Warning: Wall of text ahead!
I got obsessed with 3D printing, at least the idea of 3D printing, about a year ago after building and running a couple of Shapeoko 2 CNCs. Where a CNC is subtracting material to create an object, a 3D printer is doing the exact opposite, but using similar hardware (obviously). Stepper motors, pulleys, acme lead screws, etc make up both machines, but with a slightly different learning curve for each.
I started following /r/3Dprinting on Reddit, and read about all of the pitfalls and triumphs that go along with this hobby. There is a lot of tweaking and experimenting that requires patience and time. I have very little of both. I bit the bullet a couple of weeks ago by purchasing a Printrbot Metal Simple. The whole experience was a train wreck, and I’ll save the gory details, but the short story is that the machine wasn’t what I was looking for. It works great for a lot of folks, but I’m not one of them. Back to Amazon it went.
I hemmed and hawed about what machine to get. I don’t get lots of time to dedicate to my hobbies so I wanted something that as close to plug ‘n’ play as possible. I had some criteria in my head:
- Easy to setup and use
- Responsive USA based tech support (I’m not a racist xenophobe, but instead want to be able to get someone on the phone at a decent hour when shit hits the fan)
- Quality prints
- Repeatability with minimal fuss
After a ton of reading, I came across only a few reviews for the Dremel Idea Builder from seasoned 3D printer users. The ones that I did come across dubbed the printer as “a stripped down Flashforge Dreamer”, “too basic”, and “expensive for what you get”. However, within those reviews a few things stood out. “I was printing within minutes”, “I have over 200 hours on this machine with minimal failures”, and “I contacted tech support and got help immediately!” were common amongst the reviews I was finding. I’m willing to pay a premium for a “basic stripped down” product if it means I can setup and print my parts without farting around.
I received the Dremel Idea Builder yesterday, unboxed it, and powered it on. I attempted to load the filament, but half of the screen would go blank and the machine would restart. WTF!?!? I went on the Dremel website and was chatting with a helpful tech support person in less than a minute. They suggested that the TF card (not the SD card) had come loose in shipping and e-mailed me the instructions to fix it. That included removing the bottom panel of the machine and plugging in the loose micro SD card. About five minutes later the unit was working, and the filament was loaded. Add on to that a few minutes to level the bed and apply bed tape. Grand total it took about 30 minutes from delivery to being able to start my first print. After printing a child’s dice as my first print I confirmed the machine was dialed in. Next was a coffee bag pouring clip (pictured below). I spent the rest of my evening printing random objects with the goal of learning the quirks of the machine (if any). Here is what I’ve come up with:
- Clean the bed with rubbing alcohol before printing
- Print something small before printing something large. That way heat transfers to the bed minimizing warping on larger prints. A hair dryer could do the same thing.
- Don’t fill the bed with stuff to print. This filament oozes from the nozzle a little more than I’d like and will leave strings of filament on your parts as it cruises the bed printing in different sections.
- When the nozzle is coming up to temperature pull the string of oozing filament off of the nozzle right before the machine starts running the build. That way you won’t have a string off cool filament on the bed to possibly impede your first layer.
About 24 hours in to owning this machine I’ll say that it is worth every penny of the $999. I still have lots of experimenting to do, but as of now I’m getting usable prints with almost zero messing around. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I haven’t had a failed print yet. While I wish the proprietary software allowed just a bit more tweaking than the “advanced” setting provides…so far I don’t feel like it’s hurting the quality of my prints.