Hello, complete noob here! I'd like to build myself a RepRap printer,

Hello, complete noob here! I’d like to build myself a RepRap printer, and I’m currently enticed by the Tantillus. I like its compact & sturdy design, maximal use of printed parts and, it seems, fairly low cost. I’m satisfied with its 100mm cube build area.

Am I on the right path? Is there a better choice for what I’m after? I appreciate any advice from those of you who’ve been down this road before.

There tend to be two distinct strains of thought on here:

One group says you should absolutely source and build your first printer because you’ll have a better understanding of all the parts and how the thing works.

The other group says you should get a kit or fully assembled ready to go printer, because you can learn about the printer as you work with it and avoid the difficulty and frustration that can come with sourcing/building/calibrating your own printer with no prior experience.

Personally I fall into the second category. I looked into sourcing and building my own printer to start with and found it so hard to find a body of knowledge good enough to allow me to know what I was doing that I gave up and bought a pre-made printer. That path isn’t free of difficulty, but it’s less aggravating than spending weeks trying to get the thing working then putting it aside for six months because you’re sick of it (this isn’t an uncommon thing, you’ll see posts from people like that on here fairly often).

My first pre-made printer gave me a good enough understanding of the technology to understand the scattered knowledge I was finding all over the internet and let me make informed decisions about building my own printers.

So… to conclude a long answer to a fairly simple question… I like lots of things about the Tantalus, but the 100x100 build area is pretty small for a primary printer, and I’d personally recommend going with a kit of pre-made printer first then using that to build the Tantalus (and any other RepRap that catches your eye).

@Stephen_Baird , thanks for answering the question I didn’t even know to ask!

While your advice to forgo homebrewing my first printer isn’t what I wanted to hear, it makes good sense: Online information about 3D printing does seem fractured, contradictory and not noob-friendly.

The problem boils down to this: There are a lot of different ways to do what we want to do, fused deposition 3D printing, and no clearly intuitive way to tell what’s best. Each one has difficulties associated with it, usually described in detail in people’s blogs, but ultimately most methods work with varying degrees of success.

To really know which method is best you must either try them all yourself, or find people who’ve tried a few and compare reviews until you can work out your best path forward.

…then you learn firsthand what doesn’t work, and eventually you find a better way.

But that kind of haphazard firsthand learning process makes it hard for a newbie to jump in.

Eventually, some day, the community will probably settle on “the best way” or a small list of options for the best ways, but until then you’re right. It’s not a noob-friendly process.

Which kits are the ones a noob should definitely look at as the one to jump in with? Taking into account cost as well as other things?

So far, I’ve been most impressed by the makibox (except. You know. Not shipping yet.) and the low and mid end printrbots. What else should I definitely look at and obsess over before I make a decision?

Built my own printer (reprappro Mendel) from a kit and no real problems ( the odd nut falling off) but you do need to follow the instructions to the letter, handy with a soldering iron and you can’t go far wrong.

Mendel90 by @nop_head was my first and still only one. I came at it from the same direction as you. Kit enough to learn whats what but assembled enough to avoid real grief. Good support and usually ships quickly. Current design.

I went with the Solidoodle 2, mainly based on price and the fact that it seemed like a nice printer. It is quite a nice printer, and it also has a very good community of people surrounding it (on http://soliforum.com), but if you’re looking for a kit you can partially assemble yourself it’s not really the way to go as it comes fully assembled and rough calibrated (but there’s always plenty of fine tuning you can do yourself, too). As with any 3D printer aiming to compete on price it does take a few shortcuts to achieve that price, and while none of them are really awful they do occasionally produce annoyances. But, it’s still a printer I feel good recommending to people looking for their very first printer, and I think it’s at the top of the pack for budget minded kit/assembled printers.

If I had it to do again, though, I’d give serious thought to the Bukobot (http://deezmaker.com/) or the OrdBot Hadron (kits are available from various places, but http://www.automationtechnologiesinc.com/products-page/3d-printer/3d-printer-mechanical-platform-no-controller is the link I have in my bookmarks for some reason).

The printrbot (http://printrbot.com/) also seems quite popular, especially in this community, but people in the community who I find quite trustworthy have some issues with it and I would recommend the RepRap Wallace (http://reprap.org/wiki/Wallace) over the printrbot. The Wallace, as the wiki page says, is based in large part on the printrbot but designed to fix a few perceived issues with the printrbot.

Unfortunately, the Wallace isn’t an easy build, and isn’t really a good choice for a first printer. The designer of it (who goes by Whosa Watsis here on G+) is also one of the guys involved with the Bukobot, and he’s currently designing the Wallace 2 which looks even more promising than the original. But the Wallace 1 and 2 are probably things you’re better off filing away in your bookmarks as interesting things to come back to when you’ve gotten some time in on your first printer and find yourself thinking you ought to build another (which is a very common thing).