensive one.

I have an Solidoodle 2 also (see my other comment.) Which extruder are you using? I still have the original on mine. What about the 618? Where do you get it?

I use a Lawsy's Mark 4 extruder ( http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:47561 ). It's simpler, easier to maintain, and more durable by leaps and bounds than the stock extruder, in addition to being fewer pieces. If you're printing a replacement extruder, print several copies of the extruder parts in case you break one in assembly. Once you take apart the stock Solidoodle extruder, you won't want to put it back together. It breaks easily and is called "the jigsaw" for a reason.

I got my 618 from Octave Systems, but it's pretty common at most of the online printer suppliers now.

618 is a little iffy with the stock Solidoodle 2 hot end because the insulator is PTFE, which could start to decompose around the upper end of 618 extrusion temperatures. Thankfully, 618 has a wide range of temperatures at which it works (albeit with a bit less strength), so you can compromise and still get wonderful results.

None of the options given in the poll felt quite right for my feelings, so I figured I'd comment instead.

My girlfriend had one in our apartment until we moved it out to another space recently. She can still visit it there if need be and I assume I can tag along if I wanted to use that one. I also have access to another two printers at TechShop. Then there's also one at noisebridge and a wide range of other printers available at various places and online on a kind of pay per print system.

Given all that, I don't know why we'd want one in our apartment again. I'm certainly glad not to still be up at 2am because the printer's still loudly doing its best to print a part it started on hours and hours ago. Also the technology at the moment is fairly limited especially when it comes to the type of printers you see in the "personal at home printing" space / budgets, and I think it'd be awhile before I found a compelling one I'd want for myself. (They're also a little pricey for most people I think.) Also it's nice that for a lot of the printers I have access to, I'm not the one who has to fix them when they break. Which is a thing that happened a bunch to some of the early models and something I don't think is a whole lot of fun to deal with. Obviously some people think it's a blast to tinker with the things and those are the type of folks that'll probably get a decent amount out of having one. I just prefer to tinker with other things.

Perhaps not surprisingly I've got one, and a CNC controlled mini-mill, and some casting supplies. The need that motivated that purchase was doing robotics. Small robots suffer a bit from credible build materials. On the one hand you can make them out of "traditional" DIY materials like wood but working the material and making reasonably light weight robots is hard. Heavy robots need stronger motors and bigger batteries etc etc. Converting toys into robots works but you are constrained by what ever the manufacturer did, and since they are being as cheap as possible you often find that the thing they could have done but didn't would have really helped (like having three attachment points all about the same level). Custom mechanics are pretty much out, except what ever you can do with Meccano or Lego Technic or Erector stuff.

Thus mechanical fabrication is a problem, and automated fabrication is better than manual fabrication, both from a fit and finish perspective and a design perspective.

That said, I've met people with 3D printers who printed like half a dozen things on them and then stopped. They couldn't think of new things to print. They were excited about the concept but it hasn't worked out or the finish wasn't actually as good as they had imagined it would be.

If you are a robotics enthusiast I think its a great tier 2 tool, like an Oscilloscope.

I answered "I'll probably never buy one", but I have every intention of using one. I imagine I will interact with them the same way I do with regular printers- don't own one, but go somewhere like OfficeMax when I need to get something printed.

Same here. For something that I wouldn't use all the time like a 2D printer, OfficeMax or a hacker space makes a lot more sense. And since they're still comparatively complicated and failure prone, that lets me just pay a bit more and not have to worry about all of the maintenance.

I think 3D printers are firmly in the "Linux desktop" stage for now. You will hear it's revolutional arrival announced every year, but it will never materialize.

I'd put them firmly in the same stage that computers were back when you had people in their garages soldering together homebrew computers.

I don't think so.

Computers had evident uses people craved for even when nobody had one at home: coin-op arcade games for example drove huge crowds. Writers used electronic typewriters with small displays and would be better off using an editor program. And a spreadsheet was a killer app for any small office -- they already used calculators. Add communications and entertainment to that (mail, chat, www, video) and computers had tons of killer uses.

A 3D printer is a one trick pony. It merely prints stuff. (Well, a computer is a one-trick pony too, it just "processes information", but in the realm of information this amounts to infinite possibilities).

People that like tinkering and DYI will love one -- but they are not that many. The general public, not so much.

They can create any thing/part they want themselves? Well, the thing is, generally they don't want stuff created. And when they do, they can also have some factory create them somewhere and buy them. And even if they needed something extra-custom, they could order it to a 3D printing shop down the road, and be spared all the trouble of owning a 3D printing, managing supplies, learning the software, etc.

The analogy with the home computers is interesting, because people are even scaling down on buying home computers. The general public finds that the limited stuff they wants to do, they can do it with a smartphone and a tablet (and maybe an ultraportable, for the more needy).

Heck, tons of normal people don't even like owning 2D printers (and have always had lots of problems configuring and operating even them, as evident by any support forum).

I don't agree. The main obstacle for computers was cost and size, which naturally scale down as technology improves. Applications were already everywhere even decades ago.

3D printing on the other hand fundamentally has difficulty delivering many things people want it to do, and the things it actually can do are fairly niche. Mainly prototyping, to my knowledge.

If 3D printers could already print forged steel or 14nm transistors (but at great cost) I'd say the future is very bright, because cost and size naturally come down, but they can't do that yet.

There's been some work already into printing circuits, but I think it will probably look different than the traditional electronics we're use to thinking about, as metal may not be the only way to print circuits.

I admit that 3D printing is a long, long way off from this, but I'd argue that every item I bring into my home and every material purchase I make is a potential application of home/consumer 3D printing waiting for a solution.

