My Thoughts on 3D Printing

Hobbyist 3D printing has never made sense to me as a design engineer.  The applications always seemed limited to printing useless trinkets.  At best you could maybe print an interesting piece of geometric art.  Arguments for “functional prints” always involved a large investment of time for a small payoff.  I don’t want to take an hour to model and print a 5 cent knob.

The technology seemed limited as well.  The prints were low resolution.  Small build volumes limited prints to the desktop trinket size.  FDM printing can have issues with distortion or warping.

My mind has recently started to change.  I have been aware of the DLP SLA printers such as the Form but I was surprised by the price and capability of the AnyCubic Photon.  Although limited in build volume I can appreciate the print quality and resolution.

Inexpensive high resolution printing got my gears turning.  I could build parts that could hold tolerances that would be workable in assemblies. I could build homogeneous parts with an attractive finish.  I could flex some design muscles and build some extremely complex parts that would be impossible for traditional fabrication methods.  I saw a path for some novel design work that I haven’t seen anywhere else online.

Although I would be handcuffed by the build volume I very quickly came up with a mental list of interesting projects. I found my own use case for 3D printing that didn’t fit the traditional mold.

One of the final ideas that clicked was the ease of creating parts.  As an apartment dweller I don’t have a large shop to build or tinker in. I certainly don’t have a garage with a modest machine shop. 3D printing offers an inexpensive and low resistance path to creating and making new parts.  My day job has me working with a variety of machine shops to quote and order parts.  There is a very real cost and time investment to making the parts that I am familiar with.

3D printing offers almost the same experience in a convenient and inexpensive method.  Parts will certainly be made a material that has greatly diminished strength but this can be addressed.  Compromises will have to be made by the upside is worth it.

I’m excited about the opportunities and I’m looking into a few different projects.  I plan to cover a variety of projects and investigation in the near future.