So I've had a 3D printer for about 2.5 years, I'm on my second one, actually. My first one was the first-gen M3D. It was $300 on Kickstarter, and I believe it was one of the first, if not the actual first, 3D printer at this price point. Their Kickstarter campaign was wildly successful, setting all sorts of sales records, if I recall correctly (I'm not fact-checking myself, this is all from memory so I could be wrong). The downside to Kickstarter, in general, is it takes FOREVER to get your backer rewards, and this was no exception. This one took a year! So by the time I got it in Fall 2015, my enthusiasm had waned a lot.
I didn't really start playing with it until early 2016. The first things I made (not counting a filament spool holder) were the greeblies for my Han Solo belt, and a Chevrolet logo for a Supernatural Impala cosplay.
The Han solo bits were downloaded from Thingiverse, the Chevy logo I made myself. Thingiverse proved to be a great source of free files, and making simple design files on Tinkercad was easy enough, but I just never got that into it. I really only used it a handful of times after those first prints. It was slow, the software was buggy, the print area was small, the print quality wasn't great, and my computer had to stay connected to the printer through the entire print. Which, did I mention it was slow? And also kind of loud and stored in a room that's not my living room? Plugging my computer in meant, basically, losing access to my computer for hours at a time. So it was neat in theory but kind of a pain in the ass in practice.
I did make a few cool things, though. I made shoe buckles for my Thomas Jefferson cosplay
And a GoPro mounting bracket that, surprisingly, actually worked!
A neck to support Volleyballhead
And these rings for Mary Sanderson's corset
But these were my successes, and they were few and far between. There were a stupid number of fails that I never photographed and are now long forgotten. Mary's rings were the last things I printed on that printer, and they're not great. You can see how low the print resolution was, and that was at the highest quality setting. I sanded them down as best I could and slopped so much paint on those rings to level them out! And I had a bunch of failed prints before those four were done, and each one took around 10 hours. That project was my last straw! I was DONE with that old printer!
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that I got the printer when I did for the price that I paid. Like I said before, this was the first real affordable entry-level printer available. I learned a lot with it. And I knew going in that it was going to be a starter printer. But once I reached the point where I was making costumes professionally, and finish quality, time, cost, and efficiency became more serious issues, I realized I'd outgrown this one.
And so, last October, I upgraded to the sexy new Monoprice Maker Ultimate! This is a nice mid-range printer. It's got a bigger build area, higher resolution, faster speeds, offers more control to the user, is a generally high quality build, has all sorts of fanciness that the M3D didn't have, and OMG it has an SD card reader!!!!! It's so beautiful!!!!!
Where my old printer felt like kind of a novelty and kind of a toy. This one feels more like a functional piece of equipment. And so my goal for the immediate future is to use it more often. Not just for silly little costume bits (although I will certainly use it for that!), but for useful household items. One of my New Year's resolutions is to make things instead of buying them whenever possible, and the printer is the perfect tool for that. There are so many times I think, "I need a very specific thing for a very specific purpose" so I'll go buy some little piece of plastic that is close enough, and mod it until it meets my needs, but it's never 100% right. But with the printer I can actually make the things I'm imagining! This plan will, hopefully, allow me to save some money, flex my creative muscle, get better at 3D design, and have a house full of items perfectly tailored to my needs!
So far I've made a base for my styrofoam heads, bobbin clips, a little garden rake thing, and riser feet for my table. Not bad! And I have a few more ideas for practical household items floating around in my head. Hopefully I'll make those in the next week or so.
I posted the table feet to Thingiverse today, and someone actually downloaded them! It's my first Thingiverse post, and I'm just so proud of myself :) I'm definitely looking forward to making more things, getting better at designing, and actually contributing to the maker community! And also making more little costume bits <3