Are you sure about that? I would say that Linux is in that position because there are similar alternatives (Windows, OS X) that require less technical knowledge for equivalent competency.

3D printers on the other hand have 3 big barriers: 1) they're rather expensive, 2) creating an CAD object ≢ creating a word document and 3) there are not many truly compelling printable objects yet.

Relevant: http://youtu.be/rO54gzfite4?t=1m41s

I don't know, all my close friends and family are running Linux as their main OS. You might just wake up one day to realize that Linux on the desktop has already happened.

Or you might wake up one day to realize that you and your friends are in the extreme minority.

MacOsX is based off BSD. His/her friends may not be in as big of a minority as you think.

Edit: I stand corrected.

Linux and BSD are not nearly the same thing. And I'm not even being overly pedantic here. They have 2 things in common:

* They try (and arguably succeed at) cloning Unix.

* The adopt a permissive license for sharing and copying.

Beyond this, they're 2 completely different projects with nothing more in common. Heck, even the "permissive licenses" they each use are contradicting in philosophy.

You seem to imply that Linux has reached ubiquity on the desktop because MacOSX is based on BSD. This is just wrong.

> Linux and BSD are not nearly the same thing. And I'm not even being overly pedantic here. They have 2 things in common:

> * They try (and arguably succeed at) cloning Unix.

No, the BSDs actually are Unix, in a genetic sense.

Linux Desktop refers to the entire package, not just the underlying plumbing. OSX is MacOS built atop a BSD variant.

That is very statistically significant.

Or, like Linux, it will become ubiquitous on the commercial-side of business, just not consumer.

ouch, that is cruel, but strangely relevant...

I was at a local hackerspace and paid about $180 into a building class, but then it didn't work out and other things came up in my personal life and that of the person giving the classes. I think the $200-$300 range is where it's going to have to get to before 3d printers become wildly popular. Most people can overlook the low quality of the prints and the acetone wash if the cost of the printer is less than that of an iPad.

Not everyone is going to want to use a 3d printer, but I feel like those of us who do want them but don't have them just don't feel that the price justifies the quality of current printers.

The other barrier to ubiquitous 3d printer use is, in my opinion, a lack of cheap 3d scanning technology. Sure, you can use the laser line w/ turntable and camera scanner, but there are a number of issues, concavities and post-scan modeling work being the two largest I see. There are algorithms which can be used to take a webcam video feed and generate a 3d model from that, like proFORMA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEOmzjImsVc ,but the source to that was never released. There are commercial products which can do this, but I think that until there is an open source/free option for this kind of scanning, it's going to be another barrier to people getting 3d printers.

The price/performance of 3D printers is improving very quickly. We're visiting Hong Kong + Shenzhen now and met with Makible who are focused on making low-cost 3D printers. Makibox will be sold as a kit for $200 later this year. http://www.hackthings.com/meet-the-most-affordable-3d-printe...

Word on the street in the reprap channel is that Makibox can't happen at that price.

Obviously I can't verify, but we did see a stockroom full of parts and working printers nearly ready to ship. It's $200, PLA-only with an acrylic stage. They will have a more expensive option with a metal base and support for ABS.

Word on the street is that Makible is a group of scammers.

give me an easy way to scan as well and i'll buy this in a second.

Pair it with a Photon 3D, a low-cost scanner - http://www.hackthings.com/profile-of-a-white-hot-3d-scanner/

I believe Makerbot is coming out with a scanner, and a YC company, MatterPort, also does scanning.

I am missing "I don't have one, but I have access to one".

I personally find the current generation of 3D printers still a bit clunky and expensive to have in my own house, but I found it fairly easy to find a place to play with one. The London Hackerspace, for example, has been a good place, but also the various reprap/3dprint communities are very active over here.

I got together with 15 of my friends and bought one for us to share. We each had to pay under $50, which made it very attractive. None of us use it enough to justify owning one ourselves, so sharing was the obvious solution.

I think that unless you're fabricating daily, sharing a machine is a good idea.

I don't think I can find 15 people to share a 3d printer with...though I can't speak for anyone else.

Is there a Hackerspace near you?


(If there's not one nearby, you could always start one... when I cofounded a hackerspace I met a lot more than 15 new people who wanted to share 3d printers and the like!)

I'm going to guess your situation is a lot more common than RaphiePS'. I know quite a lot more than 15 people, but not 15 who live in close enough proximity to make this work and who are also likely to be interested in co-oping on a 3D printer.

In any case, 15 sounds like a bit of a logistical nightmare even if you did have that many people in your local friends circle interested enough to go in for a 3D printer.

I'm in high school, so it was pretty easy to find some interested friends. It also helps with the logistics--we keep the printer in the computer lab so everyone can access it.

This probably goes without saying, but you have a cool high school - or at least a cool teacher or two. Good luck with the printing!

I'm not sure if it makes sense as an investment to own a 3D printer when you can order anything custom from Shapeways when you need. I don't have a constant need for 3D printed parts, so it probably wouldn't pay itself back.

Edit: To add, I've never even needed to order anything from Shapeways to date. For sure I'll need it when I start building robots. I think there should be some kind of new trend hobby which requires or is complementary to custom 3D printed parts, like robot building or something similar.

I bought a Makerbot Thing-o-Matic two years ago because I thought they were neat.

For certain kinds of people, having one would really be helpful. Some of the designers in the 3D printing space obviously get a lot of use out of them, and having to order all that stuff through shapeways and wait for the designs would be slow and expensive.

I find that now that I own a 3D printer, I use it more than I thought I would. There is a ton of cool stuff on Thingivierse, and it's fun to just print out someone's cute little design. I've taken to painting them like little models for fun.

