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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 ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @12:39AM (#44173003)

    I remember the failure rates for burning CD's early on was probably around 40%. Now if I burn a CD or DVD I don't think I've had a failure in a couple years now.

  • by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @12:51AM (#44173043)
    In fairness to Makerbot, they can produce resolutions that the Ups can't touch - I operate both in my student labs. That said, because the Makerbot Replicators 2Xs we're using are 'higher performance', they're also much more finnicky about working until you've really cinched down on their calibration and preferred settings.

    What we're really seeing here is the impatience of the Now Generation. What? You have to wait -thirty minutes- for something to be produced?? OMG!

    Have these people any idea how long it takes to produce something through conventional CNC, let alone hand fabrication? I have fabricated parts that have taken 24 hours for a mill to produce. That's a lot of angry birds, right there! The ignorance of what goes into the technological artifacts people take for granted is astonishing. I suspect many people today would benefit from activities and hobbies that reward patience and discipline rather than instant gratification.

    As an aside, It's interesting that the author uses a time killing game as a yard stick for the waiting period - as if the time spent while printing was 'dead' and couldn't possibly be used for anything productive.
  • Re:Well no shit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crakbone ( 860662 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @12:55AM (#44173055)
    The first personal computers were on the order of about 3 to 6 grand in price. You can now buy one far beyond the capabilities of those systems for $50.00 bucks new. Even in that day the price tag was worth it for some processes. I know a guy in aerospace that was able to prototype load handling for engine mounts on a vector graphics system in a matter of hours instead of days it took on the main frame. That was back in the early 80's. Imagine where the capabilities of these systems will be in ten or twenty years. You already have systems that can use two different plastics and removable filler materials. You have systems that doctors are able to print out bones that need to be moved into position. You have systems that can print custom art on cupcakes and some that print living tissue. There is a system that will print actual walls and another that prints glass bowls using the sun. And another that prints wood objects. Shoot Jay Leno is using them to prototype out parts for cars that they no longer make parts for. The expansion and the innovative designs is amazing. To blow the current systems off as just making garbage seems short sighted about where this technology really is and where it will be shortly.
  • Re:Well no shit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @01:01AM (#44173077)

    Well, that's a tiny bit of an exaggeration. The harsh reality is that a 3D printer is a cool, fun, convenient way to make one-off and limited runs of plastic parts that would otherwise have to be injection-molded or extruded.

    Yes, I know some systems can print starch that dissolves so you can (sort of) end up with spaces and gaps in the finished item, but in the real world, it's basically up to you to drill the precision holes, sand the rough edges, remove the burrs, and do the actual assembly yourself. We're a LONG way from "download the plans to some finished consumer good & stick it to The Man(tm) by printing yourself an unauthorized copy".

    Buying a hobby-grade 3D printer today is kind of like spending $800 to buy a copy of Sculpt-Animate 4D for the Amiga 3000 20 years ago -- full of promise, totally cool, and the greatest Christmas gift someone could possibly get you... but at the end of the day, frustrating as hell.

    Back then, you'd spend days, if not WEEKS, defining 3D objects, start a render at 2am before going to bed, crawl out of bed the next morning for school, be happy that you weren't greeted by 30-40 scanlines of black (indicating that it didn't like your lighting for some reason), spend the day at school praying obsessively that you'd be greeted by 2/3 of a badly-rendered image when you got home instead of a guru meditation number, and if you hit the jackpot... your preview didn't look like total shit, and vaguely resembled whatever it was you were trying to render.

    A few days later, you'd go to render a raytraced preview the size of a postage stamp, then go away for the weekend, because that's about how long a 16-25MHz A3000 took to render a 80x50 thumbnail. Assuming it didn't crash, and there wasn't a thunderstorm to reboot the computer. OK, months passed, and you're about to go take a 2-week family vacation, so you launch into the Holy Grail -- a 320x200 HAM animation with 8-16 frames. You start the rendering job, go away, come home a few weeks later... and to your despair (but non-surprise), are greeted by either a guru meditation number or a rebooted computer courtesy of Florida Power & Light.

    You screwed with it a few more times after that, but the magic was gone. The blue smoke evaporated. It just took too damn long to render anything meaningful, and the program had an 80% chance of crashing before it finished anyway. And when it didn't crash, it was Florida before UPSes became affordable, so 2-second power outages were almost guaranteed to nuke any multi-day rendering job before it finished even if the program DIDN'T crash. Such was life on the bleeding razor's edge of computer graphics ~20 years ago. Sigh.

  • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @01:04AM (#44173085) Homepage Journal

    I remember when CD writers were like this, about 25%-33% you tried to burn were coasters because your machine couldn't keep the write buffer full, so you had this delicate balancing act of setting it to burn and OH GOD DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING and hope for the best. They still blew my mind with how handy they were, and now CD/DVD burners are so dirt cheap and reliable that it's hard to imagine the days when they were so sensitive. I figure in a few years, 3D printers will get similarly more reliable and mainstream, and continue to fall in price, until people are churning out all sorts of widgets without giving it much thought or worry.

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @01:18AM (#44173145) Homepage
    You can mock the author all you want. But if he acted as you suggest, and took the makerbot's time seriously, he would be dismissed as either a try-hard or a conservative.
  • by GrpA ( 691294 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @01:26AM (#44173187)

    +1 - I use the UP! Mini regularly ( weekly and often daily ) and it's about as simply as clicking "print" most of the time.

    Failure rate: About 1 in 20, though I have had a few problems with ABS filament quality of late reducing that to about 1 in 10.

    Just because Makerbot doesn't meet the OP's requirements, it's a little arrogant to declare the death of all 3D printers isn't it?


  • Some perspective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @02:43AM (#44173435) Homepage Journal

    This is coming from someone who built his own lathe. My experience with building my own machine tools has taught me that not only does the algorithm (i.e. tool motion) matter, but also the properties of the material being machined.

    With the traditional CNC machine, the method of material removal works the same irrespective of the stock material, with minor exceptions. A CNC mill can make parts from materials as soft as waxes to as hard as steel with little more than a bit change, and perhaps the addition of cooling lubricant.

    A 3d printer, by contrast, is a deposition method which depends to a very large degree on the properties of the feed stock. Even at their best, they'll do no better than a mill.

    And 3 hours to make a part is ridiculously long, especially given the failure rate. A trained machinist would instead choose the best tool(s) for the job and turn it out in short order.

    Just for perspective: I spent one and a half hours building a molding machine from scratch. Rather than print out the part with a 3d printer, he could have made the molding machine and molds in the same amount of time, with the added advantage that he could make an almost arbitrary number of copies. Sometimes the old ways are just faster.

  • by Paradise Pete ( 33184 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @03:06AM (#44173501) Journal
    I think your question-to-statment ratio in that post was way out of whack, leading to a -1, This Guy's a Loony moderation. Just speculating, of course.
  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @05:42AM (#44174123) Journal

    What we're really seeing here is the impatience of the Now Generation. What? You have to wait -thirty minutes- for something to be produced?? OMG!

    Yes 3D printing seems to present about the same level of difficulty to hobbyists as computers did in the 80's. Loading my Apple from an old audio tape recorder failed maybe 30-50% of the time. The trick to getting reliability closer to 4 out of 5 was to mark the position of the volume knob with a pen. Of course that could have been fixed with money. Money could also have removed the annoying "family wants to watch TV" interrupt from the monitor.

    If 3D printing takes off anything like computing did in the 80's then it will be a gold mine in the 2020's and the hobbyists who managed to make it "just work" (for a reasonable price) will be billionaires. It won't replace mass production but it could seriously disrupt the spare parts industry.

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @06:09AM (#44174229) Journal

    Comparing your professional abilities and patience to his amateur abilities and patience is unfair (to put it very kindly).

    Professionals have resources, amateurs have time. The reason he has to wait 5hrs has nothing to do with his ability and everything to do with his resources. The reason he can't bear to wait 5hrs has everything to do with his personality and nothing to do with his status as an amateur.

    Oblig anaology: The guy is like a gardener complaining he has to wait a year for fruit to appear on his tree and that when it does 1/3 of it will be inedible, while at the same time having that much fruit he is giving it away to friends and relatives..

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @07:30AM (#44174543) Homepage

    Professionals have resources, amateurs have time. The reason he has to wait 5hrs has nothing to do with his ability and everything to do with his resources. The reason he can't bear to wait 5hrs has everything to do with his personality and nothing to do with his status as an amateur.

    Not sure I agree entirely here. Even the better printers will take a while to build his yoda, they do it more reliably, so that does translate into saved time but....I think what he really lacks is perspective.

    Having what you designed today in hand today, or even tomorow, is a HUGE WIN. Take it back a few steps and what do you have? A design on "paper". Going from that description of a yoda to a yoda could take a long time in more traditional setups.

    Sure maybe this means 1-3 iterations per day.... compared to multiple days or more for each prototype. That is really the correct comparison. He is comparing it against his fantasy rather than against the real technology that it is an improvement over.

    Because without the 3d printer, he doesn't get his yoda at all, or it takes days to weeks for him to get.

  • by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @09:30AM (#44175547) Homepage Journal

    What does that even mean?

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI