3D Printing in 2023
** New 3D Printer Day **
I’m now on my third 3d printer. Each one has been a massive step forward. This one however, has also been different. Are we at the Early Majority phase? This latest one has me rethinking what 3d Printers are about and how we use them.
My first 3d printer was a fun project. It came at a time when I wanted to tinker with something. I needed to use my hands to assemble something physical (and my obsession with Lego had not yet begun). And so in 2014 I bought a PrintrBot Simple Metal and spent a very enjoyable weekend assembling it from bare stepper motors, screws and locktite. I had it for about two years when I sold it to someone who’s teenager was getting into 3d printing. It never was more than an engineering challenge for me, printing trinkets in PLA. It took a LOT of effort to get anything to work, and to be honest, I somewhat lost interest after the 10th time of starting over to just get a test print out. The effort:reward balance was not there.
After a little hiatus (kids will cause those frequently) I dove into an Ender 5 in 2020. This was miles ahead of the Printrbot, with a well built out community. Lots more people means lots more mods, and everyone knows the most popular thing you print are mods for your 3d printer. I took that about as far as I wanted to, with Octopi running it locally, BLTouch for bed leveling and upgraded hot ends. However, once again it required tinkering and fettling to get it to print well. And by well, we’re still talking small parts. I’d never attempt anything of the whole bed, or too tall, for fear that it would fall over. I could have gone further: Linear rails are in my Amazon Lists, PEI beds, better fans. But it’s still very “engineery”.
With some recent life-events I’ve realized that you should take advantage of the time you have, and so I stepped up to buy a Bambulabs X1 Carbon kit with the AMS multi-material add-on. This is full light years ahead of anything I’ve used, and also completely plug and play in comparison. Prints are 8-10x faster, confidence in things going right are 10x too, you just take your model, slice, and print. No bed levelling crap to worry about, no brims or skirts for small things to make sure the print sticks, it’s been a transformation in how I think about printing. Add on top the multi-colors and I’ve just stamped out 50 tri-color “physical phonetool icons”. These trinkets are for a team I work with to commemorate an upcoming launch, and I imagined them on a Friday, and by Sunday afternoon I have enough to hand out to everyone on the team. Have I said game-changing enough? With confidence and speeds so high, my family are bound to continue hearing the whirring away that’s basically not stopped since I received the box.
This leads me to the reason for this blog post… and I do apologize for the manifesto. In ~10 short years we’ve gone from Innovators (Printrbot), to Early Adopters (Ender), and this feels like Early Majority (Bambulabs). I’m not sure what’s next, and it’ll be a few more years, but if this is the sign of today… I can’t wait for tomorrow. Add on to that the lack of tinkering, and maintenance, and upgrades with the X1… I may already be ready to move on. It’s less of the engineering challenge that I wanted to tinker with with my PrintrBot, and more of an appliance. Maybe the act of 3d printing is now more about the objects than the marvels that make them? I’m an engineer at heart, and not an artist… it might be time to find something else to poke at. If you know of a new life-changing tool that requires a bit of thought and an engineering degree to get going… let me know?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to find some more challenging things to print… did anyone say 10inch Stormtrooper army?
PS. No, this is not a start of a new thing. Twice in a day is just a test. I’ll promptly forget how to do this again and come back in 2 more years.