My 3D printing experience has been great. Probably the best tool I have every used. The range of things you can do with these printers is amazing.
Four years ago, I took the plunge and assembled a 3D printer kit. My model, the Sunhokey Prusa i3, is still available for US$234. It’s easy to assemble in a couple of days. Mine has had moderate use and has held up well. A few repairs and replacements which were pretty simple to do. I added my own designed auto bed leveler which has made first layer calibration much easier.
After experimenting with different filaments, I settled on PLA for most of my printing, supported by PETG when I need flexibility. ABS filament comes in handy for extra strength and heat resistance.
If you just want to print stuff, you can download other people’s 3D models. You need to learn a bit about control software and setting up temperatures and speeds. There is ton’s of information available about these things.
But for maximum benefit, learning how to use a CAD program is essential. Then, you can design your own “things” and export the STL files needed to control the printing process. It’s probably more challenging to learn CAD than using your printer, but you can do a lot with only moderate skills.
My guess is that the total cost of the machine, repairs, enhancements and materials for all my 3D printing experience would come to around $700 over four years. That’s pretty reasonable.
3D Printing Experience – Projects Large and Small
The number of things you can accomplish with a 3D printer is only limited by your imagination. Some of my larger projects include making all the structural parts for a DIY CNC machine, and all the structures and gears for a remote controlled transmitting loop.
On the smaller end, 3D printing works well for repairs, including weirdly shaped parts for lawn chairs, drawer holders and washing machine knobs. More typical are project boxes, including a signal generator. You can even add metal tape to make shielded boxes.
So, if you like fabricating project parts, take a break from wood and metal and try plastic. For a few dollars, you should enjoy your 3D printing experience.