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  1. #1

    Please help me choose a 3D printer

    Hi Folks, I'm new here and new to 3D printing. I've been contracted to do a complex model in N (1/160th) scale for the New York State Bureau of Historic Sites. I have to make architectural models with a high degree of surface detail - imagine buildings that are roughly 1 to 2 inches tall where you can see doors, windowpanes, siding lines/grooves, shingle patterns and so on.

    I want to but a 3D printer and can't spend much more than $1200 - preferably less. Here are the features that are most important to me:

    Resolution: I would prefer a Z resolution that is under 100 microns. 50 would be fine, 20 ideal - I know that limits the choices but I have seen some affordable printers that can do under 100

    Reliability! This is crucial. This machine needs to work reliably for at least 5 months and print maybe 50 to 100 pieces. Of course I'd like it to last longer - but it really needs to get me through this job.

    Must do ABS. PLA is biodegradable, and this model needs to last for many many years.

    Print size - I could get away with maybe 5" X 6" X 5" for this job, but naturally I'd prefer bigger if I can get it.

    I don't care much about bells and whistles like WiFi connectivity and I'm not too worried about print speed. I also am pretty mechanically inclined and not afraid of some assembly, as long as the finished product is reliable.

    What would you recommend?

    There's one specifc brand that caught my eye - the Ultimaker Original +. Saw it advertized at $899 - a well established brand name - I think it will do 20 microns IIRC - assembly required and apparently parts of the frame are wood (which is probably why it's affordable). Any opinions on this machine?

    Thanks so much to anyone who can advise me - I have to admit I'm really worried about this. I need to get this choice right on the first try.

    Thanks again!

  2. #2

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by tristarbot View Post
    Thank you, Tristarbot! I will research this one carefully and consider it.

  4. #4
    Engineer ralphzoontjens's Avatar
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    How about a XYZ Nobel SLA printer, it produces much better detail for your project.

    We have an Ultimaker Original in my studio, it is a great and reliable machine that lasts for several years. You can get very precise models at 0.06 mm layer height, there is no need to go lower for extrusion printers. For ABS you will need to have the heated bed installed to prevent warping.

  5. #5
    Thanks for the feedback, Ralph! I'll research the Nobel SLA, but I'd be kind of shocked if I can afford an SLA.
    Thanks also for the comments on the Ultimaker Original. As I understand it, the Plus version comes with the heated bed you mentioned. I have been wondering whether my desire for 20 micron resolution is overkill - sounds like you think so.
    The other machine that has caught my eye is the FlashForge Creator Pro. Supposed to be really reliable. 100 micron min Z resolution, but a really stunning (to me) XY precision of 11 microns. And I'm intrigued by the dissolvable supports for overhangs that it can do.
    What do you guys think about the FlashForge? I see it's got a subforum here....
    Thanks again, Ralph.

  6. #6
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    not abs - go with pet-g.
    Less prone to uv degradation, much much much easier to works with than abs and chemically resistant to a lot more things.

    And doesn't need an enclosed print volume, which abs realistically does.

    If you can get an ultimaker for $899 - check it's not second hand. That's very cheap for one.

    The other thing I'd recommend is a replicator dual clone. Looking around most don't go higher than 0.1mm resolution.
    I know this one will - 'cos I've got one :-) http://knp3d.com/klic-n-print-3d-details/
    It's rated at 0.05mm. And you could easily enclose it if you wanted to - I've never bothered.
    The advantage of dual extruders is that at some point you are going to need supports if you're making buildings.
    Dual extruders gives you the option of using soluble supports. So if you print with pet'g and pva you can just throw the whole thing in a sink of warm water and watch the supports disappear.

    There are also filaments around specifically for printing supports with - polymaker have just released one that looks pretty good. http://www.polymaker.com/shop/polysupport/

    And bear in mind that when they say pla is biodegradable, they mean if you throw it in a HOT compost heap for a few years it'll degrade. Not under normal circumstances :-)
    But pet-g is definitely the way to go and if I were you I'd be thinking dual extruder for convenience.

  7. #7
    Curious, can you glue and paint the pet-G?

    I'll definitely research it - this is the first I've heard of it. I'll research everything you've mentioned, in fact. I knew joining this forum was a smart idea!

