3d printing in 2023. Is it something you are doing?

FAST6191

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So actually a fair few years back now every popular science, weekend DIY, maker and whatnot rag was littered with articles on 3d printers and how they were the future While I am... OK always one to point and laugh at a fad they had just about crashed into a reasonable price range (possibly with the end of some patents) and usability had sort of got somewhere (more on that later). Today is the future and I don't see one in every home like some predicted (that may still be a while off) but they do seem to be in places that you might not expect. For my money I would still get myself a CNC milling machine and hope I live somewhere that has a nice plastics shop (was in the US and got to go into a TAP plastics...) but the case for the 3d printer has never been stronger.


For those new to it all. 3d printers are much as they sound and print things in 3d space out of... typically a type of plastic but metals, ceramics, sugar and meat are variously options in this.
Back then the ones most were looking at were FDM (fused deposition module). This is what you will typically see with reels of filament (very occasionally granules), these days things even having multiple feeds, through a hot nozzle.
Laser curing/photo curing became a thing a few years ago. The principle existed for many years (the STL files that are the standard for 3d printing are short for stereo lithography) but generally you get a very expensive liquid you pour into a tank that a laser or UV diode is guided over and it feeds down and down such that layer by layer you get a finished product. Surface finish out of the box on these is fantastic and is probably going to destroy the model kits industry (from warhammer on down) in a few years, indeed nerd shops not tooling up for it are generally said to be missing a trick. Materials are a bit more limited but not that bad and mechanical results are also often superior to FDM. Main limiting factor is the size you can print (you have to contain a liquid after all).
SLS aka selective laser sintering has hit serious hobbyist price range. If you were considering a serious workshop then $10000 and a lot of work will get you a kit for it, more turnkey industrial are still several times that at least but dropping fairly fast as well ($100000 was entry level until somewhat recently). For those unaware this takes powder, scans a laser across it such that it melts together and thus layer by layer you have your thing. Quality is almost injection moulded (but with the near impossibility options 3d printers afford like enclosed hollow spaces), certainly better than bad injection moulding. Speed is considerable (low volume production quite happily). Operating costs are quite expensive as well -- you can reuse the powder if you mix it down with fresh a few times maybe but... yeah. Never the less king of the 3d printing jungle and will be until someone sorts an injection moulding die making setup (and home made EDM is super near as well).

Something you might have missed


If your familiarity with the matter comes from those early FDM printers (or even worse "cheap" ones of those -- still would have been several hundred dollars at the time, ones that would really work for a complete newbie to it all being possibly multiple times that further) then you might want to revisit the matter. Early ones worked but today the software is better, the temperature control is orders of magnitude better (eliminating a lot of difficulties people faced), heated beds have come a long way, the stability/accuracy is higher and much more besides to make things actually work like people want. Some of the better options might even include optical recognition options to make things even fancier still. Engineering CAD and CAM is still going to be difficult if you have never done it or even much engineering drawing before, which was a major stumbling block for a lot of people as it is not necessarily an intuitive process, but there are options there as well -- sketchup has since been sold by Google but has gone from strength to strength in terms of usability ( https://www.sketchup.com/plans-and-pricing/sketchup-free , or maybe http://www.oldversion.com/windows/google-sketchup/ ), and I have found some people take to https://openscad.org/ really well which shocked me but is what it is.
Old but still nice overview of sketchup

OpenSCAD https://openscad.org/


and if nothing else you don't need to roll your own as someone probably did stuff you would be interested in
https://alternativeto.net/software/thingiverse/

If pondering the merits of such things


So then do you have a 3d printer? Do you use it often? Do they have ones in your school? Do they have one in the local library (I went on one somewhere I used to live, they had several quite nice ones but nobody that knew how to run them)? Even if you don't use it often does it come in handy for little things that might have seen you have to chuck something or do extensive/expensive repairs before? While primary operations never quite made that "it is like the replicator on Star Trek" level do you find yours useful as a stage in making something rather than the end goal (metal 3d printers might be expensive, using it as an investment casting mould... well now)?
 

