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How to pick the right 3D printer, even on a budget

(TECH NEWS) With hundreds of options to sort through and thousands of different accessibility options, the search for the perfect one can be daunting. Stop agonizing! We are here to save you.

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3d printer

Exhaustive options

Are you searching for the right 3D printer? With hundreds of options to sort through and thousands of different accessibility options, the search for the perfect one can be daunting. To help shorten that search and get you printing in no time, the good people over at 3D Hubs created a comprehensive 2016 3D Printer Guide using reviews from verified 3D Printer owners that have years of 3D Printing experiences.

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For the “enthusiast”

These are most suitable for hobbyists, designers, and some small businesses. Users should select from this category if they are looking for a reliable machine that can produce high quality prints consistently. Furthermore, these printers are straightforward, without all the frivolities of other printers, allowing for flexible upgrades and various modifications.

This category includes: MakerGear M2, Lulzbot Taz 5, Deltawasp, Creator Pro, Ultimaker 2, and Witbox, all of which have several things in common.

Build quality is one, offering users various bodies made out of steel, aluminum, and other durable materials. Precision and material options are also pros for most of the printers in this category. However, past users have complained about the ease of use, or lack thereof, for these printers since most will need some type of engineering background to use these machines successfully. However, all of these 3D printers have awesome support communities, and customer service teams that are dedicated to answering any questions you have, and trying their best to eliminate the learning curve.

If you want to plug ‘n’ play

Printers in the Plug n’ Play category are said to be the easiest to use and provide the luxury of being ready to use straight out of the box. Highlighted because of their reliable print qualities, low failure rates, and great customer service, this group of printers is awesome for light 3D printing needs and quality-conscious beginners.

Included in this category are the Zortrax M200, CEL Robox, Beethefirst, and Lulzbot Mini – all closed system printers admired for their dependability.

These smaller 3D printers made the cut because of their industrial reliability without the industrial size and cost. In addition to reliability, users also choose these printers for their ease of use, convenience, and precision. Although the size of these printers are beneficial in making printing easier and more precise, the size can be a hindrance. Because these machines are so small with closed systems, users are limited to the size of printing they can do, so anything too large is out of the question. But, because they already come assembled and don’t require the same engineering background as the aforementioned, these are great for beginners or anyone that wants precise 3D prints without wasting time on set up.

For peeps on a budget

If you are a student, a small business owner, or an experimenter, these printers are sure to get the job done without costing you a fortune.

The Craftbot, Printrbot, Up Mini, and Creator all cater to the financially frugal involved in 3D printing. Starting as low as $599 (and no more than $1000) users are able to select a printer specific to their goals while saving upwards of $600 dollars. Aside from the extremely attractive price points, these printers boast easy-to-use systems with awesome customer service in case any issues arise.

But, with the good comes the bad, and these printers are no different. Even though they are awesome for our pockets, there are some less-than-stellar qualities including lack of material availability, build quality, and speed. However, as a former broke college student, I can tell you those cons don’t seem that bad so long as I can save money.

For the brave DIY soul

For the adventurous creative who thinks “straight out of the box” printers are for the fainthearted, and would rather get their hands dirty with these difficult to assemble machines, the Rostock Max, Prusa Steel, Mendel90, and Ultimaker can be built in labs and garages across the world.

According to the reviews, users love the expandable and upgradable capabilities the most, while their second love is the large and supportive community that helps kit assembly go by smoothly and free of complications.

Alternatively, some users complain about the amount of time it takes to assemble (30+ hours), along with the prior knowledge necessary for proper assembly, such as basic electronic skills. But for those with that hands-on nature, the time it takes to assemble isn’t a surprise and electronic skills are likely part of a slew of other technological skills that make assembly a breeze.

Liquid resin printers

Rsesin-based printers use an optical power source to cure liquid resin into a solid object. These kinds of 3D printers are definitely more expensive and require additional post-production work. However, the print quality and precision are unmatched with other 3D printers. Unlike the others, resin printers are ideal for professionals and serious hobbyists who need accurate prototyping and high resolution parts.

