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printer for small busines/what to make
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cikada Offline

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Post: #1
printer for small busines/what to make
I haven’t found any useful discussion on choosing printer so I’ll ask my questions. I’m looking forward in buying 3d printer to make some small cash.

Most is quality
Than size of part i can make
I’m afraid of overheating. I had Chinese cutting machine for 20$, i forced a little and it burnt.
2 colors at once would be nice, but not necessary
And price. Since I’m student I don’t want to take big loans etc.

Electricity it uses
If it works silently or not.
If it’s fast or slower in making parts.

Question 1.
is it big chance that printer will die if i use it like 5h/day
Question 2.

PLA ws ABS. advantages disadvantages. strength, sun/water proof, harder to use, looks better etc. also 1k ABS is how many cube cm, or inches.

Question 3.
I saw many vids, and pics of what you can make with printer, and some looked crappy. In some I could clearly see lines (does that depends on layer thickness?), some had relief it hadn’t have. Is it hard to get same quality as my table pen has? smooth, solid.

question 4.
what is the difference in nozzle diameter?

What you would recommend to buy, of course. =) I don’t want to spend much, but I don’t want to buy crappy printer witch i could beat with my handworks, or who will burn in a month..

Some guidelines would be nice, since I’m looking and 10s of printers and I’m not quite sure what to look at.
ALSO: what do you think people would want me to make? i thought of architect and ship models so far, but with this i would get like 1 customer in 3 months Big Grin

BIG THANKS for help.

also you can email me.
03-05-2013 05:47 PM
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VDX Offline
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Post: #2
RE: printer for small busines/what to make
... with ABS you can 'smooth' the surface afterwards:
03-05-2013 05:55 PM
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Marcus Offline

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Post: #3
RE: printer for small busines/what to make
Hello Cikada!
I'm a long-time lurker and just signed up to the forum. I own a Printrbot LC and a UP Plus from PP3DP.

Do you know about the MAKE magazine? They have a very good beginners guide on buying/choosing 3D-Printers ("Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing ", available as PDF or Print), and test a verity of devices. They talk abut software, scanning and different plastics. Of course it can't answer all questions, but I liked it.

What's your budget? Are you aiming for something like the Printrbot JR ~$400, or cheaper (selfbuild), or a bit more professional ($1000-2000)?

It depends on Price, Tinkering and Configuration.
Most hobby printers are based on Reprap. Pro: Open source, Con: Tinkering can be necessary to get the best results, both hard- and software.
If you want something that runs out of the box with no tinkering and only a few settings, I strongly recommend something like the UP.
I did buy a Printrbot to tinker, but when I want to get good results fast, I still use the UP. Running it regularly for two years, no extruder jams, no quality issues, great machine.

You can easily glue segments, especially when printing with ABS. Superglue or Acetone will do that strong and quickly, as the plastic melts together.
Big print-areas require a sturdy frame, lkeep that in mind before buying something shaky :-)


Don't worry, all printers use a similar printhead concept, even if the heating element gets damaged it's cheap to replace. But I never heard of this being a problem...

I don't think similar printers will differ in power consumption anyway. The biggest part is probably extruder and heated bed (at least for ABS)

...but perhaps your neighbors ;-)

You will, once you wait for somrthing to finish :-) But I agree, quality beats speed.

Question 1.
No, printer's are reliable, stepper motors will last long if not overheating due to design flaws or wrongly set poti etc...
Big prints can take several hours anyway, 3D printers need to print a long time without pause and are designed for it.
Just make sure to lubricate rods and such to avoid wear.

Q2: PLA ws ABS.
For many things it does not matter. In general ABS will be a bit more flexible, PLA stronger but gets soft at >80 degree Celsius. Some properties depend on the type of PLA you use, there's even rubbery PLA now... The number one reason I use PLA: It smells nice ;-) No, it's actually that it does not warp and you can even use it without a heated printbed ;-)
For ABS 1cm3 is about 1 gram, check out the (english) Wikipedia article as it states the weight/volume properties somewhere.
Also keep in mind that when you print a cube, it should never be completely solid (as it results in heat problems, warping etc.), so most of the time you will need a fragment of the volume.

