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3D Printing 2 Years In

If I am being honest, I was close to quitting. I also am close to quitting this post as I wrote it once and lost it all :)

I got up to speed pretty quickly and soon outgrew my Ender v3. I opted for a larger Creality printer that turns out to be pretty solid. I was able to run both printers off of a single Raspberry Pi running Klipper and included useful features like live web cams and a wireless connection to transfer and kick of prints.

Before I knew it I had a mini-print farm in a ventilated basement room and things were looking good until... I started tinkering with the printers more than actually printing useful prints. I never signed up to be a great 3D printer. Good would be fine as I wanted this mainly for prototyping and gettings ideas out of my brain and into some material.

As great as the Creality Ender printers are for beginners as they have availability (if you live near a Micro Center) and an affordable price, I found myself striving for more than they could offer. Running back and forth to the basement every 10 mintues after resetting a print due to bed adhesion or just being able to ever get the print bed to level didn't help.

In looking at my options I finally decided to pull the trigger on a Bambu Lab X1C.

The Bambu Lab Effect

The X1C came out around the time I started getting into printers but I had already talked myself out of the Snapmaker 3-in-1 as it was just too pricy but looking back, if I had gone straight to this I would have been further along in my functional design journey.

At $999, the X1C is a prosumer level Core XY printer that eats almost everyone elses lunch. Its faster, more reliable, and a robust supply chain for parts (some countries seem to have trouble getting supplies or filament but stock in the USA has been solid.)

Their slicer is a fork of Prusaslicer (the slicer I started using with my Creality farm) so it was an easy transition. Everything is more detailed and organized than Cura and I think has better documentation than most.

Bambulab has also gone out of their way to write thorough FAQs and How-To's on their printers (fingers crossed as they add more to their hardware lines they don't lose sight of this as one of the complains from customers is poor customer service -- I've had zero issues requiring their service so I can't comment from experience.)

After printing my first 15 minute benchy I could see the light (also could see how deadly robots of the future could be! *nervous laughter*)

In addition to the blazing speeds, Bambu Lab also introduced a multi filament select system (AMS) which allows you to use different materials (useful for support interface layers), print in multiple colors, or even load it up with extra spools of the same fillament when theres a risk you might run out as the system will pick the next compatible spool in that situation.

Adding this printer has enabled me to prototype faster and actually see successes with the printer. Its not to say that I didn't have successful prints with Creality's -- in fact a lot of the stuff I am most proud of for its utility came from my Ender 3 and I was able design and replace some parts to my nephew's Paw Patrol Playset that he still uses to this day. This printer simply turbo charged my productivity.

3D Scanning

Another amazing tool for 3D design is 3D scanning which has recently had more consumer/prosumer grade entrants. I ended up purchasing an Shining3D Einstar Scanner after watching a couple good reviews on youtube, specifically in the car space. This was important for me as I am currently restoring and rebuilding my WRX and there are a few parts I am reverse engineering to purpose build new parts.

Some Examples of Prints I've Done Over the Last 2 Years

  • USB connector and a DEFi Gauge Computer holder to replace my cigarette light and coin tray
  • RC car parts and bodies
  • PC cases and adapter brackets (think fan and pump holders)
  • Keyboard cases
  • Tool handles
  • Broken plastic pieces from discontinued appliances
  • Toys and figurines
  • Jigs
  • Drum rack mounts
  • Sim rig mounts/adapter brackets

The Future

3D scanning and printing gives me hope for the future when we live in an age of planned obsolescence. Even saving the 1 printer from the landfill felt like a huge win. Sure that piece of plastic might have cost be a lot more than even a replacement microwave, but since then I've made hundreds of more prints helping me prototype and repair.

It feels still so nacent for us consumers as prosumer level is really just becoming affordable and there is some consolidation in the 3D print space.

If you are considering getting in to 3D printing, I think now is a great time to, especially with the Bambu Lab A1 and P1 lines. The P1S and P1P really are crazy value when you consider they do 90% of what the X1C does starting at $600 for the P1P which Iwould heartily recommend this printer over just about anything else for someone getting into it... sorry A1 why we slinging again?

Look for follow ups on my PC case and WRX project in 2024 as I am hoping to wrap those to begin new projects!

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