Buying good 3D Printer?

We are looking for a good 3D printer to play with in the “off-season” so we could possibly see if using it in 2015 would be a possibility. We don’t have an outrageous amount of money so please keep that in mind. I do want one that makes pretty strong parts considering what it is made out of. I know I say some teams using hubs and such made with them and they worked well. Any ideas guys?

Why not a small lathe or mill (unless you already have one)?

We already have a lathe/mill combo. We would love a CNC plasma or something similar but do not have the money for that.

Depends on what you mean by good…

I have a Dimension BST, which is very old, but I can say for sure that the Dimension is a solid machine. We made our corner pieces for our frame out of 3-D printed material and the axle mounts. We were successful with both. I don’t have access to my work computer today with the models of our corner pieces or the axle mounts, but I can get them to you later if interested. They were both designed to be attached specifically to 20 mm 80/20 extrustion (they held up to a pushing match with you guys in the eliminations at Lansing until we tripped our main breaker - that’s what we get for using 4 Cim’s and 4 mini-Cim’s on the drivetrain).

The new Dimension Machines run about $15,000 and they are said to have material that is 25% stronger. But that always depends on how you use it. Loading is everything! Edit: (oh yeah the $15,000 probably fits into the too expensive category) Edit end.

We also have two Makerbots. Be ready to tinker with the Makerbots, they are good machines, but there is downtime associated with them and expect it to be a good learning experience.

I have just placed an order from multiple vendors for about $1200 in total of parts and should be able to make a MendelMax v1.5 with that. I will be assembling one over the summer and next year in my class we will be assembling a second one. I’m sure there will be a learning curve to it, but if you can build one, we will know the in’s and out’s of 3-D printing and that is the goal I have for my students. It should look something like this when done:

Also, check out Michigan Tech’s website and the Square One Education Network. They have a program for teachers where they can go to Michigan Tech this summer and build a Delta Style 3-D printer. I believe they are booked. I was hoping to get a grant to put on another program such as that in Jackson, but I don’t think the money is going to go through. For about $13,000 Square One Education Network will supply the parts and the expertise to set up another training and have 10 printers built in 3 days…

Here’s the link to the Square One Education Network Professional Development

Let me know if you have any other questions… And good luck next week!

I was looking at the Makerbot replicator 2x…I don’t have really any knowledge beside self research. I know for a fact we probably have 4,000 to work with.

We have a Makerbot Replicator 2. The biggest problem I am seeing is that that “extruder” is too close to the nozzle and the material melts inside the “extruder”. Then the print stops.

So here’s a more detailed explanation. Basically you start with filament that is a solid, push it with an “extruder” and it goes through a heated nozzle that melts the material to “lay” it on the bed. The “extruder” is not a screw, it is a wheel that turns and pushes the filament to the nozzle. The extruder though is connected directly to the nozzle which has the heating element. Once the heat transfers to the extruder from the nozzle, the filament starts to melt in the extruder and then it is essentially pushing a liquid. Now I’m sure it can be fixed, but that’s where we are with it and I’m letting my students adjust the temperature to find a good balance.

Most of the homemade solutions pull the extruder away from the heating element…

Would these problems be fixed on the new 5th gen version?

We have a Replicator 2, and have not experienced any problems like this. For us, the machine has been pretty much draw and print. We have tons of parts on our competition bot that were made by the printer - and honestly, it revolutionized our build this year.

In the interest of full disclosure, the machine is down right now waiting for parts from Makerbot. We took it with us to the DC Regional, and it would not operate when we arrived and set it up. Makerbot support has been fairly responsive, has sent one part along with installation instructions, and is currently sending a new motherboard.

I do have to agree on the responsiveness of Makerbot. They have been absolutely spectacular every time I’ve called. No questions asked, they ship what you need at no cost.

If you want an idea of what is available for the “hobby” market I suggest picking up a copy of the Ultimate Guide to 3D printing.

It’s already a bit outdated since a new printer seems to pop up every other day.

Also as already mentioned I would recommend one of the newest Makerbot machines. They seem to have the easiest to use machine and probably the best support.

There are other options, but it all comes down to cost and how much tinkering you actually want to do to get a useful print.

Second what badbrad said above.
Also, go check out the reviews and problems reported in the forums on

While the plug and play nature of Makerbots and some of the other off the shelf printers is attractive, for learning, experimenting and being able to modify things I like the RepRaps.

