Mr. Burger, who goes by the username ‘ubermeisters’, had previously “been involved with CNC machining for many years, and was fascinated with additive manufacturing.” Up until that point, he had been very familiar with subtractive methods of manufacturing and so he decided to try and build a 3D printer of his own.
“I purchased all the items for, and built my own Fab@Home Model II, a syringe deposition 3D printer. It was a grueling and expensive mistake, [which I learned from]. The printer was open source, as was the software, but having no knowledge of programming, or the types of math required to modify it, the software was cripplingly awful. The hardware was expensive for what it did, and honestly, to this day, I have never gotten one good print from the machine. It really made me cautious about new printers, and gave me a healthy respect for the guys who pioneer the FOSS software the RepRap community enjoys and relies on so much.”
So, the printer Mr. Burger uses now is a MendelMax 2.0 from MakersToolWorks.com. This printer is “rigid. It’s not made of bare wood, which will warp and change dimensionally with environmental variables such as temperature and humidity.” But the MendelMax’s main selling point, at least for him, was the fact that it gives the user the ability to modify it however they choose, with “unbelievable support from the Maker’s Tool Works staff and community.”
As to what Mr. Burger uses his printer for: “I have some interesting designs that I am working on, and would like to patent eventually, and I want to be able to produce good prototypes when the time comes. That is how I justified the expense. In the end, to be honest, probably close to 60% of my prints are upgrades or other modifications to my printer. (Fan Ducts, cable chains to retain the wires, things of that nature.) 5% is probably calibration prints, as I test a lot of different types of new materials, each one requiring calibration prints for temperature. The remaining 35% are just little things at the moment, cell phone cases personalized for my significant other, or her mother, D&D miniatures, showcase examples of what can be printed, etc.”
Equipped with his obvious passion for the technology, Mr. Burger first became heavily involved with the r/3Dprinting subreddit between his experiments with his Fab@Home Model and his purchase of the MendelMax: “I was starting to look for a new 3D printer after I finally gave up on the Fab@Home, and a coworker said he bet there was a subreddit for that, so I checked, and I’ve been addicted ever since!…I buffed up on every bit of knowledge I could find, and became quite good at regurgitating the right information to people when they needed it, and the mods at the time took notice, and asked me if I was interested [in becoming a moderator]… My main goal was to [discover some] reviews for printers, and see how the tech had evolved since I first dipped my toes in a few years back…My goals quickly turned to educating the public about 3D printing…With the community’s blessing, I decided to reach out to 3D printer and filament manufacturers, and see if I could get some…contests goings, while giving some companies exposure to the community. It has been a great success, with its own set of tribulations, but undeniably, it became my personal baby, and my main task as a moderator.”
Mr. Burger’s other main job as a moderator is, unfortunately, spam removal: “3D printing is exploding, and as such, there is an ever-growing wealth of people seeking to gain from the rise in popularity. With this comes people looking to be a ‘website with a reddit account’ not a ‘redditor with a website.’ Self promotion issues are by far the largest number of junk…posted on a regular basis.”
Despite this irritation, however, “the community has absolutely grown in the time that I have been there. I certainly would like to think this is partially thanks to my contests bringing people in, but more than that, I’m just happy to see it grow. I have seen a gradual shift away from the RepRap mindset in the community, and in general, as it seems people are getting ready to accept the idea of consumer 3D printing…People are starting to complain more about print quality, although it has certainly been [improving]. They want ease of use now, like with a 2D printer, and hopefully soon enough, that will be a goal for the 3D printing companies.”
If you scroll through the various threads on the subreddit, you will see many members asking advice concerning everything from printer recommendations to the size of filament spools they should use. Mr. Burger explains, “we have so many posts that it can be frustrating for those of us who are regulars…That is the entire reason we put a list of proven printers in the sidebar, to help aid in the reduction of identical posts.” This expansive sidebar chart contains breakdowns of print dimension capabilities, print volume costs, and whether specific printers come as kits or fully assembled.
The r/3Dprinting community, Mr. Burger says, “is [full of] mostly curious and intellectual people, who are starting a new “maker career” for themselves. I think most of the hardcore makers, while still around the sub, tend to keep quiet most of the time, and are likely more active in /r/reprap, as it is more of a… reprap sub. Recently I have seen an impressive influx of teachers, librarians, and parents, asking about printers in education, and what they should know to start a program of their own, to educate children, and make it available to learn from. I love this, and I welcome every single post from anyone looking to learn more about 3D printing and education. “
“We also have quite a few questions about 3D printing for ‘Cosplay’ and similar costume customizations, such as Daft Punk helmets. These people generally only stick around to ask a few questions, and get discouraged when they realize it’s not like printing a paper for school. Hopefully we can start to retain more of these types of users, as the tech gets more user-friendly. “
“Then there are the tinkerers. These people dive dumpsters, tear apart old printers, and build new machines. [These devices] are almost always failures, otherwise I would call them makers [laughs], but the experience is fun, vicariously, for the community. More recently, I have also seen model builders coming by to ask about 3D printed quadcopters, RC cars, and drones.”
When we asked Mr. Burger if he had found there to be a most popular 3D printer among the r/3Dprinting community, he explained that “there are two main classes of consumer printers, the sub-$1K class, and the over $1K class. For the sub-$1K group, The Makerfarm kits have absolutely been the fastest growing kit, and Delta kits are starting to pick up some good momentum.”
“As for the over-$1K group, the main players are Ultimaker, Lulzbot (TAZ), and Makers Tool Works. The former has recently released a sub-$1K printer known as the Fusematic, which I expect to start picking up some serious steam. It’s an amazing printer, worth well over what they are selling it for, and the prints I’ve seen from it are absolutely gorgeous. much nicer than the other sub-$1K printers. I would keep an eye on that one! There are also MakerBot users among us.”
However, apparently MakerBot is not the most popular printer among the diehards of the subreddit. This is mainly due to ‘open source’ proponents. As Mr. Burger explains, “the community is really geared toward open source, and it is also very polarized because of it. Many people are ‘open source or nothing!’ and lots of people want open source, but don’t care really, as long as they can get nice prints…It’s been causing some bickering and general misunderstanding here and there, but overall, it creates a really great thought environment. “
That’s truly the power of a forum community where makers, teachers, and other advocates of 3D printing can gather, discuss, and ultimately, learn from each other: “I see a lot of open discussion about better ways to do things, with mostly appropriate back and forth regarding feasibility…We may not be a technological mecca for all things intellectually-related to 3D printing, but there certainly have been some really great ideas that have started as ‘what if?’ conversations.”
Quotes Courtesy of Chris Burger