It was my first 3D printing experience and I can say it was a success - or almost. The art of 3D printing is all the rage these days but it is nothing new. Sources (I know, Wikipedia) say fused deposition modeling (FDM) was developed in the late 1980s and was commercialized in 1990 and even before that some equipments and materials were developed.
But only after the patents on FDM expired that the open source community adopted 3D printing and brought DIY variants to the market, making it appealing to every day user. Going a step further companies are now manufacturing easy to use 3D printers at accessible prices. The open-source term for this technique is fused filament fabrication (FFF).
The Da Vinci 1.0 3D printer I had here for review is available in New Zealand. It uses cartridges containing 600g of a plastic filament that is molten and deposited in layers to create a 3D object.
The printer itself looks much more professional than the DIY versions, and include a glass platform, a closed cabinet with windows access, light and a easy to use LCD with access to functions and configuration menus.
The Da Vinci 1.0 3D printer connects to a PC via USB and uses a standard power point. You can create your own model or download from what seems to be an infinite number of models available from different sources. These can vary from smartphone covers (and there are a lot of those) to decoration articles for your home, replacement parts for every day articles or custom made objects. For my tests I downloaded a laptop stand model and a small puppy statue (for my daughter).
Using this 3D printer you can build objects up to 20cm x 20cm x 20cm. The filaments come in 12 different colours but you will only use one colour at a time. Printing speed will vary wildly depending on the model you are printing, the density and print mode which can be FINE: 0.1 MM (100 Microns), STD: 0.2 MM (200 Microns), SPEED: 0.3 MM (300 Microns) and ULTRA FAST: 0.4 MM (400 Microns). This means to get the best results you will have to wait longer, while you can quicky get a rough model in shorter time.
The more creative types would have no problem in coming up with ideas and justifications to have a 3D printer at home. The more enterprising type though would go for business applications. The cost and time to design and create a prototype using a 3D printer are many times lower than the process of creating a product from scratch. Design companies could quickly come up with a product concept and have something to show stakeholders before going to a production line.
The software is easy to use and allows you to view the model on your screen, scale and rotate it before sending the job to the printer. When sending to the printer you can configure speed and fill % which will directly affect speed.
My first project worked a charm - the small puppy statue. It was printed at 25% fill, standard and the output was a nice figure (albeit pink). My second attempt wasn't so succesful though as I wanted to print a laptop stand and being the new guy I didn't realise I should really have added some stands for the overhang arms (where the laptop would sit), so while the bottom half printed beautifuly the same can't be said about the top - which wound up being a mess of plastic. Lesson learned though.
Overall the printer delivered what it promises: an easy to use 3D printer that is affordable and creates good output.