3D Printing a Possibility for Future Games?

Hey Everyone,

I would like to pose a question to the community that has come up in my mind a lot recently. This may not be the best place to post it, but I would like to know what everyone’s opinions are in terms of this.

In the recent years, 3D printing technology has become more, and more affordable, which, in my mind seems like it could be in the horizon, with that being said, what are your thoughts if 3d printing were to be allowed in the HS division?

An example of a size limit for HS could be: “Two Parts That Can take up to a maximum volume of 6x6x2”, In my mind, this would allow for students to be even more creative in the designs of their mechanisms, and it would allow for students to design parts that may not have existed in VEX before.

To further illustrate my point, here are some examples of $400 3D printers:
The Printrbot Play ($400): http://printrbot.com/shop/assembled-printrbot-play/
The M3D ($349): http://store.printm3d.com/
The Solidoodle Press ($400): http://www.solidoodle.com/Press

400 dollars is roughly the price of:

  • ½ the price of world championship registration.
  • 1 Vexnet System Bundle
  • 2 Pneumatics 2 Kits
  • 4 Competitions (An average number for a lot of teams)
  • 5 Long Aluminum Kits
  • 16 393 Motors + 16 MC29’s

Most teams that I have observed during the NBN season have favored the 12 motors over 10 motor + pneumatics, which means, in effect, they have saved $400 if their parts were brand new. With these savings accumulating over the years, I could see it beneficial for teams to invest in printers. Additionally, most 3d printing companies are very open to discussion about sponsorships, as they always could use more of the marketshare since there are so many companies in the 3D printing industry.

All of these 3D Printers can print in decent resolution, and can make strong parts out of ABS & PLA, which are the two thermoplastics which have been previously allowed.

Don’t get me wrong, think this is a great idea, but most teams do not have access to 3d printers, so this would give an advantage to some teams over others, not making it fair competition. A rule like the 12 motors or 10 + pneumatic is a good rule because it gives an equal opportunity for everyone. 3d printing is awesome and would be really cool for HS Vex robotics, but this would most definitely not be fair to those who do not want to purchase a printer.

Harrison’s point was to compare the price of a 3d printer to other vex parts and costs. Clearly, the price of a 3d printer is not a real limiting factor, and most team can afford one. While some teams will not have access to one, it’s the same as being unable to purchase, say, the more expensive aluminum due to the lack of funds, which would make for unfair competition and unfair advantages to teams that can afford the aluminum.

With the links I provided, you can see that it’s a affordable, most competitive teams spend more than 400 on parts a year, plus, I’m sure parents are always willing to donate. Additionally, companies are willing to sponsor robotics teams.

Additionally, there are services that do the printing for you.
In this example, I used a hub for a vex omni wheel that I found on thingiverse: vex 4in wheel hub by ausinhanks - Thingiverse

The part itself is roughly 3x3x1.

Through http://3dhubs.com/ I was able to get lots of low-cost quotes, and at extremely reasonable turnaround times: http://s3.hfreni.space/img/MBP_17-0116-091413.png

Through http://shapeways.com/ I was able to find higher cost parts, but more available materials, their turnaround times are slightly longer. http://s3.hfreni.space/img/MBP_17-0116-091756.png

Through http://sculpteo.com/ the prices were stupidly high, however their machines are good quality, their turnaround times are the same as Shapeways. http://s3.hfreni.space/img/MBP_17-0116-091945.png

Through http://i.materialise.com/ the prices using the “polymide” material are extremely economically viable, but their turnaround times are similar to those of the previous two. http://s3.hfreni.space/img/MBP_17-0116-092157.png

Lastly, Through http://makexyz.com/ the prices are in the midrange, but turnaround seems like it is extremely fast. http://s3.hfreni.space/img/MBP_17-0116-092525.png

All-in-all, it’s definitely cheap enough, especially if there’s a parts limit, so teams can just order from 3d printing distributers.

I think it’s coming. The GDC knows that some people want it, and they know who those people are. But it’s not cheap enough yet.

Remember that any money spent on 3D printing equipment doesn’t go to VEX, so VEX doesn’t have much incentive to pursue it. I don’t know what VEX’s margins are like, but teams definitely benefit from them not going out of business and arguably teams benefit more the more VEX is able to reinvest into the company.

I also don’t think that 3D printing will bring any kind of revolution to VRC. 3D printing is a “rapid prototyping” technology, but it still can’t compare with the speed of the VEX system. There are certainly advantages of 3D printing (for example precision, and some physical properties) but there are drawbacks too because it takes time to design the parts and it takes time to print them.

$400 seems pretty cheap, but some people may want larger printers, etc. Of course the consumables will always add onto the cost, but 400 dollars for a printer & some filament is not too bad. Plus the rapid prototyping companies that I had aforementioned are far cheaper.

While this is true, I’m sure VEX could form some sort of affiliate service with a printer manufacturer, in which teams get a discount, and VEX makes a profit, or have a system like FIRST has, in which at the beginning of every season, discount codes are given out!

I kinda see where you’re coming from in saying this, but if you look at some of the online challenge entries for the CAD Challenge, you’ll see that people do indeed have new ideas, and not all of them can be made, so the teams that may want a nonexistent part will have the chance to legitimize their parts.

I personally think 3d printers should be allowed. Even if you can’t afford a 3d printer, most major cites have hacker-spaces where you can use one for free. This would allow nearly every team to have access to a 3d printer.

As others have noted, 3d printing is not as expensive as everyone makes it out to be. Ordering a 3d printed part online is a very cheap alternative to purchasing the 3d printer itself. I also find it very hard to believe that people can’t find access to a printer somewhere these days. They are all over, if you open your eyes. High school, colleges, manufacturers, maker spaces, peoples garages. All of these people/institutions would probably love to donate printer time for a robotics team. I don’t see how it’s very different from the fact that some teams have $10,000 cnc mills in the school shops they are able to use to mill precise parts, while others are lucky to get a dremel.

However, I don’t think we need to focus on cost so much. The common line is “if we allow 3d printing it will give an advantage to teams with $$$”. It doesn’t have to be that way. I would be perfectly happy if the GDC allowed 3d printing in a limited fashion as used to be in college. For example, X # of parts with maximum volume of L x W x H. These numbers could be done in such a way that 3d printing, even if used, won’t be a TOTAL game changer.

I don’t think I have ever seen a robot that has dominated because of the rule that allows a 12"x24" sheet of lexan. The lexan has simply been used in a clever/cleaner way than flat metal. I feel like 3d printing could be a similar thing. As long as you keep the total amount of printing relatively low, it won’t dictate who wins the World Championship. But it WILL give students an awesome opportunity to test their creativity and ingenuity.

After all, isn’t the whole point of robotics to get students involved in engineering so that they can potentially find careers that would interest them? Pretty sure 3d printers are a part of that. (SpaceX 3d prints their rocket engines)

About a year ago, I bought a 3D printer for $500. It has an 8x8x8 inch build area with a single extruder. This same printer now can be found for about $300 on the internet.

Overall cost is not a factor for the printing as the printers are so cheap, but VEX wants you to buy their parts to they make money. As mentioned before, there are services that can also print which could make parts for even cheaper. I for one am listed on 3D Hubs, and have made money from it.

In a perfect world it would be nice to allow as much printing as you wanted (in plastic not metal). The standard metal is cheaper and stronger than plastic so I feel people would still mostly use it but the option would be nice.

May I ask what model printer you have? Prusa i3 of some flavor perhaps?

I have a prusa i3, and have a resin DLP printer coming in the mail.

The i3 is another great example of a low cost 3D printer! I think it’s completely viable!