Since I got this printer on 9-3-2013, it’s been used for over 238 hours of printing (that’s over 9 hours a day of printing!). So, what have I printed?
Successful prints: These either worked as expected the first time (about half of them) or required several iterations to get them ‘done’.
- Pen & pencil holder (downloaded from Thingiverse)
- Rifle scope zoom rings (that I designed)
- 3 versions of RCBS decap / primer catchers (Thingiverse / revisions by Lon)
- Derim cup (that I designed)
- Piston, rings and rod (downloaded from Thingiverse)
- Core swaging catch tray (that I designed)
- Bleed tray (that I designed)
- Core shaker (that I designed based on another’s work)
- Customized iPhone cases (downloaded from Thingiverse & modified)
- Ford V6 engine block (downloaded from Thingiverse)
- Clips to mount plexiglass to the printer frame (that I designed)
- Model railroad track clips (downloaded from Thingiverse)
- Proof of concept for brass sorting (that I designed)
- Reloading die holder (that I designed)
- Lego-style pieces (downloaded from Thingiverse)
- A plastic bullet (that I designed)
Works in progress: These still require some work… either I need to modify the design (the die plate holder), or the model is complex and requires a more advanced approach to printing.
- Model windmill (downloaded from Thingiverse)
- Reloading die plate holder (that I designed)
Several of these were just for fun – to see what the printer would do. Most, though, solved specific problems. Would I have spent money on equivalent commercial products? Probably not for many of them. In many situations, the equivalent products cost more than I was willing to pay (I know… so I bought a 3D printer instead). However, some are invaluable – and others are interested in purchasing them. In any event, I’m still blown away by the technology & the possibilities – I’m turning bits into useful objects right here on my desk!
After about 3 weeks with my printer, I’ve decided to take the leap and offer 3D printed objects for sale. To be sure, it’s a bit of a leap of faith – I’ve gone from “hobby & home use” to taking orders in that period of time, with no previous 3D printing experience.
One of the interesting aspects of this is demonstrating how this technology can truly revolutionize ‘speed to market’. When I got the printer, I had a couple of ideas for products that would serve a niche market… In the week between ordering the printer and receiving it, I quickly evaluated and then learned (just the basics) of a CAD program. I spent several days of that first week designing several of my ideas, turning them from thoughts to bits. Then, over the next 19 days (which included a 4 day business trip), I was able to learn the basics of printing, iterate through several design changes on each of the items I’d drawn, send them for testing and offer them for sale. In less than 3 weeks. That’s transformational technology! In that same time period, I’ve come to know (virtually) a couple of people – Lon in particular – who have provided timely advice that’s minimized my learning curve and kept things that could have derailed on track. That highlights another key aspect of the technology curve – how the internet is central to enabling this journey. I’m pointing out the obvious now, but with a reason – I remember a few short years ago when this would have been impossible. Even IF I had a 3D printer then, my ‘market’ would have been folks I could reach through classified ads in specialty magazines delivered by the postman.
WIll it be successful? Can the printer (and can I) deliver on the expectations I’ve set? Time will tell. To be sure, there are some risks. But, I’m also taking a measured approach – this isn’t an endeavor where I’ve taken out ad space on a major site and shouted from the mountaintops… I’ve identified a narrowly focused niche market (that I’m part of) and provided small solutions to every day problems.
There are a couple points of potential failure that need to be considered. Will the (relatively) unproven printer be up to the task? What if demand exceeds my capacity? Will I ever sleep?We’ll know soon. I’m writing this in the hours before openly announcing product availability on a forum. I’ve hinted at offering them for sale – and my latest post on one forum generated significant interest… and there is a line forming. Wow.
So, here we go! With the encouragement and support of several key people, I’m off!
One of the amazing things about this technology is that designs are made available for public use, and they can be downloaded & printed. When I was describing my printing of swaging accessories on the Castboolits forum, a user chimed in about wanting an improved part for his RCBS press. The primer catcher / decap tray that comes with RCBS single stage presses is notorious for allowing primers to escape (and fall on the floor / roll out of sight). I agreed to check into it and see what I could come up with.
Before going off and designing a new part (which for this, would probably take me a considerable amount of time), I checked on thingiverse.com. Low & behold, another Thingiverse member had designed and uploaded exactly this part! He has a left hand and right hand variant, which is a fantastic mod that users will appreciate. How cool is that?!?
I reached out to the designer of the part (lcecil) and we’ve exchanged several e-mails. He’s a reloader & 3D printer with lots of wisdom that I’ll put to use. This morning, I downloaded the part, prepared it for printing (“sliced it”) and assuming another project finishes up in time, this will print while I’m at work today.
Our conversation led into the use of others’ designs and selling them. He licensed this part under the Creative Commons – Attribution License, which can be used and even sold in small quantities by others.
So… actually selling this stuff is something to consider. Clearly, I’ve got my eye on that and I’m working through all of the different implications before I make a final decision. Stay tuned.