On the Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing

Make: magazine is about making stuff.  Apparently there are enough folks out there who think of themselves as “makers” to justify an honest-to-god paper magazine (remember those?). I make stuff all the time, but mostly watchmaking tools (too niche) and have honestly not paid attention to this magazine outside of the odd article on the web. I have nearly worn out the Winter 2013 edition however. It is dedicated to everything 3d printing and I’ve been reading, re-reading and re-re-reading the various articles about 3d printing software, design and scanning techniques and especially the reviews/comparison of 15 consumer grade 3d printers on the market today.

The ambitiously titled Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing issue lives up to its billing and then some. I have read every page of this magazine (and plenty of the articles more than once) and it brought back for me the sheer joy of a tangible obsession placeholder in a way I fondly remember from when I discovered watch magazines in the late ’90s. While I deeply enjoyed and found much to learn from the articles on Getting Started with a 3d Printer, the Software Overview (the software tool chain is somewhat intimidating), the roundup of “Service Providers and Resources” and Skill Builder: 3D Scanning; the primary reason for buying this magazine and coming back to it so frequently was the very well done Buyer’s Guide.

No comparison tests are perfect, but the editors clearly put some thought into the best way to give an overview of a large sampling of consumer grade 3d printers on the market today and I found the reviews highly informative irrespective of my inability to evaluate how “fair” or accurate they might really have been. This question comes up because they scored each of the 15 printers they tested in 14 categories and four out of the five standouts that they recognized are conveniently available for purchase in the MakerSHED store, apparently irrespective of the scoring system employed. Witness the MakerGear M2 (avg. score 3.85) losing out to the Type A Series 1 (avg. score 3.28, the clear winner for best name however) in the Best-in-Class prize for the Midrange category for example.

Type A Series 1, robbed of a prize?

Regardless, the evaluations were educational and well written and tried to encapsulate the experience of a beginner picking up the hardware (well, setting it down I guess) for the first time and learning how to use it.  The writers also took their time to point out which machines might best for hardcore tinkerers and modders as opposed to which ones are the closest to being plug-n-play. They also subjected each printer to some standardized printing tests, but I found these less than completely informative because they (by design) did not necessarily spend the time to really tweak the machines to try to get the best prints out of them.  Based on my experience with watch reviews, I find evaluations of out-of-the-box performance for sample sizes of one to be as often misleading as informative.

Afinia H-Series

As I said, I have nearly worn this magazine out in the few weeks since I’ve had it, and this primarily by obsessively rereading these reviews to try to determine which 3d printer was right for me.  My sage wife forbid me from buying one for a period of time after I decided I just had to have one and during that time my decision went from Afinia (UP!) H-Series to Type A Series 1 to Printrbot Jr (a crazy afforable way to get into 3d printing and it can even be handily fit into a backpack!) or Printrbot LC (among others).

the adorable printrbot jr.

As it turns out, the wait was important.  It gave me time to read a lot more (there’s a whole wide web of 3d printer enthusiasts out there it turns out!) about and fall in love with Printrbot.

2 thoughts on “On the Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing”

    1. Thanks, and I’d love to share also. Alas, the watch industry is mostly quite guarded about that kind of thing so I’ll have to err on the side of discretion where my 9 to 5 is concerned.

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