Another advantage to Shapeways (and similar services) is that they offer significantly better printing technologies than the affordable hobby printers. SLS Nylon produces very nice parts, with relatively tight tolerances, and useful strength and stiffness properties, but last time I checked, the cheapest SLS machine was on the order of $50k US.

The difference is in turnaround time. With your own, the turnaround time is shorter by half or less, depending on the part. That said, it assumes you have a 3D printer that prints reliably without fail. The current generation of desktop 3D printers finally are pretty hands free operations for short runs.

I only recently bought a regular 2d laser printer. For so many years I almost never needed one, and would just go to Kinko's or somewhere like that to print things. Seriously, like twice a year I would maybe need to print something.

IMHO 3d-printing is way overrated. We already have CNC machines that are reliable, faster, cheaper and more capable than 3d-printers, in that they can cheaply "print" in hard materials like metal with much better resolution. What are the advantages of 3d-printers? (except than being slightly more clean)

There are shapes you can achieve in 3D printing that you can't with CNC machines. Waste material is a significant problem if you were to have a machine on your desk or your living room.

Another advantage is that 3D printers actually have a community around it and people pushing its boundaries, as well as new companies forming in the space to push the tech forward. That's bound to make it better--or at the very least, explore what's possible. I don't see the same thing happening with CNC machines. No new CNC machine startups that I hear about.

I can see that unlike a 3d-printer, it's impossible to have a CNC in your desktop because of the waste. But I don't buy the "community" argument. Community has given us things like the arduino, a horrible technology obsolete from the very start. I do not think a technology is better just because many people use it.

Perhaps I should have been more clear. The 3D printing community actively trades tips on how to make their printers better. The hobbyists and certain 3D printer companies alike embrace open source hardware. It is this activity within a community that helps them make progress.

Are similar things happening in CNC machining communities? From my vantage point, it doesn't seem like it.

Cnczone is pretty cool as a community, but I do think the reprap community is more helpful by an order of magnitude. Having met many members of both groups in real life, the reprappers are generally more approachable. I get the impression that every CNC build is a custom design "because I can" whereas most reprappers tend to stick to a few common designs and possibly modify them. Modifications that work generally spread back to the community really really fast and improve life for everyone. The #reprap IRC channel on freenode is an absolute goldmine of a resource, people with questions or problems generally get answers within seconds and it's active, fun discussion the rest of the time. Haven't seen anything equivalent in CNC (cnczone comes closest).

What do you suggest in arduino's place?

Raspberry pi. Or better, the new beaglebone black. Anything with more than 10 kb of ram, really.

I don't think you can compare RPI to Arduino at all. Arduino is certainly not an obsolete technology. There are lots of projects where prototyping with an Arduino and finishing the project with a super cheap AVR chip is the way to go.

Yeah, the only interest I have in consumer 3d printing is to prove parts will work correctly; anything I care about needs metal. The metal powder stuff isn't really that exciting yet, either.

Quiet. Simpler to operate. And don't kid yourself that you can use a desktop CNC to work with metal. Even aluminium requires a $10k+ CNC with steel frame, cooling liquid, etc.

You can take a sub-$1000 benchtop mill (Sieg X2 or X3, for example), add less than $1000 of new parts and less than $1000 worth of motors and electronics, and have a benchtop CNC mill capable of working with aluminum and brass with no problems, and with steel in light passes.

If you don't want to do it yourself, you can buy complete from-the-factory benchtop CNC mills (Little Machine Shop: $4500, Tormach: $6k-$8k). If you don't need the size, you can get desktop CNC mills, "ready to run" for about the same price as doing it yourself (Sherline: $2k-$3k).

The only way to have good results with metals is to back it up with a huge mass. So Tormach will work. Everything else, that you've mentioned would not. Ask me how I know... But Tormach puts you at least 6.5k behind. Add tooling, table, box to keep the dust out, soundproofing, vacuum. Add PC, monitor. And CAD/CAM software. And you are looking at 10k.

I've done the first, and get good results with aluminum, brass, and both mild and stainless steel (although stainless is probably pushing the limit here). Your anecdote + my anecdote don't equal data, but your use of absolutes -- specifically "the only way" is incorrect. It can be done, and many have done exactly that.

Also, your magic $10k price-point mill doesn't include the cost of tooling, or workholding, or CAD/CAM software, etc. So now you're just reaching for anything to inflate the cost back up to your number.

Sure, but don't kid yourself that you can use a cheap 3d printer to work with metal either.

aluminum is not bad, you can cut it with woodworking tools like routers and dremels, though not very well. Steel is the real test.

People like the idea of 3d-printing because the dream is that you could print any material, and you would not have the limitations CNC has due to angles and bits.

That's the dream, of course. It isn't really a reality yet.

Oh, and CNC machines are big an expensive. Again, people dream that 3d-printers will be smaller, cheaper, and even faster.

I just wish CNC machines would get some press alongside 3d printers, then maybe some better kits would materialize.

Cheap CNC machines are about the same price as 3d printers now.


Where's the selection for "I have a partially assembled Prusa Mendel I'll finish some day?"

Would have been a funny addition to the poll :)

Been working on one from a MakerGear kit for 6 months now on and off. Down to the calibration and a bad endstop now it seems. There was a good article recently on how to know which path to go down re: purchasing a printer prebuilt vs. a kit vs. buying individual parts that was a good read.

Did you use a kit or by individual parts?

I bought parts, and had it all unit tested, really. All four axes worked, I had the board running my own firmware build I could play with. The extruder got hot and appeared to be functioning correctly with the thermistor. But I had a goof getting the bed assembled/leveled which forced me to tear it off and order new bearings. And by the time those arrived family and distractions had pulled me away. And of course by now the Prusa is old news. But I'll get back to it someday, if not with this printer than with another.

