Narrowing down the list of 3d printers. Purpose : Prototyping Helmets and Armor

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Caille

New Member
So after weeks of research I have finally narrowed down my choice of 3d printer. With knowledge of what I want to do and what I hope to buy I was able to begin a search in earnest and learned a great deal about the machines. First off, as TheRPF has always been a look first ask after you have a direct question place I will list what I am looking for in a printer.

-Relatively large print bed, as I will be using this to prototype pieces I will want a print bed that is capable of handling reasonable sized chunks of the models I use. Main use will be prototyping helmets and armour. I am looking for about 8inches+ cubed. This will not be used for final product but rather for prototyping. On rare occasion it may be used to make parts, but I am more likely to resort to traditional casting in the end.

-Relative ease of use. I am not a 3d printing enthusiast; yet, therefore a self built DIY printer is not ideal. Likewise a difficult to tune printer is also not ideal. An easy to use software with a comfortable learning curve. Something easy to learn and hard to master would be nice.

-Relatively good layer resolution, 20 microns to 50 microns would be ideal. 100 microns would be "acceptable".

-Heated Glass Bed and Auto leveling preferred but not necessary I have other tools in my home I have to manually level and I imagine a bed heater is a common mod on most (though integrated protects MF warranty).

-Finally software and support. Whether open sourced or proprietary it is important to me to have good support for the printer and the woes I may face.

-Of near non import is speed of print. I would rather quality than speed. The less time I can spend doing finishing work, the more time I can spend molding and working on model variation or fine tuning.

So with those in mind and google as a friend I began to hit the top 3d print review sites. After extensive research I came up with a few options by comparing things like trending charts, major review sites and forum posts.

-Ultimaker 2, normal or extended. Or alternatively the Ultimaker Original + and add on some goodies like a second extruder nozzle, may be a bit too DIY for my first foray.
-Lulzbot Tazbot 5. Printbed Size and a good support reputation make this a strong contender. Also this one works with a lot of materials.
-Formlabs F1+. Wow those lines, WOW those lines.....nomnom smooth.

As you can see I have two extruder type printers on there and the one really commercially available resin printer as well. The F1+ may not meet my ideal bed requirements but the resin style can handle fine detail a bit better.

Looking at each of these I can see a price point and quality point emerging. $2500-$3200 seems to be the range of bot I am personally looking for.

Each has strengths and weaknesses, The Ultimaker has the best layer thickness of the extruders, ranging from 20microns to 200. F1+ has the best ability to print fine detail and curves and the Tazbot has the largest bed and widest range of materials.

I know we have makers here who own these machines and I would like to hear your opinion on each.

In the end I will have to choose what feels best for me. But as The RPF has long been my preferred source of information on costuming and design I am keen to hear what my fellow RPFers think.

A note, Makerbot's Replicator 5th Gen was nixxed from the list after extensive thought about the mixed reviews it receives. Either love or hate, it induces strong emotion. Coupled with its proprietary software it is 4th on my list but did not clear the top 3. Airwolf is a brand I cannot find enough information on to add to my main consideration list but one that I have considered.

Eventually I will probably get an F1+ even if I get another printer to start, the lines are just too nice. But again I would like to hear from you guys.

Caille
 

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Galane

New Member
What I'd do is find people who own each of those printers and send them a sample 3D object to print at the best quality they can, then send the prints back. Some people will charge for materials plus a bit for their time.

I'm working on building my own 3D printer, which is going to be made extremely rigid. I saw a Solidoodle 2 in operation and was not very impressed with its single sided build platform support where I could see a tiny wiggle in the platform.
 

Caille

New Member
Solidoodle did not even make my top 5.

I imagine I can use the 3d site that does trend analysis and check with builders. But honestly if I can get some RPFers to chime in it would be wonderful.

DIY has its appeals, but sadly is a bit beyond my comfort atm.

Caille
 

moztech

Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Have you thought about building your own, you could most likely build a printer that will meet you specifications for allot less than buying one.
 