Ryab

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I probably will invest in one at some point, but I just don't have the time or money to make use of it at the moment. I used the one back in my high school IT lab all the time.
 

Tom Bombadildo

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I've got three of them at this point (though I guess TBH one of them I turned into a laser engraver so maybe 2?).

I tend to use them both a few times a week for various things, toys or figurines for my daughter, useful replacement parts for work related stuff, sometimes for QOL stuff for home. Definitely an investment that's paid for itself at least 10x over by now.
 

caipora

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The first thing that comes to my mind when 3D printing is mentioned is guns
3D printed guns
This sounds like such a dumb idea...
The second is figurines
 

BigOnYa

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I love mine and use it 3-4 times a week to make all kinds of stuff. Lately been into designing and 3d printing boxes for some of my Arduino and Raspberry Pi projects. It Is a rewarding hobby to get into for sure!
 

FAST6191

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I probably will invest in one at some point, but I just don't have the time or money to make use of it at the moment. I used the one back in my high school IT lab all the time.
Curious that it is an IT lab effort as opposed to technology classes.

The first thing that comes to my mind when 3D printing is mentioned is guns
3D printed guns
This sounds like such a dumb idea...
The second is figurines
Depending upon where you are it could be an idea. Some places will have guns be say the receiver with everything else just being a part, other places will have the guns for the legal purposes be the pressure bearing components, and other places will have other things also matter (see black powder "guns").

That said your association is with frivolity rather than real use which is a sentiment I see a lot.


Others seem to actually use one on the regular which is interesting. I suppose the question then is if it broke how quickly would you replace it? For instance if my... 10 or so even before I considered old school mechanical efforts hand drills broke I would be out replacing one if not tomorrow then before the week is done. I don't know I would necessarily do it for a home printer for paper these days but time was it was an essential home thing, the way some speak of it I could see it there for 3d printers but also not quite.
 
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I occasionally use my modified Ender 3 Pro.

Usually it's because I'm either custom designing stuff or printing something relatively niche or quick.

The last project I did was a custom ODD enclosure, my previous two broke so I decided to make a custom one which combined my ODDs and a card reader into one unit with an internal USB hub and an old HTPC PSU. It's not perfect but so far it's doing the job.

I ended up calling it 'ToDD', partially because it stands for 'Tower of Disc Drives' and partially because 'it juuuuusssstttt works'.

My next project will be some custom brackets for my A1200 when my pistorm32 arrives.
 

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Others seem to actually use one on the regular which is interesting. I suppose the question then is if it broke how quickly would you replace it? For instance if my... 10 or so even before I considered old school mechanical efforts hand drills broke I would be out replacing one if not tomorrow then before the week is done. I don't know I would necessarily do it for a home printer for paper these days but time was it was an essential home thing, the way some speak of it I could see it there for 3d printers but also not quite.
Most 3d printers are actually very modular and have replacement parts (or even upgrades) readily available, so the few times mine have broken I just replace the part. I've had the timing belts break on my Ender 3 V2 and it was a $10/5 minute fix. On my Anycubic Vyper, the strain gauge had a defect from factory so I asked the company to send me one, took me 15 minutes to swap that out and had it back in working condition.
 
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binkinator

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I used mine heavily, to make mods for my 3d printer. These days I only take it out occasionally to fix something or print some odd thing I find on hackaday.
Post automatically merged:

Curious that it is an IT lab effort as opposed to technology classes.

Once you get Cura talking to Octoprint your 3d printer IS the IT lab!
 

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I've got mine running right now printing out a giant button as a cosplay prop for the characters from It Takes Two. I also designed and printed wands and crowns for Cosmo and Wanda cosplay yesterday.

I've got a bunch of figurines I printed out in marble PLA, my lightshades are all 3D printed because the ones in the house when we bought it were awful and nictotine stained. My phone holder for my bike is 3D printed.

I often use it for repairs around the house. Someone broke my toilet at a house party so I took out the shattered lever from inside the tank, measured it, modeled it, and had a working replacement printed out in about an hour. And my wife bought a lock set for the bathroom door but didn't measure the doorframe first, so I designed a lock part that fits the door and printed it in TPU so it stretches rather than snapping if someone tries to open the door when it's locked.