Exactly. I have almost-completed RepRap Wallace awaiting free weekend or two to finish assembling.


Yes. http://makerschmitt.blogspot.com

I have actually used it for not just the toys/fun you see on the blog, but also some actual parts in my home that broke too.

Yes, it's truly an early adopter's point, with pain, & costs, & trouble. Yes, you can order parts from shapeways.com & ponoko.com without having your own machine.

But, this is truly magic, in that it brings mechanical iterations into the realm of software, with reduced cycle time.

Before these things, as a mechanical engineer in the 90's, any iteration would be 2-4 weeks, & $2-4k, and now, I can do 3 iterations in one afternoon for <$2.00 of plastic.

If you've studied other fields, you might know how radical a transformation reduced cycle times alone can make.

What are the chances that in the next month pg publishes an essay calling for why more startups should be doing hardware, bitcoin, and/or 3D printing?

I should apply to YC for my revolutionary 3D Bitcoin Printing startup.

I own a 2D printer and have found my use of it declined dramatically over the last five years.

Given I just became a Google Shopping Express member and I am already addicted to Amazon Prime, I anticipate my desire to make my own 3D items at home to also decline over time.

I do agree with @JDDunn9. There will be businesses that will provide 3D printing services using state of the art printers, high quality materials, and their expertise. Bay Photo is a 2D example of this kind of service. They will deliver the results quickly, cheaply, and reliably using distribution services like Prime and Express.

I built an Ultimaker last year. Having the ability to go from an idea to a physical widget on a weekend afternoon is amazing.

Here's a working turbine compressor model that I built http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjU-1aS_mHQ

Here's one of the more practical things that I made: http://www.heroicrobotics.com/img/pixelpusher_case.jpg (We used another "consumer grade" 3d printer for the first 60 units; it's about time to switch to injection molding)

No, and I'm unlikely to buy one until there's a particular killer application. I'm excited by the potential, but I don't have any concrete ideas to explore, nor the time/disposable income to tinker.

I haven't got one. I'm unlikely to buy one for myself. (My son is 2 and a bit. I may buy one for him when he's old enough to make use of it.)

I am interested in them and I love reading about stuff people are doing with them and I see that they're an important innovation. But I'm happy for other people to be doing that stuff.

I have seen some 3d printed stuff that I wanted to buy. Someone made some ceramic mugs, and the first iteration was cool and clunky and not neat shaped. There are some cool puzzles and math toys too.

I'm in the same position. I like them intellectually, but so far I am >95% sure that if I bought one it would be used about as much as my inkjet printer is currently used. Part of it is that most of what I would personally want to build out of plastic is fairly macro-scale, and approximated surprisingly well by Legos.

Same here. Specifically, I'm not buying one until I can print circuit boards.

I've built the RepRapPro Mendel from a kit about 2 months ago. Don't have any "real" use for it - it's just a cool toy to have, considering it doesn't cost that much (paid 640 EUR for the kit). But it may come very useful if I try to build some hobby RC plane or quadcopter though.

Anyway, it's been working nice so far, though I did spend many hours tuning the machine and getting to know the various software (CAD, slicers, printer control). I'm currently in the process of installing another extruder, the primary reason being the ability to print water-soluble support material (PVA) - this makes it possible to print essentially any form, with no limitation on overhang angle.

I think the thing that needs most work in the open source 3D printer works is the development of slicing software and printer firmware. In particular, there is little consideration to how the layers interact with each physically. Currently slicers mostly work in a simple and predictable manner - but with more "intelligent" algorithms modelling the physical processes of a printer the print quality and/or speed could be improved without modifying the printer itself (except perhaps getting faster microcontrollers).

P.S. I'll be very careful buying cheap Chinese filament next time. It tends to have oil inside which makes it almost impossible to stick to any kind of surface, and requires bed cleaning after every print.

Hello, I'm a reprap developer. What specific intelligence do you have in mind? Want to come in to #reprap on freenode and tell us about it?

I do come in #reprap often (nick ambro718).

For example, fan control could be made volumetric, based around how much filament is below the extrusion, not just the whole layer time. The bridge detection in Slic3r is a very restricted form of this - done more generally, fan speed would be increased for bridges, overhangs and non-first layers of bridges.

Another example, the physics of the extruder operation could be taken into account, to prevent fat corners and similar. I know some firmware can do this already, but I've never found it sufficient. I know it is somehow unclear whether this goes into the firmware of the g-code - but if it goes in the g-code, that means it should work with all firmwares. I think that ideally you could program anything you want in g-code, without the need to change firmware.

Bridge sagging could be accounted for in some way. I've seem cases where you have very sparse infill, and the first filled layer after that is very sagged - up to 3 top layer may be needed to get the top straight.

Finally, slicers are generally buggy (just check the Slic3r issue tracker!). I may sometime get a bit more involved with slicer development, but it's a whole new area, and lots of existing code that needs to be understood until I can make proper improvements.

Yup, I have a RepRap MendelMax v1.5.

Enamored as a child by Lego, I broke all early problems down to things that could be solved/built with Lego. In order to build 'real stuff', I knew I needed to learn to weld aluminum and mill things. I read about million dollar 3/5/X-axis CNC machines in the early 90s and tried numerous times to build something 'good enough'.

Many failed CNC projects later, I found RepRap and it's filled a particular need. One that doesn't fill the garage/loft/apartment with a faint taste of aluminum in the air.

Where's the option for "I don't have one now and don't have any plans to buy one, but that might change as the technology evolves." Never seems too strong a word in option 3.

