Well it is official. I am a “maker”. That is the term for one who creates and prints 3D designs. Truth be told, I have always been a maker, since I was a child. I was always drawing or making something. In fact, here is a picture of me and “carrot man” in Nov of 1977.
I told a friend who 3D prints that I would love to get into 3D printing when it gets more affordable for the average consumer. One day, he approached me and told me that he knew a guy that was selling a like new MakerBot Replicator for $500. I went from never even considering having my own 3D Printer, to actually doing some serious research. I was astounded by a few things. First, all I was blown away by the different types of filament (The 3D ink used in Fused Filament Fabrication printers) that can be used to create things. There are not just plastic filaments, but also metal, carbon fiber, and even wood. I was also astounded by what kinds of things have been 3D printed. Buildings, cars, and internal body parts top the list. The other thing that amazed me is how many different types and brands of 3D printers there are and how much the price ranges vary. Although I started out fixated by the MakerBot Replicator 2 that I thought I would be acquiring, I soon found that for me there was an even bigger, better deal that would cost me even less than the MakerBot Replicator 2 and that is the Monoprice Maker Select v2.1. The advantages that the Maker Select v2.1 has over the Replicator 2 is that, first and foremost, it is affordable at around $300 brand new. It also has a heated bed, which the Replicator 2 does not have. This helps PLA and other filament types stick to the bed better, which leads me to the third advantage which is that you can actually print with various filament types such as PLA, ABS, PETG, Wood, Carbon Fiber, etc. The Replicator 2 is a one trick pony in that it just prints PLA until MakerBot release some kind of special hybrid PLA filaments for it.
After a heavy research period, I mentioned it as an aside to a fellow artist / client that I work with. He was so excited that he bought me the printer! It was a bonus for doing great work and he also knew that if I got one, that for our group, I would be the first guy off the landing craft on Omaha Beach for the (3)D-Day assault on the technical challenges of 3D Printing. I think I ended up spending more than the printer costs in upgrades and supplies and I have lost a significant amount of sleep over the last 3 weeks, but I now have my head around the process (and settings) that produce solid designs and successful prints.
Here is something that I know. 3D printers have the potential of being as ubiquitous as paper printers and cell phones in the future. Everyone, including Grandma will have a reason and the ability to use one and will be as comfortable with it as she would be downloading and playing an mp3. Perhaps even food will be “printed”. It might seem nerdy now to own one, but it is the future. All those nerds who had Amigas and TRS-80s, when I was growing up, had a leg up on a future that was already coming to everyone eventually. Who doesn’t own a PC, laptop, tablet or cell phone now? Consumer affordability has already arrived too! I recently saw an Anet A8 3D printer on sale at GearBest.com for $168. That is almost down to the price of a budget paper printer. If you want to get into 3D Printing, you have $300+ to invest, you have a desire to learn and are willing to lose some precious hours of sleep, check out the Monoprice Maker Select v2.1. It could be the gateway drug to your new addiction!