Recently I purchased a new kind of 3D printer called an FDM printer. What that means is that this printer uses a plastic filament that is fed through an extruder into a hot end where it is heated to several hundred degrees Celcius thus melting the filament which is then pushed through a very small nozzle and laid down in layers as a fine plastic string. Sounds complicated but it's not really.
I tried this technology many years ago during its birth and had no success. Since then the technology has been perfected and has become very reliable. Here is a picture of the printer I purchased. It's called the Creality Ender 5 and sells for $349.00 on Amazon:
I tried 2 other printers before this one and had nothing but problems with them, but this one worked great right out of the box. It's been very reliable in printing objects with very little trouble.
The filament comes in a variety of colors and materials. I'm currently trying one that has real wood in it. The parts printed with this filament can be sanded, carved, drilled, stained, and finished just like real wood.
I found a naval cannon on a website called Cults that I'm currently printing just to see how the wood filament looks on something actually made of wood (the carriage). Here is a photo of the cannon from that website:
What I've found interesting is that another website called Thingeverse has all kinds of 3D images that you can download for free. Among the thousands of files, I ran across several tools that I can 3D print such as various sanding blocks, vises, storage boxes and such. There were lots of sanding blocks you could print for yourself.
Here are some storage drawers I found on Thingeverse:
And here is a belt sander you can print and create with a Dremel Tool.
The possibilities for items that we use in our ship modeling are practically endless. There's all kinds of free 3D printable drawings available on the internet at many different websites. Some do cost a few dollars but you can usually find an equivalent drawing for free if you just do some searching.
I find this printer to be a lot of fun to play with just as a hobby. Thingeverse has some interesting models like figures and artwork including some amazing vases. There are filaments that look like silk and come in metallic colors as well as rainbow colors where the filament changes color as you print it.
Another neat feature of these printers is that there is free software available that you can install on a Raspberry Pi (about $35.00 for the Pi) which enable you to actually monitor your printer from anywhere over the internet using just a web browser. You hook up a simple webcam to the Pi and the Pi to your printer. I installed this on my printer and watch it print from my office with the printer in my basement. It's amazing. I can control the printer from anywhere, turn it on, load a file, start and stop the printing and watch as it prints.
Anyway, I thought some of you might be interested in this technology. If there's any interest, I could write some articles on how to use the printer. My primary source for information has been YouTube. I follow several people who have dozens of videos on this technology and have learned a lot in the past few weeks just watching their videos.