3-D Printers

by blackspanielgallery

3-D printers are more than novelty items, there are applications. Make certain you ask the right questions before making a purchase, or it may not do what is desired.

A modern method of copying is to use a 3-D printer. These have been around for several years, and initially had a higher cost, but like other technology the cost has dropped over time. However, the more expensive units that are used professionally still cost more than many of us would be willing to pay for one. But a smaller, personal use 3-D printer might be all one needs,

What are the differences? The units have different size capacities. They also have different abilities to reproduce items. These differences can be type of material used or even color combinations.

A Recent Encounter with 3-D Printing

The local library has two 3-D printers, and at advertised times there are people who operate them.  They also are quite willing to answer questions.  While at the library doing work on my genealogy, I accidentally found the printers being operated.  There were two volunteers.  One seemed to be professionally involved with the technology elsewhere, the other appeared to be a volunteer who could operate the device and answer questions.  The units were not the top of the line, but the one person did know quite a bit about capabilities of more complex 3 D printing.


The one I saw in use was making objects that had a flat side, and it was copying from an image on the computer.  This is simplistic, and the idea was to acquaint the interested audience with the idea of 3-D printing.

The Operation

The computer is tied to the unit, and the program instructs the printer where to go next.  A spool of plastic, not the only possible material, supplies a thin plastic wire to the object being built, and a laser flash melts the plastic.  The plastic immediately cools as part of the object.  The object is built up layer by layer until the finished product is ready.  The process does take some time.


Some units have greater capabilities than others, and I did ask quite a few questions to see how far the technology has advanced.  Below are the questions you should have answered either in person or by the specifications before making a purchase.  The more capabilities you need, the more you can expect to pay for a good printer.

How difficult Are 3-D Printers to Set Up?

The printer must be leveled, and the leveling has two places that must match, the place the object is being made, or base, and the laser holder.  More expensive units are self-leveling, which can be done with greater precision. 


3 D printers

FlashForge Finder 3D Printers with Cloud, Wi-Fi, USB cable and Flash drive connectivity

FlashForge is improving and doing the updates from time to time. To make sure you have the best experience with the 3d printer, please ALWAYS UPDATE FIRMWARE TO LATEST VERSION. ...

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Dremel Digilab 3D45 Award Winning 3D Printer, Idea Builder with Heated Build Plate to Print Nylon...

The Dremel Digilab 3D45 Idea Builder 3D printer is one of the best 3D printer options for printing advanced materials such as ECO ABS, Nylon, PETG and PLA. It is also Dremels be...

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FlashForge 3D Printer Creator Pro, Metal Frame Structure, Acrylic Covers, Optimized Build Platfor...

Leaving our competition a step or two behind, these new features are only available on the new FlashForge Creator Pro: The new front door comes pre-installed, and has been re-de...

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Comgrow Creality Ender 3 Pro 3D Printer with Upgrade Cmagnet Build Surface Plate and UL Certified...

Ender 3 Pro Machine Parameter: Modeling Technology: FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) Power Supply: UL certified power supply Printing Size: 220*220*250mm / 8.6x8.6x9.8 inches Mac...

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What Size Copy Can I Make?

There is a box in which the copy will appear.  The size of the box is a limiting factor.  You cannot copy an automobile in a box eleven inches by eleven inches by ten inches. 


The image object is, however, not restricted to the size of the object being copied.  One can magnify, or even reduce, the size of the copy from the size of the copied object.

Can Multicolor Copies Be Made?

The spool of plastic is a given color, although you can pick which color it is.  Since the layers are built one upon the other, stopping and changing the spool is not an option.  Also, even if one tried to do so, shades of a color would be impossible.  Colors must blend from shade to shade gradually for realistic representation.


Well, some better units use a white power to melt and build the layers.  They are struck by ink, much like a laser printer would do.  The three primary colors are blended to match the color of the object being copied.  This not only allows for gradual changes in shades, but the object is colored throughout.  So, a minor scratch will not remove the colored layer.

Plastic Filaments

Gizmo Dorks PLA Filament for 3D Printers 1.75mm 200g, 4 Color Pack - Blue, Green, Orange, Red

Gizmo Dorks PLA filament now comes in a smaller version on a 200 gram spool, the perfect size for sampling or testing the superior quality. Gizmo Dorks PLA filament is made from...

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Gizmo Dorks 3mm (2.85mm) ABS Filament 1kg / 2.2lb for 3D Printers, Gray

Gizmo DorksWe provide the highest quality 3D printing materials such as ABS, PLA, HIPS, PVA, and more. Our filaments are run with tight tolerances. There are no air bubbles or o...

