First CHOICE 3D Printer

This year FIRST Choice has 2 models of 3D printer (50 units total & U.S. only). It seems like most teams will just put this as their priority one item, hoping they are top 50 in the randomizer.

USD retail 35,000 or 45,000
https://firstchoicebyandymark.com/fc-sa-5050

Will your priority one FIRST Choice item be the 3D printer?
  • Yes
  • No

0 voters

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I said no, but then again, I’m a little biased considering I’m not in the US…

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I am saying no because of what I saw on the First Choice thread.

-It only uses their proprietary fillament that is expensive but durable (and possibly less environmentally friendly?)

-It may require a maintenace program to keep running smoothly.

Also, it requires a deadicated circuit which we cannot get and some space that we do not have.

In addition, we have a few other considerations.

We have access to a 3d printer that while not perfect could get us what we need in a pinch.

There are some other incredible options that we may be able to afford which will probably treat us better for the near (and possibly far) future.

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We have this in our 2022 FIRST Choice recommendations., we won’t have the printer(s) on our priority list.

“Do not put the Stratasys printer on your priority list, unless you are 100% sure you know how to use it and understand the costs involved. These printers, Stratasys Fortus 250mc OR Stratasys Dimension 1200es, are not like ordinary hobby-grade 3D printers (like a Prusa or Ender). They require proprietary filament (~$150+ per roll) and build trays (~$150 per 10) which makes the cost of using these machines significant compared to other 3D printer options. At 355 credits most teams will get more usable value from the other FIRST choice parts.”

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I’m with Mr. R_2 on this. We’re not putting it on our priority list because, even though it is a lot of money (if you’re one of the few, the lucky) the machines themselves just present too many problems for our team. One cartridge for these things costs more than our entire 3D printer did, and you can’t avoid that ongoing cost if you’re actually going to use it. Add to that the reliability issues that I see associated with them and the other requirements, and we’ll just wait to get a high-end 3D printer for when we can afford a Markforged.

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I recommended against it. My team went for it. My opinion is if we receive 1, Ebay it for what ever we can get for it.
Though I could with some effort make it a generic machine. Is it worth my time and effort?
Now Makerbot is owned by Stratasys and a Makerbot Method Carbon edition would have been a nice donation.

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same problems, different sticker.

I honestly expected them to be donating the Gen5 machines. Ya know, the ones with a hot swappable extruder; they kind of make you think why that’s necessary until you run your first print…

The educational 3D printer scene is just so depressing without a US distributor for Prusa.

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The Markforged filament costs as much, if not more for several continuous fibers that they offer. This machines costs a whole lot more than a Markforged Onyx, yet, you have the opportunity to get it for free.
Different strokes for different folks.
At least there are other FIRST choice options for teams not interested in this.

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My team prioritized it for purposes of selling. I don’t see these printers being a hot market on eBay. If you’re in the same boat, I would consider reaching out to makerspaces around you and try to arrange a sale. Saves on shipping as well, local pickup could be an option.

We had the Dimension for over 10 years before we replaced it. Reliability was awesome. The only downside was the material cost.

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The filament cost is pretty off-putting.

Since you folks had it I’m genuinely curious - If teams had a way to overcome the filament cost (say, infinite $$$, or a really awesome materials sponsor) - Would you say the machine is a big step better than other options on the market you have experience with?

I still have a Dimension printer in my classroom, it is an appliance not a hobby printer. Zero concerns leaving it printing overnight and only a handful of failures in the 8 years I’ve used it. With that said, I am currently running two Ender 3 Pro and not using the Dimension unit. I’ve only done maintenance myself on it and never had a representative from Stratasys come out to service the machine.

For filament I used material from Argyle Materials for a few years before I stopped using the machine. Soluble supports sound nice until you need to keep chemicals in a carpeted classroom and trust all the high school students around them. This allowed for breakaway supports as well as cheaper materials. However, with age reliability started to tank so we went to multiple small printers.

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Same team as @Ian_McTavish here. Firstly our school board bought it before our robotics team was founded. My experience was it gave great print quality without having to fiddle with settings but that is because it used their own filament and an enclosure so the print settings were preset. The printer was for another class but the robotics team ended up taking over that stuff. We bought our own material though we didn’t have much budget for that and we would reserve it for important robot components. If I remember it was almost $350 Canadian a spool. Since then the school board had another funding round and we now have a Markforged and a fusion 3 printer. Also consider floor space. It is a large machine and floor standing so it needs its own spot.

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Our tech center’s STEM class uses Stratasys of similar vintage already so this is a logical pick for us.

I would NOT recommend it for anyone else unless they are already bought into the Stratasys ecosystem.

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It’ll go at the top of our list, simply because unless you’re a rookie team (or a lower-budget team) there isn’t really anything else that’s particularly useful on FIRST Choice this year. Obviously we have some fall-back items (Hex Collars, NEO550s, etc), but nothing we particularly need.

Now granted, as others pointed out, we do have a building we can run a dedicated circuit, and are already used to the cost of expensive printer materials (Markforged), so, effectively for us, this is just an opportunity to get another, really big, Markforged printer for free, which would allow us to print more high-quality parts simultaneously.

Definitely not for everyone, but the rest of FIRST Choice isn’t exactly that appealing if you have the means to support a printer like these anyways.

Unless you’re picking it up to sell right away. I find 20 rolls of electrical tape to be more useful. Good printer, but will nickel and dime you

8-12 years ago I had the privilege to work with their Dimension series printer (very similar to the Fortis) and it worked great. So it too would jam a few times after long service but we were pretty happy with it and the jams weren’t that difficult to fix. But at the time, printers were relatively new and the hobby printers then couldn’t even compare to today.

So yeah (at the time), it was no big deal for our company to spend $150/roll of filament which now can be had for $20 (on the open market, not the Fortis)
We also at the time didn’t have an issue spending $2,400 on the support material cleaning station that no one has mentioned yet…

We got our 20 rolls of electrical tape from the lackluster FIRST Choice last year (no joke), we don’t need anymore.

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I run a 3D print job shop on a university campus. We have a Fortus 250mc and have previously had Dimension printers. Similar printers we currently also have are the F170 and F370. My staff and I have put roughly 8000 print hours on the printer in my 3.5 years of being on staff. The maintenance we’ve had done (all on service contract):

  • Enclosure fan replacement
  • New tips/nozzles every 4000ish hours
  • Belts replacement

In my opinion, if you’re looking for a machine you don’t have to think or worry about, the Stratasys machines are the best bet for that. Especially with soluble support material (and good soluble support, unlike the PVA attempts the consumer FDM/FFF market has tried), it makes 3D printing “good enough” parts possible without any real design for 3D printing thinking. I feel substantially more confident starting 20, 30, 40+ hour prints on the Stratasys machines than I do with any other printer.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for strength, print quality, speed, material flexibility, low operating price, etc, there are other printers that will better suit your needs.

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16 posts were split to a new topic: How far should FRC teams take pedagogy

Don’t forget Round 2.

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