Kicking The Tires Before You Buy: 3d Printers

So you’re looking to buy your first 3D printer, and your index finger is quivering over that 300 US Dollar printer on Amazon.com. Stop! You’re about to have a bad time. 3D printing has come a long way, but most 3D printers are designed through witchcraft, legends, and tall tales rather than any rigorous engineering process. I would say most 3D printer designs are either just plain bad, or designed by a team of Chinese engineers applying all their ingenuity to cost cutting. There are a few that are well designed, and there is a comparatively higher price tag attached.

I’ll start by going through some of the myths and legends that show up in 3D printers. After that I’ll go through some of the common, mostly gimmick, features that typically hinder your printer’s ability, rather than adding any useful function. Next I’ll go onto the things that will actually make your printer better. Finally, I’ll add some special consideration if you’re a beginner buying your first printer.

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Mantis9 PCB mill

This is the Mantis9 PCB mill. It’s the first time we’ve featured the project, but it’s already well known by some as it keeps popping up in the comments for other CNC mill projects. Yes, it’s made out of wood — which some frown upon — but we’re happy with the build instructions and the especially the price tag (parts as low as $85).

We did feature an earlier revision of the hardware back in 2010. Subsequent versions changed the frame to use an open-front design, but it’s the build techniques that saw the biggest evolution. The problem was getting the holes for the parallel rods to align accurately. In the end it’s a simple operation that solves the problem; clamp both boards together and drill the holes at the same time. A drill press is used for all of the fabrication, ensuring that the holes are perpendicular to the surface of the boards. From there the rods are given some bronze bushings and pressed into place. Only then are the platforms secured to the bushings using epoxy. This is to ensure that the bushings don’t bind from poor alignment. We think it should end up having less play in it than other builds that use drawer slides.

Check out a PCB milling run in the clip after the break.

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