Yes, I agree. At least when/if the technology becomes ubiquitous. If I'd had to answer this poll in 1995, and it had said "mobile phone" rather than "3d printer", I'd have said "never". I didn't (and don't) particularly need one, but it's almost assumed these days that everybody has one (at least where I live), so I got one. I can easily see a future where simple parts are not bought, but printed, and every household is expected to have a 3d printer, much like how they're expected to have a phone or a TV today. If that day comes, I'll probably get one - but it may be far off, or never happen at all.

I built a Prusa Mendel last year. It works... sort of. Unfortunately it's very unreliable and finicky, and takes a lot of babysitting to print anything. In theory I should now use it to print improved parts for itself to fix this; in practice it seems I don't have mechanical know-how to make a really reliable machine, nor (lately) the big blocks of time needed to experiment and learn. It's just been gathering dust for the past six months :-(

I would like to get one, for multiple reasons. One is for myself - it would be interesting and fun to play around with, and to use for some side hobby projects. The other (arguably more important) reason is to just have that creative outlet available for my kids to tinker on.

It is hard right now (for me) to justify the cost - just like I assume it was hard for my parents to justify the cost of an Apple ][+. But I am very glad they bought that luxury geek gadget when I was a kid, because it helped shape who I am today.

I don't know if 3D printing will be analogous to an Apple ][+ in terms of impact for my kids - probably not. But it can be hard to see if it will, when it is in its infancy. I wonder if I would have been fascinated with computers if I was a kid now, because they are so polished in so many ways. The Apple ][ (and our subsequent 286) were so... rough... and accessible, that it was all the more intriguing for a young curious tinkerer.

I think there is no doubt that the current hobby 3D printers are rough, and a bit unpolished (in a good way). (That may change some with Formlabs Form1, though... it looks pretty polished and slick).

I think that rapid drone delivery will become a reality before 3D printer costs will come down enough so that it makes sense to have one in your house.

Same day delivery from Amazon!

Print one out at a friend's house!

Wozniak had this great insight. It's like lathe. Everyone knows a guy who has one, but no one is actually bothered to get one. It's a nice thing to have in your workshop, but also requires lots of skill.

I disagree. I think it's more like how microwaves were in the 50s. Some people have probably heard of them, but are still suspicious of their usefulness...

And then one day everyone has one, and you can buy them at your local appliance store.

But microwaves solve a problem people have several times a day (low-labor way to get some hot food or drink). I'm having trouble envisioning a world in which an average person needs or wants a new 3d-printed object on a daily basis, even if it were completely free.

A friend of mine bought a real CNC milling machine for < $5K and it can make things out of plastic and metal with real software tools and MUCH better tolerances. Most 3D printer are just ... meh.

I can't wait to buy one, even if it's just to print gifts for friends and nameplates for the office.

Every time I hear more about this domain (typically from folks like iamwil at CubeHero) I become more excited by the possibilities. It's a enabling technology, so looking for a "killer application" is probably the wrong way to think about it: the impact is likely to be more fundamental and spread across a variety of small use cases for a long time until it's ingrained in our culture. I still remember walking into a VC's offices and seeing a row of neatly-printed 3D 4-polytopes sitting along the counter to welcome entrants.

Sadly, it's the one piece of equipment where I can't think of even a tangential application in crowd labor, so there's not one here at the office yet. I expect this'll be as ubiquitous as a 2D printer in offices within a few years, though.

Thanks for the shout out. :) I still maintain the same stance. Many people look at the technology as it is now, or too far in the future, rather than where it's headed in the next year or three.

As for crowd labor market, there might be an application. 3D printers are slow compared to other types of manufacturing, and thus, to get any volume to sell, one needs to operate a printer farm, or try to do distributed 3D printing.

When people do operate printer farms, where they have racks of printers to print out parts that they sell. However, the current crop of 3D printers still requires manual labor in the beginning and the end of the print. There's no mechanism yet to automatically remove the piece and start a new job. This may be where labor can come in.

As for distributed printing, I do know of a guy that's trying this out as an experiment, since he doesn't have the capacity to print every piece he's selling, he pays others to help him print, and then it's shipped to him. So that is a possibility as well.

Hey. I prototyped an automagic part remover for unattended continuous operation for a client who prints continuously. Contact me if you are interested (kliment@0xfb.com)

You should include "I have access to one that I can use".

Same here. I don't own one (yet), but we have one at SplatSpace for members to use.

That said, I plan to build one for myself at some point. A fellow Splat'er has offered me his partially assembled Reprap, but I don't have time to work on it right now. :-(

I agree with this. I'm not sure I'll ever buy my own, but the one I have access to at the local hackerspace sees much use from me.

Agreed. I am in this camp. And see RaphiePS's comment.

Cool poll but I have a hunch data will be skewed towards "yes" (in the sense that people who have 3d printers will be more likely to answer the survey).

I would venture to say 3d printers are not going to be ubiquitous like the home paper printer. The power is in replacing manufacturing processes. You need 10,482 M5x30mm stainless screws? Print them rather than having some factory in China ship you them in lots of 50,000. And scale from there.

Arguably, a single factory in China will print the screws and make whatever larger device. The point is, simplifying the supply chain.

I think you got it backwards, a factory is never going to be more efficient by using 3D printers. The whole point of a factory is to be very very specialized in only making screws the most efficient way possible.

Selected Yes, but I really meant "I have one and it doesn't work properly, haven't touched it in months and wondering if I should get rid of it." :/

That seems like a waste. What's wrong with it?

A number of things - the Z axis seems loose, the other axes skip steps (possibly the stepper drivers overheating), general issues with bed adhesion and warping.

