I’ve been interested in 3D printers for a long time but the price and complexity of creating models kept me from buying one. In the last couple of years, the price of 3D printers has come down to a level that ordinary people can afford, but I’m not sure the complexity issue has been changed much… at least until now. The Yeehaw 3D printer, which is currently seeking funding on Indiegogo, has been designed with kids in mind for safety and ease of use. Let’s take a closure look.
What is it?
The Yeehaw 3D printer is a 3D printer made especially for kids. It is controlled with a mobile app or web browser and has safety features take me this printer suitable for kids and adults like me who know nothing at all about 3D printers.
The Yeehaw 3D printer comes completely assembled as you see it above. It has no buttons or switches.
When I first took the 21.25 x 13.5 inch 3D printer out of the box and set it upright on a table, it wobbled. It took me a few seconds to realize that there was a magnetic base plate attached to the bottom.
The plastic base plate actually goes inside the printer and is what the models are printed on.
The door on the front of the printer opens easily so that the base plate can be positioned under the print head.
Once positioned, the next step is to install the Yeehaw app on an iOS or Android device and calibrate the print head. The app will provide step by step instructions on how to do this. Calibrating a 3D printer might sound a little scary, but it’s easy. All you really need is a sheet of typing paper and the ability to follow instructions. Calibrating the print head will make sure that it’s at the correct height above the base plate so that printed models will “stick” to the plate as the first layers are being printed. The calibration process has you place a sheet of paper on the base plate and then adjust the height of the print head so that the paper can just barely move when the head is touching the paper. You do this at four points on the base plate and then you’re done.
The next step is to load the spool of filament. I was sent a spool of white filament that reminded me of a huge spool of weed eater string.
The Yeehaw 3D printer uses PLA plastic filament which stands for polylactic acid. It’s made from renewable resources like corn starch, tapioca roots, or sugarcane. The Yeehaw printer uses 1.75mm PLA which is a standard size that is available in a variety of colors and is priced around $30 for a spool like you see above.
Loading the PLA in the Yeehaw printer is very easy. It loads from the top of the printer and just requires that you first power on the printer using the included AC adapter. After the printer boots up, you can remove the top cover, and feed the end of the PLA into the small hole until the printer grabs the end of the filament and pulls it in the rest of the way toward the nozzle.
Then you just set the PLA spool in the tray…
And place the lid back on top of the printer. The whole process is quick and easy which is perfect for kids and tech challenged adults.
We’re now ready to print our first 3D model!
Printing a 3D model is done through the Yeehaw mobile app or the web browser. Both methods look almost identical so I’ve just attached images from the web app.
The app has a library of models that are ready to print. I chose the MD Soldier model.
Once the app transfers the model to the printer wirelessly using WiFi, printing begins.
See it in action
The Yeehaw printer makes noise as it prints, so you would probably not want to place it in the same room where you watch TV or sleep. The top of the printer also has LEDs that light up in different colors as a status indicator.
Depending on the model, it can take quite a while for a print to complete. The MD Soldier that I printed took several hours. I started printing it around 4pm one afternoon and it was still printing when I went to bed at 9:30pm. The Yeehaw printer prints 60-90mm per second.
But when I checked the next morning it was done! I removed the base tray from the printer and found that the model was really stuck to the plate. After some flexing, it popped off.
But some residue of the print remained on the base plate. I was not able to scrape all the PLA material off the base plate even when I tried using an Xacto knife. I really think the base plate should be made of glass instead of plastic to keep this from happening.
Here’s the finished model. You will notice the extra material under the hands and beard and between the legs. This material is needed in order to provide a base to print from because you can’t just print the bottom of the hand if it’s hanging out in space.
The extra material snaps off pretty easily, revealing the finished model. Too bad the Yeehaw doesn’t have the ability to print from multiple spools of PLA so that different colors could be used in one model. But it’s still really cool and the resolution is very nice at 0.1mm. The head even rotates!
The Yeehaw library has a growing selection of models that are ready to print, but you can also create your own simple models using the 3D builder feature in the app. I say simple models because you use blocks to build the model on a grid. Remember that the Yeehaw has been designed for kids, so that’s why the building feature is so basic and simple.
My first try at making my own model didn’t work out too well. I thought it would be fun to make a Christmas tree. Festive right?
But I wasn’t thinking correctly when I created it. Remember that extra material under the soldier’s hands and beard? I didn’t take that into consideration when I created the tree. So when it came time to start printing the first layer of the tree, the filament had nothing to stick to and just started dribbling around the tree’s base. Oops!
My second try creating a model was a flat smiley face and it was more successful.
The app also allows you to import existing STL files. I tried this with an STL file that I found on Thingverse. The STL file appeared to import successfully, but the app’s web interface popped up a message in Chinese that I couldn’t translate. No matter what I tried, I wasn’t able to print an imported STL file. I think this feature is still in beta so I hope that the kinks will be ironed out soon.
The Yeehaw 3D printer was my first experience using a 3D printer and now I’m hooked. This printer is great for kids because it’s easy to use and is safe. Printing will immediately stop when you open the door while it’s printing and the nozzle lift out of the way so you won’t get burnt.
Although the application’s current library of ready to print models is small, the ability to import existing STL model files (when that feature actually works) will make this printer useful for adults as well as kids.
I did ask the Yeehaw team about using this printer with other applications in case Yeehaw goes out of business. They told me that you can connect to printer Wi-Fi and use the URL: http://192.168.100.1. I didn’t get a chance to test this because I don’t know what other applications are available. I do plan to test this at some point and will do an update when I do.
For $249, the Yeehaw printer is a fun an inexpensive way to take a first step into 3D printing for kids and those of us who are still kids in our minds.
The Yeehaw Indiegogo project has already met their funding goal and ends in 4 days. Orders are shipping now.