Question 3.
Yes, the finer you set the lines, the less they are noticable. It also depends on the color/contrast of the material and lighting. On pictures you will usualy see the layers, if you hold something in your hands and look at it with your own eyes it usualy looks nicer and smoother :-)
Reducing layer height takes longer to print though, but increases details/quality.
What do you mean about your table pen's quality?

question 4.
Extrusion with a smaller nozzle diameter usualy results in higher quality when printing small stuff, but can increase printing time (especially on bigger parts!). 0.35-0.4mm nozle diameter is pretty common, some used 0.2mm to create astonishing results with layers thinner then 0.1mm height.
Also note that's not a great idea to print 0.6mm layer height with a 0.2mm nozle ;-)

When small details and a small nozzle is what you want, you should get a printer/printhead that works with 1,75mm plastic filament, as it's easier to produce a constant feed and ensure quality.

Layer height isn't the only thing importaint for quality, as it brings more problems (printer temperature and other settings need to be set/calibrated carefully to produce nice results. I printed a yoda-head on my Printrbot, it looked nice at 0.2mm but went worse at 0.15/0.1mm layer height without changing a lot of things.
If you want google for the "slic3r is nicer" tutorial, on part 2/3 are some examples on trying to print with very thin layers).

Post an example of what you would like to produce :-)
Even with a $399 Printrbot (don't forget about the student discounts available) you can get astonishing results.
If you want something easy to use without tinkering, perhaps the inexpensive UP Mini is for you ($899). The downsides are small print area and limited settings, though even with the 0.2-0.4mm layer setting limit the UP software and hardware produces great results.
The main reason why I got the UP was because of the awesome break-away support structures, it's as easy as it gets. The software does a great job. The only thing easier would be a second printhead printing water-soluble support material, but this will result in more tinkering and cost.
If you just print with one material you will need to design your parts to print without steep overhangs or little moving parts, or assemble them, or plan in time to clean your print with pliers...

you only want to print for other people, I would recommend getting more then one printer. There's always a chance of a print failing (wrong settings, not sticking to the plate properly, braking...) or a printer needing repair. Customers usually want bigger things printed, and that can take from 2 hours up to a whole day or more in the best quality setting!
A Upside from Reprap is that you can fix it yourself, while commercial printers may require you to pay for repairs and shipping outside the warranty time.

My buyers-guide-questions:
-Do you can and do you want to tinker/solder/repair your printer?
-What do you want to print (examples)?
-How much do you want to spend?
-Do you need extras (water soluble support material, dual colors,... stable enough to attach a mill-tool? )

If quality is your main topic, you may want to wait for printers like the B9creator and Formlabs Form1, or a smiliar SA.
They use resin that cures with (UV/Laser) light, and can create finer details (though I have not seen any prints from the two I just mentioned). Resin is usually more expensive then Plastic filament, and cleaning & printing procedure is more complex then just pulling your plastic print off the build platform...
(This post was last modified: 03-06-2013 12:23 AM by Marcus.)
03-06-2013 12:18 AM
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cikada Offline

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Post: #4
RE: printer for small busines/what to make
OH BIG THANKS for your knowledge you just sheared with me. =)
I definitely need 2 headed, for making moving parts. I was thinking if I can’t afford 3 heads would be even nicer =] so can I use same nozzle for water soluble materials and for double color? Where I could use a mill-tool in printing? My knowledge is to small there.

1. Since customers need quality (I think) so I’m aiming for it. And it’s okay for me if it works 12h/day on finer details if needed. I’m being realistic and I don’t think I get so many customers. If I do – ill buy additional one, already knowing what I need =]

2. I have craft skills so I can repair it, but it would be nice if I wouldn’t need to sit an hour tinkering it every time before starting. I can do some of it if needed. (It that's better in some ways than choosing more simple way)

3. What to print. There’s a tricky question. That’s what I’m thinking about most of the day. House models, smart toys maybe, figures, some earrings possibly. (That’s why I want high quality, to be able to craft more things) there is a firm witch has Spectrum Z510 for service.

4. As less as possible if it satisfy me with its capabilities. Thinking up to 2000$ if needed so far (small possibility for 5500$ if my m8 gets it.) (cheaper but thin layers/nozzle will gime me same effect as more expensive one?)