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Gizmo Dorks 3mm (2.85mm) ABS Filament 1kg / 2.2lb for 3D Printers, Yellow

Gizmo DorksWe provide the highest quality 3D printing materials such as ABS, PLA, HIPS, PVA, and more. Our filaments are run with tight tolerances. There are no air bubbles or o...

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Can Metal Be Used?

There are metal spools that can be used, but I am not certain every printer can handle this.  The laser determines a melting temperature, and the thread does have to melt. 

3-D Metal Filaments
3D Solutech Silver Metal 3D Printer PLA Filament 1.75MM Filament, Dimensional Accuracy +/- 0.03 m...

3D Solutech is a professional 3D printer filament manufacturer specialized in providing various colors and materials for 3d printing.Quality is our top priority as we hand check...

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Silk Silver PLA 1.75mm 3D Printer Filament 1KG (2.2LBS) Printing Materials Silky Shiny PLA Metal ...

Color:Silk Silver Diameter: 1.75 mm Net Weight: 1000g Recommended Printing Temp: 195 - 230 °C Recommended Printing Speed: 30 - 60 mm/s Heated Bed: Not required but can be used (...

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Can Glass Be Used?

It appears no glass thread is currently available, although one can possibly get a glass look using something that is available.

Can Simple Objects Be Done Faster?

The melted material is apparently applied through a nozzle.  Some units allow for changing the size of the nozzle, which determines the width of the path laid down with each pass of the laser.  If a larger nozzle is used it might go faster. 

How Can Hollow Objects Be Reproduced with a Cavity?

This is done by having the program work with a cavity included in the to be copied object.  But, laying down layer by layer, if there is something in the cavity a new challenge is posed.  I was told the easiest way is to program a cavity with something that might not be connected in the next layer is to add thin filaments to the design for support, then remove them later.  That assumes access to the cavity large enough to snip the filaments.  If that is impractical, use wax in the cavity, then melt it away later.  This goes well beyond the basics.

Do Printers Pause when a Spool Runs Out?

When a spool runs out you can change it, but it probably requires using the pause command, manually changing the spool, then restarting.  It is critical the copy be resumed at the same place it was stopped.  Let the computer handle this.  Letting the spool actually run out and trying to get back to the same place is not practical.

Are There Tools for 3-D Printing?

There is some cleaning of the surface that might be needed.  Remember you are using melted and re-hardened plastic or metal.  The final product might take a final tidying up.


Books Can Be Invaluable

When starting an unfamiliar technology having a book or two as a “go to” resource can be invaluable.  There is an abundance of books available.  Here are a few. 

What Can It Do Practically?

Well, this may not be intuitive.  Making novelty items is nice, but is it really a valid application?  So, I looked into what designs are available.  Yes, there are books that can help. 


One can make an interesting science project.  A 3-D display of a complex design is much more informative than a picture, or series of pictures. 


Making science models goes well beyond school projects.  One small model can cost hundreds of dollars in a science laboratory. 


Making models as a professor can save quite a bit, considering the number of different models one might want to show to a class.  Imagine the value in medical schools. 


Drafting is another application.  If a design for pipes at a plant is needed it now has to be done in layers.  This approach and loses much in the viewing.  Imagine showing in three-dimensions the pipes and vessels of an entire plant.  Imagine a scale model of the plant from a printer.  Yes, the printers are size limited, but for a three-dimensional scale model of an entire plant one can make several sections and position them together. 


These are just some ideas.  Others exist.  And undoubtedly more will be found.



A 3-D printer can be a wonderful tool giving capabilities otherwise not there.  It can also be a fun toy.  Remember before buying that your ultimate need will drive your purchase.  To but a complex unit for fun use might lead to discouragement, since the more complex the unit might take more time and effort than you are willing to put forth.  For professional use the time and effort are a necessities of obtaining the professional product. 


This article contains links to affiliate programs and Adsense advertising.  These must use cookies to allow for proper crediting. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


The introduction image is our own.

Updated: 02/08/2019, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 02/21/2019

No, but one of the other professors has a son about 13 years old, and he made me a name plate for my desk. I did see finished products at the library, and one printing in progress, but it is a slow process so i did not see the final phase.

DerdriuMarriner on 02/21/2019

blackspanielgallery, Thank you for the practical information and the product lines. Did you have something 3-D-printed that day at the library?

blackspanielgallery on 02/09/2019

No, this actually builds an object you can hold. It does not print to paper.

WriterArtist on 02/09/2019

The 3-D printer looks creative and the projects look elaborate. Perhaps, it is useful for Graphics designer and a user of 3 dimensional projects. Does it have a 2D print mode too?

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