Long story short, I love my 3D printer and I use it for all sorts.
 
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I use an Ender 3 almost every day, that I modded with "Klipper" and an accelerometer so I can get some higher speeds than normal on this machine(80-90mm/s)

As of late, this machine has been super helpful with making me some "stands" and containers for my 510 ccell carts, distillate, and syringes for filling up Delta 8 cartridges (ends up costing about $5 each opposed to $20/per or even upwards to $40+ per if you go locally for prefilled! )

Once I catch up on some of my bills, I've also been wanting to use this machine to make molds and learn to cast resin parts. Id love to make some custom replacement parts for the 3DS. Kinda like what people do for those super cool Gamecube shells and buttons!
 
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Ryab

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Curious that it is an IT lab effort as opposed to technology classes.


Depending upon where you are it could be an idea. Some places will have guns be say the receiver with everything else just being a part, other places will have the guns for the legal purposes be the pressure bearing components, and other places will have other things also matter (see black powder "guns").

That said your association is with frivolity rather than real use which is a sentiment I see a lot.


Others seem to actually use one on the regular which is interesting. I suppose the question then is if it broke how quickly would you replace it? For instance if my... 10 or so even before I considered old school mechanical efforts hand drills broke I would be out replacing one if not tomorrow then before the week is done. I don't know I would necessarily do it for a home printer for paper these days but time was it was an essential home thing, the way some speak of it I could see it there for 3d printers but also not quite.
I went to a career center for my junior and senior years. Basically had 4 class periods and a 2.5 hour lab period. My lab that I signed up for was IT.
 

slaphappygamer

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Sounds like the Ender 3 is the one to get. Lol.

I couldve used one to learn to create a CAD file and design a torque bracket for my motor axle. Measure, make, test, and repeat if not right. Then I couldve sent that CAD file to an online metal shop, like Sendcutsend.com. Have the bracket made from steel. My frame is aluminum and will get chewed by the axle rotation.

I would also use it to create various brackets for mounting other devices to my handlebars. Or figures for my kids. I’m sure I’d have a blast with one. Maybe make custom buttons for my gba, or pro controller.
 
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BigOnYa

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I would also use it to create various brackets for mounting other devices to my handlebars.
You can get and print with Carbon Fiber. I use it on things that need to be extra strong, light, or both. For example I printed some lipo battery covers for my drone to protect the battery, using Carbon Fiber, then I made some landing feet for it using a more rubbery plastic. Lots of options of material availible. Is neat to design something on pc/ cad, then see it made and used in action, is rewarding feeling.
 
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jeffyTheHomebrewer

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It's something I'd like to get and do eventually, but would probably mostly use for building little accessories for my robots (such as an Ollie camera mount as seen here) if not other things, or make little figures of stuff I end up 3D modelling.

That and I guess cases for things like R Pis but eh, closest thing I have to a Pi as of now is my EV3 P-brick.
 
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slaphappygamer

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You can get and print with Carbon Fiber. I use it on things that need to be extra strong, light, or both. For example I printed some lipo battery covers for my drone to protect the battery, using Carbon Fiber, then I made some landing feet for it using a more rubbery plastic. Lots of options of material availible. Is neat to design something on pc/ cad, then see it made and used in action, is rewarding feeling.
Learning pc/cad is something that seems very intimidating. I’m not sure where to start. I tried to make a wiring diagram for my ebike, but was completely over whelmed. How did you start with cad programs?
 

FAST6191

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Learning pc/cad is something that seems very intimidating. I’m not sure where to start. I tried to make a wiring diagram for my ebike, but was completely over whelmed. How did you start with cad programs?
Electrical CAD and mechanical CAD are two entirely different beasts.

For electrical stuff if you would like to go back to a simpler program like schools might have had (crocodile clips in the ones I saw) then I quite like Fritzing
https://fritzing.org/
It went donationware a while back but source is available so
https://siytek.com/build-fritzing/ or you can find your own/older version from prior to that.