2 nozzles for making moving parts. if 2-3 heads small difference in price maybe 3 heads. (spectrum can mix colors in perfect way as I understood, it looks really tempting =) except price..)
I heard some printers’ makes things from paper, or ceramic. (Found one witch can use up to 14 difference substances, sadly can’t find it again fast.) So:
Is it possible to use PLA and ABS in same printer?
Rubber PLA sounds really tempting. Witch had bigger variety of colors? Is there glass like filament?
Witch filament is cheaper? Formlabs Form1 claims to be 3 times more expensive to fill than makerbot (so abs or pla) witch is 0.1-0.15$ /cubic centimeter, but also 4x higher resolution.
Are there affordable printers to print ceramic, glass? Maybe those uv/laser ones can do stuff like that?
03-07-2013 12:51 AM
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Marcus Offline

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Post: #5
RE: printer for small busines/what to make
You're welcome :-)

Multiple heads.

In theory you can use multiple print heads for multiple colors, or even two print heads to simultaneously print a second object "clone".
Every printhead needs to be adjusted and calibrated so your different print layers will align...
3 Printheads are a nice idea, but except the price issue it also means a bit more tinkering.

From Model to Print / Setup:

Once you have managed to get your printer calibrated well it does not require a lot of tinkering anymore to get started with printing. But there is always a chance it will be necessary.
It would be advisable to go with a printer design that has been around for some time to avoid surprises and have reliable mechanics.
Printers like the UP will work out of the box and have a limited number of presets, they will give you good results fast.
But sometimes on rare occasions, you wish for more flexibility in the settings.... But believe me, with Slic3r or other open source software and printers, you wish often for a setting that will work after printing three failures... :-)

Resolution VS software:

Thiner layers and finer nozzles will get you so far, but it's not always the printer's hardware that gives you the best quality. The software is very important as well.
If you check out the Make-Article, you will notice a lot of differences.
For example:
Makerbot Replicator 2

Afina/pp3dp UP from $899 (Mini) (this is made with the bigger UP, but still with the old firmware and 0.2mm layers, 0.15 is available now for the big one and 0.2mm for the mini)

Printrbot from $399 (IMHO this can be a lot better, probably the replicator printer as well)

Only the UP was capable of printing the fine details of the hole in a owl model's beak

The good news is that the Reprap-based printers can be fine-tuned both hard- and software-wise to produce high quality results. It really just depends on how much time you invest on getting to know your printer and software such as Slic3r... LOTS of settings to learn about ;-)

About moving parts:

I make a lot of moving stuff, it is fun to do. But I only have printers with a single printhead. The UP does a amazing job at creating break-away support, so I was able to print gears, ball-bearings and more in once piece and they where movable after cleaning them with tweezers. I also make a lot of tiny parts ( )
a) it is possible to create moving parts with just one extruder
b) sometimes it is easier to print the parts and assemble it later. No cleaning/dissolving, no printing tollerances/fusing to consider... Saves a lot of time, and super glue works great.

About Colors:

Plastic colors are nice, but coloring them with model paint, nail polish or such looks much, much better.
But yes, there are many colors available; both ABS and PLA. Even gold/silver/copper, but they don't look as nice as painted. Neon-Colors look awesome though, but still like plastic... If you print something like a model car, painting it will look MUCH better.


Paper, Mcor for example, are now in many Staples as far as I read.
The type of printer has it's charm, but as some plastic-layer printers there's a disadvantage: It prints a stack of paper/plastic and cuts & glues/laminates them together layer by layer.
If you print a single, small object only, the rest of the material is waste. So you have to fill your print area to save money.
To some extend this applies to SLS/Powder printers as well (as not all excess material is recyclable.
Support-Structures are not as much of an issue, but cleaning can be (AFAIK).

-Ceramic/Gypsum powder:
Neat stuff. Some printers can do full color. The downside is that there needs to be thicker walls, more clearance for moving part.
They get hardened with a resin, but they are brittle on the inside.

-Nylon/Plastic powder, SLS:
Neat stuff. High detail, flexible parts, rigid... And the powder acts as support, so you don't have to worry about overhangs and moving parts as much as with plastic extrusion. Downsides are the limited reuse of excess material, the long heat-up and cool-down phases, and it can be a mess... powder! :-)
After the powder chamber get's heated somewhat close to the melting point, a laser fuses material. It's fast once it's running...
Warping can be an issue but when a machine is set up it's awesome.
Machines are expensive, and commercial big machines usually have high material costs and pricey service plans, but of course it depends on the machine.

