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There was talk tonight at a club I attend of possibly buying a 3D printer. I can think of movement holders and parts trays as obvious choices, but what else might one be useful for in a modern watch workshop? Also if anyone has any experience of them and has 'must haves' and 'must avoids' lists that'd be great!

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I've got the Flashforge Dreamer 3D printer.

I've  not really made much with it for watchmaking, myself, but have used it for many other things including making parts for my 1970s electro-mechanical pinball machine that were not obtainable any other way.

A very important thing to think about when buying a printer is the size of the print bed as this dictates the biggest thing you can make, usually cheaper machines have smaller print beds that will limit the size of things you can make.

Try and buy a printer that is fully enclosed as it eliminates the problems of cold drafts cooling the print too much between layers that can lead to print failure.

You want a printer that can print from an SD card not just from your computer. That way you don't need to leave you computer on when you are doing an 8 or 12 hour print.

Choose a printer that parts are readily available for and that has a big user following, as this will give you more help with finding the best settings.

Look at what software comes with the printer and think about what other software you might use.

I design most of my parts on the free software sketchup, but purchased simplify3D for doing my slicing as it produces better results than the software that came with my printer.

Printers are somewhat noisy and do give off plastic fumes so best if you don't need to leave it running in a small enclosed room.

That should give you a little to think about.

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I have a monoprice voxel. It is limited in features compared to others but works out-of-the-box and was a good price. I wouldn't bother with a 3d printer for parts holders and the like. There are a few nice designs on thingiverse but really it isn't worth the bother. Injection molded supplies are going to be better quality and you can buy a bunch all at once instead of one waiting to print them out one at a time.

Where it may come in handy is when you need something in a specific shape that you cannot buy. But keep in mind you will need to learn at least some basic CAD design. I use Moi3d which is excellent but there are cheaper alternatives.

I've used my 3d printer to create different adapters and holders where I needed an exact shape. For example, I was bending a strip of brass and was able to create plastic bending clamps I compressed with some pliers. I was able to figure out the exact inside and outside curve I needed and print to match. The nice thing about the 3d printed parts is you can use glue to attach whatever you need to it without worrying about having to damage the print when removing it as you can always print a new one.

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For me its more of a general shop resource vs watch specific - something to be pursued if you like making things.  I've not yet thought of any watch uses that it would just perfect for, but in general it opens up a lot of possibilities

I bought a Prusa recently, it was supposedly highly rated.... look at all the useful stuff I've made!   What a disaster!

Anyway, I'm down on this crappy printer, I do keep working on trying to solve the bugs, as the potential capabilities it brings to the shop are really quite exciting.  Prusa griping aside, check out the second image - a yoke for a dynamic balancer I'm making.  A part like that would be near impossible except by casting and a pattern.   Aside from making a pattern and doing a casting being a huge amount of owrk, its also unlike a casting in that you specific the "fill" percentage so items end up very strong and light - there's no other way to do things like that (3rd photo of partially printed parts so you can see the fill).  In the photo its a 25% fill - interior is only 25% material








Edited by measuretwice

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