Caille

New Member
Thought about it but decided against it. Actually said as much in my op, if a bit wordy of a way to get to the point and then again last post. DIY printers are, at this point beyond my comfort zone.
 

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Galane

New Member
There are some vendors on eBay that sell complete kits with all the parts. Easiest would be one that already has the firmware loaded onto the control board. There are many printers based on the old Prusa Mendel that had a frame made of pieces of threaded rod - and is a terrible design.

The first big alteration to the Mendel design was directly replacing the threaded rods with aluminum extrusions. Then someone realized that the triangular side frames weren't needed with the much stiffer extrusions. Then cut out metal and acrylic frames appeared in many variations. But the core mechanicals of how the extruder and build platform move still go back to the Mendel.

One thing you should look for in the Z axis of any Cartesian movement 3D printer, ground (not rolled) ball screws of C5 or lower number. The layer heights will be more precise and consistent than with even the best precision threaded rod. With consistent layer heights, you'll reduce roughness caused by greater/lesser squeeze out of the plastic when the Z axis doesn't move as much up or moves up too much from less precise threaded rod. Look carefully at pictures of various 3D prints and on the ones done on printers with lower precision Z movement you'll see what looks like varying horizontal striation patterns. Another issue with this on printers using two threaded rods for the Z axis is the low precision will cause a slight and varying tilt of the gantry with each move. Good ball screws will ensure both sides of the gantry move up the same amount every time. Printers with a single side Z drive like the Solidoodle and PrintrBot eliminate that tilting by only using one threaded rod but they still have the varying layer height and less rigidity - unless the slide for the Z axis is made very rigid.

Here's what I'm using as a core framework for my 3D printer.
Impact tester by g_alan_e, on Flickr

All precision machined, linear bearings in the cross bar that slides on the vertical rods. Probably cost a 4 figure sum when new, I got it surplus for $10. The build platform will slide on a THK HSR30 block and rail. The hot end will slide along the cross bar on a THK HSR25 block and rail. I'm planning on using ball screws on all axes rather than belts. I may add some bracing to the vertical rods as they can be wiggled a bit, the length enables slight flexing.
 

flimzy

Well-Known Member
I've been using the Ulitmaker 2 now for a year and its the machine of choice in my job. (Movie props) I started of with the maker bot 5th, this was the worst experience of my life. the machine promised a lot and gave very little . Makerbot support is a con. Luckily I bought thought a very respectable compony that helped me out and eventually replaced the makerbot with the Ultimaker.
Even though the UM has a slightly smaller bed then the MB it is vastly superior , the heated bed means no messing about with tapes and rafts. ( simply paint a thin layer of watered down PVA on the glass. I did this when I first started and its still fine.)
The machine takes up less real-estate on your desk and its one of the quiatist on the market. Its easy and cheep to get spares for. you will need to change the PTFE part after a wile. its very easy to clean out blocks. not that I've had that many.

Don't worry to much about bed size because as you get better you'l find is much better to print large things in small part and glue them together. With long large prints you always risk fails.

Cura is one of the best slicers,

So in conclusion if your just starting out and want an out of the box, working 3D printer. The ultimaker 2 is the one to go for.
 

darthviper107

Well-Known Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I would say Ultimaker 2--it's well reviewed, should be not that difficult to use and as a filament printer it'll be cheap and fast to print large parts.

For props, you don't need high resolution layers, because it's easy to sand the surface without destroying the detail since there's not usually small details.
I've got the Form1+ and it's great for small objects with high detail, but I wouldn't want to use it for full sized props, that would be overkill, plus the resin costs $150 a bottle, you can get the same amount of material for a filament printer for $20-$40
Also, the Form1+ has some requirements as to how the model is constructed and set up to print so that you get the best results, that can be annoying to deal with.
 

Nwerke

Master Member
I've not heard a bad thing yet about Ultimakers, and I use their excellent Cura software on my Makergear M2 (also a solid, well-engineered machine that gets very good reviews and has *fantastic* customer support which I can vouch for myself).

