Author:James Floyd Kelly
Audience: Newcomers to 3D printing
Reviewer: Harry Fairhead
3D printing is still all the rage and there are lots of people who could be enticed to get involved. Is this a good place to start?
The first and most important thing to say about this book is that it is not a general purpose build your 3D printer from scratch book. It does say "Build your own 3D Printer" on the cover but this turns out to be putting together a low cost Printrbot Simple kit of parts. If you dont' want to build the Printrbot kit in particular then a chunk of the book is going to be of theoretical interest only.
The next problem with the book is that its level varies wildly. The first chapter tries to explain what 3D printing is and it seems to be talking to a complete idiot. OK, there are a lot of us idiots around, but if you already know what a 2D printer is, and are capable of more-or-less guessing how a 3D printer works after seeing one in action, then you don't need to be talked down to quite this much.
To give you an idea of the level in this chapter, the following bullet points describe a motor:
- They are used for movement
- They can spin clockwise or anticlockwise
- They can spin at varying speeds
- They require electricity
- They are controlled by a computer.
Chapter 2 is about choosing a 3D printer. This is a simple explanation of the pros and cons of different types of plastic printers. It mainly covers features that you might want to take into account when picking a printer.
Chapter 3 is a step-by-step photo guide to building the Printerbot Simple. Given things are likely to change as improvements to the kit are made, it mostly serves as a way of finding out if you think you are up to building the kit. It might even help you decide if a kit, any kit, is the way to go.
Chapter 4 explains the software - again there is much that is specific to Printrbot, but it also covers Repetier, more general 3D printing software, in a step-by-step setup.
In Chapter 5 we move on to print something using the hardware and software described so far - a Hello World badge.
From here the book becomes increasingly general. Chapter 6 looks at 3D modeling software. This is where things can get complicated but the software chosen - Tinkercad - is very easy to use. In the next chapter it is used to create the Hello World badge printed earlier. Chapter 8 covers other modeling tools and the final chapters look at going further - making cookie cutters, different 3D programs and alternatives to the Printrbot Simple including milling machines and laser cutters.
For me the book could have pitched things at a slightly higher level and I think that there will be a number of readers who pick up this book expecting something more technical who are going to be a bit dissatisfied. The topic of 3D printing isn't, as yet, an off-the-shelf activity and tweaking and tuning are part of its appeal to many makers and while this book does have a few hints and tips, there is nothing creative or outside of the box.
If you are looking for a very very simple introduction to 3D printing then this might be the book you are looking for, but don't complain that it didn't take you all the way to become an expert. It might also serve, if you are standing on the edge looking in, an idea of whether 3D printing is something you want to get involved in via a kit of parts.