3D printer for the office? Worth it?

Is a 3D printer a worthwhile piece of equipment for your shop and/or office? We wanted to start exploring the possibilities, and ventured into the 3D printing world.

We researched high and low end pieces of equipment, and settled on a reasonably priced option to test the waters. Monoprice.com has many different options, and the Maker Ultimate 3D became our choice due to its price point and larger build size.

If you are looking to play around with the 3D printer we recommend going to https://www.thingiverse.com/ and you can download any number of fun and interesting prints very easily. These files do not require you to have 3D CAD software, and offer an opportunity to test the machine and its functionality.

Because we are primarily a drafting office we have AutoCAD 3D and Fusion available to us. You will need to take into consideration that if you don’t have 3D CAD capabilities in your office you will need to develop them, or pay an outside service to create the 3D files required for printing parts.

We discussed various uses for the machine and the best use we found for a glazing firm is printing prototype and/or customer components for review/testing or submitting to an architect. To see how easily we could create a prototype of a sunshade bracket assembly I talked a draftsman in our office to 3D model the various components needed. This took about 1.5 hours of time on his part to get the files ready.

Once inputted into the machine we decided to use different colors of filament to show the various components when assembled. It wouldn’t have taken too much more time to modify these components to fit whatever needs you may have for your customer assembly.

The printing for these files took more than a day, but once started you can simply walk away and let the machine work.

Overall the machine was easy to use, and within a couple of days we had an actual physical model for us to use and hold. While you couldn’t put much if any load on the pieces for testing it gives a great idea of what the finished product will look like.

Various options exist for how much the pieces are filled which will dictate how strong the finished product is and how long it takes to print.

For the low cost of entry we would definitely recommend this technology to anyone that has to create custom components and has a need to see them in the real world before committing money and resources to creating the actual product.