Most fun/£ - laser cutter or 3D printer?

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21 Aug 2017
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I've been saving my pocket money hard...and can almost afford a new toy (around £500).
I've a couple of specific projects for each that I'd like to try, but which one is more fun/generally useful? Are they both about the same difficulty in learning curve?
I know it's a "how long is string?" quesiton and "what do you want to accomplish?" is a fair retort...but indulge me. If you have both, which do you get more fun out of and why?
I am pondering a 3D printer as a mate of mine uses his a lot. The main sticking point for me is that there is no point having the machine unless you are adept at use of the necessary software. I am still pondering the pros and cons of the time investment to learn that.
There's not much I can think of I'd want to make out of plastic. However, being able to burn patterns or logos onto wood could be fun, so it would be a laser for me. However, you are asking us to choose between a chariot and a rowing boat, an apple and a cucumber.
For 500 quid thats a seriously good 3d printer or a mediocre to kinda works ok laser cutter.
Either find abother 500 quid and get something thats going to uct more than a few mm or buy the printer.
Find a local maker space for the use of a laser cutter,they tend to have better than you can house at home.
Unfortunately I seem to be at the epicentre of a desert when it comes to makerspaces or woodyards.
I'd like to be able to cut 5mm ply or perspex.
A full CNC laser setup that has the power to cut through material is probably out of your price range.

If you are serious about it, I'd buy something like an XCarve 2 or the latest Shapoko and add a router trimmer as a mill and buy a laser cutter head as well, then you have both options. That will run you well over £1.5K though.

If engraving is all you want, Creality do an ok out of the box setup that is a 3D printer with laser engraving capabilities: ... utter.html

That won't cut through plywood though, and the bed isn't big.

I have an XCarve 2 and a Creality 3D printer. I use the XCarve more.

3D printer can be useful though. Mainly for those annoying plastic components that break that are hard to get replacements for.
Was going to suggest CNC router setup, rather than laser cutter, since a decent laser cutter is 5-10k.
On the fence myself about a 3d printer (and I am a mechanical engineer) or a chinese CNC milling machine like those "3040" or "6040" ones on eBay and elsewhere. Likely will be both at some point, if only to get the kids involved with some technical stuff.
Deadeye":1qdqer9i said:
Would one of those milling machines enable me to cut gears at, say, Mod3?
I don't know what Mod3 is, but, yes an XCarve 2 with say a Makita trimmer on it can cut some pretty small gears from thin sheets of plywood.

I run a 4mm collet on mine with a 1mm bit for really small stuff and it works well.
I've been thinking along similar lines... and it will be 3D printer for mw.

£500 gets into the ABS-printing range (I think). With lots of possibilities for making fun and serious things.

Whereas a £500 laser is more for burning key rings (IMHO), which will get stale fast.
I've had a 3D printer for about 4 years and can count on one hand the number of genuinely useful things I've successfully managed to print. I would need a vast number of hands to count the prints that have failed because they have either not stuck properly to the build plate or they curl up at the corners several hours into the print. And this is after investing in aftermarket upgrades such as auto bed levelling. 9 times out of 10 I will knock up anything I need in wood before I'll think about trying to print it.
Both my current department and the last one had an Ultimaker 3d printer that kept on making excellent prints with the occasional dud, that is 3-5k rather than 500 but still. A lot of it has to do with temperature management, so building a box around it is worthwhile.
Does yours have an enclosure?
I have a Creality CR20 Pro and use it quite a bit, mainly for stuff I can use in the "workshop".

1) Pretty much all my jig knobs are made on it.
2) I have more "painter's pyramids" than any painter ;)
3) Squares and clamp supports
4) Hose adaptors - very, very useful
5) Hose clamps

The list is really endless.

Try if you want to find some pre-designed things to print. I've only published 3 of my own designs - but the hose adaptor one seems to be a favourite of many.

iirc it cost me £260 at the time and was a bargain.

When I first started printing stuff it was infuriating because the wait times are, at best, a couple of hours but eventually I got into the swing of printing as many of a thing as I could fit on the build plate so that I'd have spares and when I started using the spares I'd print more as stock items.


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