Because of its unique method of printing, there are only two printers that made the cut for this category: Form 1+, and B9Creator. Though these printers are smaller than the other printers on the guide, they pack a mean punch by providing the highest quality objects anyone has ever seen from a desktop 3D printer. One user was so astonished by the B9Creator that he compared it to a “$80K professional DLP printer.”

Aside from the brilliant quality, these printers also have a supportive community and customer service foundation. The only major issues with these unique printers is the price point, starting at $2,799, and the material availability, since it can only work with resin. But for those who appreciate unmatched flawlessness every single time, the price may be worth it.

Pick your poison

Whether you are a beginner at 3D printing or a seasoned veteran, this guide is sure to help you find the perfect printer for your needs. Head to 3DHubs for a detailed description for all twenty of the printers that made the list, including their prices, specifications, and a list of pros and cons. Happy printing!

#3DPrinter

Lauren Flanigan is a Staff Writer at The American Genius, hailing from the windy hills of Cincinnati, with a degree in Marketing from the University of Cincinnati. She has escaped the hills, and currently resides in Atlanta, where you can almost always find her camping at a Starbucks strategizing on how to take over the world.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Emerging technologies that executives absolutely MUST be aware of - The American Genius

  2. Shab Bhat

    March 7, 2017 at 11:04 am

    Thank you for the information. we are a 3D printing service Company and we use SLA 3D printers and they work with liquid resin and i must say quality, resolution and details of the object is great but sure they are very expensive unless you are into some serious business. We are looking into 3D metal printers and hoping to get some good printers soon and start with 3D metal printing too.

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Tech News

Degree holders are shifting tech hubs and affordability

(TECH NEWS) Tech hubs are shifting as degree holders move, but it’s causing some other issues and raising some interesting questions about the future of jobs.

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degree city

Bloomberg recently announced their annual “Brain” Indexes. The indexes are an annual reckoning of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) jobs and degree holders. The “Brain Concentration Index” approximates the number of people working full time in computer, engineering, and science jobs (including math and architecture.) It measures the median earnings for people in those jobs. It also counts how many people have a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field, or an advanced degree of any kind. It blends those things together to determine how “brainy” a city is.

Since they started in 2016, Boulder, CO has been at the top of the list. This year it’s followed by San Jose, CA, which many people might expect to be at the top. Many of the more surprising cities, like Ann Arbor, MI, Ithaca, NY, and even Lawrence, KS, are bolstered by the presence of a strong university.

It’s an interesting methodology. It’s worth noting that anyone with an advanced degree, whether it’s an MBA, a law degree, or a Ph.D. in literature, contributes to which city is a “tech hub.” It’s also worth noting how expensive many of these places are to live.

If you follow this kind of national data collection at all, you may also know that Boulder is one of the least-affordable cities in the country. So is the San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara metro area, with a median home price of 1.25 million dollars and a median household income of $117,474. (That means that the average mortgage is more than half of the average paycheck). However many people tech hubs like San Jose and San Francisco attract, they’re also hemorrhaging talent. Every day, 8 Californians move to Austin. Of the people who stay, more than half are thinking of moving.

They aren’t doing that for fun. As much flak as Californians get for gentrifying places like Austin, they’re being megagentrified out of their own homes. As salaries rise and CEO gigs attract the wealthy (and turn them into the Uberwealthy), the people who wait on tables or teach their children can’t afford to stay there anymore.

Speaking of people leaving, Bloomberg also measured what they call “brain drain,” the flow of advanced degree holders out of cities. They pair that with a decline in white-collar jobs and a decline in STEM pay to come up with their annual list. It includes places like Lebanon, PA and Kahului, HI.

All in all, it’s interesting information. But there are other factors at work that it can’t speak to. What does wage stagnation in the U.S. mean for the flow of education workers? If San Jose and San Francisco can be tech hubs based on the number of people with degrees, but people are still fleeing, what does that say about rankings like these? What human stories get lost in the shuffle? And is “tech hub” even something a city wants to be if that means running out of teachers (or making them sleep in garages)? Where does the next generation of tech hub workers come from?

Knowing the people behind the numbers makes it clear just what a mixed bag this is. Maybe we need more tech hubs like Lawrence, Kansas. Or maybe we need rent control. Or maybe we need to embrace remote work. Maybe there are no answers. As interesting as data like this is, there’s something sort of wistful about it, too.

