Anyone tied 3D printing?

Tom Thompson wrote:

Happy to try and provide some insight!
A lot of 3D printing does come down to what software package you can afford, and are comfortable using - looking again, most printers come with packages that will translate other 3D files into .stl for printing, but you need to consider how accurately they can do that - there will be interpolation involved if not modeling in a native format, and that's another place where printer spec resolutions can be muddied by mathematics.
If you're a real geek the math and geometry stuff gets pretty interesting, but if you just want to model and print the best thing to do is look at samples of printer output in person - i.e.; see demo prints from the machine at all of it's output resolutions before you buy. From what I see on the web most of the pictures of printed models don't really show to full effect what the surface of the part looks like, nor do they say what output mode the print was made at - fine, medium, fast, etc.
The Cube Pro is another interesting one, in that it has the highest layer resolution I've seen yet for an ABS/PLA printer at 70 microns, and should rival stereo lithography. And if you want to spend even bigger bux you can also get one that prints in two or three colors.
They also make some 3D scanners that are interesting -
My rule of thumb for getting into 3D printing for use in doing quality prints for model work is to expect to pay around $3K for a decent entry level printer...that even then may not do what you were expecting it to do out of the box.
And that may or may not be the printer's fault - it may be the fault of the software suite you are using to do your modeling or translation for printing...and/or even the computer you are using to render your model. Full-blown AutoCAD or SolidWorks - or God forbid CATIA - (all industry-standard modelling suites) can run as high as another $5K...Solidworks is the cheapest by far, but need to consider just what it is you want to do, and how much of it you want to do, very carefully. And then choose what is most suited for your application.
- Rufus

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