A couple of years ago I bought a 3D printer (a Da Vinci 1.0) to experience the technology and see what I could do with it. Relative to other 3D printers, it was fairly inexpensive (about $600) so I don’t feel too bad about writing it off as a learning experience. Now it’s time to find a replacement, so here is what I‘ve learned and what I’m looking for in a new machine.
The Da Vinci Machine: There are several things I don’t like about the Da Vinci. First it uses a proprietary filament cartridge which is more expensive and less flexible than the generic open spool filament used in most other printers. The Da Vinci print head (also called the hot end) tends to clog, and the heated glass bed (the platform where the print is deposited) does not maintain an even temperature causing large prints to cool unevenly and warp. Another problem with the heated glass bed is the print will often not stick to the bed and shift during the plot. I’ve tried the usual solutions to help the print stick, such as applying, a layer of glue to the bed, a layer of special film/tape (Kapton tape), and even hairspray, none of which worked all of the time.
There are some things I do like about the Da Vinci. It has a fairly large build volume (200mm x 200mm x 200mm), has a nice enclosure and is fairly quiet. Plus, because it’s inexpensive, there are lots of people who have this machine, and consequently lots of online information about how to use and modify it.
The Next Printer: So what am I looking for in the next generation 3D printer? First of all I want the machine to be sturdy and perform well, but I really don’t care what it looks like. I’m looking for a machine with a heated bed with better temperature control than the Da Vinci to eliminate warping, and a bed with a PEI or BuildTak surface to facilitate better print adhesion. I want an print head/hot end that keeps the filament cool in the feed tube until it arrives at the nozzle so it does not clog so easily. I want a machine with build volume at least as large as the Da Vinci, and will print untethered (i.e. not connected to a computer). I prefer open source to proprietary software/firmware because it’s more flexible and allows you to take advantage of the best new software and firmware as it comes available. I’ll also be looking for a printer that can print overhanging elements without sagging and can print with multiple materials (DaVinci 1.0 can only print with ABS). Finally no more proprietary filament cartridges for me.
Conclusion: I’ve learned a lot with the Da Vinci and made some interesting objects, but it’s time to move on to the next generation machine. The new machines are affordable, better quality, and capable of producing some amazing prints.