As you can see from the picture above, they’re still in their boxes, but I’ve tentatively named them after Fred and Wilma from the Flintstones. Fred will have a larger (0.50mm) print nozzle in order to create big prints more quickly at the expense of detail. Wilma will use MakerGear’s standard 0.35mm and will be used for smaller prints that require more detail at the expense of longer print times.
About 3D printers
Like many 3D printers appearing in makerspaces across the county, the M2 is an extrusion type printer which uses a technology called fused deposition modeling (FDM). This printer technology feeds a spool of thin plastic filament into a heated metal nozzle. The plastic melts and flows out through a tiny hole in the nozzle. As the plastic flows, the nozzle moves over a flat bed and deposits the plastic onto it. The plastic cools, hardens, and then a new layer is deposited on top. This happens over and over again until the entire piece is printed. Think of it as a motorized hot glue gun.
The M2 can print several types of plastic filament. The two most common filaments are ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), and PLA (Polylactic acid). ABS is derived from petroleum, and is the same plastic used to make Legos. PLA is a bioplastic derived from corn starch and other renewable resources.
Both materials have their benefits and drawbacks. PLA has a lower melting temperature, and is easier to work with than ABS. ABS is more fussy. It cools rapidly, so care must be taken to prevent parts from warping or layers from delaminating. However, PLA prints will begin to breakdown if left in sunlight for extended periods of time. PLA will also deform if it gets to hot, such as being left in car on a hot sunny day.
Why we chose the MakerGear M2
Originally, we considered the UP! Plus 2, but after a bit of research we settled on the M2 for several reasons.
- PLA support – Because it’s easier and more environmentally friendly, we want to start printing with PLA. The Plus 2 is primarily an ABS printer, and it prints that material quite well. However, many people report a lot of difficulty printing PLA on the Plus 2, mostly due to the inability to precisely set the temperature on the print head. The M2 prints PLA very well, and prints ABS quite well also.
- Large build volume – The M2 can print parts as large a eight inches wide, ten inches deep, and eight inches tall. This is significantly bigger than the Plus 2’s max dimension of five-and-a-half inches.
- Open firmware – The M2 uses an open-source, arduino-based controller which means a variety of software can be used with the printer. The Plus 2 is a closed system which won’t work with cool little gadgets like the Doodle3D.
- Active user community – There’s a very active and helpful community of MakerGear users on Google Groups, which is great for useful tips and tricks for getting the most out of our printers.
- Good manufacturer support – The owners of MakerGear are also active on the MakerGear Google Group. They are very responsive and quickly replace faulty parts and components.
- No proprietary filament – Some 3D printer manufactures (though not UP!) are adopting the paper printer revenue model of requiring you to print only with their proprietary filament. MakerGear will let us use any filament we want. They do sell their own PLA filament, which they say works best with their printers. Since it’s competitively priced with what can be bought elsewhere, we’re going to start out with some filament from MakerGear, and see how it goes.