Imaging Devices

3D Printing And What’s Available Now (Part 1)

7/28/2013 6:55:22 PM

Let’s takes a look at a selection of home-friendly 3D printers

3D printing has once again made its way into mainstream headlines. This time, though, not through an astronaut making a spanner for themselves on the International Space Station or some clever engineer creating an artificial limb. This time it's the questionably immoral creation of the world's first printed gun.

We won't go into too much detail here regarding the implications of making weapons via a 3D printer or the controversy involved and the fact that blueprints for such a creation will be available online. However, it has made many people realize that 3D printing could very well be the future of manufacturing.

3D printing has once again made its way into mainstream headlines.

3D printing has once again made its way into mainstream headlines.

Until the gun debate, 3D printing has been left safety in the hands of those who could afford it or those whose business it is to produce plastic parts for other items. There the 3D market boomed and as a result of being in the medium to heavy manufacturing sector, the cost of the hardware involved was kept well beyond the reach of the average punter.

As with most technology that's originally out of reach, though, the price has dropped by quite a bit and it's not impossible for the average consumer to get their hands on what is effectively Star Trek's Replicator v1.0.

Granted, you still won't be able to nip down to Currys and peruse the 3D printers alongside the likes of HP, Canon and Epson - at least not yet anyway. But as we've seen before, there's no reason why you won't be able to in a few years' time.

What we'll look at here is a selection of 3D printers that are currently available to buy and cost within the realms of reality By that we mean something within the region of $2,571 or less. Okay, it may sound a heck of a lot to most of us, but most of the big TVs in Currys cost as much as that, as do some of the impressive gaming PCs that are available to buy, and let's not forget that Apple Macs start from between $1,600 to $2,268. When you put it like that, it's not totally unreasonable to assume that the average consumer could potentially afford one of these marvelous devices.

RapidBot Kit

The first 3D printer we'll look at is the RapidBot. Sold from a number of online outlets, this device comes in a kit form, which requires a recommended six-hour construction time.

This is the version 3.0 model, the newest, and it features Kapton tapes, a high-temperature film that remain flexible; a heated bed; 450W PSU; a USB cable; several meters of PLA (polylactic acid), which is the renewable bioplastic material used to create the 3D printed objects and, of course, a full set of instructions.

The RapidBot Kit version 3.0 3D Printer. Looks my nan's sewing machine

The RapidBot Kit is actually considered as being very good in its operation and rarely fails mechanically or to produce the desired object. It's compatible with Windows vista and 7, can print at speeds up to 60mm per second, looks for all the world like an old Singer sewing machine and weighs only 12kg.

Everything you need to get and running is included in the kit. There's no mention of compatible software, but the likes of Blender, an open-source 3D content creation suite, can be used with the RapidBot as it outputs the final design in STL (stereolithography) format.

The RapidBot is a great start to your 3D printing adventure. It's relatively cheap, costing $819 with VAT from (note though you have to include a $245 shipping charge on top of the overall price). And the RapidBot is an easy to maintain and easy to get to grips with printer. Obviously you'll have to be dedicated enough to get through the assembly instructions, but if you hunt around, there are instances where you can purchase the printer pre-assembled, although you'll be charged considerably more for the fact that it's already been built.

The RapidBot is a great start to your 3D printing adventure

The RapidBot is a great start to your 3D printing adventure

The RapidBot version 2.0 is also up for sale on eCrater and is slightly cheaper at $760 including VAT (add $216 for the shipping). Version 2.0 isn't widely regarded as being as stable as version 3.0 of the RapidBot, but it's still worth a look if your budget is totally maxed out with the RapidBot 3.0.

Overall, the RapidBot 3D printer kit 3.0 is an accurate and very good-quality 3D printer. It has improved significantly in the last few months, with a revised instruction manual and improved quality of parts. The proof, though, is in the pudding and what works for some may not work for others. Thankfully, there's quite a following of enthusiasts for the RapidBot, so any questions you have are most likely already answered. There are a few examples whereby the RapidBot curled the first few parts, but experimentation with the heat appeared to have solved that issue.

With version 4.0 in the works, apparently, the RapidBot is certainly a 3D printer worth keeping an eye on.

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