Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Getting Started with 3D Printing: Part 1

By now, it is likely that you have seen or heard of the concept of 3D printing.  The easiest way to think of it is taking a 3D model off of the computer and turning it into a real life product.  3D printing is an additive manufacturing process so there is very little waste when you make objects.

When you decide to get started yourself, it can be VERY overwhelming trying to figure out which 3D printer to buy and how to even begin.  In this series of blog posts, I intend to share some first hand tips on how to make that process easier and help you avoid some mistakes that I have made.

Finding a Printer
SeeMeCNC Rostock MAX v2

Congratulations, you have examined your educational goals and figured out that a 3D printer would be a good fit for you and your students!  Expect that you will need to have a budget of approx. $700 to $1000 to get started.  That would include the cost of the machine, and a spool of filament.

Here at the RESA we have a RoStock MAX v2 ($1000 for the kit) and a Polar 3D printer ($600.) There are many other printers out there for you to choose from as well.  The ultimate goal, as with any device, is to choose the printer that is best going to suit what you want to do with your students. Be sure to check online reviews, look up how their technical support system works, and ask around to neighboring districts to see what they are using.

In the end, the best 3D printer is the one that works the most consistently with the least amount of additional cost due to break downs.

Choosing your materials
http://product-images.highwire.com/3732778/fillament-spools-2.jpg

When you are purchasing your printer you will need to figure out what material (filament) you would like to use with it.  The obvious answer is plastic, but there are two main types of plastic that are available for use with 3D printers.  The first type is ABS plastic.  ABS is an oil-based plastic that requires higher temperatures to melt and is super durable.  Cars are commonly made with ABS parts.  The second type of plastic is PLA plastic.  PLA is corn based and melts at a lower temperature.  PLA has a slightly sweet smell to it when melting, and is biodegradable.  There are many types of PLA plastic available including carbon fiber, magnetic, and translucent PLA.

We commonly use PLA here at the RESA and have not had any issues at all.  Know that not all filament is equal and cheap filament can cause issues with your printer as the printer is expecting a uniform filament diameter and many of the cheap filaments don't have high quality control standards.

Summary

You are just getting started on your adventure in 3D printing.  Finding the right printer and filament are a great way to get started.  In my next post, I will discuss getting started with your printer and how to find models and things to print.

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