For Christmas my dad gave me a “voucher” I could put towards the purchase of a 3D printer of my choosing. After about a month of research and restless nights dreaming about filament deposition techniques I decided on the FlashForge Creator with dual extruders. It is basically a clone of the MakerBot Replicator 1.
The other finalists in my search were the Solidoodle, Ultimaker, and PrintrBot Plus, as well as the myriad DIY RepRap kits and other Replicator clones. The Solidoodle is a very nice machine but I really wanted dual extruder capability so I could print dual color and eventually dissolvable support for complex shapes. The Ultimaker and PrintrBot both have dual extruder upgrades but the former is expensive and has to take a several week journey from Holland and the latter has a tendency to knock prints over and get caught on things on your desk because of the moving build plate. I seriously considered getting a RepRap like the Prusa but with so many variations and such unorganized documentation I didn’t want to spend a month just building it and another month tweaking and upgrading.
The Flash Forge Creator had great reviews and all the features I wanted at a price I could afford. Plus, Amazon had it in stock and it arrived the NEXT DAY after I ordered it (thank you Amazon Prime)! It was covered in enough shipping labels and customs stickers to make even the most seasoned delivery driver’s head spin.
The machine itself was packed well for it’s journey overseas. So well in fact that unpacking it was a bit challenging. I finally got it out of the box and set it up and was printing within the hour. Talk about instant gratification! It took longer by far to sand and urethane that nice table top for it to sit on. Tucked into a corner of the box I found a little stuffed reindeer dressed in a sweater and scarf. . . I’m guessing it was a Christmas gift, thank you FlashForge!
The setup process was super simple, just bolt on the extruder assembly and run through the plate leveling procedure. Installing the spool holders and loading filament took another couple minutes. I was so excited that when it started printing I just sat there and watched it for about 45 minutes. In fact everyone in the house came down to ooh and ahh over it.
Browsing through the models on Thingiverse and YouMagine and Cubehero and My Mini Factory was a bit overwhelming and I didn’t know what to print first! Here are a few of the first prints I made in the following days while I got used to MakerWare and ReplicatorG software.
A GoPro head mount, still on the raft.
A secret heart box for valentines day. This piece is amazing because it prints working hinges and sliders all together, no assembly required!
The yaw mechanism for a tricopter.
A tripod quick release plate for GoPro mount.
I’m still trying out different 3D solid modeling software packages for making my own parts. I use Sketchup for architectural design but as soon as I tried to use it for parts modeling I realized it was not up to the task. So far I’ve tried 123D Design, 3D Crafter, NetFabb, OpenSCAD. But I’ll probably end up using SolidWorks or Inventor. Any suggestions are welcome!