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48497Re: [SeattleRobotics] 3D printer service?

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  • Brent Rosenburgh
    Jul 12, 2014
      Hello Caesar,

      TL:DR at bottom.

      I think I will chime in on this.  I have personally owned five MakerBot models as well as worked with many different open-source, consumer and professional-grade machines.  The factor in comparing consumer-level 3D printers today is more political than technical and as much as it is hard to say, my current overall recommendations for FDM-style, sub-$5,000 3D printers are either the 2nd generation Cube family from 3D Systems or ideally, any of the fifth-generation MakerBots.  The caveat is if you are capable and committed enough to build, calibrate and maintain an open-source printer, the Lulzbot Taz 4 or the OpenBeam Kossel Pro has the potential to be excellent options.

      Here's why politics matter:  3D Systems started SLA 3D Printing in 1984 and Stratasys debuted FDM in 1989.  Since then they have acquired dozens of companies and both established a massive collection of patented technologies that make them essentially the "Big-Two" in additive manufacturing today.  3D Systems has Stereo-Lithography, Selective and Direct Laser Sintering and Z-Printing while Stratasys holds Fused-Deposition Modeling and PolyJet Matrix and as of last year, MakerBot in its clutches. 

      This matters because unless you go full open-source where the print quality is directly connected to your ability to calibrate and maintain the machine, the commercial machines from 3D Systems and Stratasys are designed and built around decades-old and protected technologies that other commercially-sold printers can't touch unless they wish to be litigated into the ground.

      Now, don't get me wrong;  there are plenty of good machines out there at all price points but if your requirements are dimensional accuracy, reliability and consistency, it is hard to beat Stratasys for FDM and 3D systems for SLA.  3D Systems acquired Bits-from-Bytes that sold a RepRap Darwin knock-off and assimilated the FDM technology (called Fused-Filament Fabrication or FFF for legal reasons) to create their Cube models to compete with Stratasys.  Their new models are basically well-engineered RepRaps that have been intentionally made proprietary to allow them to be more predictable and reliable.  The new fifth-generation printers from MakerBot were designed with help from Stratasys so they can continue to evolve the technology they were originally based-on.  

      Without entering into a licensing agreement with Stratasys or being bought outright, commercial FDM style printers by other companies are hitting a wall of innovation that requires either being truly innovative or going fully open-source to evade the watchful eye of the lawyers at Stratasys.  The same goes for 3D Systems and SLA and soon SLS technologies.  What's more, many of the patents are in the software that runs the machine and not the hardware itself.  So despite core technologies becoming available like FDM, SLA and soon SLS, the nuances in how to best utilize the technologies are still locked up and only truly innovative ideas are able to emerge without a bulls-eye on their back and to be honest, there isn't much right now.

      Dimensional accuracy is a big victim of this.  Stratasys owns a software patent that compensates in model slicing the displacement of extruded material during printing.  No commercial 3D printer running proprietary slicing software can implement that in the way described (it's a simple solution too) so unless they do it their own way, they either have to licence it or omit it.  Early MakerBot prints suffered from this because it doesn't matter how perfect the gantry motions are when a 0.4 mm bead of material is squished against a 0.2 mm layer and expands the surface outward by a measurably significant amount.  But the new MakerBots can have that.  The same situation surrounds dissolve-able secondary support materials.  It's not just adding the second extruder, it is also the software that makes it useful...patented.

      Granted, an open-source 3D printer running an easily modified firmware being fed by open control software and an open slicing engine can be adjusted by hand to compensate for this but there are a lot of variables at play that make that a moving target.  It is certainly not impossible, but one must approach tuning a 3D printer holistically or they will spend all of their free time tuning rather than printing.

      TL:DR -  If you can tolerate the commitment I recommend the Lulzbot Taz 4 or the OpenBeam Kossel Pro.  If you want a turn-key FDM printer that is not without problems but at least has a service department and very good print quality and a 3D printing juggernaut behind it, any of the new Fifth-generation MakerBots will serve you well for the price.

      If you have any other questions, feel free to ask!
      - Brent Rosenburgh
      a.k.a. (ErikJDurwoodII)
      3D Printing Director and Technical Arts Specialist at FabLab Tacoma

      On Sat, Jul 12, 2014 at 9:45 AM, Caesar Samsi cmsamsi@... [SeattleRobotics] <SeattleRobotics@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

      Thank you all for the input!

      I've heard many negative comments on Makerbot as well, despite their well known and established reputation.

      I'm looking at Make magazine's 3D printer review next.

      Deciding turns not to be not so easy :-)


      On Jul 11, 2014, at 2:25 PM, 'Robert Dyer' robert@... [SeattleRobotics] wrote:


      Vetco carries the Velleman model. They're in stock last I was there.


      From: "cmsamsi@... [SeattleRobotics]" <SeattleRobotics@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2014 12:38 PM
      To: SeattleRobotics@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [SeattleRobotics] 3D printer service?


      Hi, I've been lurking for years ... am curious if anybody has a 3D printer or used a 3D printer service.

      It would be great to hear / share your experience with the printer or service!

      Thanks, Caesar.

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