Why Did We Build Our Own Printer?
When we first started building our own 3D printer, there were already a fair number of 3D printers in the market, including many good ones that had already been supported by Kickstarter campaigns. Yet, when we needed a 3D printer for rapid prototyping a rocket engine and for building large format cameras and were all set to buy one, we discovered that our needs fell squarely into a gap in the market.
Let's backtrack a moment. Why did we want to own our own 3D printer? There were services (and still are) that would have printed large objects for people with needs like ours. Why not use their services?
We looked into doing just this. And what we discovered was that while this was true -- 3D service printing companies could have printed the prototypes for us -- it was expensive both in dollars and in time.
For a moment, join us on our journey as we looked into this option.
We send the one foot prototype out to be printed in metal. The cost is about $2,500 and when we get it delivered to us two weeks later, it looks fantastic. But, because it was a prototype, we have changes to make. So we change the rendering and send it out again to be printed. We wait a couple of weeks to receive it, pay another $2,500 dollars and again, it looks wonderful, and it helps us see that we need to make a few more changes. We send it out again, and $2,500 and two weeks later, we get another beautiful prototype back, and once again, we make a few more changes, and send it out again.... and again... and again...
Get the picture?
To have to wait weeks for every change, took away a large part of the purpose and practicality of rapid prototyping. Then, to have to pay dearly for every change, removed the possibility of this option. We simply couldn't afford it.
We needed another option. We needed to eliminate the waste of time and money to make rapid prototyping truly "rapid" prototyping and as affordable as possible.
The 3D Printer's Requirements:
Once we made the decision to build a 3D printer for ourselves, we came up with a list of requirements:
- We wanted to print with a wide range of materials, so we wanted four independent filament extruders -- quick to mount, adjust, and upgrade.
- We needed a powerful 3D printing motion platform...
- to handle the printer's large build volume, up to 24" x 24" x 24"
- to be able to maintain precision
- to house four independent filament extruders -- each with its own temperature control, and
- to be able survive high thermal stress, for a wide variety of materials.
- We wanted modularity, for easy maintenance and upgradability to give us a machine that was going to last through rapidly changing technology
- Our last requirement was driven by the size of our workspace. We wanted the printer to take up less space when not in use, be easy to transport, and be quick and easy to set up.
Why We Decided To Turn The Printer Into A Product.
We started this over 3-1/2 years ago as a project to build a 3D printer for ourselves, and along the way we began to understand the profound changes a 3D printer like ours could have on how people make things. Our research showed that we weren't the only ones searching for this. Engineers, makers, foodies, designers, educators, prop and model makers, museum display builders, artists, and architects all wanted to be able to use a machine with these capabilities. We built 3Dmonstr to be able to build our dream, and we hope it will help you build your dreams too.