Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Hardware

Most 3D printers are sold unassembled.  The casing of these printers are made of laser cut Plymouth.
The assembly process takes around 8 hours of continuous work, normally two days or more is required to print your first 3D model.   Most parts are custom made for the printer. Therefore if you break one while assembling you need to order that part again and wait for the delivery.

Quality 3D printing requires precise placement of right amount of plastic to the right point. In order to achieve this following are required:
- Perfectly round and uniform filament
- The extruder speed and the temperature adjusted according to filament type and color
- X,Y and Z axis positioning reliably exact.

The printing process takes several hours if the quality is set to highest. The reason for this is more layers are required for fine details and for better positioning and better filament extrusion X,Y axis speeds are lowered. (You need to print more layers at a lower speed)

The printers do not have a well-established calibration and positioning systems. Therefore if something goes wrong even for a short duration, the system cannot correct it afterwards and the rest of the printing would be spoiled.
A feedback system should be developed for the printer to improve the quality. I will thing more about on this after I get my printer and start printing with it.

Long operating hours would loosen screws for X,Y axis motor mounts. This results in improper belt tension and therefore not exact X,Y positioning.
A rigid printer chases would be more suitable for such printers. Therefore I am preferring MakerGear’s M2 over others.

The short comings of 3D Printers:
1. Frequent calibration and maintenance requirement (Calibration: Positioning, extrusion speed; Maintenance: Oiling of gears, belt tension control)
2. Slow print speed  (Even with the fastest printer on the market it takes several hours to print a high quality print.)
3. Unpredictable print quality (The print quality depends on so many factors that, it is almost impossible to have a high quality output. The lack of a proper feedback system is the main shortcoming.  Additionally long print time increases the deformations on the plastic as a result of contraction of plastic due to heat differences between layers.)
4. Post processing requirement  (Some printers have serious stringing problem (Ultimaker), that requires careful cleaning of extra plastic coming out.  The removal of the support material.)
5. The operating noise of the printer (You can hardly stand that noise for hours. Therefore you cannot have it in your living room or your bedroom.  That’s a problem for those who do not have a garage or a study room)