All common 3d printer issues, though some are exacerbated because I bought a cheap kit from an unknown supplier. I got to a point where every time I fixed I problem I'd notice two other ones, and put it down and haven't picked it back up.

Good advice for people getting 3d printers is to decide if you want a printer as a tool for design/prototyping, or 3d printing as a hobby. I told myself I wanted the second as a path to the first, but after many hours of printer building I concluded that I really just wanted the first.

Whenever I think of 3d printers, I think of this essay: http://www.paulgraham.com/stuff.html

I'm not sure whether 3-d printing will result in my having more stuff or less. In the long run, I could see it working out either way, but with the technology in its current state, it would definitely result in a net increase in the amount of stuff I have.

In my own experience, only at first. I started printing anything willy nilly, just to try it out. Then when I felt like I just had too much stuff, I became more selective with what I print. I keep all the discarded parts, objects, and failed prints in a box, since I'll be able to re-melt and reuse the plastic eventually.

I'm not really worried about printing useless items, I'm more concerned that the 3-d printer itself is one more (fairly significant) item of "stuff" to have to deal with. For a 3-d printer purchase to result in a net-negative amount of stuff, it would need to allow me to get rid of a lot of other stuff in my life.

If 3-d printers eventually reach the stage where I can print an item only when I need it, and then I can recycle it into something else, that would be worth owning. Looking around my kitchen, I see a lot of things that I don't use every week, but I use enough (and are useful enough) that they're worth keeping around: a gravy separator, multiple salad bowls, a ladle, a colander, steamer baskets, multiple slotted spoons, multiple potholders, storage containers, various sizes of bakeware, enough placesettings to have guests, etc. I can imagine 3-d printers eventually getting to the point where there's no reason to keep drawers and cabinets full of this stuff. But with today's technology, if you're printing something that you need to use today a month from now, you're generally better off throwing the one you have on a shelf for a month than printing a new one the next time you need it. When that changes, I'll be more interested.

If you are looking to buy a 3d printer as a business investment/opportunity, let me know. I'm exploring that market and would like to talk to people with the same mindset.

Note that 3D printing is a huge, huge industry. Due to how it will allow companies to print or buy parts for their machinery at a fraction of the current costs.

I dunno, 3D printed ABS parts are nowhere near the injection moulding strength of ABS. The construction of a part tends to be porous, and the inter filament bonds are weak. Geometry alone suggests layering tubes ontop of tubes is not the best way to make a strong solid. If a machine keeps breaking due to wear you don't want to replace its metal parts with ultra fragile plastic parts. Maybe it depends on the machine a bit. I seen people try to make a usable prop shaft out of 3D printing, it broke immediately.

I have built three 3D printers so far and a CNC. I like the CNC best and am designing my second. I use shapeways over using any of the 3D printers I have to hand, if the purpose is to build a working part (or the CNC).

I am in the process of acquiring a 3D printing machine because I have some factories interested in buying plastic parts from me. These are not for precise machining, but mostly maintenance parts. You don't need to compete with CNC machining, because there are so many things you can do with this that its ridiculous.

I have a RepRap and am in the process of building a Rostock.

Not technically a 3D "printer" but I bought a 3D Pen on Kickstarter:


Delivery date is set to next Nov., so we'll see what this can do!

likewise. looking forward to toying with it as I think it presents some interesting use cases, though i realize its pretty far-off from a 'printer' in terms of capabilities..

I voted "I don't have one now but I may have one," but after seeing on in person for the first time a week ago I am a little more hesitant. It took 3+ hours to print a chess piece!

I definitely see the value, but it will certainly take another five years before I'd be ready to actually buy one.

Borrowed one, decided that having one might be a nice addition to my shop. Built my own rather than buy an existing design.

Now it sits in the corner of my shop gathering dust - it works well, but I found that what I really wanted out of it was the experience of designing and building my own.

The selection bias on this poll seems massive. Interesting discussion none the less.

I have used 3D printing in two different contexts:

- At a research lab. They had a massive Stratasys which cost around $30,000. They used it all the time for experiment setups; they had a whole workshop with CNC mills, lathes, etc. and the 3D printer was one machine among the others. It was used as much as the others, no less, no more.

- At a hardware startup. We never bought a 3D printer, but we used on-demand 3D printing services (Shapeways, Ponoko, Sculpteo, etc). This allowed us to iterate rather quickly on design matters - we were doing consumer electronics.

For my personal use I don't think I'll buy a 3D printer within the next 5 years.

It would be nice to also know what kinds of things people with printers are making. Prototyping? Doodling? Replacement parts? Puzzles/Games?

I am interested in 3D printers but I'm not sure what I would be using it for!

Does access to a 3d printer count? I have a number of friends with 3d-printers (all kinds of models) and could use them any time (or send them an .stl and have them print it for me). Thus there isn't much point in me owning my own 3d-printer.

Still, even if I had the money I wouldn't buy one, but I am planning to make one eventually. If only to teach myself about the mechanics and electronics involved. Also, building a 3d-printer gives you the skills to maintain one, where you ever to use one and unforeseen things happen.

Does the never buy one option entail a belief that they won't someday be useful? Or is it just, "Won't buy one if they remain as they are now." I meant the latter when I upvoted it.

Just completed coursework at Uni where we used a CNC router and an FDM machine to make a prototype of an adjustable egg cup.

The egg cup manufacturing cost using the FDM was only £7 for the material.

Please tell me it's adjustable between little- and big- endian.

I did my MS thesis work on 3D printing at the single micron scale. There are some very cool applications for the technology, but I do not know what I would do with it outside of prototyping or using it to make molds for casting parts.