    As I mentioned, one of the things that appeals to me about the Flashforge dual extruder is the dissolvable supports. That just sounds so wise to me.

    As for the biodegradable thing - I really hesitate to use any plastic I know is biodegradable because of my early experiences of using a thermoplastic called Friendly Plastic. When it first came out I used it for freaking everything. They didn't bother to tell you it was biodegradable. It was nearly indestructible at first - after 6 months the plastic began to become brittle - after 2 years the pieces were as brittle as wax. Almost everything I made from it is now destroyed. And hopefully this model is going to sit there in its case for 100 years.

    Thanks so much for your feedback and suggestions!

    ETA you were right about that Ultimaker price, I got the price wrong. The price I saw was $999 it was the Flashforge i saw for $899.
    Last edited by Jeff B; 04-07-2017 at 03:32 PM.

  8. #8
    Curious Aardvark - whoa, the klik and print is only $399?

    How is the reliability? How long have you been using yours? Is it twitchy? Much downtime, extruder clogs, recalibration etc?

  9. #9
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    blimey used to be $799

    I actually won mine in a competition on here about 18 months ago.
    Must be selling the stock off. they never really pushed it. The company makes crafting machines and supplies - I think they were reckoning on their crafting customers all rushing to buy a 3d printer.
    Really well engineered machine. super quiet, excellent extruders and I didn't even have to calibrate it for dual extrusion. Was perfect right from the get-go.
    Solid metal chassis - you don't want to drop it on your foot.
    The only criticism I ever had was the rubber feet fall off when you pick it up. Tape or glue them on, and that's it.
    It even has a slightly larger build plate than the standard replicator clones.
    Oh yeah, three point bed levelling - I hate that. But once you eventually get the plate level - it tends to stay level. And unfortunately most replicator clones use 3 point levelling. I have never understood why.

    It's at least the equivalent of the flashforge creator pro - just without the enclosing. Which would be easy to do if required. Block the front hole and handle holes and fit a hood on top. job done. I've seen people do it with laminating pouches and mini magnets.
    for $399 - just get one ! Hell get 2 :-)

    no downtime, no clogged nozzles - to be honest I've only ever had one in 3 years across 2 machines. And that was with the filament my original machine came with.
    Nozzles don't generally clog and most filament these days is pretty crap free.
    I'm inclined to think that a lot of 'clogged' nozzles are just people pissing about with the slicer settings too much and trying to print too cool or too fast. Or just really really crap filament.

    pet-g easy to glue and paint. I use uhu clear glue to glue all my 3d printed stuff. Pretty much any solvent based clear glue will do (it's all the same stuff). I get it from my local pound shop.

    At $399 that is currently hands down the best value 3d printer on the PLANET !

    I'd also recommend a sheet of printbite. About the closest thing to a miracle surface currently available. http://3dprintboard.com/showthread.p...ntbite-surface

    I'd recommend fitting it with some kind of clip so it can be removed should you want to use one of the few materials it's not suitable for. I currently use my knp almnost exclusively for flexible filaments and just use pva gluestick on it. On my standard flashforge creator I have the printbite stuck on.
    Just takes all the hassle out of 3d printing :-)
    No glue, no tape, no scrapers no models bouncing off the ceiling or delicate parts breaking off. You just print and remove.
    Last edited by curious aardvark; 04-08-2017 at 11:04 AM.

  10. #10
    Jeff, if you are really serious about getting to 20 micron, FDM/FFF printers may not be what you need to be looking at, very few are capable of that resolution, regardless of marketing. You may want to look more into laser SLA and DLP printers. That WILL get you the resolution that you are looking for, and there are resins available that certainly meet your durability requirements.

    Two specifically that I would suggest you look at are the Moai, on Kickstarter (within your budget); and the G3D T-1000 on Indiegogo (a bit over your budget). While these are both crowdfunding projects, they are both extremely likely to ship, both have shown that they are ready and the campaigns are more just for funding to ramp up production. There are others you could look at as well, and any of them would certainly last for the duration of your project and a lot longer.

    Additionally, your concerns about the biodegradability of PLA are kind of out of proportion. While it is made from starch and it is biodegradable, it is not on a short term scale by any means, and finishing such as paint is going to prolong that considerably.

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