I'm working with a group at the MIT Launch startup accelerator for high school and I was hoping to do some market research regarding some of the current problems with desktop 3D printers. I was hoping to get some feedback from all your experience with 3D printing and the hours of troubleshooting you've likely encountered.

What workarounds and aftermarket modifications are the most useful? If you could change one thing about your printer what would it be? How do you troubleshoot issues and how long does it take? What would make you more likely to 3d print more often (ie never clogged, didn't have to watch first layer, etc)? In your opinion, what are the biggest issues the desktop 3D printing industry faces? Just share any wishes, thoughts, hopes, dreams, etc about 3D printing

Thank you so much for your time and sharing your experience!

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    $\begingroup$ Good question! Deserves some well-considered answers. $\endgroup$
    – Mick
    Jul 17 '17 at 0:10
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    $\begingroup$ Simple answer: Good, Fast, Cheap: choose any two. $\endgroup$ Jul 17 '17 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ Hello, welcome to the site! I voted to close your question as primarily opinion-based/too broad. We focus on technical questions here that have more-or-less objective answers. As such, asking multiple open-ended or non-specific questions doesn't fit well here. Please see "What types of questions should I avoid asking?". $\endgroup$
    – tjb1
    Jul 17 '17 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ This question has a very noble goal, but unfortunately, it is not a good fit for the StackExchange format for reasons as noted by @tjb1. Perhaps you could try asking it on a different site (perhaps a forum or reddit?). $\endgroup$ Jul 18 '17 at 1:34

First, regarding "Why do 3D Printers Suck?" - The answer is They Don't!

Every tool has its limitations and you need to work withing the limitations of the tool.

Second, there are A LOT of different types/technologies, manufacturers, and price points and all of these have specific limitations.

I live in Tigard, OR and both my boys are in High School. Our High School has a pretty advanced Technologies Department. We have had a 3D printer for a several years and use it for printing parts for our after school programs (we have three FTC teams, one FRC team, and one (underwater) MATE team). This last year the school introduced a CAD class and added about 15-20 new Afina printers so that the students can print what they design.

I talked to my sons (they have both used the printers) and they said the only problems they ran into were mistakes they made. Two examples of that are:

  • Printing with ABS and having it warp (probably bed temp)
  • Trying to print a design with too thin a wall

I think there is a BIG opportunity for improvement here. Having a "Slicing" program that doesn't require tweaking and would warn of likely print problems would help A LOT. I like the idea of the new PrusaControl. If this idea could be extended further as Thomas Sanladerer suggested in his video review

I know the Head of Technologies Department (I help mentor several of the after school programs). He has been responsible for getting printers and I recall he was concerned about more high-level things:

  • Service, Maintenance and Repair
  • Fumes (this is a lot of printers in one place with students in the same room)
  • Network interface and driver compatibility with school computer/network standards.

I believe there is another opportunity here. If you could provide some sort of a "printer farm" where the students could send their print to the "farm" and then have a highly visible indicator on the selected printer would their name/ID when their print starts. That way you can get more efficient use of the printers and the space they consume.

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    $\begingroup$ I completely agree Mark, the phrase was intended as more of an attention grabber to spur conversation about 3d printers $\endgroup$
    – AdamP
    Jul 16 '17 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ @AdamP - We are a long way away from you; but, I am sure we would be willing to collaborate if you are interested. BTW, we used to live in CT and in 2008 (I think) we were in Boston on vacation and took the boys to MIT for a "Kids Festival". That is the first time I recall seeing a DIY 3D printer. $\endgroup$ Jul 16 '17 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for this thoughtful and helpful response. That's awesome that MIT helped introduce 3d printer to your kids. Thanks for sharing your ideas and putting the effort in to ask around. $\endgroup$
    – AdamP
    Jul 16 '17 at 23:45

Among the open-source printer community there is a logically based, yet sometimes taken to inappropriate places desire to make printers "self-replicating" either fully, or more commonly "other than a few purchased parts."

In some cases this appears to lead to questionable design choices when some other process or material might be more appropriate to the job at hand.

Other than that (and sometimes influenced by it) the usual joys of getting the bed flat, the dimensions accurate, and figuring out the secret to getting the first layer to stick (with the sad realization that this may change somewhat with each new spool of filament - or even over the life of a spool of filament without taking extreme measures to keep it dry.)

In the "sure, there probably are packages out there if you have wads of cash" line would be structural analysis that takes into account the printing direction/layers and perhaps even optimizes that (though to optimize it, it would need some user input on what's most important, and that gets tricky with unsophisticated users...) or effectively a "smart slicer" that grasps where strength is needed and how to get it, without too much overkill.

On the reverse view, making something and having it break is HIGHLY educational (if treated that way) and that's nothing to sneeze at. But practically speaking I think we end up doing a lot of overkill to try to make sure that things don't break, with limited knowledge of the problems and limited tools available in the slicers.

Under pure pipe dreams (such as I understand the actual needs of the process) some type of easier recycling would be nice, as the various things needing to be sorted out lead to a LOT of scrap parts, at least at first.

And moving from scrap to "really annoying scrap" - nozzle drool. It's not hands-off on most printers I'm familiar with (which isn't many.)

  • $\begingroup$ Regarding "making something and having it break is HIGHLY educational", this is definitely true on an individual level and if the failure is the user's fault. If the failure is seen as a "printer failure", it doesn't generally work that way for most High School situations. That is because the printers are usually used as a resource for some other learning (such as CAD) and the "failed printer" is not something the school usually wants the student to investigate. $\endgroup$ Jul 17 '17 at 20:00

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