I'm a lot more bullish about technologies that print metal such as NASA Langely's EBF3 (http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/ebf3.html) than soft, anisotropic polymers.

I've been holding off because the desktop size limits functionality, but manufacturers seem to be moving beyond toys. I think we're right on the cusp of seeing some industrial strength printers geared towards hackers/makers/hobbiests. This one on KickStarter seems to be pushing the conventional size boundaries, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/re3d/gigabot-3d-printing....

The problem is that they only print stuff made of plastic.

The most interesting things are either made of silicon/metal (computer chips) or organic matter (food, people) and neither are printable.

This space is evolving very quickly - it's not perfect by any stretch, but you can actually order metal parts from Shapeways[1], and there was a story recently about NASA "3D-printing" rocket parts using nickel alloy[2].

1. http://www.shapeways.com/materials 2. http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/140084-nasa-3d-prints-roc...

I recently at a conference and sat in on a session on 3D printing. There were several materials to choose from now, mostly plastic, but I saw rubber and a few other materials.

There's a sort of "faux wood" material you can print with as well.[1] And there is such a thing as 3D printing with metal also[2], although that can be much more expensive and probably isn't down into the reach of DIY'ers yet.

[1]: http://www.wired.com/design/2012/11/3d-printer-wood-filament...

[2]: http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/143552-3d-printing-with-m...

Another missing option: I don't have one but it's in the mail. I have ordered a Solidoodle 3 and it shall arrive in 6-8 weeks, should my order be processed as expected.

It has saved me ~two dollars so far, namely on this: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:45262

Original purchase price - two dollars = ?

Had access to a commercial 3D printer at a hackerspace. After the initial few cool test objects, the annoyance of dealing with broken STL files and waiting hours for tiny fragile parts overtook the "convenience". But I think those will both improve with time.

My sub-poll question would be: for those who do have a 3D printer, do you create your own content or print only third-party STLs?

My own content, mostly fixing blocks for other devices I'm building (e.g. http://wiki.hackerspace.lv/w/images/6/69/Expon_1.jpg ).

In my opinion, current generation 3d printers have to be looked at as tools, not a holy saviour of manufacturing industry. It has it's strong points (fast turnaround times, low price) and has it's weaknesses (subpar resolution, support material is required for many types of parts, being finicky).

Nonetheless, I'm really happy with mine- I built a RepRap around 2 years ago. It took full 1 year to get from starting to read about it, to first prints good enough to be useful. After building, it gathered dust for some time because I didn't know what to do with it- the process of building was more interesting than process of using it :>

That being said, I'm also experimenting with DIY SLA printers- by using UV laser and rotating mirror assembly (found in 2d laser printers). Don't know if it works yet- I'm finishing up electronics/firmware and trying to come up with mechanical design.

I have a small printer on the cheap end of the spectrum. I started off printing things from Thingiverse because I was having a hell of a time trying to create STLs from the 3D modeling software I already knew (Lightwave and Maya). It worked but my toolchain was a huge pain and the resulting geometry was not always sound for slicing to gcode.

In recent months I started using openSCAD and now almost exclusively print things I generate with it. I still check Thingiverse to see if people have already created things I'm attempting to make, which I see as the real power of this whole experiment.

I would love to be able to use on on a hourly base

Most hacker spaces offer rental of maker bots (3D printers), laser cutters, powder printers, and more:


Any recommendations for an inexpensive 3d printer suitable for someone who just thinks they're cool and wants to screw around with it?

I wrote a post about this topic that I thought you might find useful.


Just what I was looking for. Thanks!

Bought a 3D Systems Cube a few months ago. I would say it's not a consumer-ready product, though not a bad investment from the perspective of doing market research. I've learned a lot about where the current market is in terms of consumer-usable 3D printing.

There are clearly growth opportunities, both on the hardware and software sides of things, and in their intersection.

To those that want to buy one: what would you make with it?

I have access to printers via our hackerspaces (shameless plug: Heatsync labs, Mesa AZ), but have only printed 1 thing that I can think of that was useful.

It was a bushing to mate two pieces of steel together. The other things I've printed have either been novelty (hey, I can print a pendant!) or have fallen apart.

Replacement triggers (and other pieces) for old waterguns. Nothing available commercially today comes close to the old supersoakers (the legendary CPS2000 of course, but even the 1000/1200/1500/2500/2700 are pretty rare these days); building your own means a lot of engineering effort and concerns about its safety. So it's well worth being able to fix the old ones, and one of the more common problems is for the trigger (which is plastic, like almost all of the parts) to simply snap at the point where the I-shaped rod joins to the plastic square that you actually move.

This is a pretty niche hobby - I suspect it's a tiny proportion of the 3D printing market - but it's an example of a case where it would be very useful.

I have a Solidoodle 2. I made a video demonstrating it here: http://youtu.be/Aafp7EnzmOY

I'm glad I got it. For me it's not much more than a toy but because of it I've gotten a much greater understanding of the 3d printer phenomenon, what it can do and can't do, etc.

I definitely see the potential in 3D printers, but I just don't have enough of a need for such a machine at the time being. Well, at least not a need not big enough to justify the price.

I have no experience with 3D modeling or home manufacturing, so the learning curve is another reason I'm holding off for now.

I clicked "yes" since the organization I work with (Austrian Space Forum) has those and I think I was involved when we talked about getting them in 2011.

They're pretty useful, printing spare parts for our space suits and rovers when we test them in the field where it would take days to get replacement parts.

We have two in my office, and we make software completely unrelated to the domain of design or manufacturing. We recognize the value in curiosity and in engaging with new technologies, so we foster a workplace where experimentation and play are valued as part of the creative process.

