A mere 5–6 years ago 3D printing was a very expensive hobby. There was lots of hype around it and every nerd or curious maker enthusiast wanted one. The problem was two-fold: 3D printers were expensive, often in the thousands of dollars for an entry level model and secondly, it was ssssllllllooooooow. How slow? It would take 5–6 hours to make a 3cm x 1.5cm x 0.3cm monogram with one of my kid’s initials. In 2015 I distinctly remember (at a tech conference) a booth with 2 big, “professional” 3D printers was 3D printing stuff for people in exchange for a badge scan. It was a 5-day conference and by the end of the 5th day, they were still printing things (all small, simple shapes) requested the first day. Both of those things were a huge turn off for most people — including myself.
Fast forward to earlier this year. Out of sheer and bored curiosity I began looking into 3D printing again, as a potential creative outlet. The first thing I was pleasantly surprised about is how active, creative and helpful the surrounding community was, in particular reddit’s 3D Priting Sub. Then the next pleasant surprise is how affordable 3D printers have become, they’re officially now at the “impulse buy” price range for most people ($200–350):
- Creality Ender 3, sells for $179
- AnyCubic i3 Mega S, sells for $250 (often less if you wait for a sale)
- Prusa MINI, the most full-featured of entry level, sells for $350
After looking around for user reviews, use cases and so forth I ended up deciding for the AnyCubic i3 Mega S. It comes mostly assembled and a ton of needed accessories. I was able to put it together in about half an hour (mostly making sure repeatedly I hadn’t skipped any steps — which I’m infamous for).
At this stage it is important that we discuss safety. At a very basic level all 3D printers are micro-plastic melters. In goes a polymer filament, out goes a millimeter wide string in molten form. Many of these polymers (PLA, TPU, ABS, etc.) contain chemicals that are released in gas form (in very small quantities) in the melting process. So you need to find a place with access to good air flow or a window and keep children and pets at a distance while in use.