3D printing is so zeitgeisty right now that we wouldn’t be surprised if David Cameron gave it a knighthood as a quick vote-grabber. Although the first industrial 3D printers were developed in the early ’80s, it’s only now that we’re seeing models that we might be able to afford and use at home. While it's not cheap, the home-friendly UP! Plus is a compact little machine that won't demand its own shed.
The 3D-printed 3D printer
The diminutive UP! Plus might not look like a slice of the future, but don’t let that fool you. Its homebrew feel includes most of its own plastic parts being 3D printed, which is a nice touch. The only controls are the power switch, the “initialise” button plus a red/green status LED – there’s no SD card slot, so you’ll have to physically connect via USB to upload the print, but once that’s done you can unplug your laptop and wander off with it. A variety of tools come in the box, from tweezers to the world’s sharpest spatula, to help you finish your models. The UP! software isn’t pretty but has all the options you need and is smart about the way it produces prints.
The results are clean and sharp, with support material particularly well realised – neatly propping up precipitous parts but peeling away again without bother. The perforated boards that clip on to the heated build platform look primitive, but when set up correctly provide a solid base for your builds. Once we’d figured out our PLA from our ABS – a rookie mistake – the UP! produced the best results of the printers we've tested recently, quietly and consistently. The comparable lack of wobbles and ridges in the results was notable. It might not go as big as the CubeX or Makerbot, but we’ll take reliability over size, and we didn’t find ourselves craving anything bigger.