Monday, February 29, 2016

The 3D Printer From Satan

For some reason I became interested in 3D printers.

Big mistake. I am now wiser but sadder, or vice versa. Here is my tale of woe:

Stubbornly useless

My interest was piqued by a recent price drop in the machines. A printer used to be extremely expensive (thousands of dollars). Recently, models have appeared for about $300.

Suspending my deep pessimism about everything, I purchased one. A Monoprice Architect, which I subsequently discovered is a rebranded Flashforge Creator. 

the original Monoprice, a Flashforge Creator

The machine, with thin wood-like walls, came with only a two-page introduction and no software. Also supplied were a power source and a USB cable. The no software proved to be problematic.

Searching the Monoprice web site for the printer showed no results, a bad sign.  Sending Monoprice an email resulted in nothing. When I called the company, support was desultory. The company does not seem willing too part with information, even to consumers who've already been hooked and hauled in. 

The printer came with an SD card that contained "models." The models turned out to be oblongs. Not especially fun nor useful. 

Then I spent many hours downloading software, fiddling with the card, and trying to follow what a support person had told me: first convert files into some program that would slice them up, and then convert the files into a format that the printer could recognize.

Easier said than done and not easily said.

Back on Monoprice's web site, I searched for my model machine and kept being shown another different model.  At this point I should have taken a sledge hammer and crushed the thing into little pieces.

But I digress.

 I added files of things like dinosaurs and cup holders  to the card, but the Monoprice/Flashforge did not recognize the files. Picky little gizmo. I have a feeling that either the USB port came loose during shipping, or perhaps, is not connected to anything.

The software I ended up using, Replicator G, kept telling me my laptop was not connected to a printer. I was puzzled. Another call to support, which proved useless. 

I was told that the machine would not work with OS 10.11.3. Oh-oh. If I wanted it to work I would have to downgrade my computer. Not easy to accomplish.  I'm not sure, but I think no one in history has ever accomplished this feat. I certainly was not about to try. 

So, sadly, I had to tell Amazon that the Monoprice Architect had to be returned because it was literally useless. Well, unless all I wanted were blocks. 

Take this as a warning:  If you are the second person in the world using OS 10.11.3 (I am the first) do not buy a 3D printer, unless you are an electrical engineer and computer scientist. Or unless you like hours of torture. 

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