[I wrote this blog entry a while ago but I'd not gotten around to finishing it.]
I'm sad to say I gave up trying to get my Sumpod 3d printer to work reliably. Despite spending a lot of time and effort, the fact is that the combination of problems with the extruder and the hot end made it not worth my time to get it working. (Some of the newer Sumpod models have improved the extruder and also allow mounting of the extruder at the hot end eliminating another potential source of problems - the Bowden tube - and some owners of the original Sumpod are making progress towards reliable prints so perhaps my Sumpod adventure is not quite over.)
Despite my frustration with the Sumpod, I was totally sold on the idea of 3d printing so I decided to source a replacement. I looked at several commercial machines such as the Ultimaker, Replicator, and Sumpod Aluminium. I considered the quality of prints shown on their web sites. (I was shocked that there were still no sample prints on the Sumpod web site.) I also looked at lead time as I was impatient for a replacement. I followed "featured" designs on Thingiverse, several forums and blogs looking at the quality of prints from different machines. I looked at the number of Thingiverse designs for the respective printers - to get a feel for the size of their respective communities. I watched lots of YouTube videos of both successful and failed prints.
After my experience with the Sumpod, I decided to look for a popular machine with a big community behind it; the community is the best thing about the Sumpod.
While I was tempted by the fascinating-looking Rostock, I finally began to focus on the MendelMax. The MendelMax is a derivative of the popular RepRap Mendel that uses aluminium extrusions rather than threaded rods. The quality (and speed) of prints looked brilliant. There were several commercial enterprises developing the design further and there was an active community of successful owners. There were also several interesting blogs with MendelMax enhancments/experiments - such as RichRap's.
I considered purchasing from Trinity Labs or LulzBots but in the end I sourced the majority of the machine from Creative Machines in the UK. The kit from them included almost everything except fittings needed to attach the upper aluminium plate of the print bed. I was very pleased with the quality of the kit. It met my expectations except for a few unrealistic ones; I was expecting the kit to include soldered stepper drivers, the extrusions to be drilled and the bed to be drilled but these were simple tasks and the description gave me no real reason to have expected this.
I think my new MendelMax is brilliant. I'll definitely write more about what I've been doing with it in future posts.