What if you could make any component you dream up in just a few hours, and with minimal resource consumption? What if all your homespun projects functioned much more efficiently due to production of parts shaped to your precise specifications? What if this didn’t cost an arm and a leg to do? 3D printers are moving ever forwards in sophistication and capability, printing ever more complex structures while their price plummets. For the first time, this amazing technology has become available in the home. The top five affordable and efficient 3D printing devices are listed below.
The RepRap is a GNU licensed 3D printer originally conceived at the University of Bath. The idea behind the RepRap is to produce a completely open source 3D printing device which can print a complete set of its own parts. Currently, the printer has the capability of printing plastic components, and the more advanced versions are currently testing production of milled PCBs from copper etching board. A RepRap requires several stepper motors, a free computer software package which creates the toolpath for the printer, and the Arduino microcontroller, which is required to convert the toolpath to real time movement of the stepper motors to produce the product.
The maker bot is a commercially available 3D printer with a staggering resolution of 0.1mm. The most recent in the MakerBot line is known as the Replicator 2, a printer capable of fitting on a desktop while remaining able to print of objects of up to 410 cubic inches in volume.
The [email protected] project’s goal is to produce a suite of open source printers with the purpose of printing objects using anything which can be extruded through a nozzle. This printer system can utilise anything from plastic to chocolate, and aims no only to print plastic parts, but at some point even to print meals as well.
The Cube 3D Printer is not open source, and therefore can not be made directly in the home or lab and doesn’t boast the ability to print its own parts for self replication. The increased reliability of a professionally made printer is balanced by the vastly increased price of the unit, but the plug and play nature of the Cube and the coloured plastic cartridge system it makes use of ensures that even the least tech-savvy reader can begin to design and print models with ease. The included Cube software provides a simple and elegant solution to designing models, converting them to toolpaths and sending these to the printer to be executed all in one package.
5) UP! Plus
Although one of the more expensive commercially available options on the list, the UP! Plus printer has a fantastic print resolution of 0.2mm and can be fully operational in as little as 15 minutes once out of the box. Although it only prints in white, the models can be painted to the user’s specification after printing.
A new age has dawned on the personal fabrication market, for the first time allowing users a chance to make objects they really need. The possibilities for this kind of project range from simply printing a replacement for a lost bottle cap, all the way to use on the space station to print components as they are required. By purchasing a 3D printer, or constructing one from the open source code available online, you can add a whole new dimension to your projects like never before. Why not start printing the parts you require right from your desktop today?
David Malone created this piece for document options, a brighton scan and print company. David enjoys blogging about science and business and enjoys experiementing with silk screen and print techniques; visit him here at Document Options.