So here’s how it’s going with my 3D printer. In summary, it’s going well! Very happy with my Dremel 3D45.
I’ve printed many toy animals for various children and adults, some board-game accessories such as Gloomhaven JotL dashboards and monster standees, and other interesting things.
I’ve yet to have the time to learn enough CAD to start printing my own designs, but that’s definitely on the agenda. Still may aspects of 3D printing to explore, and I know I’m just getting started. I don’t plan to become an expert, or make this my primary hobby interest, but I do want to learn more as time goes by.
The Printer Itself
The printer has been mostly trouble-free, and has met my expectations for turnkey 3D printing. The leveling process is quite straightforward and seems to work well. No pieses of paper required!
Noise level has been reasonable, although I don’t have any other 3D printers to compare it to. It sits with me in my office, about five feet away. I wouldn’t necessarily want it running if I was on a video call, but it hasn’t bothered me if I’m just working.
I’m pleased with how much I can print from a given amount of filament. The ability to make things varying levels of hollow via the “fill” settings really makes a difference here.
Also, since my needs are pretty simple, and I’m not doing particularly artistic prints (at least for now), the limits of using Dremel branded filament hasn’t been a drawback, as I’d hoped would be the case.
So, as you no doubt know, 3D printer filament absorbs water, and that’s bad. Some of us live someplace with enough humidity that we need to be concerned about keeping it dry. (Especially filaments like Nylon etc.)
You can find a lot of fancy vacuum sealers and such, but what I’ve found works well for me is plain old gallon ziplock bags plus some desiccant packets. And, because I like to measure things, some cheap hygrometers to let me be sure that the desiccant is effective and the bag isn’t leaking.
Desiccant Packets (Might be able to get by with smaller packets, I have not done that experiment yet.)
Small electronic humidity gauges These are cheap, but based on my casual comparisons with better instruments (but nothing lab-grade) they read about 6% low, which is fine for my purposes.
This scheme keeps the filament at around 30%. That isn’t super-low, but it’s much better than the ambient humidity in my house!
The Dremel cloud software has worked pretty well for me. I’m sure I’ll use the local slicer application more if I get deeper into the details of that step in the process, but for now the online version has been fine.
The fundamental tools all seem to be there, and the ability to monitor the printer and see the job as it progresses via a browser is nice.
I’ve had two support contacts. Both were via the “chat” option on the Dremel website.
The first one went great. I had two issues.
1) The slicer software had an issue on my Mac. This turned out to be due to changes in the graphics driver on the Mac that the software hadn’t yet been changed to accommodate. They were aware of the issue, and provided a patch.
2) The types of filament it came with had been changed, but the online description had not been updated. This resulted in me getting a type of filament that I had preemptively also bought a spool of (I wanted to try the various filament types).
So I had 2 of one type, and 0 of the other. They offered to send me a spool of the type I’d been expecting to be included, and it showed up a few days later. Good support!
I should also note that I had submitted that as a support issue to B&H Photo, where I had purchased the printer. They took a little time to get back to me, but when they did they offered to also replace the “missing” spool, even though it was Dremel who had changed the contents of the package. So good support from them also!
(No, I didn’t accept yet another spool from them, I told them that Dremel had already handled it!)
At one point, the camera stopped being recognized. There was no precipitating event that I am aware of, it just didn’t show up one day.
Support had me do a “hard reset”, which is apparently not the same as a power switch off-on reboot. No joy.
They then suggested a “factory reset”. This was a bit more of a pain because I had to do the whole Wi-Fi setup again, then get a new token and re-register with the Cloud. (That part was actually pretty easy.)
So that was annoying, but, to my surprise, it fixed the camera! Now I’m just hoping it was some fluke that won’t happen again. Fingers crossed.
I knew I’d be making this leap at some point. While recovering from a minor medical procedure seemed like a good time, so after some furious research I ordered a Dremel 3D45 3D printer. B&H had the same price as Amazon, free expedited shipping, and was actually able to deliver faster than Amazon, so I was able to not give Amazon even more of my money, and that made me happy. Oh, and they took Apple Pay!
(No affiliation, just a long-time satisfied customer.)
While I have the skills and knowledge to build a 3D printer from a kit, for now at least my goal is to make 3D prints, not make 3D printers a hobby unto themselves. Similar to how I feel about Linux on the desktop (or at least how it was maybe a decade ago, I know that it’s improved). After a shot at migrating to Linux, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to play with computers, Linux was a good option. But if I wanted to actually do things with a computer, the Mac was far-and-away the better choice.
Yes, two caveats here. One is that this was the landscape over a decade ago, and two, nothing wrong with playing with computers. I’ve spent a lot of my life doing that. But sometimes you just need a tool to accomplish other things, and not spend all your time and energy on said tool.
Ok, enough of that digression – bottom line is I wanted a 3D printer I could use to make things for fun and to support other projects.
The Dremel seemed like a good choice for a turnkey system, and it has not disappointed me. It’s enclosed, and it looks like a nice piece of equipment on my bench-top. All the software and hardware is well-integrated, and it even comes with a built-in webcam to monitor the printing process and make time-lapse videos. (At least if you go through Dremel’s cloud.)
The biggest cons were the price and the “need” to use Dremel filament. For a turnkey system with good support and backing, I felt the price was high but justified. Again, I wanted it to “just work”. The filament issue is a little overblown IMHO. You can use any filament, it’s not like the system is locked down. What you lose is the nifty RFID detection of filament type and potentially the warranty on the extruder (or maybe the entire printer, have seen mixed answers). For my current needs, the four types of filament Dremel sells will be fine. If I need to use something else, I’ll cross that bridge then. Yes, filament is a little pricier from them, and if I was expecting to do high-volume printing that might be a bigger factor. Note that since a lot of the initial reviews discussed this, that Dremel has bumped the amount of filament on a roll from 0.5 kg to 0.75 kg at what I think is the same price-point, so not the cheapest filament, but more competitive than it was originally.
In an evening I had it unboxed, the firmware updated, connected to the cloud, and printing the obligatory frog. The frog came out well in my inexpert opinion.
What do I plan to do with it? Well, beyond the good excuse to learn some new skills, making enclosures for various electronic projects is on the list. And there will no-doubt be plenty of LEGO and robotics related projects it will come in handy for as well.
Now, time to learn how to actually use 3D CAD, and slicing, and what material is best for what application, and so much more!