As someone above said the MendalMax is a solid DIY printer.

There are several very good Prusa I3 kits out there that are a bit cheaper.

To keep cost lowest go with a Prusa I2 kit.

A while back I posted a presentation I gave on 3D printing at a local FRC workshop. If you can’t find the thread on CD PM me and I will send it to you direct.

The short story is:

  1. Invest in a heated bed.
  2. If you want to do stronger materials than ABS(e.g. nylon) invest in an all metal hotend. However, not all allmetal hotends are equal so read the reviews.

I have to disagree. I have extensive experience with the MakerBot replicator 2 at Georgia Tech, as I managed the printer for the specific division. There was nothing but problems. We had to call them several times, and it was the worst support experience ever. I also now manage a Dimension 1200es SST. The printer is fantastic if you maintain it properly, but if you don’t, you will have a lot of problems. I would recommend trying out the Form1 from Formlabs. I found the quality from the part compared to the makerbot and dimension was better, as it uses resins instead. The detail on the model is incredible, and there are less issues then with extrusion based printers.

I don’t have a 3D printer, but from what I’ve read, try to stay away from any printers that require you to buy special cartridges because right now filament is fairly cheap depending on which kind you use, but cartridges basically allow the company to control what you pay because the printer you have won’t work without their cartridges. here is a good website that has various printers and their costs,

The Form1 looks like a nice machine and even has some FIRST Alumni behind it, but the output may not be suitable for some robot parts where strength is important.

The material seems to have a lower tensile and impact rating than ABS. It also has a much lower temperature range. I’m sure the machine can output many parts suitable for robot use, but I think it would have more limitations in the areas that you can use printed parts.

It definitely looks easy to use and should be pretty reliable with few moving parts. Also they seem to take months to aquire, but that may not be a problem.
As with all machines maintenance is key and FDM/FFM machines especially low end need lots of care.

Quality/resolution of printed parts isn’t everything. High resolution prints are awesome, but high resolution doesn’t equal better. Ronnie is looking mainly for part strength.

As previously suggested I recommend Ronnie picking up the MAKE guide so he can review several options.

I believe the new gen Makerbots will be much better machines, but that is to be seen since they are so new.

I think the biggest factors anyone needs to review to determine what best suits there needs prior to purchasing:

Printer build quality.
Software interface ease of use.
Material options, properties, cost
Build volume.
Print resolution/accuracy

Typed while on my 15 hour drive to STL. (No I’m not driving.)

Does anyone have any experience with the Ultimaker?
It looks to me like a middle ground between the plug-and-play and the DIY. The ability to buy a kit or assembled unit, as well as the availability of modular addons, looks like it would be great for a variety of educational purposes.

I would suggest buying a Taz 3 from Lulzbot ( We also use a flashforge creator, but since acquiring the Taz, we have heavily used that printer. The printer has an enormous build volume of 11.7" x 10.8" x 9.8" and only costs $2000. The printer is designed to print all of the new filaments coming on the market, and the most fun has been the flexible filament, NinjaFlex. If you are going to be at the championship, swing by our pit in Archimedes and check out the printer and the things we have printed with the different types of filament. If you are not at the championship, I can email you more information and get you in touch with the company.

*disclaimer: Lulzbot is one of our new sponsors.

Our Engineering class is also looking for a 3D printer. We got a $3500 grant for it and we’re thinking about one with dual extruders (for dissolvable support material).

The Replicator 2x was the obvious first thing to look at but its been the only one in that price range I found that I’ve ever heard of before. Anyone know of any other good dual extrusion 3D printers (maybe with a bigger build space that the Makerbot)?

The Taz 3 does not have a dual head extruder available commercially… right now. We will have the dual head extruder at St. Louis, or if you won’t be there but want a sample print, just email me at And as for the build volume, the Taz is massive. Once our bus gets to St. Louis, I will post some pictures of the printer set up in our pit.

There is a 3d printing addict on YouTube who goes by Barnacules Nerdgasm. he uses the Ultimaker 1 and 2 along with a robo 3d printer and provides a lot of helpful tips and examples of 3d printing from the perspective of a tech savvy person without a profession in 3d printing.

These are wristbands printed out of flexible filament. This illustrates the xy size of the build volume. Each wristband is about 2-5/8" in diameter.