I Got a 3d Printer

After years of thinking it would be cool to have a 3d printer but not seriously considering it, I finally caved. I did some research and decided a prusa i3 kit or something similar would be the best way to go. It became clear in my research that it was worth it to spend a little more on a kit that came with better materials and from a company with a good reputation. After I decided on the Makerfarm Pegasus 8″ kit, I found out that the company was based 20 minutes from my house. I got the kit with upgraded metal heated bed, metal motor mounts and graphical LCD screen. Read on for my full build description and reaction after using it for a couple of months! [also here is a link to my thingiverse page!]

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Why Did I Finally Cave In?

The idea of having a 3d printer always seemed cool to me. When I was still in school, a classmate got a reprap kit. The reprap project is all about making 3d printers that are made (partially) out of 3d printed parts. As a result, the machines are self replicating, in a way. I did a bunch of research but ultimately decided I just didn’t need one. The feeling that I didn’t need one has carried me until very recently.

It may be apparent to those who have seen some of my other posts, but for those who haven’t, my house is quickly getting filled up with home automation gadgets that work well but look horrible. Basically there are little boxes with wires everywhere placed around the house. The automatic cat feeder is made out of legos and garbage. The thermostat is in a box that has the potential to look cool but is falling apart all the time. You get the picture. I decided if I had a printer then I could really make “finished product” looking devices. It was time.

The Build

Given that Colin from Makerfarm was based nearby, I met him and picked up the kit back in May. I swung by Ikea and picked up a STUVA. Based on that link that I had seen, it looked like the best Ikea solution for an enclosure for the printer. Below are the pictures of the build process:

After assembling the printer, which was fairly easy thanks to an exhaustive build guide, I assembled the enclosure. After a couple of weeks, I added some LEDs, an exhaust fan and an on/off switch. The picture at the top is the finished product, and this is a picture of the switch on the side:

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I also bought a long ribbon cable and connectors from sparkfun to move the graphical LCD to the outside of the enclosure. I have yet to print a nice bracket for it but it’s better than having it on the inside.

Prints and Impressions Thus Far

Above is the first hollow cube I printed. I also printed an extra idler for the extruder because I broke the original one that came with the kit during assembly. I have since printed the rest of the spare parts for the printer just in case. I started off printing with blue PLA. The printer printed smaller parts really well right out of the box with little to no configuration needed.

It has been about 2 months since I first got the printer. In that time, I went through basically one roll of blue PLA and one roll of white PETG. After some time, I was able to get some very large parts printed successfully with PLA. I had been reading some really great things about PETG, though, and decided to switch and try to keep the momentum of the good prints going with the new material. This did not happen.

PETG proved to be more difficult to print with. I made some critical mistakes when first printing with PETG that also contributed to my difficulties in getting it to print successfully. The first was that I made the temperature too hot, which damaged part of the hot end. The second was that I had been cleaning the nozzle with needle nose pliers, and after a month of doing so, it was damaged enough to not lay down a nice smooth bead.

I got some new nozzles and fixed the hot end after I realized I was having hardware issues. Since then, I have been getting much better results. I have printed several very large parts, one of which taking over 12 hours to print. I will be doing posts on the three main things I have printed with PETG since I got it printing better. The first being the cat feeder version 3!

General feelings about 3d printers in the consumer marketplace

First, some facts: I have a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Drexel University. I have been working as an automation/controls engineer for 5 years. In doing my research, it is clear that I got a good 3d printer kit.  Given these things, I must say that in the ~$500 range and below, 3d printing is a difficult and time consuming endeavor. I cannot say that if someone were to spend $1000+ on a printer things would be easier because that is not my experience.

Ultimately, I have to say that for me, buying this printer was a great decision. I know I will get a lot of use out of it for years to come. I also know that I have the skills to troubleshoot issues with it and design my own models to print. I also know that I do not represent the average consumer when it comes to this stuff. There have been many articles written about how 3d printing is the future and how there will eventually be a 3d printer in every  home. Right now, I wouldn’t recommend anyone getting a 3d printer unless they know what they are getting themselves into.

I want to leave it with this: I am extremely happy with the printer so far. After dealing with the frustrations of getting it dialed in, I have been able to print some pretty cool things already. The printer will inevitably be a big part of this blog moving forward.

 

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