It splits it between simulating a breadboard, a circuit diagram and a PCB designer which works for many people doing quite a bit actually, indeed if I need a quick and dirty circuit designer to outline something then I will go for this and can do real work™. After that you can go play with KiCAD https://www.kicad.org/ or other commercial things, possibly even landing in the SPICE world eventually (see multisim) if you want to get crazy on the simulation side of things.

Mechanical CAD then... as 3d printing is in the title I shall ignore the 2d aspect for this, it mostly being relegated to water jet, plasma cutters, wire EDM and lasers these days, not to mention I do quite well in inkscape with that. If you can at least follow along with the basics of 2d engineering drawing (which those all are basically a computerised version thereof) and plans you will do a lot better in this.

Most things revolve around the idea of a sketch. That is to say you do a 2d drawing of a part and extrude it (possibly along a path), revolve it around a point in space or some other operation. Revolving objects/revolutions takes a bit of getting used to I find if you are not already used it to for some reason, the maths in schools is also usually one of the later things they inflict upon you and I have rarely seen it done well where basic trigonometry is usually given enough practical notions to make people take to it quite easily when real life uses appear. Engineering focused tools also do something called parametric design wherein you specify constraints (this feature is relative to this location, relative to this size, at this angle to...) so when you chop something off, add something new, scale something up or otherwise mess with things it should organise itself to be what you need. Holes then going the other way and you telling it to remove something using a circle you made on the sketch to begin with. Traditional engineering being about also getting you to build things to limits and what is commonly available (I own a lathe so can make a rod of any diameter you like, will cost you though if nothing else in material wastage as manufacturers charge by weight so best to specify one that comes off the shelf in your country, metric vs imperial striking again, where you can) and cut down on operations in general (does it need to be this accurate for the fit up or can it be looser, can we instead bolt/weld these two flat things together that are easy to make) but 3d printing is rather changing that, as is CNC if you want to go that way.
Anyway combining extrusion, sketches, revolutions and the other things that follow from that is a bit of a learning curve for people, and also barrier to entry where they might be used to other means of 3d modelling where you can point and click to do an awful lot of things almost intuitively (and might even be why the openSCAD thing mentioned in the opening post took off as it is at least consistent).

I can't say "get this" as there a lot to consider so it will have to be that for the rest of the post

I mentioned sketchup in the opening post. I find it a bit too hand holding for my taste but it works very well.

Open source offerings are lagging compared to the £1000s per seat pro stuff but can get it done.
For 3d stuff you are kind of split between
Freecad
https://www.freecad.org/
However like most open source software it is made by some very smart and well meaning people... but 10 million dollars (possibly per year) and 10+ years of development from a full time team shows in so many ways. You can use it, learn on it and more but if you are also learning 3d printing/engineering at the same time it is going to hurt more.


https://brlcad.org/ from the US Army. Has a weird workflow for my taste and even odder UI but fairly well advanced.

OpenSCAD which is more of a maths based approach, video in the opening post. Quite different to the other things, but still actually parametric.
https://openscad.org/

The open source world has a bit more in the 2d CAD world but we already said skipping that one today. They are a lot better though.

There is no one consensus in the engineering world and it can very between company to company. AutoCAD still largely rules the roost (its DXF format is the .doc of the engineering world in basically all the same ways) but PTC have something called Creo (used to be called Pro Engineer/ProE) and if you end up in high end car design firms then you will probably be sitting in front of CATIA who also do Solidworks. SolidEdge wants to be mentioned in this.

https://www.autodesk.co.uk/products/autocad/overview?term=1-YEAR&tab=subscription
https://www.ptc.com/en/products/creo
https://www.3ds.com/products-services/catia/
https://www.3ds.com/products-services/solidworks/
https://solidedge.siemens.com/en/

Everything else is a wannabe really. Usually why they give it away for signing up to their website or something. Can do very well actually until they go pop or get bought out by a big player.

