I am so excited to just get stuck in to 3d printing,

I am so excited to just get stuck in to 3d printing, I have so many ideas.

Just don’t know where to start. Maybe buy a cheap printer for now the upgrade. From reading this community it seems that the software is tremendously important and not all printers accept the output from all software.

Thoughts on which printer/software combination is best value for money?

Any of the open source machines will be able to use any of the slicers and any host software you would want to use. Just stay away from Makerbot, BFB, Cubify, UP!/Afina, etc. The electronics and software for the others are all from the same pool and pretty much interchangeable.

I wasn’t saying that the open source stuff is better (though honestly, it is), I responding to “it seems that the software is tremendously important and not all printers accept the output from all software”. Any of the open source machines are compatible with almost all of the software options, while the closed-source machines will lock you into a single toolchain.

Any of them can print STL files. I was referring to the slicer/host toolchains. Can you run your UP off of Slic3r and Pronterface or any of the many alternatives? I don’t think so.

I have two slicers and two hosts that I like to use for various purposes, and I’m looking at a third host for running a bot farm remotely.

Thanks @Whosa_whatsis I’m glad that it’s not quite so complicated.

@Whosa_whatsis BotQueue, Cura, Slic3r? I am very interested in your opinion on a BotFarm. @Bernhard_Slawik and i brainstormed around about that topic a lot

I’m looking at various options. There are several exciting projects popping up, and I’ll be sure to post when I have a recommendation to make.

@Gareth_Robins if you have any interest at all in the printer technology itself (or hardware/software engineering in general) I highly recommend building a printer from an open-source design. It will give you a level of insight into what makes the printer work and provide you with the knowledge and skill to make it work well.

If you’re not that interested in hacking on the printer itself, I’d recommend one of the excellent open-source off-the-shelf designs. This lets you get started quickly with a machine that meets your current needs, but the openness allows you to easily modify the machine as you gain skill an your needs for the output become more specific.

At this point I honestly don’t see a reason to purchase a closed commercial printer for personal use. A year or so ago I felt different because there were not too many open-source off-the-shelf options so if you wanted to “just print” it made sense to go with an Up or something along those lines. At this point there are many open-source machines that can be purchased ready-to-go at reasonable prices so choosing a closed machine doesn’t make sense anymore, especially if you have any desire to improve it as your skill improves.

If you haven’t already, pick up Make Magazine’s 3D Printing special issue, it’s a good place to start to get a look at some of the options out there in summary form. It’s not perfect, and it’s definitely incomplete, but it’s a convenient place to start.

I have to disagree with the blanked “Just stay away from Makerbot, BFB, Cubify, UP!/Afina, etc.”. In particular, Makerbot is by a wide margin the most popular 3D printer, with a huge, active user base generating all sorts of great improvements (firmware, modified extruders, etc.), and it is open and heavily modified by the user community. Yes, in the latest revision they “closed” the steel frame (so they can’t get low-balled by a PacRim “clone” that copies their design and adds no value). But the whole tool chain that I use (OpenSCAD, ReplicatorG, Skeinforge, firmware, etc.) is open, and there are all sorts of upgraded extruders, firmware, etc., created by the user community. Keep in mind that MakerBot is an outgrowth of the RepRap community, and is an open source company. And while Up!/Afinia is proprietary (hardware and software), it’s generally regarded as the easiest “set up and print” and has quite good output, so if your interest is in printing, rather than tweaking the printer, it may be the “best” printer. Both MakerBot and Afinia/Up! are much easier to get working, and generate higher quality output, than the “pure” RepRap printers, and they certainly cost a lot less than the industrial 3D printers.

I agree that BFB and Cubify are probably best to avoid. In particular, Cubify’s business model is to lock you into a completely proprietary system, with DRM, so that you have to buy their plastic, buy 3D models from their store to print (or load STLs), use their proprietary software, etc. BFB isn’t quite that creepy, but they’re much more closed than MakerBot or the DIY RepRaps.

And, to be blunt, most of the DIY open source printers’ output isn’t that great, because it’s pretty hard getting the mechanical assembly, software configuration, etc., all properly tuned. That being said, if money is tight, and/or you want to learn by making your own, by all means do so - the RepRap printers (and the Rostock, which is a different design) are getting better all the time. But if you want a 3D printer, without the work of assembling and tweaking, I’d say that most people would be better off buying an assembled printer, either a cheap one like the Printrbot Jr or a higher end printer like the Makerbot or Ultimaker or Up/Afinia.

