If you’re like me, you’ve probably been enjoying watching David Shiffman and Craig McClain take their first steps into 3D printing. For a small subset of people, small consumer 3D printers can be an incredibly useful tool, for a larger subset, 3D printing has fantastic teaching applications, but for most enthusiasts, it’s a fun hobby. Fortunately, the 3D printing hype train has slowed down in the last few years and it is now much easier to separate the wheat from the chaff and drill down into the applications where 3D printing really shines.
3D printers are fairly inexpensive now. You can get a pretty okay 3D printer like the Monoprice Mini (which we used at various hack-a-thons and maker events) for around $220 USD on Amazon. I’ve worked a bit with that particular printer and it’s good. It won’t blow you away but it will do everything you’d expect a solid 3D printer to do. My in house machine is a Printrbot Simple Metal, which has since been replaced by the Simple Pro. It’s not the cheapest one out there, but it’s an absolute beast, taking all the abuse I can throw at it. It’s even been to sea.