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Printer Technology

Breaking Up With MakerBot 185

An anonymous reader writes "Sanders Kleinfeld explains how his experiences with a Makerbot device led him to the decision that 3-D printing hasn't quite arrived as a legitimate, consumer-friendly technology. Quoting: 'Waiting five hours for your Yoda feels like an eternity; you can play approximately sixty rounds of Candy Crush Saga in that same timeframe (although arguably, staring blankly at the MakerBot is equally intellectually stimulating). To make matters worse, I’d estimate MakerBot’s failure rate fell in the range of 25%–33%, which meant that there was around a one-in-three chance that two hours in, your Yoda print would fail, or that it would finish but once it was complete, you’d discover it was warped or otherwise defective. ... The first-generation MakerBot Replicator felt too much like a prototype, as opposed to a proven, refined piece of hardware. I look forward to the day when 3D printers are as cheap, ubiquitous, and easy to use as their 2D inkjet printer counterparts.'"
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Breaking Up With MakerBot

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  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @01:19AM (#44173151) Homepage

    Extruder-based machines aren't a very good technology. The fundamental problem is that you're trying to weld a hot thing to a cold thing. Welding metals that way produces flawed joints, and soldering that way produces cold solder joints. Heating the build platform helps a little, but once you've built something of any height, the heater is too far from the action. Some of the machines have better temperature control of the build area than others, but they're all rather flaky. TechShop has tried four different brands, and they range from mediocre (Replicator2 ) to useless (the Up).

    The UV polymerization machines seem to work quite well. The high-end machines produce consistent results and don't need to be watched while running. They're still slow, though. The Form1 printer [formlabs.com] may get there, if they ever really ship the thing in quantity. The ship date has slipped from April 2013 to October 2013, even though their Kickstarter funding was way oversubscribed. They also charge $149/liter for their custom resin. (I suspect that resin for 3D printers is going to be a similar racket as ink for inkjet printers. The stuff isn't inherently expensive; a slightly different formulation is routinely used for making printing plates, where it costs about a quarter of the price.)

  • by NoobixCube ( 1133473 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @01:38AM (#44173241) Journal

    I had the reverse problem. My Up Mini is virtually useless to me. Firstly, I'm not sure if the build plate is heating adequately, and I can't change that temperature. Secondly, I can't print in PLA to combat curling, since the PLA I can buy just burns in the nozzle and clogs it (and you can't adjust the extruder temperature, either. It has an ABS mode, calibrated for THEIR ABS, and a PLA mode, calibrated for THEIR PLA, which was not available. Both about 30 C higher than the competitors' filament). Thirdly, that damned nine point software levelling system is a pain, and if you get it slightly wrong, you lose your levelling the next time you go to tweak it. Some of my problems with curling and adhesion I can put down to humidity, because I see a lot of steam coming from my Up Mini, a puff of it every couple of seconds. I do live in the tropics, and have no control over the humidity in my house, so I'm resigned to that.

    My Replicator 2, on the other hand, although I've only had it a week, I am amazed with it. Even on low quality, it outdoes the best I ever got out of my Up Mini in both speed and overall print quality. I noticed my platform wasn't quite level while I was printing (the raft was getting a little scuffed as the nozzle ran over it), so I tweaked the levelling knobs on the fly (probably shouldn't have, but it worked), twiddled the knobs at each level by feel until the faint tak-tak-tak of the extruder hitting plastic stopped, and the dragon came out fine at 0.2mm layer height. On the Up Mini, every time I screwed up the levelling, that involved cancelling the print, throwing out the wasted plastic, redoing the levelling from scratch, starting it again, and hoping the print sticks and doesn't curl this time. If I had the nozzle close enough to really get the plastic into the perfboard, it would scratch the previous layers on the next layer. If I had it at the right level, there was never enough adhesion on the platform. I just didn't have the patience for it.

  • by aXis100 ( 690904 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @01:45AM (#44173265)

    I've tried a few times to do unattended long prints on my Solidoodle but often enough something goes wrong partway - not only is the print ruined but a heap of filament gets wasted. Generally I stay close by and work on something else, and a couple of those times I managed to catcha problem that might have damaged the printer (e.g. snagged filament).

