3D Printing Shootout: $599 Printrbot Takes on the $25k Stratasys uPrint — and Wins

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scott's setup

Scott’s setup

It’s often said that it’s important to pick your battles. And while Scott Hanselman thought nothing of blazing right into a heady 3D printing shootout, the cards definitely looked to be stacked against him.

First of all, while he spends his days as a Microsoft employee, writer, speaker, and consultant — when it comes to 3D printing he is the first to admit he is a novice, who had been experimenting with 3D printing and a fair amount of failed prints over the two weeks previous to putting himself in this battle. Second, he agreed to put his 3D printing skills to the test with an inexpensive Printrbot Simple Metal 3D printer — going in against a decked out Stratasys uPrint SE Pro professional printer housed at his buddy’s office.

brandon's setup

Brandon’s setup

The epic competition was on, and the future of 3D printing hung in the balance with their selected design: a coffee mug. Due to the curves required for a coffee mug and the challenge of the handle overhang, both parties decided it was a good object for their competition.

Because of the disparity in price and quality touted for these two printers, it’s quite important to take note that Scott’s Printrbot set him back only $599, while his friend Brandon’s office spent $22K on the Stratasys uPrint. Scott also used a Raspberry Pi, and its camera, to record his efforts. Between that, filament, and several other extraneous expenses, he was in the project for $722.

Brandon’s office ended up spending nearly $25K, with the expense of buying a Stratasys uPrint built in:

  • uPrint SE Pro Printer and Dissolving Bath – about $22,000
  • 1 Spool of Model Material at $205
  • 1 Spool of Support Material at $200
  • Box of Build Plates at $125
  • Soluble Concentrate at $149
  • Warranty Support at $2,000/year

Scott downloaded a file for the coffee cup from Thingiverse, and made several adjustments, including setting the support options so that the handle would print appropriately, as he was concerned about the overhang.

Scott's cup on the left.

Scott’s cup is on the left, Brandon’s on the right

The 3D printing ‘shootout’ began, with Scott recording the journey using his Raspberry Pi and Octoprint. Once results were in, Scott’s 0.2mm print took nearly seven hours to print. An 0.11 mm print, Brandon’s print was completed after 8 hours and 22 minutes.

Wow!

The differences are obvious indeed, with Scott’s 3D printed coffee mug having a much better, streamlined look all around, including the base — where Brandon’s mug did not fare so well, although he used one of the bases supplied with the uPrint. Brandon also used the dissolving bath to eliminate the support structures, leaving a stark residue on the mug. While Scott was left to manually pull off the support structures from his mug, it had no problems in that area.

While the whole point of the Stratasys uPrint is to handle bigger, more complex jobs, the obvious conclusion from the coffee cup competition is that the Printrbot did a fairly knock-down, drag-out fabulous job compared to a printer that cost $21,401 more. The bottom line in producing the pieces was that Scott’s mug ran about $2 for the ‘prototype’ and Brandon’s was almost $31.

While employees at Brandon’s office aren’t often going to be forgetting their favorite coffee mugs at work and taking eight hours to print another, and that’s not often going to be the big project of the week or month, it’s pretty impressive — and entertaining — to see how a quite inexpensive printer and a fairly inexperienced 3D printing hobbyist beat the odds in a 3D printing shootout. We’d like to see the next round.

It should be disclosed that Brandon had been duly frustrated with the uPrint since the expensive machine arrived at his office, which he explains in amusing detail here.

What are your thoughts on this 3D printing shootout? What would be a good idea for another one? Tell us your thoughts in the 3D Printing Shootout forum over at 3DPB.com.

uPrint cup

uPrint mug

PrintrBot mug

Printrbot mug

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