The cheapest and easiest 3D printer we’ve seen so far

3D printers are awesome, but boy are they frustrating. If you’ve built a RepRap Mendel, Prusa or Huxely, you know there’s nothing quite like trying to get a washer off of a threaded rod without disassembling the entire machine. This frustration in part sourcing, assembling and correctly aligning a printer is where printers like the Makerbot find their niche. There’s a new printer on the block that promises a 45 minute assembly time and less than 2 hours from starting the build to first print. It will do all this for under $500, electronics and motors included.

From the Flickr photoset, we can see that the Printrbot has 2 motors for the z-axis, uses sanguinololu electronics, and uses a derivative of Wade’s extruder – all proven design choices. Unlike the RepRaps, most of the frame is actually printed, and not built out of threaded rods. This drastically reduces the assembly and calibration time.

The inventor of the Printrbot, [Brook Drumm], has a Kickstarter up where he’s selling complete kits (electronics, motors and vitamins) for $499. This beats the very inexpensive SUMPOD in affordability. We haven’t been able to find the 3D design files for the Printrbot (although you can buy these printed parts for $75), and there’s no word on the build volume of the stock printer. That being said, the printrbot does have pretty good resolution. Check out the video of a Printrbot in action after the break.

29 thoughts on “The cheapest and easiest 3D printer we’ve seen so far

  1. This really hits the spot. Okay, print area is only 5inches cubed. But as an entry point for 3d printing – it is great.

    For $500 or £320 and a couple of hours. I can start printing. A sweet spot for time and money.

  2. The design of the Z system makes me concerned about wobble; but the designer seems adamant that it will work without looseness.

  3. I definitely want one, but the cost of plastic
    that it uses to print with is $15 for 1 lb an
    up, that seems pretty costly to me, at least in comparison to a CNC router, that can use wood
    or plastic, that’s often ether free or very cheap.

    How long would 1 lb of plastic last in this
    3D Priner, and how many parts could you make
    with that same 1 lb?

    1. Machining wastes a lot with chips. 3D printing pretty much has no waste, or very little, so it goes a long way. Its generally pretty cheap. Plus 5 lbs is like $60 so its a bit cheaper if you buy more.

      1. Well like I said, I tend to use a lot of cheap
        even free stuff on my small CNC router, I reuse
        my wood scraps from various projects, and buy
        plexiglass and lexan scrap.

        I have often got an entire shopping bag full
        of plexiglass and lexan scrap for $5 to $10,
        several pounds of it.

        If I got a 3D Printer, I dont want to be using
        a $1 or more worth of plastic on each part I
        make, at that cost it would be cheaper to make
        on the the CNC router.

      2. @Will1384

        Well, yeah, 3D printers don’t use free scraps. (well, someone did just give me a pound of unused clear PLA for my 3D printer, but thats rare.) Still, its very very cheap, and you can make certain things much more easily on a 3D printer.

        I actually have a full CNC machine shop at my work. Two HAAS VF-2 Machines. 20 and 30 HP, 20 and 24 tools, 10k and 12k spindles. The faster one also has a 4th axis rotary table. We also have a TL-1 CNC lathe.

        I design all the parts and do all the mastercam programming here. I also taught everyone how to set up and run the machines and do it myself all the time. And I am allowed to make parts here whenever I want on my own time (weekends, evenings, etc). We also have plenty of scrap lying around of aluminum, delrin, etc. I can make all kinds of things for free here.

        I still spent $2000 on an Ultimaker because its easier. I never make stuff here (well, rarely). Its a pain in the ass to clamp your work, program the toolpaths, get coolant all over your clothes (particularly bad in my case since we never clean the machines enough – its gross). Machining parts is hard work, even with the machines at your disposal. 3D printers have their quirks, and they take some tweaking and adjusting sometimes (some more than others) but actually making parts on a properly adjusted machine is easy as hell. Model the part, then slice it and hit print.

        To me, that is well worth the $15 in plastic. That may not be true for everyone.

      3. Oh, and I forgot to make my point!

        3D printers and CNC machines are different tools. They each have their strengths. I’d suggest that if you like making parts, you think about how a 3D printer would save you time. Think about parts like this one:

        http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:13105

        You’re probably not going to make something like that on your CNC router. Thats just a toy you don’t need, but you get the idea.

        And anyway, you don’t have to get rid of the router! If you build a 3D printer, use that when it makes sense, and use your router when that makes sense.

        Trust me, 3D printers are awesome tools.

    2. Don’t forget prints are hollow. I ordered my ultimaker when it was first featured on HaD. Got it 5 weeks later, and I’m still on my first roll of 2.3kg PLA. I’m not printing huge quantity of things, but the amount materials you actually use is very low.

      1. Prints *can* be hollow. They don’t have to be. You can specify the interior fill density. Just clearing that up for anyone not in the know.

    3. The last couple of times I’ve bought 3mm natural ABS it ended up at $9 per pound. You would be surprised how far a pound of plastic will go when you don’t print at 100% fill. 20% fill is just fine for most prints.

      I’m quite a miser when it comes to consumables for my projects, but plastic is so incredibly cheap in practice that the cost to print anything does not even cross my mind. It probably cost more in electricity to CAD my designs then it does to print them.

  4. Is it me or is that thing considerably faster than a RepRap/Makerbot as well?

    I thought there was a speed limit to using an extruder and PLA/ABS where the individual “traces” or whatever became too thin if you went too fast.

    1. Nah, RepRaps are very quick. It all comes down to the firmware and the operator. A well configured RepRap can run much faster than that. Still awesome to see another design. It only showes how it is spreading.

  5. $500-hmmm… getting closer. And if this actually ships for $500, is more evidence that a lot of the other 3D stuff out there is way over-priced.

  6. haha that’s awesome! We had one that was at my high school but it was restricted to “authorized personals” only, so I never got a chance to mess with it. haha.

  7. I’m thrilled. I wonder if there is something similar to Moore’s Law for 3D printers? Has anyone seen a graph on kit prices over time? Or maybe we’re still in a much to early stage for the graphs to tell any story.

  8. This would be perfect for all of those small clips that always break on everything that cause you to have to go buy a whole new assembly just for a few clips (re: automotive clips for odd years of various models are pretty much the worst offenders). Once the cad is done for the clip… it can be reproduced as needed. Small clip on lens covers? use transparent/translucent thread. Cover panels? Remote control battery covers? There’s a shed load of applications. Now… just need money.

  9. Great to hear the enthusiasm and even the skeptics! More light on the reprap.org community the better. If you want something easy, Printrbot is perfect. I own a Prusa Mendel too and love it. I have tricked it out too. My Printrbot ets most of the love because its smaller easy to move around and its more fun to watch print :)

    peace,
    Brook (Printrbot Designer)

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