This year I got to go to NYC for the 3D Print Show thanks to getting a pass from Sculpteo! Had a great time and got to meet with so many interesting people. I also got the fantastic opportunity to talk with reps for all the different printer manufacturers as well as reps from all the service bureaus. Thankfully I had my prototype MiniBots on hand and was able to show them off to everyone. Whenever I would talk with them I would show off my little guys and say “Here, this is what I want to make, can your printer do it?” Most of the time the answer was a quick “Sure, no problem” but based on what they had on display I was HIGHLY skeptical. The best/most honest evaluation came not from a printer rep (not surprising), but from a Sketchup rep, Mark. ^__^ BTW, they were very happy to hear that my MiniBots were all modeled in Sketchup.
What Mark told me was that they used several different Makerbot Replicator 2s in their office and most of them had to be dialed in just right. He also said that they named all of their printers and the ones that printed reliably and without trouble were named for Autobots and those that gave them problems were named for Decepticons 😀
He hadn’t worked with the Rep3s yet but told me I was better off sticking with the service bureaus for now.
I also learned through talking with Natalia from Shapeways that the chances of us EVER getting a home Laser Sintered printer were practically ziltch. Even with the expiring patents and what not, the tech is currently huge. The printers are the size of a large refrigerator. Even if they were able to condense it down to the size of something you could put on your desk, the process of extracting and cleaning parts from the excess powder/support material takes up a lot of room and is SUPER messy. She said that is something you DON’T want in your house as powder gets everywhere. Apparently the Shapeways factory looks like everything is dusted in chalk. :/
So there goes that dream and I no longer see a point in waiting for this type of tech to show up in a home model. So I think that if I go with a home printer I’m going to try out the Replicator Mini from Makerbot. It’s not something that I think I can use for production and becoming my own distributor of toys, but I think I should be able to use it for knocking out quick prototypes of things and odd parts before sending them off to Shapeways or Sculpteo.
Speaking of Sculpteo, I think I’m going to try them out. I setup a shop AGES ago but never maintained it or ordered anything from them. They offer more colors, higher detail prints, and faster production times than Shapeways, but end up being about 20% more expensive. Still, it would be nice to get a print of theirs in hand just to see how it stacks up. Who knows, it might just be worth the extra $ for those that want the higher detail without having to go into Frosted Ultra Detail and losing out on the strength/flexibility that the Polyamide (White Strong Flexible) offers. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I took some shots from the show and I’ve uploaded them into galleries on Facebook as well as Google+ so have a look. There was much awesome to be had there ^__^
Till next time guys, be excellent to each other!