Powder is similar to the Nylon SLS; Metal powder get's fused by laser, and afterwards gets "baked"/Infused. Gold, Silver coatings etc., very nice for jewelery, not sure about wearing stuff though (I once read that someone's printed ring made dark spots on the skin).
I also heard that it can be dangerous if the fine metal powder drops into your shop as breathing it in is verrry unhealthy...

Liquid resin that hardens under visible- laser or UV light- High detail prints, transparent materials available... I want one of those :-)
I have not seen one myself other then on internet sites, but I would imagine it can be a bit messy when something goes wrong :-) Resin isn't exactly cheap either.

-FDM/FFF/Plastic extrusion:
Cheap machines, cheap materials, simple. That's why it is so popular... Repairs for Reprap-based devices usualy cost little (integrated board can cost as low as under $100, motors $10-20, Structure parts can be printed or bought in a hardware store... Great.)

Is it possible to use PLA and ABS in same printer?
Yes. If the printer has a extruder that can go hot enough and a heated bed it is suitable for ABS.
For PLA fan-cooling is required, as it gives better results when the plastic gets solid right away.

Rubber, Glass
Transparent plastic is available, but it's more translucent (you can try trating it afterwards though). Real glass can be used in some powder printers, but it's a bit Milky white.
You could allways use a plastic printer, create a casting form, and make a resin part out of clear resin. Or a resin printer... :-)

Plastic cost
1kg/2.2lbs of plastic usualy cost €18/$23 or more, probably cheaper if you get lucky or order large ammounts. Quality does vary a lot, and different plastics and colors have different melting temperatures, properties and such.
One reason the UP is so good is because the OEM plastic is of constant quality, but costs about three times as much as cheap plastic from for example..
When you allways shop for the cheapest filament you will need to change your printer software settings. Even if you use the same stuff all the time, it can happen that a new shipment is a bit different... so it's not allways good to get the cheapest available. Also some cheaper stuff may be smaller or thicker then claimed.
If you have a extruder for 3mm plastic and the plastic is 3.2mm thick, it can cause jams and you will need to take appart the extruder and clean it... No fun!

RESIN is allways more expensive. But the different companies and projects are sourcing stuff that is way more cheaper. IIRC commercial resin could cot up to $300 a liter... Some stuff around now costs less then half.
Also keep in mind that on powder or liquid printers, that trapped material is lost unless you create small holes on your model.
Plastic extruders will create a fill-pattern to make models stable but save material, no worry about trapped material.

I don't know of any cheap ceramic or glass printers for home use. The way to go at the moment is to either prototype it in plastic and then get a company to print the model in a material of your choice once you're happy with the prototype... Or use your model to create a cast. It has been done, especially with resin and metal.

I hope this helps. Keep in mind that I'm just a hobby enthusiast and some info might be outdated, wrong or incomplete. Plus it's pretty late here, so I might have a few mistakes in my post even though I should know better ;-)
(This post was last modified: 03-07-2013 04:24 AM by Marcus.)
03-07-2013 04:22 AM
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VDX Offline
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Post: #6
RE: printer for small busines/what to make
... look here for an affordable 3-colour-printer:

03-07-2013 11:10 AM
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Marcus Offline

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Post: #7
RE: printer for small busines/what to make
Viktor, that one is on my wishlist for a long time Big Grin

Cikada, here I uploaded two different sets of screenshots for you:
This is the complete settings dialogue of the UP:

This is most of the the Slic3r settings dialogue:

This demonstrates the freedom of configuration of a Reprap based device, but also clarifies that it is more complex and you NEED to know what most settings do.
There's a very good tutorial if you want to learn about 3D printer / Slic3r settings (but it's for an older version)

I do enjoy the freedom of my reprap based 3D printer. But when I need reliable results I use my UP ;-) Still, I'm getting relatively nice results out of both, just for tiny stuff as my earrings I tend to use the UP...
03-07-2013 01:22 PM
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Marcus Offline

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Post: #8
RE: printer for small busines/what to make
Sorry for th double post, seems like the Make 3D Magazine is now available for free?
03-07-2013 10:32 PM
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