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Tech News

New Apple Watch is awesome, but past watches could be just as good for cheaper

(TECH NEWS) The Apple Watch Series 6 is a ridiculous display of self-flattery—but that doesn’t mean people won’t line up to buy it in droves.

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Apple Watch being worn on wrist showing weather for Montreal.

The Apple Watch has been the subject of everything from speculation to ridicule during its relatively short tenure on this planet. While most have nothing but praise for the most recent iteration, that praise comes at a cost: The Apple Watch’s ghost of Christmas past.

Or, to put it more literally, the fact that the Apple Watch’s prior version and accompanying variations are too good—and, at this point, too comparatively cheap—to warrant buying the most recent (and expensive) option.

Sure, the Apple Watch Series 6 has a bevy of health features—a sensor that can take an ECG and a blood oxygen test, to name a couple—but the Series 5 has almost everything else that makes the Apple Watch Series 6 “notable.” According to Gear Patrol, even the Series 4 is comparable if you don’t mind forgoing the option to have the Apple Watch’s screen on all of the time.

More pressingly, Gear Patrol points out, is the availability of discount options from Apple. The Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch SE are, at this point, budget options that still do the job for smart watch enthusiasts.

Not to mention any Apple Watch can run updates can utilize Apple’s Fitness Plus subscription—another selling point that, despite its lucrative potential, doesn’t justify buying a $400 watch when a cheaper option is present.

It’s worth noting that Apple is no stranger to outdoing themselves retroactively. Every year, Apple’s “new” MacBook, iPhone, and iPad models are subjected to extensive benchmarking by every tech goatee around. And the conclusion is usually that buying a generation or two behind is fine—and, from a financial perspective, smart.

And yet, as the holidays roll around or the initial drop date of a new product arrives, Apple invariably goes through inventory like a tabby cat through unattended butter.

The Apple Watch is already a parody of itself, yet its immense popularity and subtle innovation has promoted it through several generations and a few spin-off iterations. And that’s not even including the massive Apple-specific watch band market that appears to have popped up as a result.

Say what you will about the Series 6; when the chips are on the table, my money’s on the consumers making the same decisions they always make.

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Tech News

Microsoft acquires powerful AI language processor GPT-3, to what end?

(TECH NEWS) This powerful AI language processor sounds surprisingly human, and Microsoft has acquired rights to the code. How much should we worry?

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Code on screen, powering AI technology

The newly-released GPT-3 is the most insane language model in the NLP (natural language processor) field of machine learning. Developed by OpenAI, GPT-3 can generate strikingly human-like text for a vast range of purposes like bots and advertising, to poetry and creative writing.

While GPT-3 is accessible to everyone, OpenAI has expressed concerns over using this AI tech for insidious purposes. For this reason, Microsoft’s new exclusive license on the GPT-3 language model may be a tad worrisome.

First of all, for those unfamiliar with the NPL field, software engineer, and Youtuber, Aaron Jack, provides a detailed overview of GPT-3’s capabilities and why everyone should be paying attention.

Microsoft’s deal with OpenAI should come as little surprise since OpenAI uses the Azure cloud platform to access enough information to train their models.

Microsoft chief technology officer Kevin Scott announced the deal on the company blog this week: “We see this as an incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology, enables new products, services and experiences, and increases the positive impact of AI at Scale,” said Scott.

“Our mission at Microsoft is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, so we want to make sure that this AI platform is available to everyone – researchers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, businesses – to empower their ambitions to create something new and interesting.”

OpenAI has assured that Microsoft’s exclusive license does not affect the general public’s access to the GPT-3 model. The difference is Microsoft will be able to use the source code to combine with their products.

While OpenAI needs Azure to train these models, handing over the source code to another party is, to put it mildly, tricky. With the earlier GPT-2 model, OpenAI initially refused publishing the research out of fear it could be used to generate fake news and propaganda.

Though the company found there was no evidence to suggest the GPT-2 was utilized this way and later released the information, handing the key of the exponentially more powerful iteration to one company will undoubtedly hold ramifications in the tech world.

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