All of those all tend to offer basic versions for hobbyists, students and the like. Naturally going to run out of abilities about the time it becomes useful in a bid to turn you into a paying customer. They have also gone a bit cloudy in recent years as opposed to having to phone home a lot which I don't like.
AutoCAD makers autodesk do Fusion 360 (lovingly referred to as confusion 360).
https://www.autodesk.co.uk/products/fusion-360/overview
They also do something called tinkercad which in some ways is babby's first CAD program but also for a lot of things that is all you need.
https://www.tinkercad.com/

PTC do Onshape
https://www.onshape.com/en/

Solidworks have a version for makers
https://www.solidworks.com/solution/3dexperience-solidworks-makers

If you are doing more artistic design things then you might even go the other way and grab Blender or something -- I could do a model (thinking warhammer or toy doll/action figure) in engineering CAD but it would be a nightmare compared to what is a basic tutorial project in Blender.

To take it to the 3d printer or CNC machine if going that way you then get to involve CAM software (computer aided manufacture), though many CAD programs offer at least basics here.
3d printer stuff tends to be a slicer program as you build things up in layers, and maybe have a base and some supports added to stop the overhangs from falling over when they are one layer thick or potentially even floating in space waiting for their supports to be printed, though you tend to design around that if you can (sometimes the design is what it is, and the print directions need to be what they are for mechanical reasons -- FDM 3d printing is almost like wood grain in that direction matters when you get to the limits).
CNC stuff tends to be mach3 in the hobbyist world.

This is also only dipping a toe in the CAD world -- many will be more specialist for industries (not much good designing a house, much less a development, in something more aimed at small components, even if you could technically do it) or be specialist aspects/features (FEA, finite element analysis, being something the mechanical ones will offer as it allows you to simulate forces, including over crazy shapes, which is nice when designing things to take load). I similarly did not mention much about assemblies wherein you design a whole product consisting of several parts, put them together and it simulates motion there, will look for binding points and more besides.
 

slaphappygamer

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Sketchup sounds great for me. I should start with that one. I tried freecad and was totally overwhelmed. Maybe I just need more time on it…..when I’m not tired. Thanks again for a very detailed post. I really do like them. It’s a lot for me to take in, so I’ll be reading it a few more times. :)

Also, I guess it really doesn’t matter if I start on 2d or 3d as they have completely different uses.
 

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If I knew what I was doing, Of course everyone here would know what I would be making First, I would do it.
But little do they know, I would also be making more Practical things [ie. a holder for my Heavy iPad 3rd gen, little trinkets to decorate my apartment, a C O F F E E table frame, etc.]
 
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FAST6191

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Sketchup sounds great for me. I should start with that one. I tried freecad and was totally overwhelmed. Maybe I just need more time on it…..when I’m not tired. Thanks again for a very detailed post. I really do like them. It’s a lot for me to take in, so I’ll be reading it a few more times. :)

Also, I guess it really doesn’t matter if I start on 2d or 3d as they have completely different uses.
2d is classical engineering. You can happily do all the projections of a 3d part on it, variously keeping it in your head and constraining different views, and wind up with the classic engineering drawing that a machinist will be able to make.
Could also take that, add in the dimensions fairly quickly to a 3d program (you literally have the sketches right there to transfer it) and have a version of that in a hurry. Some people find this process quite intuitive (start with one face, create that, remove anything irrelevant to it from the basic extrusion/revolution, possibly with boolean unions/intersections/additions, repeat for all directions and necessary features will get it done even if you are faced with some monster widget with all sorts of different faces, angles and dimensions) as well and recreate its workflow in 3d based editors.
Some older types might lament the lack of training in this sort of thing among modern engineering types (anything post 2000 will certainly be 3d, 3d and more 3d, and ramping up during the 10 years prior to that), just as the race for CNC has impacted classical machining processes. It is what it is though.

3d then being a far newer thing (I have engineering drawing books and plans going back centuries for the 2d aspect) but a far more direct link to the parts you are making.

I did give freecad a go for the first time in a while the other day. It is a bit of a slog and I know what most of those things ostensibly do or are supposed to do in an ideal world.

Forgot to also mention secondary processes for 3d printing. While you can 3d print things fairly precisely it is sometimes better to drill a hole secondary to that to be sure of its dimensions/roundness/depth/... and also spare your 3d print. Similarly surface finishes can be improved in some plastics with an acetone wipe.

Relevant at this point, or at least funny
 

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