3d Printer

Despite our desire to build one, I finally accepted the fact that Darien and I were never going to find the time, so I took a chance on the Monoprice Maker Select i3 (which is actually a Wanhao Duplicator i3 printer). It’s my first real hands-on experience with a 3d printer, so I can’t compare to other models, but it seems to work reliably and I’m learning about the printing process, which was the primary goal anyhow.

This is an entry level printer. Period. I’m not sure where the real limitations will occur, but I’m confident that they’ll be there once I know what I’m doing. It’ll probably be accuracy of higher resolution prints. So far, printing high resolution hasn’t resulted in significantly better prints, just slower ones, and in some cases much worse quality. I’ve found 3dPrinterBrain to be an invaluable source of information.

What am I going to do with a 3d printer? Robotics is one area where I’ve already started to make use of it. I’m now coaching FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 4026 and we’ve had a number of problems that were fairly easily solved with a quick design and print (OK, prints are never quick).

Some of my more interesting and useful prints so far.

The killer in this bunch as been the marking guides for the aluminum tubing. They’ve been a godsend. Saves a ton of time when trying to make accurate holes (need 4 1/4″ holes, spaced 1″ apart, set 1/2″ from the edge of the tube, starting at 1/2″ from the end). Previously doing that with clumsy tools, tape measures, calipers, a compass, and lots of cursing could take an hour for a single part. Then, any inaccuracies were multiplied by drill press sloppiness.

With these guides, you drop it on the edge, flush to the end, mark the long axis and the 1/2″ starting point, slide the guide up to that mark, continue the long axis and mark every 1″ tic mark, punch the tic marks and go drill. The whole thing can be accurately marked in 2 minutes.

So far, well worth the $350 for the printer, plus about $30/kg of material (ABS and PLA so far, PETG next). Lots of fun. Amazing to watch. And unbeatable to solve an odd problem here or there.

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