DSC08769I have had some time to think about several blog articles I recently read about desktop 3D printing. They were about the time and effort (and money) we and the machine manufacturers invest for the results obtained at the hobbyist class machine cost level.

Example, an original project promoted for hobbyist. REPRAP. A desktop machine that can build itself. Really? No… a few plastic pieces of dubious quality, Yes. It helped kick start the hobby interest. It is not the best printer design.

Two products, one made with hobby level desktop 3D printing and the other with professional injection molded parts. I know what I would purchase. A friend and I both looked at recently designed (large) kit DIY printed parts 3D machine. The non-printed components (~$700) were an excellent choice. The self-printed (plastic) parts could make the complete printer a very bad investment.

The elephant in the room is 3D desktop printing as a hobbyist uses it, cannot deliver equivalent consistent output of conventional subtractive manufacturing, injection molding, or profession additive manufacturing. We may pretend it does. I can produce a facsimile of these items. Professional quality production 3D printers are not small desktop sized machines.

I ventured into resin (DLP) 3D printed, Lost Wax Casting models. I used a Wanhoa D7 Replicator. (lead picture) I had some success. But overall, factors beyond the actual printing proved wax is still the most consistent and cost effective method for a hobbyist doing lost wax casting. Making jewelry on a hobbyist 3D printing machine is possible but not practical.

Prototype modeling is a desktop machine's strong suit. Scale model, low volume, specialty, static display components. 

What still scares me is some hobbyist using “carbon fiber” PLA and printing propellers for his drone or R/C aircraft engine with his $400 desktop hobby machine. Propeller failure at 20.000 rpm is lethal.

One guy writing about his Moai SLA printer, pretty much summed up what he has. (and all hobbyist have.) A tinkerer’s delight. A good first step in understanding the POTENTIAL of 3D additive manufacturing. The hobbyist grade hardware is basically a toy. A dental lab will not or should not be using a D7 or a Moai.

Technology junkies like myself are attracted to the 3D process and what we and a 3D printer can produce. We invest in our love of things technical and the low-cost desktop printer makes it possible, but so far it is mostly a hobby stuck in “demonstration mode” for me. 

I like what I can do… not knocking my interest. Mostly making unnecessary plastic JUNQUE like 50+ plastic owls...

The kid who prints a dog cart, for the pup with no back legs, has not created anything new. The fact it was 3D printed doesn’t make it a better product. What it does show IMHO, is that this 3D print technology is getting these kids (and adults) into tangible, hands on making of things. The story gets press coverage because of the use of the “new” 3D print technology.

If hobbyist desktop 3D printing is anything, it is an enabler for tangible creative effort. It’s the new (toy maker) kid on the block. In an age where home machine shops are extremely rare, it brings affordable manufacturing onto a desktop in a home or a school. That’s what is good about 3D printing as a hobbyist.

What’s actually being printed is not necessarily the best way to make things, but it is a very satisfactory way to see designs come into tangible existance.