Any 3D Printer recommendations?

The packaging design firm I work at is looking into getting an entry level 3D printer, and I was put in charge of research. We would like something with good detail and some strength. we would mostly use it for things like custom zipper pulls, printing prototypes of client products for fit, custom hardware and maybe eventually bottle design, among other things. Do any of you have a desktop 3D printer you are happy with? Are there any you would recommend? The Form 1 looks interesting, but I’d be wary not to get burned with a 1st generation product.

It’s true the Form1 is that particular lab’s first product, but the technology is of course very tried-and-true. If I were you, and I had the cash, I would spring for that thing without hesitation. According to their site, they have basic customer support in place, and plans for more elaborate support resources.

The fact is SL tech is noticeably higher quality than even the best FDM print. In some cases, even the fat bead diameter of an FDM print can throw off the accuracy of the prototype you’re trying to evaluate.

I haven’t used a Form 1, it’s just perpetually on my wishlist. I’ve used Makerbots many times, and they can be really disappointing. 3D Systems has a line of sophisticated low-end printers but I don’t have personal experience with them.

Keep in mind that any 3D printing you do yourself could necessitate a lot of troubleshooting, which equates to wasted material from failed prints as well as man-hours. So make sure it’s not more economical to simply rely on a service like Shapeways, or for the Rolls Royce of services: Solid Concepts.

Thanks for the feedback. Does anyone know how the strength of SL prints compare to FDM or SLS? Would I be able to do things like snap fits or structural testing, or will it have to be more for visual evaluation?

Generally, strength will be:

Would that make SLA parts pretty brittle or just not as strong as other methods?

Any of those can be physically tested with, but it really depends on the application.

  • SLA tends to be hard/brittle, and will snap. But there’s many different types of materials that can be used, so it’s difficult to generalize. Basically, I wouldn’t do fundamental tests on the strength of a part using SLA.
  • FDM can sort of “splinter” but generally has decent durability, as the spools are typically ABS plastic.
  • SLS parts can, in some cases, fully replace production parts. But SLS has its own ways of falling apart; if subjected to a lot of friction, they can start getting “fuzzy” as little shavings start wearing away.

I got a Shapeways delivery yesterday. This is “Strong & Flexible” in “Royal Blue Polished”:

Compared to PLA on a Makerbot Replicator:

MakerBot Pros:
-quick (I have access to one for nothing at the public library) so I can print/ check/ adjust/ print
-strong (can be Dremelled to fit very well)

MakerBot Cons:
-a bit tricky to get printing (‘hobbyist’ level, lots of mechanical and coding mucking around)
-lower resolution
-support material needs to be removed by hand/ pliers/ knife

Shapeways Pros:
-very high quality (the MSDS says the dust particles are average size 56 µm)
-no support material and no markings showing where support material was

Shapeways Cons:
-so far appears a lot softer than the makerbot i.e. I didn’t need to file parts with a Dremel, I could ream it using hand tools
-expensive (not really, but not free)
-took 2 weeks to arrive

I like the Up!, it just works with less hassle than the makerbot. If they bring out a dual extruder model I will seriously consider buying one.

You have the best library ever. :open_mouth:

What is the scale of those parts you printed? I’m assuming that is a pretty close up photo, or that is pretty poor detail.

We considered Shapeways, but we thought if 3D printing was something our firm was moving into we should just commit and get our own machine. Not having to worry about turn around times or complicating NDAs would be a big plus compared to a mail order service. And living in AZ I’d bet that we couldn’t order parts over the summer without them warping.

they are Lego studs and the hole is for a Lego axle, so a 2 x 2 brick, or about the size of a 5 cent piece. The makerbot PLA extrusion is really noticeable because it is so glossy, yellow PLA for example is matte and is the same resolution but doesn’t look as bad.

I take everything back I said about Makerbot. The Replicator I use got a new extruder and with the updated Makerware software it is now much better to use, a hundred times quicker, and seems to (finally) producing consistent quality prints in PLA:

The text “v49” is less than a mm, only an SLS print can get this sort of fidelity, plus the support material is easier to remove and breaks off cleaner than the ABS printers I’m using. If the next version of Makerbot can do this sort of thing out of the box with soluble support material, I’m getting one for my desk.

I ended up getting an ultimaker, because it had the best specs for my price range (speed vs. Res.). It’s not the prettiest design but it’s a workhorse not an ornament. There are guys doing 0.02mm layers on this printer, though I almost always print with a 0.20mm layer height because I’m impatient!

So far it’s been incredibly reliable, although I had to do some upgrades right away before even attempting prints, such as firmware and fan duct. Its been through about 2kg worth of material so far and the only thing that it has needed was resetting the belt tension.

The firm I work for bought a Uprint from Stratasys 2 years ago and we’ve been very happy with it. Little to no maintenance, fast prints (anywhere from 20 minutes to 14 hours for a full plate several inches tall), very fast from file export to start of print, and adequate to good detail. My only complaints about it are:
-Limited color choices.
-The resolution leads to some parts fitting more snugly and with a “zipper” sound.
-Small holes do not print accurately. Anything under 1/8" needs to be re-drilled.

We make things with a military mentality, and have shipped product straight off the printer for evaluation by customers. So far, if the printed part breaks, the production part would have broken too.

I have a Makergear M2 I bought a little over a year ago, I would give that a look if you’re still thinking about an FDM machine. I’d say they’re every bit as good as Makerbot, possibly better in some respects, but they lack the marketing/advertising some of the other companies have so they’re not very well known (yet?). I honestly just kind of stumbled in to the company right before I was going to put my order in for a Replicator 2. And being several hundred dollars less is a nice perk!