    Anyway, it's not completely dead time, but it does require a fair bit of nursing. Im slowly improving some of the mechanics and operating parameters so maybe it will get better, but it's far from foolproof yet.

  • Re:Well no shit. (Score:4, Informative)

    by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @02:40AM (#44173417)
    Sintered metal 'printers' can make jet engine parts.
  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @03:08AM (#44173507) Homepage Journal

    makerbot sells their products as if they had the same reliability as Up! etc kind of printers. that's not up for debate, that's how they market them.
    HOWEVER.. you need several mods and to be lucky that they sent you an unwarped build plate etc. to get decent prints. the gantry design itself isn't too bad and the electronics are pretty simple(they copied the gantry design from stratasys..).

    I got two bots now, one makerbot replicator and another is a printrbot style reprap. the makerbot was 3x the price and took longer to get working reliably.
    among the shit makerbot has done that has made my experience worse has been stuff like sending 0.2mm nozzles packaged in 0.4mm bags to vendors.
    I got ZERO reason to buy makerbot ever again. for the machine as it came out of box it was impossible to print the two color models they used in marketing(as it came out of box it was lucky if it could print for 30 mins without jamming, there's upgrades to the extruder which are a total must to do - and dual color printing objects that size as the pr pieces held by bre were are such that the machine was probably placed in a sauna for printing so the pieces didn't warp). I still have a few upgrades to go(the arms that hold the build plate sag when build plate is heated still).

    their firmware upgrades were such that it would have been pretty easy to outright _break_ the machine(I'm using a 3rd party firmware though, it's just much better and the support for it is much better..).

    One important thing is that the makerbot design isn't safe to leave to print on it's own. it's a fire hazard - the safeties are all firmware based on a discount microcontroller that is also running the bot, it fails and the heaters can run off - there is no heat fuses of any kind anywhere - and they skimped on limit switches, so buggy gcode can break the machine as well(or if the other end limit switch cables break). notice how they NEVER in their marketing explicitly say that you could just walk away from it when it is printing? well, that is because you shouldn't. however in the same marketing they use models that take 20 hours+ to produce.

    btw if you haven't tried yet, try buying some PET filament. rawks! and can be printed on plain aluminum without warping or breaking loose.

    now there's plenty of printers that offer the exact same(and better) makerbot experience but cost 1000 bucks less than makerbots offerings.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @08:26AM (#44174921) Journal

    God I remember those things. Long after they were stopped being produced many of those models were the holy grail to evil pirates in the days of ever increasing disc based anti-piracy measures. After awhile it was hard to find burners that could do 1:1 raw with under/over burn.

    Ironically, even having a SCSI bus in your system now causes some DRM systems to freak out at you. For whatever reason, all the 'virtual CD' ISO-mounter programs in Windows always emulated SCSI CD drives, not IDE ones, so pity the poor sucker who had a physical SCSI device, even with a 'real', original, CD in it...

  • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @08:28AM (#44174947)

    The Argon won't kill you instantly if you breath it. I work for a specialized welding shop where we use NdYAG lasers. The liquid argon dewars frequently purge off excess pressure that builds if you don't manually vent them. The dewars are not in an enclosed room but a somewhat open loading dock area. When those dewars are vented they are spewing hundreds of cubic feet of argon every few seconds easily filling the area with argon. Noone has ever been harmed by that.

    If your room is small, enclosed with little ventilation and you have a LARGE gas leak such as an open cylinder valve or burst high pressure hose then yes, you will eventually be asphyxiated. But it takes a lot of gas and the little gas that leaks from the box is nothing. We have glove boxes in small static free rooms for welding oxygen/moisture sensitive electronic parts. One is nitrogen the other argon. Both are kept at positive pressure (4 inches water column above atmosphere) so they constantly leak. Those rooms are 100% safe because the gas bleed is next to nothing, same for your metal printer.

    Its not as dangerous as you think unless you have a major leak which is quite loud and noticeable.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats