My Story, Our Story – How I (We) Got Here
THE STORY OF US…
I really like making things, but which one of us with a 3D printers doesn’t? From the first time I saw a 3D printer I wanted one, but again, which one of us Makers didn’t want a 3D printer the first time we saw one? Of course, that 3D printer was really expensive and only something one would expect to find in a University laboratory. It can probably be attributed mostly to the RepRap, but once 3D printers started making it into the hobbyist market prices started coming down to something obtainable, that’s when I starting believing I might own one some day. Again, which one of us did not go through the same thing? Alright, really at some point this story will become a story about me and not a story about us. Well, when it started to look like I could someday own a 3D printer, I started learning more about them. Okay, Okay, I know, we all did that too! J
My own story starts to become my own when I get my first 3D printer. I was visiting family in a city that has my favorite electronics store that my hometown does not, so when I had a chance I decided to check out the popular store. I found they had the XYZPrinting Da Vinci Jr. on sale for around $225. That was a pretty good price at the time. Keeping in mind that the going price for a truly good 3D printer was running about $800 to $1200. I snagged one up so fast I didn’t think much about it. I didn’t do any preliminary research about that brand or model of 3D printers and I really didn’t know enough about 3D printing and didn’t know I didn’t know enough yet to ask the right questions or make the right choices. All I saw was here’s a chance to get into 3D printing for only $225.
WHAT JUNIOR CAN’T DO
The first thing I learned about my new 3D printer was it uses proprietary plastic. Meaning I could only use the plastic sold by the manufacturer. Which of course means I’m stuck buying their plastic at twice the price of any other brand. The next thing I learned is my new 3D printer doesn’t have a heated bed. Which means I can’t use it to print with ABS plastic. Then I learned that even though the printer seems kind of big, it really has a small build volume. It isn’t capable of printing anything bigger than 5.9” x 5.9” x 5.9” (150 x 150 x 150 mm) in one print. (You can usually 3D print anything any size, if you do it in pieces.) My first conclusion was, I planned to use the Da Vinci Jr. to print the parts I could and buy the rest to build a RepRap 3D printer from scratch. I could build one that would have the ability to use ABS plastic, use any company’s plastic, has a heated bed and a bigger build volume. Even though the Junior has it’s drawbacks, I have to admit though, with all its limits, it has actually turned out to be a decent printer.
WHO IS FUNFLAG?
About a month after the purchase of the Da Vinci Jr. a friend pointed out to me that there was a daily special for a 3D printer on a popular internet shopping website. It was a Prusa type 3D printer for only $150. It fit all those things I learned I needed. It was made by some unknown Chinese company called FunFlag. Well, I jumped on the deal. After all, I couldn’t build a 3D printer from scratch for under $150. Well, it actually turned out to be a decent 3D printer. My only real complaint about it is the bed doesn’t get hot enough to be completely effective with ABS, but I have since made a few modifications, such as insulting the bed and that has helped. I did have a few other minor problems, but while they were still in business, they did compensate for those problems. It had a few bad limit switches and a bad board, but FunFlag replaced those and gave me a minor refund to compensate. FunFlag was actually pretty good about support (until they went out of business, that is.) And now I was two printer Maker. Printing and learning, learning and printing.
HOW A VIDEO CHANGED EVERYTHING
All was fine until I watch a particular video. I know a lot of people saw the same video and I’m sure many did what I did, because there was a huge boon time for the Chinese company Creality and their CR-10 3D printers. I don’t know if it was that video or the printer itself, but one or both of them sparked the 3D printing world and a lot of CR-10 printers were sold. I know, because they were everywhere. As for the video, it was produced by Simon Sörensen of the video channel RCLifeOn. In it Simon compares about a dozen 3D printers of his. He has them all print the same thing with the same settings (within reason) and the hands down winner in that video is the Creality CR-10. It does near the best job printing. It has maybe the biggest build volume of 300 x 300 x 400 mm, which is about a foot square at the base and 16” tall and all this for roughly $400. There was nothing like it for that price on the market at that time. I think the CR-10 is maybe the single best selling 3D printer to this day. It seemed like every video channel about 3D printing had their own review of the CR-10 and there were reviews on many channels that weren’t even dedicated to 3D printing. Since then there has been several copy cats printers, clones and comparable printers come on the market to compete with it, but none could possibly have the sales volumes it has had.
LARGE PRINTS, LONG TIMES AND LOTS OF PLASTIC
I’ve really enjoyed my CR-10, but I confess I haven’t yet taken advantage of the build volume yet. I’m a little afraid to try. I’m worried that a print could get 18 hours into a print a fail. One drawback to a large print is they take a long time to print, sometimes up to 20 or 30 hours or even a day or two and it would really stink to get 2/3rd of the way through a large print and have something go wrong. And what about plastic? A large print is going use a lot of plastic, which means you better make sure your 2 kg spool has enough plastic left on it to complete the print. Spools do come in larger sizes, but they’re less common. I think the best solution to worrying about running out of plastic during a print is the sensors that watch for the plastic to run out and pause the print job, let you refill the material and to continue from where it paused. I’m now a three 3D printer Maker and none of the printers has this ability built in or have been modified with it. There are aftermarket add-ons to add this ability to some printers, including the CR-10 and there are websites instructing you on how to make these modifications yourself, but I haven’t done that yet either. Also the 3D printer manufacturers are wising up and including it as a standard part of their machines.
THE GO-TO PRINTER
One last thing I’d like to add, being a three 3D printer Maker and having two of those printers having the ability to do most everything I need a 3D printer to do, I still rely heavily on the Da Vinci Jr. Its ease of use and reliability make it the GO-TO printer when I just want something done quickly. It’s practically as easy as putting the memory card in and pressing go. Of course there is a little more to it than that, but not much. I usually wipe the print bed down with a damp sponge and dry it off and if I need the object to be a different color, of course I’ve have to change spools. It’s really not much more than that.
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