3D printing is coming soon to your desktop. For industry, this is already pretty proven technology. Doctors have used them to print heart valves and implant them in patients. Architects are using them to print houses. Engineers and designers are using them for prototyping. But the scale and expense of those machines put them out of reach for most households.
Now there are several models hitting the marketplace intended for home use. They’re an exciting look into “the future is now,” but are they actually useful tools for the homeowner and if they are, is the quality high enough to make them practical?
With those questions in mind, we unboxed XYZprinting’s da Vinci 1.0 AiO 3D printer and scanner in one. It’s the first consumer level machine to handle both scanning and printing in a single unit. That’s important because most homeowners, even DIYers, don’t know their way around 3D design software, so the ability to scan an object and then reproduce it makes the process easier.
The first thing we scanned was a figurine of a hula girl we stole from someone’s desk (you know who you are). Her extended arms were too fine for the scanner to read properly and they came out as fuzzy, digital noise in the rendering, so we didn’t try to print her. Next we scanned a Dia de los Muertos skull candle and after recalibrating the scanner (jostled in shipping) got much better results, but still with some noise.
The recalibration did not improve the scan of the hula girl, revealing the limitations of the application. If your object is smaller than 2 inches square the scanner can’t accurately capture it. On the other end, the area of the print bed is about 10 inches square, but the footprint of the skull candle was less than 6 inches. The chin and the back of the head were at the extreme ends of the scan window. So, if you want to scan something, it needs to be larger than 2 inches and smaller than 6.
First of all, the instructions are rather limited and are translated from Chinese, leading to some clarity issues. The process is largely intuitive and user friendly, but you're largely on your own.
If you're new to the process (like us) this leads to a learning curve a little steeper than it should be. But, that was just a learning curve and not a technical problem. The skull printed nicely, including exact replication of the digital noise around the eyes.
There is a function for cleaning up the image before you print, but all it does is blur it, so you’d trade detail in favor of cleaner lines.
Wanting to skip the scan and go directly to printing we downloaded a tiki shot glass from thingverse.com and it printed perfectly.
We followed up with a Jack o’ lantern that came out a little distorted near the bottom but was otherwise successful.
The molding corner wasn’t as fun a choice, but was applicable to DIY. It mostly printed well, but the tip of the corner lifted off the print bed, so if you needed it for a project you’d have to print a new one.
As an actually practical print job, we printed a lamp switch key for a floor lamp I’m modifying.
This also came out a little bent on the bottom layer, but I was planning to sand and paint it, so it didn’t matter. It finished off my lamp mod nicely.
The peeling up of the bottom layer is a common problem, and the prescribed fix is to cover the print bed with a glue stick. I haven’t researched this, but I’d guess the glue stick was a great innovation that replaced the paste pot in the 1940s or 50s. This cutting edge tool shouldn’t rely on a hit and miss kludge. An alternative is to lay down wide strips of blue painters tape. Also a workaround, but cleaner and faster to use.
As far as printing is concerned, this was the biggest downside. Otherwise things came out as they were supposed to.
Let’s just assume everything about this thing worked perfectly. It’s pretty cool, but do you really need a duplicate of your Dia de los Muertos skull candle? There are a lot of fun things to do with this machine, but does it deliver what any new tool should: time saving, convenience, and the ability to achieve something you couldn’t before. If you’re a designer or inventor or artist the answer is obviously yes. With your own design software you can create just about anything, and this machine will deliver reliable printings of your designs. But what if you’re just an average homeowner?
If you’re a DIYer you will find uses for this. I know I did. Starting with the lamp switch key, the list of things you might scan and print includes drawer pulls, switch plates, chair or table feet, the wheel of a vacuum cleaner – anything that might be difficult to buy on its own or match with an original. Most of the negatives come from the learning curve, so as you get used to the operation and limitations of the machine I think the de Vinci will be a valuable addition to your tool belt.
Plus it sounds like a computer is supposed to sound when it’s thinking.