3D Printing Links
3D Printing Experiences and Info
Why Monoprice Mini Delta
Why Ender 3
Ender 3 Planning
Ender 3 Experiences Log
3D printing is a process generally describing an additive technique that builds up the part desired. This is in contrast to other processes, like milling, that subtract parts of a raw block of material to get the desired part.
There are many 3D printing processes and I won't describe them here. This YouTube video: Types of 3D Printing by the 3D Printing Professor is an excellent introduction to several types of 3D printing. Check out his "3D Printing 101" series for a good primer on 3D printing.
A few years ago FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), also called FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication), became an affordable piece of machinery for small businesses and any individual willing to put up $1000-$2000. Today they are even more affordable with some hobbyist printers below $200.
That Got My Attention ...
I had been mildly curious about 3D printing for some time but never really investigated it. I was looking for a 'Christmas Gift' for myself and did a little checking. I found several under $200 printers and started doing some research. I looked at the Monoprice Select Mini, the Creality Ender 3, the Anet A8, the Monoprice Mini Delta, and the Tevo Tarantula. Except for the two Monoprice printers these are all kits of varying complexity and quality of instructions. In addition, every printer has it's own set of faults. Mostly the faults can be resolved but at the expense of time and sometimes money.
After looking at these printers I decided that I needed a definition of what I wanted in a printer. My criteria was that I wanted something that I could get printing on quickly to see if I was going to be really interested in this so the three kit printers were pretty much ruled out. I'm certainly not afraid of a kit or some tinkering - I just didn't want to put in a lot of effort up front.
That leaves the two Monoprice printers. The Select Mini has been around for about a couple of years and has a fair reputation. The build area is kind of small but it's big enough to make quite a few things. My research found a fair number of issues with the printer though. They were not terrible problems but they were still problems. The Mini Delta was fairly new and actually has an even smaller build area - but it's a delta style printer and that intrigued me. It's also less expensive than the Select Mini and appeared to be more portable.
So, I bought the Mini Delta on the day after Christmas (2018) to get past the shipping rush. I figured it would take a few days to show so I had some time to clear the space where I was going to put the printer. I also decided to order two spools of filament (these are 1 Kg each) - one made by HatchBox (from Amazon) and one from MatterHackers. Unfortunately MatterHackers was out of almost everything at the time so I had to wait a couple of days and even then I ordered a differnt spool than I really wanted.Well, the printer showed up the VERY NEXT DAY and I had no filament to print on it. I played with it some to get familiar with the controls and such but I couldn't print anything. On Sunday the Amazon order arrived and the MatterHackers order arrived on Monday. I was able to print right away on it (there is an included sample print) and it printed great.
I've done lots of prints since then and ordered more filament (in different colors) and it has been an interesting experience. See my Wordpress Blog for more details. I'm hooked.
Shortcomings of the Monoprice Mini Delta
Yes, it's lots of fun and there are SO many things to try out. But there are limitations. The build volume for one is very limiting. There are also limitations to the type of filament I can use. There are many that are either too flexible or require too much heat for the Mini Delta.
I've also become an expert on disassembling and reassembling the hot end (correctly). When things clog up, it's what you have to do. The time has come to investigate something bigger and more flexible.
The Search for Printer #2
The obvious place to start is the list of printers I looked at but didn't buy. I still wanted to keep the price to about $200 so the others fit that category.
The Select Mini was out - too small of a build volume and it's other limitations eliminated it.
The Tevo Tarantula just didn't seem right in some ways. It has an unusually long Bowden tube that would make printing flexable filaments difficult and there is no easy way to change that. It also strangely has no mounting for the display. There are mounting solutions you can print but why shoud I have to? It's also a FULL kit - everything has to be assembled.
The Anet A8 is an old (3 years?) design that uses rods instead of rails and comes with an acrylic frame. This is just not as strong as aluminium extrusions or other metal frame options. This is also a FULL kit printer. EVERYTHING has to be assembled. It also has an issue of having it's firmware thermal protections DISABLED. That means that it won't automatically shut down if things get too hot. Yes, that means FIRE! That's just one more strike and this one is now out.
The Creality Ender 3 seems to meet all of the criteria I'm wanting. It is a partial kit - the bed and it's subframe parts are fully assembled out of the box. The build time will probably be 30-60 minutes for me. Yes, this has the thermal protection disabled in the firmware but I'm seeing rumors that they have fixed this and if not I can replace the firmware and re-enable it. There is GREAT community support for this printer and I already have a prioritized list of what to upgrade.
Yes, I've just today (February 15, 2019) ordered the Ender 3. This one WILL take a few days to get here so I really do have some time to clear more space for printer #2. I've certainly got filament to test with when I get it assembled and ready to go.