I work for a not-for-profit company that provides physical therapy to kids in the developing world who otherwise wouldn’t have access to healthcare. Most of the kids I work with need braces/splints, but are not available, or very expensive if bought from the medical community here. So they go without. Which has me looking into 3d printing as a potential solution to provide these materials to them.

I’m COMPLETELY new to 3d printing.

I’ll be printing most likely 95% of our stuff in PLA


Prusa i3 MK3 purchased FROM Prusa

HICTOP Creatlity CR-10s

Tevo Little Monster

I’ve heard nothing but greatness about the Prusa, the downside is the print volume with maximum height of 250mm. I *think* this will work for most of our kids, since they’re kids and smaller than adults, however I’d hate to spend $750 on a machine and then find myself running into circumstances where I wish I had the extra 15 or 25 cm.

My concerns:

Will be buying a build kit, any idea if the build for Tevo or HICTOP is as straightforward as the Prusa? I’m a PT, not an engineer/electrician etc. I want a build kit that’s reasonably simple to put together.

Reliability/durability of parts. Since it’s being used in the developing world with difficulty accessing replacement parts - I’m looking for something that’s generally known for being reliable. Otherwise I may have to fly into Europe to access replacement parts.

Learning curve/community support - Once it’s put together and working, I get to figure out how to use it. I’ve found some files on thingverse that I can start out printing, and since I’m using PLA - will heat mold to get exactly the shape/support needed. Do HICTOP or TEVO have support communities that are substantial/anywhere near the Prusa community?

Do they all use the same open source software? Is there an open source software that’s easier to learn initially than others?

Thanks so much for your help, I’ve been searching the 3dhubs community for related past topics, but a few points of my situation are unique.

I bought a Prusa 83 Mk2, and returned it, as it is not reliable. After thousands of hours of printing, I would invest in a CR10, as it is very reliable, and has a respectable build volume. Also, with all Prusa printers, you can’t use their full build volume, as it just doesn’t work. I wouldn’t go with a tevo printer as the power source is kind of dangerous. I might have been just that one unlucky person when receiving my Prusa printer, but I go to a local 3d printing shop, and he told me, in the time span of half a year, he had gotten the most repair request for the MK2, and MK2S, than any other printer ever. He owns like 30 printers.

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Hi Aaron,

Great initiative!

I don’t have the same experience as ANDM_IN_3D with the Prusa i3 MK2. I find it very reliable.

I have the printer for a year now and it is almost fulltime printing. The only downtime I had was after the X-axis and Y-axis belts starting to deteriorate. After replacing them the printer never had any downtime. The original Prusa belts in my experience are not capable of handling the tension for a long time. I replaced them with kevlar reinforced GT2 belts. Just stock a couple of meter of those and you are good to go.

The PEI build plate is awesome and works great for PLA (no need for spray’s and tape). The problem with the MK2 is if you are not carefull, you will damage your buildplate and it’s a pain in the *ss to replace the PEI sheet. But the MK3 has the replaceable magnetic plates so when your buildplate is not really usable anymore you can just order a (relative cheap) new one. In practice if you are delicate with the build plate you don’t need to replace them.

I’m not sure about the absolute maximum build volume of the MK2 as I do not tend to use it, but whenever I have a too large print i divide it into multiple parts and bolt/glue/snap them together.

Ordering a kit is a very good idea, because when you build your own printer you are not afraid to replace parts and you know better what could go wrong when something does.

I have no experience with the other 2 printers however so I can’t help you there.

Good luck!

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3d smile is correct about getting a kit though. You will learn a lot, but if you are just trying to go for plug and play, don’t get a kit. Also, when splitting parts, you creat weak points where the splits are, unless using abs. I do agree with 3dsmile that the PEI bed is awesome, but you can pei and put it on a CR10. If you are making prosthetics, then you should use petg, it is easy as PLA to print, but it is stronger, and melts at a higher temperature.

Fantastic post, thanks for taking the time to help me out with the information!

Thanks for the reply, really appreciate it. Did you purchase your Prusa direct? Or from a 3rd party?

I’ve seen other posts about Tevo and power supplies, wasn’t sure if they were just random 1-offs, or an actual achilles heel for the brand.

Thanks for the reply.

I’m ok with SOME assembly, but don’t want a kit that’s going to require a bunch of soldering or technical assembly. I understood Prusa kits to be on the more simple side of assembly - I’ll do some more research into that on the boards.

Thanks for your thoughts on the materials. We’ll be doing orthoses - the draw being the heat moldable draping of the material to really conform the braces to each kid. I think this will work well for my kids that need braces for their elbows/wrists/hands. I’m not sure yet if PLA will have the necessary strength for ankle braces (AFOs). I found a study done at Gonzaga (https://3dplatform.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Gonzaga-University.pdf ) where they identified both PLA and PETG as good materials for AFOs. Both the CR10 and MK3 will handle both plastics giving me long term flexibility/options.

Honestly, if I had the funds I would purchase a handheld 3d scanner and print a harder plastic, but that’s not an option right now. So if PLA will work, and it’s better than they have presently, and they’re kids so they outgrow braces relatively quickly…I’m hoping that for lower extremity - where more force is applied and greater strength is required - PLA will work, if nothing else for the short term.

I bought it straight from Prusa. PLA is very brittle, and petg is about the same price. Contact www.makertree3d.com to see if you can set up 3d scanning, as from what I can understand, you will use heat to shape it. You are right, you have to use PLA for this, but PLA would probably breal in a matter of days.