Mid 2013 I took the plunge and invested in a small CNC router. It took a long time to figure out how to set it up, the relationship between the different software stages, and the practicalities of cutting different materials. For months it was 95% set up but something wasn't working and I couldn't figure it out. Through a google search for local CNC machinists whose brains I could pick I discovered a FabLab was opening in my new city of residence, Limerick. I got in touch and Michael, the co-ordinator at FabLab came to my workshop and within minutes identified the problem and got the machine working.
With that difficult learning process in mind, I have been investigating the potential of 3D printed parts in my practice. Through FabLab I got in touch with 3D printing guru Ivor O'Shea who has been advising me on designing for 3D printing, and who yesterday delivered my first ever 3D printed part. It's a zither pin tuning wrench that will fit into the headstock of a zither I'm currently designing. Tuning wrenches are always a problem for me when building instruments with zither pins. Up until now I've had no way of making my own (the challenge being making a square hole 5x5mm in dimension), so have had to provide 3rd party ones (expensive, and not integral to the design).
Next step is the purchase of a 3D printer. I've my sights set on a RepRap variant kit, the Mendel90. Hopefully this won't take as long to learn as the CNC router did, but thanks to the local FabLab, I'm not alone in my learning this time around!