As we have discussed the last couple of weeks, there are a lot of different things 3D printers can do, a lot of 3D printers out there, and a whole lot of confusion and ways to get lost. I want to just highlight some ways that you can get involved with 3D printing if you are interested and help you avoid some of the mistakes we made.
Matt Cushman and I admit that, in hindsight, we jumped before looking when we purchased our MegaPrusa in 2013. We had visions of building bigger and better things and so we went with a kit that gave us one of the largest print spaces available at the time. As a bonus, Matt and I were sure that we would be able to build the thing and learn a lot in the process. The process of building the printer was enlightening and thrilling when we fired it up for the first time. The excitement was tangible when we set everything up, loaded a model to print, and printed a small blob of unrecognizable plastic. Matt and I were unfazed. While our first print turned out to be a useless blob, we were well on our way to printing all kinds of amazing things.
This honeymoon phase eventually ended. Once we had invested a few dozen man-hours in our first 3D printer, we learned a few things: Reliability trumps size, and a self leveling bed is worth the cost for a more complex machine.
We did our research, but we didn't know the right questions to ask and had no one to help us realize what might really be important to us.
So here are some ways to get involved with printing and skip some of the learning pains we had:
• Find a local meet up group and GO. For example ArchReactor in St. Louis is a FANTASTIC group of people and love to show off the tech. Get out and see how they work.
• See if your kids school has a makerspace. The Disruption Group in St. Louis does some very interesting things with getting kids involved in tech and they have printers for the kids.
• Find someone who has a 3D printer and ask them to show it off. I guarantee that they will want to do this. Most of us are total dorks on the subject.
• Research. There are some great websites that cover printers now and they can help you learn the lingo and figure out what you might want.
• Take the plunge a buy one. You will not regret it. Having this technology in your home fascinates everyone. My son is still irritated that we took the FDM printer to the office.
• Ask us. We will gladly help when we can.
The point is that this technology is only going to become more prevalent as time goes on. Those who are intimate with the technology will not only have access to cooler toys but have a firmer understanding of how things work. And that understanding could lead to an amazing future.