Editor's Note: One of the hottest phenomena today is the "Maker Movement," driven by people who have discovered very inexpensive kits to make printers that create three-dimensional objects out of plastic. This is the social media revolution in physical form. You create a digital file of something to make, feed the information to the printer, and bang! -- you're a digital artist or a small manufacturer. More than 95,000 people swarmed to the Maker Faire in San Mateo, Calif. in May. In this guest blog, we introduce our additive manufacturing maven, Todd Grimm, who is buying a 3D printer and sharing his thoughts with Design News readers. If you have any interest in trying out a 3D printer, read Todd's blog first. He'll help you avoid the pitfalls.
Over the next few months, I am going to experience the thrill of being a so-called "maker". I am going to see, firsthand, what it takes to buy, build, and operate a 3D printer. When it is up and running, I will start making parts to see what is possible, how easy the process is, and what I can make.
Along the way, I hope to get a feel for what has so many people so passionate about do-it-yourself 3D printing. Right now, I can't relate. Maybe I am too lazy to be bothered making my own stuff, maybe I don't have the creativity or spark of innovation, or maybe I am representative of the majority of the world. No matter. I am on a journey of discovery, so it doesn't matter what I witness, experience, or learn. The journey is the goal.
I have opted to buy and build a Bits from Bytes (BFB) RapMan 3.1 3D printer. There are other options, but I choose this one because of my familiarity with 3D Systems, which bought Bits from Bytes back in 2010. I placed my order last week and expect to receive my RapMan by the end of the month. Can't wait to get started.
After I have dialed in the machine and honed my building skills, I will put the RapMan through my benchmark testing procedures (you can download a copy of the latest benchmark). If all goes well, I should have my results published in September. The info will include lots of data: time to build parts, actual cost, overall accuracy, finish/details, and strength/durability.
If you want to follow along, stayed tuned to this blog. I will be posting my experiences on a regular basis. If you want to participate, please post your comments and opinions to keep me honest. I may open up the floodgates for building readers' parts, so forward any STL files you have that you would like to see made. I can't promise that I will build all files I receive, but I hope to try at least a few.
Wish me luck!