3D Printing

3D Printers print almost anything

A look at 3D Printing using metal

Printing with potting clay

They are noisy

I have been considering building a 3D printer for over a year now; having always being involved with technology I find these machines to be fascinating and endowed with endless possibilities. In fact, it would not be false to state that in the future 3D printers will only be bound by the imagination of their users.

From prosthetic limbs to working weapons these machines have began a revolution in the manufacturing industry where individuals are now able to produce various items and devices at home  which in the past required very expensive equipment. Now a few hundred dollars and a roll of plastic is all it takes to produce even the most intricate of devices.

Although the first published account of a printed solid model was made by Hideo Kodama of Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute in 1982, the first working 3D printer was created in 1984 by Charles W. Hull who published a number of patents on the use of stereolithography and which in turn ushered an inventive revolution in a new system of manufacturing now known as rapid prototyping.

Today the smaller 3D printers are not perfect by any means but the items they produce are sometimes just as useful as those manufactured by industry and in many cases are innovative and able to function well in developing one-off prototype situations. The devices are still evolving though and there is lot of room for improvement.

If you wish to learn about 3D printers then one of the first lessons should be that these machines might be great at many things but they also have a tremendous draw back; being a fairly new idea there are not too many people who understand them or the intricacies of the firmware and software that runs them.

It is a fact that those who do understand them may not necessarily be the best of teachers and the proof of that is the internet being full of half witted attempts at explaining how a nut threads on to a bolt. Perhaps this is a good thing as for the moment there seems to be some sort of a stall in the evolution of the devices, prices have frozen and in many cases tumbled as wave after wave of wannabe 3D retailers fall by the wayside due to the lack of retail activity from an ignorant public.

The lack of activity in turn keeps the larger potential investors away from the technology as they place their money on other more profitable and commercially safer ideas.  Based on this I doubt if those who currently design, build and sell 3D printers are going to spend vast amounts on money on research and development.

Perhaps they might do their best to make great machines but but without a proper manufacturing approach virtually all the different types of 3D printers on the market have some kind of flaw. Some are too bulky, some too small, some don’t run too well, others shake themselves apart but the most common complaint is that they are too hard to use.

This is a problem for someone like me, having decided that I want one I now find myself at a loss as to which device to build, what to build it out of and even what electronics or software to run it with.  What I need is a test machine, something to have at home and learn from in order to eventually decide on which will be the final 3D printer to build.

There is only one way to learn, to take one apart and rebuild it ..I have ordered a Pangu I3 3D Printer, not because it is the best but rather because it offers many possibilities to make modifications and/or improvements and judging from all the reports I read they are not the best of machines to put together, this will provide me with essential construction lessons.

Pangu I3

The Pangu I3 – 3D Printer

Next blog will be on its construction but I have already started collecting some information such as firmware and hardware needs.  See you then.