Are 3D printers worth it

The 3D printing hell or: The value of doing it yourself

The website "Shitty Gifts" introduces impossible, ugly and completely pointless products such as the Dipr, a holder with which you can dip oreo biscuits in milk without getting your fingers dirty. Now “Shitty Gifts” has dedicated itself to 3D printing and has raised one or the other question that is really worth considering. The key question is: "Why am I doing this to myself?"

The article is headed: "3D Printers: The Ultimate Rage Machine". And after a year and a half with a self-made 3D printer, I have to admit: There's something to it. I hardly know of any technical device that has such a "driving-crazy" potential like a 3D printer. From commissioning - spiced up by all the mistakes that you have made yourself - to calibration and the first print that simply does not want to stick to the printing plate - it's a tough job. But, as Nick Stone said: "It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it."

The experience is also nice when you print directly from the PC and after ten of eleven hours of printing the power management switches off the PC. Or ABS, which warps with the slightest draft that it detaches from the plate. Controls that go up in smoke, motors that lose steps, endstops that are always on unless triggered ... the possibilities of being driven insane by a 3D printer are almost infinite. There are entire pages devoted to failed 3D printing.

As the article on "Shitty Gifts" says so beautifully about the "DIY 3D printer":

While they'll brag about how much they're learning and how much they really know about their machine, the reality is that they are just adding months of pissed off tinkering as a build up to the final let down that 3d printing just fucking sucks .

However, with the kit method you get the ultimate payoff. They'll end up doubting their own skills when the printer doesn't work right! Each failed print will be a soul crushing blow to their ego, slowly chipping away at their confidence. "Why didn't this print right?" And "what am I doing wrong" will be their mantra. They'll flood to online forums begging for help to no avail because no one can guess what you did wrong on your kit. It's just almost too perfect of a shitty gift to pass up.

Then why do you do that to yourself anyway? I have to say that I actually learned a lot when setting up and converting my printer and in my daily work with it, and that knowledge definitely helps me when working with professional printers. And what the article hides, of course: You don't have to stop at the level of key rings, yodas and vases. But of course that means saying goodbye to Thingiverse and dealing with 3D CAD systems. Then household and leisure applications will become more and more numerous, and 3D printing will become another available manufacturing process. And it doesn't always have to be the most complex things that you 3D print - it's often the little quick-and-dirty solutions like the tablet holder for an exotic tablet for which there is no holder to buy, or a tea strainer, if you like. Drip racks that best illustrate the promise of 3D printing - to get individual components quickly.

3D printing - also just a manufacturing process with advantages and disadvantages.

In order to really implement this, however, you have to know how to use 3D printing sensibly and how the special features of this manufacturing process can be optimally used. My experience with the self-made printer helps me every time. So initially the mojo refused to print a simple full size ring - the ring was always scaled. The problem was that the original height could not be divided by the layer thickness of the printer and the Mojo software scaled the ring so that the printer can print the ring optimally. When I adjusted the thickness of the ring in the CAD system accordingly, the print succeeded - you just have to know why.

This is no different than with other processes - I have to pay attention to undercuts when casting, and the bending radii of the material when designing sheet metal. With 3D printing, it's overhangs, printing direction, material parameters, infill and so on. I prefer to learn something like this "by doing", and a self-made or cheap 3D printer is certainly a tried and tested means of familiarizing oneself with the technology. However, I would advise reading up on the relevant forums and Facebook groups and starting with a printer that is as widely used as possible.

An example from my own experience: My decision to operate the 3D printer with 24 instead of 12 volts was technically correct, but - in addition to some lesson in the form of blown electronics - it brought me the disadvantage that many solutions are not 1: 1 are feasible.

I would always advise getting a cheap printer to get familiar with the technology. Then you are optimally positioned to make optimal use of this new technology. For professional use, on the other hand, I would definitely use a correspondingly expensive professional device - when the learning phase is over, tinkering is simply inefficient. Whereby I would not necessarily attach the characteristic "professional device" to the price, but above all to the support that a dealer can offer me. An Ultimaker, a German RepRap or other printer in the class between 2,000 and 5,000 euros can be a good choice if you get the appropriate training and support that enables smooth work.

So: keep your eyes open, be patient when familiarizing yourself with them and be creative when designing your own solutions - then 3D printing will not be a frustrating experience. And being able to ingratiate yourself with the children with self-printed animal figures is not bad either :-)