My 3D Junque Factory

Not MY Plastic!

I have taken a serious look at hobbyist level 3D printing. Two kinds of hobbyists. The ones tinkering with the hardware and software (firmware) still stuck in the RepRap phase (and loving it!) – building a “better” machine that can build itself. The other hobbyist is the plastic Junque maker (like me) printing tons of plastic on Chinese made hardware. 

No US manufacturer of 3D printers can really compete (in price) in the base hobbyist market with US made hardware. Printing Hobby Junque doesn’t make sense using a $2500 to $10,000+ commercial US machine.

Perhaps a few deep pockets may go there.

As a hobbyist at the Junque-maker level, I find it very difficult to create anything from plastic that has any real intrinsic long-term value for anyone but myself. Many clever and useful small items like a decorative vase, bowl, or other container, but nothing on a sustainable resale production level of great worth.

How many plastic skulls does one person need. Some 3D print-makers obviously require more than others.

The real hobby value of 3D printing is the design skills developed using 3D CAD or 3D Graphic Drawing software. The printer then provides the tangible output or proof of a drawn concept. It proves what was drawn on the computer can become a proof-of-concept item. 

The item may still be plastic Junque, but that is OK.

Making Junque with a $200 to $700 printer is not a crime. It’s a form of creative fun. A Nerd-Tech toy. The hardware (at that cost) does not have to make a substantial (or any) return on investment. For me it is an investment in entertainment and improvement of creative drawing skills. 

Just operating the printer is not a career move. However, it IS very good mental practice of problem solving involving a huge number of variables. As well as mechanical skills practice with near constant maintenance and repairs. All part of the “fun”.

I hope with all my heart that teaching 3D printing in grade school is not just about operating a 3D printer as a possible career. No more than the table saw is a tool used in woodworking. It’s the design-from-scratch and the PRODUCT CREATED that are the proper focus. Be a furniture design/engineer/maker, not a table-saw operator.

The hobbyist grade 3D printer is a good plastic model maker. As a kid I assembled a lot of plastic models. Revel, Bachman, etc.. I never asked myself, “What are these models good for?” They were models. End of reasoning. I was happy to possess the model… for a while.

The 3D printer is the same story. Now I make plastic stuff and plastic Junque that I design. It doesn’t come as molded parts in a kit box. I am no longer that 12 year old model builder, assembling someone else’s kit design with injection-molded parts.

I admit having put a lot of thought into how plastic 3D printing could become an income stream for for the advanced hobbyist. 

There are folks who use 3D printing to produce plastic models. Perfect application. But I see that as a very narrow opportunity for profit. War-game models and fantasy games. I have no idea of that market. For a personal collection I can understand. But… How many paying customers are standing in line waiting for a miniature Thor holding a hammer created by a guy printing them in layers of plastic in his garage? Surprise me.

If I were still a model train layout builder, I’d be making lots of model parts with 3D printing. That’s probably not a modern hobby for anyone under age 50 (or older) these days.

The 3D printing justification for me is to find a nice specialized plastic model-making niche and exploit it to the best of my abilities. Then just have fun doing it. That’s the only vision I could conjure. If it is making Junque, then that is just how it is…

The majority (51+%) of items made on a hobbyist 3D printer are either a model of something non-plastic, or a copy of something normally made cheaper or better with injection moulded plastic, or a prototype concept model, which is also a model.

I admit a lot of my printing is done “just because I can”.

The really professional end-use 3D Print-produced products, are made where high end commercial machines earn their keep. By definition hobbies seldom need financial justification, just pleasure for those involved. But sometimes a hobby can become much like a factory job if ROI destroys all the enjoyment.