Ask Hackaday: Is Owning A 3D Printer Worth It?

3D printers are the single best example of what Open Hardware can be. They’re useful for prototyping, building jigs for other tools, and Lulzbot has proven desktop 3D printers can be used in industrial production. We endorse 3D printing as a viable tool as a matter of course around here, but that doesn’t mean we think every house should have a 3D printer.

Back when Bre was on Colbert and manufacturing was the next thing to be ‘disrupted’, the value proposition of 3D printing was this: everyone would want a 3D printer at home because you could print plastic trinkets. Look, a low-poly Bulbasaur. I made a T-rex skull. The front page of /r/3Dprinting. Needless to say, the average consumer doesn’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to make their own plastic baubles when WalMart and Target exist.

The value proposition of a 3D printer is an open question, but now there is some evidence a 3D printer provides a return on its investment. In a paper published this week, [Joshua Pearce] and an undergraduate at Michigan Tech found a 3D printer pays for itself within six months and can see an almost 1,000% return on investment within five years. Read on as I investigate this dubious claim.

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3D Printed Mechanical Keyboard

Tired of buying boring keyboards with almost no customization available? We’ve seen lots of keyboard hacks before, but if you want to take it a step further — why not make it from scratch and have it 3D printed?

Reddit user [Wildpanic] has just finished his first attempt at a 3D printed keyboard and he’s even shared the files to make it over at Thingiverse. The frame is entirely 3D printed, but he’s chosen to use pre-manufactured key switches, which is probably for the best. They are the Cherry MX Green variety, which have these little clips in the side which make them super easy to install — especially on a 3D printed frame.

He’s wired them all using 20ga copper wire (which might be a bit overkill) to a Teensy 2.0 microcontroller. The diodes he chosen to use are 1N4148 which he was able to get fairly inexpensively. Total cost is just a bit over $50. Not bad!

Oh and in case you’re wondering, he’s chosen the style of keyboard that makes use of 4 keys for the space bar — as made popular by the planck style custom keyboards — you know, for people who love symmetry.

For more awesome keyboard hacks, check out this roundup [Adam Fabio] put together in a Hacklet last year!

[via reddit]

Lulzbot & Lime Green Begonias

Lulzbot, or more specifically Aleph Objects, had a booth at Maker Faire this year, and unlike a lot of other 3D printer manufacturers they’re not afraid to show off what they currently have in development. The latest is code-named Begonia, although when it makes it to production it will probably be called the Lulzbot Mini. It’s a smaller version of their huge Taz 3D printer that trades build volume for a lower price.

The Lulzbot Mini will have a 6x6x6 inch build volume, heated bed, and all the other features you would expect in its larger counterpart. One interesting feature is automated nozzle cleaning and bed leveling. At the start of every print run, the nozzle runs over a small felt pad at the back of the build plate, touches off four metal washers at each corner, and recalculates the GCode for a level print. You can check out a demo of that in the video above.

Also in the works in the Lulzbot labs is a controller panel with an SD card, display, and (I think) a touch interface. Lulzbot didn’t have a demo of this, but rest assured, we’ll post something on that when it’s released. The last time we saw Lulzbot we heard of a 3D scanner project they’re working on that will turn any physical object into an .STL file, without having to mess about in Meshlab. Development on this project is stalled, but that is a very difficult problem. Can’t fault them for that.

Oh, the price for the unannounced Lulzbot Mini? Somewhere around $1300-1400.

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