Ten 3D printers for this year's modellers
The shape of things to come
Product Round-up You may not know why but you probably want a 3D printer. These are intrinsically cool devices: A mix of engineering, electrical engineering, material science, chemistry, electronics and software.
As an emerging technology you need to understand a bit of all of these to get the most from a hobbyist device, just as early computer users needed to be competent with a soldering iron and writing assembly code. Here we look at ten of the most interesting 3D printers around. There is a mix of technologies, and some are not yet shipping, but it goes to show just how diverse this nascent industry is.
3D Touch 3D printer
This is an extruder-type printer that does Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) using ABS or PLA thermoplastic from a spool. It’s unusual in that it is quite good looking and has up to three heads, meaning it can print in three colours of plastic at a time. The extruders use a screw mechanism and the heat comes from the platform. Colours are “spot” colours and they cannot be mixed. Files are printed from a USB stick and there is a touchscreen user interface. It is beautifully finished in stainless steel and aluminium, and is particularly targeted at education. The device has an exceptionally large print area of 27.5x 27.5x 21cm.
More info 3D Touch at Bits from Bytes
Steampunk styling and aluminium construction give this Polish printer a special feel, with the exposed parts adding to the design rather than making it look unfinished. The handle on the top makes it transportable rather than portable. Individual parts seem particularly well finished, and an innovation is the self-tensioning belts. As an FDM printer it uses ABS or PLA thermoplastic from a spool. It will print models of up to 20 x 26 x 18cm albeit slowly at 100mm/minute. Two nozzles are available in 0.3mm and 0.5mm. These machines have been shipping since summer 2012.
More info CB Printer
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I have no need for a 3D printer but for some strange reason I want one.
I guess it's a sign of how far we've come that you can fill a "10 3D printers" article with credible suggestions, and still leave out some of the biggest names.
@Lee Rowling Re: Cost
"Though there are a couple of models in the "affordable" range there, they seem to be the cheap junk that has poor quality output."
How are you judging the output ?... from the minimum feature size ? Have you seen the output from all these ? Enquiring minds want to know..
"They literally look like someone's attempt to make their own inkjet printer and though I don't doubt they work and are "good enough" for a lot of things, that's all I think of when I look at them. What are we talking about? Three stepper motors, a control board, some supporting struts, belts, chains, gears, and a heated nozzle with a box of raw plastic on top. Just what is in there to cost several thousand pounds?"
The cheap and nasty looking ones don't cost several thousand pounds.
"Honestly, I expect to pay £50-100 for a "homebrew" one of these (i.e. the price range of a half-decent commercial inkjet, or some large homebrew lego project), and £300-500 for a full commercial-quality one."
May I be the first, on behalf of the rest of the world, to apologize for things not yet being what you expect. The nerve of those manufacturers.....
"Until then, I don't see what market they serve."
Evidently not... though i'm left to wonder to whom this reflects more on.
Re: Lack of faith
So after about 10 or 20 iterations of this we will be down to the nanobot level? All hail our nanobot overlords!
Wot no Ultimaker?
Pity that the best hobbiest 3d printer isn't listed.... The Ultimaker (www.ultimaker.com). I print on mine at 0.08mm layer height and have gone down as low as 0.04.... I've compared directly with prints from most of the printers on this list and the Ultimaker blows them all away. As a plywood contraption it doesn't look as good as some of these,but it excels where it counts.
Also, I just have to toss in my 2p on the Replicator.... Makerbot are going the way of Apple... they had a great hacker community but now they've evolved into a corporate environment and have close-sourced everything and are moving towards a closed non hacker-friendly eco-system. They've taken work done by the community and have built proprietary work on it without giving anything back.