For your purposes I think you would find a Form1 is not the best fit. Seconding darthviper here - you don't need 0.02mm layer resolution; if you're doing that with a filament type printer you'll find sanding that is much the same as sanding .2mm layers for armour pieces. In any technology, the finer the layer height, the more days you add to the print time. :lol I print 1:1 scale pieces at 0.1mm most of the time (the M2 can go to 0.06 'officially' and much lower if you want to, but it is rarely worth it).

If you think you'll be doing lots of small highly detailed pieces then yes, get a Form1. Otherwise I'd say look at Ultimaker or the new Taz, or if you want to save about a grand and a 8" x 8" x 10" build volume works for you, consider Makergear.
 

Nwerke

Master Member
If you go with an FDM machine, pick one that gets good marks for bed leveling. I'm not sure how I feel about automated bed leveling - it strikes me as potentially 'another thing to go wrong', haha. Most of the time, once you're set up, you don't need to look at this very often. It's maddening when it's gone out of true, though, so you don't want a unit that requires complex work to get back in true. (The M2 for example has 3 Allen screws to adjust, and I can fix it while it's running.)

Also *definitely* go with a heated bed. You might not want to print with ABS, but then again, you might. And it makes life easier for PLA too.
 

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bwayne64

Well-Known Member
the one problem I ever had with my Ultimaker 2 was finding hair on the build plane one day. never found out why ?
Man I had no idea the technology was this advanced, Wow! Now if you could just get them big enough to print super models, LOL.
 

star-art

Sr Member
I've been having trouble deciding between the MakerGear M2 and the Ultimaker 2. I think I read somewhere that the Ultimaker requires a proprietary filament? That is one thing I'd like to avoid because it drives up the cost of making parts. It's also why I won't consider a Form 1 -- the going rate for resin is $40-$60 per liter and they charge $150.
 

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flimzy

Well-Known Member
I've been having trouble deciding between the MakerGear M2 and the Ultimaker 2. I think I read somewhere that the Ultimaker requires a proprietary filament? That is one thing I'd like to avoid because it drives up the cost of making parts. It's also why I won't consider a Form 1 -- the going rate for resin is $40-$60 per liter and they charge $150.
you can use Any 3mm/ 2.75 filament on the ultimaker 2. because the feed speed, bed head, head and biuld speed are all editable in Cura and once the print start. So you can adjust any setting on the fly. I haven't herd of a filament that you can't use yet, I've tried filament from 3 different venders so far and not found any difference ( although I do like http://colorfabb.com in Europe.) I haven't tried the rubber filament yet.
Also the one advantage of the Ultimaker is the amour of desk space it doesn't take up. because it is enclosed you can stack book (or what ever you want) up against it with no worries of interrupting a print.
 
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star-art

Sr Member
Is the filament for the Ultimaker an odd size? Most of the filaments I see online are 1.75 mm. I can also find 3mm but it doesn't seem to be as common. Maybe that was the issue?

I must admit, it is a difficult choice. The MakerGear M2 seems to be solid, reliable, and very well built. It's also nearly $1000 cheaper than the Ultimaker 2. But, it doesn't come with an enclosure.

The most important thing for me is that I can take something out of the box, plug it in and start printing (and, most importantly, get good results!). I need to spend my time designing and building models rather than tinkering with a new machine. :)
 

star-art

Sr Member
The Ultimaker store says their filament is actually 2.85mm in diameter. It sells for roughly $35.50 US per spool but you get only 0.75 kg instead of 1 kg. So, definitely more expensive than other options. But, if this printer works with other brands/sizes of ABS spool, that's definitely a plus. :)
 

Nwerke

Master Member
The 1.75mm standard is starting to replace the older 3mm sizes. The M2 runs on 1.75mm (PLA or ABS, or various other kinds) but can take slightly larger or smaller sizes as long as you adjust for it in the software (which is good because a lot of what's sold as *any* given filament size is actually under or over-size. Anything which will run on Cura should be able to do the same.) Up to a limit, obviously a 1.75mm printer can't use 3mm filament.
 

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