(L) Sebastian Conran Associates(R) DeAgostini
The build your printer trend
The Eaglemoss Vector 3 on the left and DeAgostini model on the right
If you’re a UK reader you may well have noticed an advert on TV for a 3D printing magazine that each week will come with a part and instructions to build your own 3D printer. I’ve had five texts about it, two phone calls from both parents and one family member even went as far as saying to my mother “I see Daniel’s 3D printer magazine is on the telly…” - this is the same family member that thought I worked in something to do with holograms.
The magazine in question is not TCT but a partwork called “3D Create & Print” – a weekly magazine from publisher Eaglemoss that encourages the reader to follow and build the Vector 3 (what happened to the Vector 1 & 2?) 3D printer over the course of 90 issues - 87 of which are £6.99, issue one is £1.99 and two issues with more expensive electronics are priced at £14.99 a grand total of £640.10.
Partwork magazines are the fourth best-selling magazine sector in the UK, January is their most active month and Eaglemoss are one of the biggest players in the; build a model Titanic; organise your Disney cupcake recipes in a Filofax; collect your Dr Who figurines; game. What is good enough for Eaglemoss is good enough for their largest competitor DeAgostini, who are also set to launch their own Build You Own 3D Printer partwork magazine.
DeAgostini Model Space’s subscription is a shorter timeframe of 12 months’ worth of editions but slightly more expensive at £69.99 a month working out at £839.88. Steep for a printer that can’t match the specs of the Micro 3D printer (available in March), which is some £600 less in total!
The two machines are pretty basic FDM-based printers; single extrusion printing in ABS and PLA only; basic software -the Vector 3 comes with a white-labelled Repetier Host both encourage free downloads of either SketchUp of Autodesk 123D; and the Vector 3 uses free 3D model designs as an incentive – very basic designs of which better versions could be found on Thingiverse.
Free Designs on Vector 3
Top three whistle uses...
Eaglemoss’s key selling point is that the Vector 3 was designed by respected product designer Sebastian Conran. It looks like a very nice machine indeed; it fits in well with the minimalistic Appleesque look-du-jour; is designed with a hood for safety and an element of controlled environment; and as a 3D printing enthusiast with links to Sheffield Uni’s AM department I’m sure, despite not seeing the printer in action, it prints well.
The affordable weekly/monthly payments (though the Vector 3 is also available to buy from April 2015 for £699) and the step-by-step learning element means that both printers will be very appealing to those who have been tempted by the technology but put off by the steep learning curve and baulked at the initial outlay.
However, I have issue with the two products and that is futureproofing. The 90 week build time for the Eaglemoss one and 12 month for DeAgostini's model mean that these already fairly basic FDM machines could be antiquated by the time you get to print your first print. Cast your minds back two years ago and see how much products have moved on – in the same price bracket we now have smartphone capability, WiFi, custom-built software, multi-material and multi-colour extrusion, on-board scanning, twice the resolution, twice the speed and more.
If you can afford to save £69.99 a month you could have a printer in less than half the time. XYZ Printing’s new DaVinci Jr with a similar spec to these was announced at CES 2015 with a price tag of £250, the same goes for New Matter's MOD-t and the aforementioned Micro. You can get the well established printrbot Simple kit right now for £250 and assemble that with all the support you'd ever need from the excellent Brook Drumm and and co.
If it is the learning and building from scratch own you’re after there are endless free resources through the amazing RepRap project that can help you get started, you can buy the parts individually yourself over time, build for half the cost or even less, if you get stuck there's countless maker evenings to go to, great Google Plus communities or there's 3D Printing for Dummies co-authored by a man in Richard Horne, who knows a thing or two about building your own 3D printer.
I'm labouring the point perhaps but there are countless better value 3D printers and DIY kits and projects available from people, who have been doing this for the best part of a decade now. The partwork philosophy of less ‘build it and they will come’ more ‘let them build it and they will come’, just doesn’t work in an industry as fast moving as this.