Or if you really want to go to the bleeding edge, try one of the resin-based printers. They’re crazy and exotic, and produce amazing output.

I use a Replicator, and have had a great time with it. My next printer will be the QU-BD RPM. http://store.qu-bd.com/product.php?id_product=45 because it’s both a 3D extrusion printer and a CNC mill. I love the idea of being able to print designs in plastic to test, then milling them from wood/metal.

@Laird_Popkin Up to this point the Makerbot community has been extremely active and producing improvements to the machine, but bear in mind that their decision to close their designs is a recent one, and it will be very interesting to see what happens in that community over the course of the next year.

Honestly I was less concerned about them closing the hardware design and more concerned about the software, since that impacts their earlier machines as well.

Like I said, a year ago I would have agreed with you, but today there are a number of open designs that can be bought off-the-shelf assembled and ready to print, so you don’t have to settle for the trade-offs of a closed machine to have the convenience of not building it yourself.

I think some people see choosing open-source as some sort of emotional or irrational compromise or something that is just a matter of morality, but it’s actually completely rational and you don’t have to look too far back in history to see why the choices we make now will impact the future of this technology and all of the changes that descend from the proliferation of 3d printing technologies.

@Laird_Popkin that’s a great argument, thanks for the info. I’ve been looking at the ultimator and printrbot jr. I want to be able to print 3d representations of a face in full colour.

I can’t speak for anyone else but I’ve been running a 1st gen prusa mendel for a year and a bit. I say running but it’s spent more time not working than working and the time it has spent working I’ve spent printing things to get it to a reliable state.

I would definitely go for something that has a heated build platform and that uses linear bearings instead of bushings. I would also not go for a PTFE based hot end as I had nothing but trouble with the hot end until I bought a PEEK based one (ended up with a parcan hot end). In my experience the time saved by having these is more than worth the extra cost.

Open source 3d printers are an exercise in patience and frustration but you learn a lot and get a great sense of satisfaction when the damn thing actually works :).

If you want a printer that just prints out of the box got for a commercial one.

@Steve_Lynch thanks. I don’t really have the time to invest in diy printing it seems. So a commercial option would suit me better

If you want to print in full-color, you’ll have to go with a commercial machine. And not a cheap one like those mentioned here. Only expensive powder-binder printers and the new paper-based printers can do full-color.

Jason, keep in mind that Makerbot is still almost entirely open. The entire software stack is open, other than the MakerWare GUI, which you don’t have to use. The firmware, slicing engines, conveyor, ReplicatorG, etc., are all open. And the hardware, other than the metal frame and skins, is basically the same as the Replicator, which is all published. So while it’s only 95% open, and the one closed software piece is optional, which leaves plenty of room for innovation.

For now @Laird_Popkin . If you think that sounds paranoid, read some interviews with Bre from a year ago and see if, based on his position then, you could have predicted Makerbot’s recent attitude change regarding OSHW.

@Laird_Popkin Those programs and designs are also old. Another way of looking at it is that Makerbot has been 100% closed since the release of the Black Box, with the exception of what they had already shared and thus couldn’t take back.

@Whosa_whatsis You could look at it that way, but then you’d have to ignore Conveyor and Miracle Grue, both of which are new projects that MBI developed at the same time as the Replicator 2, and open sourced. And that they’re now supporting the Jetty firmware in addition to their own. I’d suggest that the more appropriate way to look at their position it is that MBI “closed” their skin (plastic panels, thin software GUI) so that cloners couldn’t legally undercut them by shipping an identical product but with zero R&D costs, but kept everything that does the work open so that the community benefits.

We’re getting pretty far away from the original topic (which printers/software are the best value for money) though…

A year ago Makerbot’s answer to the “how do you prevent your competition from ripping you off?” question was essentially “we’ll out-innovate them”.

Now that the tune has changed to hiding behind patents and lawyers, what does that say about their interest in innovation?

Unless you buy a $10k+ professional printer (and possibly hire an operator to run it for you), you’re going to be investing a sizable amount of your time in this machine. That being the case, choosing to work with a company whose business model is not based on maintaining competitive advantage through artificial limits and monopolization of ideas will give you a much higher yield-per-hour than working with someone whose only hope of providing a superior product is leveraging an obsolete legal system to restrict others from infringing on their intellectual “property” (which as in so many of these cases, especially with software, are vague descriptions of ideas for which there is obviously prior art and often existing implementations).