I have been using 3D printers for nearly a decade now. To be honest, I started out in 3D printing as a way to make things when I had no machining capability and not a lot of money to outsource that machining until I knew the design was perfect. In fact, I even wrote a blog post about things to consider before printing, machining or molding.
In the years since our machining capabilities grew and 3D printing was used a little less, but we still found all kinds of ways to utilize the printer. Some of our lower volume products even use 3D printed parts – who doesn’t love a 3D print, even in 2022? As the year draws to a close, we decided it was time to invest in a new 3D printer though.
Why spend money on a new printer when we already have one that runs fine? The LulzBot TAZ has served us well printing thousands and thousands of hours of parts for internal use, customers, and a few home projects. Well, we all know that technology is always advancing and progressing, but we hadn’t really done much other than upgrade our old printer every now and then. Finally, LulzBot told us that this was as far as we could take our trusty old TAZ printer around 2019. The printer was printing great, but still was going to be limited by the state of the hardware used when it was designed back in around 2012.
We really didn’t pay as much attention to new plastics as I wish we had. Some of the newer printer plastics that were nearly impossible to print 10 years ago (polycarbonate, PETG, HIPS, and more) are now not only possible, but even nearly routine. These plastics let some of our 3D printed prototypes become the final part! This saves us time, you money, and lets us even more rapidly evolve your design. I tried printing some PETG on the TAZ – it didn’t go very well. The printer just wasn’t designed for such a high temperature filament and not being enclosed meant any air drafts in the room (of which there are many) almost guaranteed a failed print.
New 3D Printer Designs
The mechanics of 3D printers are basically the same – a 3 axis robot – but the parts are now much better. Quieter and higher resolution drives, years of experience with failure points of motion systems, and the economies of scale have brought the printer hardware to the next level. In fact, when choosing a new printer, one of the “must haves” we dual print heads. That’s something we couldn’t have dreamed of in a pro-sumer level printer a decade ago.
Which 3D Printer We Bought
We bought a FlashForge Creator 3 Pro. It wasn’t in the over $10k range that things like the MarkForged are (and we don’t do enough to justify something like that really), but over the typical $1k upper end consumer level printer. The biggest things were checking the boxes of ability to print newer materials, being fully enclosed, having case air filtration, and dual extruders. In fact, the extruders and independent so we can either print two materials or two parts at the same time! The printer also has a built in camera and a few other things that we could do through OctoPrint, but less directly. While the printer certainly isn’t perfect, it was the best decision for us.
So what’s the verdict on the new tool? Well, we will let you know soon. We’re still getting to know this machine and want to get some miles on it before giving it a more thorough review. So far we’ve done the basic test prints in PLA and are about to venture out into the more exotic materials. In the mean-time be sure to watch the video of the setup and keep those projects rolling in! In fact, given the increase in our 3D print capacity and capability we’re able to offer very competitive pricing and rapid turn times on design, print, and manufacturing services. Let us know how we can help make your idea.