Adventures in 3D printing

Posted by John on Apr 18, 2013

While I love Maker Culture, I generally self-identify more as a kind of 1950s “Popular Mechanics” old-school hobbyist. You know the kind: lathe and mini-mill in the basement, welder in the garage, and random woodworking and electrical equipment scattered all over the house. So I have been struggling for the last few years with whether or not to invest in a 3D printer. They have always seemed pretty pricy, and I was never sure how much use I would get out of one. On the other hand, there is no question of the raw cool involved in being able to print off plastic widgets with ease, and perhaps even get involved in a little lost-PLA casting. When we started carrying the Printrbot Jr. I finally broke down.

Sure, the build-volume of 4”x 4”x 4” doesn’t stack up to something like the RepRap Mendel, but the cost was low enough that I could justify it to myself, and if I do find the need for something larger, it has the ability to print out nearly all the parts I would need to upgrade.

I got the unassembled version, because, as far as I am concerned putting it together is part of the fun. To my initial surprise, it does not come with any instructions in the box, but the Printrbot website has far better instructions online than you could ever expect to come printed, plus a full build-video, so putting it together was a snap. In all it took me about three-hours at a “Slow and comfortable” pace, so I probably could have done it in half that if I really put my mind to it.

After a weekend of tinkering, it already has a new (printed) extruder-gear set, and a glass print-bed upgrade (Details will be forthcoming) I have made a GoPro camera mount to send a camera up a kite-string for low-cost/high-altitude photography, and I have generally been falling behind on my other hobbies.  A total win so far.  I'll keep people updated.

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