I'm super interested in the (obvious) potential of 3D printing - you can get a pretty decent one for ~$400 nowadays. I'm not sure how much use I would get out of it personally at the moment other than printing random things when I'm drunk, but I'm still going to get one.

Somewhere between 32,000 and 70,000 consumer 3D printers have been sold to the end of 2012 -- http://reprage.com/post/35354576225/how-many-consumer-3d-pri...

I'm working in a lab where I need to design custom parts on a regular basis. It still doesn't make sense for us to buy one given how cheap and easy it is to use printing services. Even hobby grade services have been fantastic (Shapeways, etc).

I'd have one if I had space; since the Hacker Dojo space near YC is up for sublease, and is zoned industrial so you must have "lab" component, it would be really tempting to have a security lab... (but $5k/mo for the office space, I guess)

I'm in the camp of - any printer I could afford or justify spending money on in the discernible future would not produce the quality of product I would want. Until that machine eventually arrives, I will send out or find a hackerspace.

I'm one of those in the camp "No, but I want!" Any killer applications for this so far?

I don't think killer app is the way to think about it. Blogging has been a world changing technology (though ho hum by 2013 standards), and back in 1999 (when blogging was at its infancy), what would you have replied was the killer app of Blogging?

I'd bet on _the_ driving force of tech: pr0n or sex toys.

I don't have a 3D printer. I do however have a DIY CNC router: www.shapeoko.com

Needs an option for "I have a half-assembled one". I'm pretty sure I'm far from the only person in that position.

(Think my RepRap just needs a quiet weekend, and for me to get over my aversion to crimping...)

I have had a Makerbot Thing-O-Matic for almost 2 years.

It's a cool toy but it has not been a useful tool for me. The Stratsys uPrint at my hackerspace is my go to if I need to actually make something.

I don't own one, and I'm not sure where I would put one presently. I have access to one through my membership at my local hacker space, and that's enough for me at the moment.

I'm building my own homebrew version now. I'll probably never finish, but what's the fun in just buying one? If I did buy one I'd just be printing more 3d printer parts.

I'd probably be interested in buying one eventually, but as it stands right now, there's one I can use for very cheap at my school, so for now I'll just stick with that.

I've got about 80% of a Prusa Mendel sitting on my desk right now, staring at me.

I'd really like to get into ceramics (that Unfold project is a mind blow) and do a custom bong start-up.

A bunch of options with prices. http://pinterest.com/finklean/diy-3d-printers/

We do have 3D printers, and we also help 3D makers share their work online with http://sketchfab.com

Yes, I have one. It's Printrbot.

<sadface>I also have too many projects and too little time, so it doesn't get the attention it deserves. </sadface>.

I don't have one personally, but the hacker space I frequent has one. So I guess having easy access is enough for saying I already have one

I'm waiting on the day that 3d printers can print hardware (ex. CPU's, RAM chips) and the designs/models become available for sale or become FOS.

You'll be waiting for a couple of years (if not a decade). While there are conductive plastics, it's not nearly practical enough to achieve what you want.

I don't know enough about current 3d printing to really know when this is possible, but I'm pretty sure it won't be tomorrow. If you could combine Soylent Green with 3d printing, you'd have a recipe for Star Trek food :)

If you're in Kuala Lumpur/PJ in Malaysia, Makespace has one and you can use it for your work.


Anyone else read that as a "3rd printer." I was trying to think why someone would even need two... A junker and a professional one? But three...

Got a Printrbot+. It's working, but I still need to dial it in for different materials. Tinkering with it is a bit of a hobby for me these days.

Built a reprap 18 months ago, but have yet to get it working properly. I didn't build the extruder myself, and I think that it's broken..

I'll buy one as a way of turning the last stone to total reclusion from society. 85% off at shoebuy? Don't care - I print my own shoes.

I imagine that I'll own one in the far off future when they become the smartphones of the next decade or whenever that happens.

You should replace "I'll probably never buy one." with "I don't have one and don't plan on acquiring one in the short term".

Never say never. ;)

I might try to make one, which would involve buying parts. But I get the impression buying one is expensive. Also less fun!

I don't even have a 2nd printer, why should I have a 3rd one ?


Honestly, I'm still wondering what types of metals 3d printer can handle.

Built a rep rap prusa about a year ago. Funny thing is, I had more fun building it contrasted against "making" stuff.

Yes, I have one. It's the Dreambox: a fully-automated 3D printing vending machine that is on campus at U.C. Berkeley.

No, but I'm at school with access to one.

I'm printing out my final project for a rapid prototyping class as I type this out! :D

Hell yeah! I have few RepRaps and thousands all around the world have one I designed! Anyone here with Prusa Mendel?!

Jo Prusa

Yeah \o/ We first build an original Mendel at my Paris (France) hackerspace, then used it to print my own Prusa i1, which I upgraded to an i2 over time using itself, and printed a Prusa i2 for a friend with my i1. RepRap rocks :)

More than a tool, 3D printing is really a big hobby for me. It's not just about getting 3D objects printed, it's also about how the prints go, how the quality varies given the slicing/printing parameters, and how to push everything further with the community.

I would like to buy one. If they get cheaper and my income increases then it will be on the shopping list.

#2 for me but I have wanted to build a RepRap since they came into being but it may be easier to buy one.

Maybe you want to have another option for people who don't own a 3d printer but have access to one?

We got a MakerBot at my job but it's not working, and support has not been very helpful :(

I wonder if this is because there's multiple 3D printing companies fundraising now?

I answered 'yes' as we have one at work that we're welcome to use anytime we want.

I am from India and 3D printers might not be in this country for some more time..

They have one at the hackspace in my city. So I have free access to one.

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