I bought a Velleman K8200 ($750) essentially on "impulse", as
I have access to a StrataSys 3D printer at work and so it might
Guess what? I LOVE IT! Sure, there is no reason why I couldn't
make this or that by hand-carving it out of a solid block of acrylic,
or wait till Monday morning to run the parts on the StrataSys at work,
but now I can drop into OpenSCAD (or my wife can drop into Blender),
design the thing, hit "print", and then cook dinner while the machine
does the drudge work. A few minutes of hand clean-up later (mostly
reaming holes if we want snug fits) and the part is done- or more
likely, we decide we want to change it. Some parts go through
three or four iterations before we decide it's perfect. That's the
seductive part of 3D printing - the cost of a prototype approaches
I'm probably $1200 into this by now (filament goes typically for
$40 a kilogram, and some of the stuff like the extrudable rubber
and the water-clear, FDA-approved PET is almost twice that), but
darn it, this is fun!
Sure, you can spend a lot of bucks on the toolchain but you
absolutely don't have to spend anything at all. (Solidworks $8000?
Got it at work. Don't need it; OpenSCAD and Blender and FreeCAD
are adequate for me, and free for the download).
Yeah, my wife has dreams of making gee-gaws and knick-nacks to
sell at her conventions, but I'm happy to spin out replacement ladders
for my son's toy fire engine and custom rail crossings for his railroad, and
"companion cubes" and little unicorns for my daughters.... as well
as the occasional screen door handle, refrigerator shelf holder,
cellphone mount, consumer electronics case / case replacement,
Note- there's no "driver issue" - with rare exception, all cheap
3D printers all talk G-code via RS-232 or USB-TTY at 250,000
baud (yeah, nonstandard baud rate because most 3D printers are
based on Arduino cores, and that's one baud rate that has essentially
zero error due to CPU clock speed). The printer control "front panel"
is a big Python script (several options are there; Repetier-host and
Pronterface both are nice); the slicer that turns STL models into
G-code is open-source (I use Slic3r at home and Cura at work).
It's a big, big win. Really. I can sit down with one of my kids and
make something they want and have the printer spit it out while
we read a book or watch a show. Maybe every home doesn't
need one, but I'd rate it right next to "belt sander" in the home arsenal.