How Do You Choose a 3D Printer?

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The days when 3D printing was primarily used for prototyping are long gone. As 3D printing technology advances at a steady rate, it has currently grown to be fairly popular and is just getting more so. It can now provide benefits from the creation of the first idea design to the final end result.

A few years ago, only a select group of professional design engineers could afford in-house printing, and even then, the technology was still in its infancy and could only be used for a very small number of design models and prototypes.

Today, a large number of creative individuals and enthusiasts have access to their very own personal 3D printers, enabling them to freely express their creativity to the world. People can now create and print their own models at home!

Selecting the Ideal 3D Printer

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The challenge of selecting the ideal 3D printer for your needs can be, to put it mildly, overwhelming. For those who are new to the field of 3D printing, the procedure gets more difficult and daunting.

This chapter will walk you through many qualities and variables you should consider when looking for a 3D printer, regardless of whether you’re buying one for your home, office, or any other use.

We’ll start out by responding to some of the most frequent queries from those unfamiliar with 3D technology.

What Can Be Printed Using a Personal 3D Printer?

Simply put, by having your own 3D printer at home, you may utilize it as a ‘mini-factory’ to make nearly any 3D object for personal and business purpose.

By melting the filament, a desktop 3D printer can build items one layer at a time. Prior to the invention of desktop 3D printers, you would have needed to hire 3D printing companies to produce prototypes and design models for you. Due to the 3D printers’ quick price decline, both hobbyists and everyday consumers can now afford them.

The possibilities are almost endless. Consider designing your own set of tools or printing a vase precisely how you want it. People also use their 3D printers to print components to repair their items; if you accidentally break the handle on something, you don’t need to replace the entire thing; just print the necessary part, and you’re good to go!

Which 3D Printing Technology Kind Do You Use?

In order to specify precisely what you require from your 3D printer, you must first determine both your skill level and your needs. This is the first action you should take before buying a 3D printer.

Starting from Nothing – Many tech-savvy hobbyists try to build their own 3D printer from the ground up. If you have the intelligence and patience, by all means pursue this path into the world of 3D printing. This demands some extraordinary mechanical and programming skills to begin with.

Kits for 3D Printers – Purchasing a 3D printer kit is another way to get a working (hopefully!) 3D printer for yourself. These kits include every component needed to set up a printer. They do, however, demand a significant amount of your mechanical and programming knowledge. This is a terrific method to get to know your system inside and out so that you will know just where to look if you ever need to fix issues.

Assembled Printers – Purchase of an assembled 3D printer is the simplest and quickest way to acquire one in your hands. Nowadays, the majority of 3D printing businesses sell finished desktop printers. Many printers that you buy are delivered to you prepared for usage (even the calibration has been done). Although this approach does cost a little more than the first two options, you also avoid a lot of hassle and stress.

Instead of serving as a manual to build a 3D printer, this chapter will primarily focus on assisting you in making a choice of an assembled 3D printer.

Choose Your Application

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Concept models speed up the manufacturing process and reduce expenses.

The materials used to construct today’s printers range in surface polish, environmental resilience, accuracy, precision, and aesthetic appeal.

It is crucial to initially specify the applications for which you intend to use your 3D printer throughout the selecting phase. All potential applications, including those involved in a company’s production process, will be taken into account.

Models of Ideas

Businesses of all sizes can save a lot by building a concept model since it streamlines the entire product development and manufacturing process. Whether you’re building a power tool, office stationery, toy, shoe, or any other product, choosing the appropriate design route is essential since a 3D-printed model will enable you to assess the design and take any necessary modifications into consideration.

With the aid of 3D printers, stakeholders may envision the finished product as it will be before mass manufacturing starts.

It is best to aim for the following performance characteristics for this kind of concept modeling applications: print speed, part cost, and print quality.

Models With Verification Capabilities

A product’s designers must also make sure that the final product will perform as intended. A 3D printer can aid in this situation by producing a copy of the item. New start-ups may be willing to verify that their product meets standards before it is put into mass production, in addition to large corporations, who verify models.

If you intend to create verification models, the accuracy of the model, material properties, and feature detail resolution are the things to consider in a 3D printer.

Using 3D Printers for Fun

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You might be thinking about taking up 3D printing as a pastime to try out the new technology if you don’t have any plans to use it for business purposes. Having a 3D printer at home can be a blessing for someone with a creative mind and even the tiniest curiosity for experimentation.

So how might a 3D printer be put to good use in the home? This is how:

Fixing Things Around the House – If your gadgets and appliances break, you may make replacement components for them. Using a 3D printer to make the necessary part would be far more entertaining and affordable than purchasing a replacement.

Create Toys for Children – Want to put your newly acquired 3D design abilities to the test? The same material that was used to manufacture Lego can be used in your desktop 3D printer to make toys. You can already download and print a ton of model designs from the internet. The 3D pens that are a wonderful introduction to 3D printing are also fun for kids to use.

Make Models – You can utilize 3D printers to make models and collectibles for your personal collection.

The options are genuinely limitless. As long as it’s made of plastic, you can make practically anything using a desktop 3D printer. You don’t need a top-of-the-line printer for hobby-level 3D printing, and even the most affordable models can be excellent for:

Cheap Prototyping – You can make as many tests of your abilities and prints as you like. There simply isn’t a more affordable option at roughly 3 cents per gram.

Faster Printing – Don’t assume that a less expensive 3D printer can’t print quickly. To achieve quick prints, all you have to do is increase the layer height option.

Experiments: With a new 3D printer, who wouldn’t want to try some new things? After all, learning occurs through action. You don’t need to be concerned about overusing your printer breaking it. As you get more knowledge, you can try out a multitude of different things. The Internet is a terrific resource for learning more about 3D printing, and many of its fans have established discussion groups where people exchange advice and share their experiences. There is now a community of tech lovers thanks to 3D printing.

What to Consider When Comparing Printers for 3D Printing

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Before selecting a 3D printer that meets your needs, you must compare them all.

When comparing 3D printers, you should consider the following elements:

  • Price
  • Build Platform Dimensions
  • Format Type
  • Reviews
  • Consumer Assistance

Price

One important issue that must be taken into account is price. How much money are you prepared to invest in your hobby? There are many different kinds of 3D printers available, and their prices vary depending on their features.

For instance, the least expensive desktop printers available are FDM printers. Good ones can be had for as little as $1000. They also use relatively inexpensive filament. Remember that you are new to 3D printing and that you will make a few mistakes (wasting filament!) before you grasp the fundamentals. Be prepared to battle your printer for the first 10 to 20 hours while you struggle to get prints of decent quality. Be prepared for significant filament waste as well.

For this reason, you must to think about purchasing a printer that not only costs little money, but also works with a selection of inexpensive filaments.

Establish a budget that you can afford to spend on only the printer before you even start looking for one. Also consider the fact that you will first lose a lot of filament with little to show for it.

Build Platform Dimensions

The region known as the print surface is the build platform. The ABS material can grab onto something while it is being printed thanks to the ‘breadboardminute “‘s perforations. Heated print platforms are now the industry norm. The size of the objects and models that you can print will depend on how big the print area is.

Filament Material Options

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There are now just two filaments that can be used to print on desktop printers: ABS and PLA. In the preceding chapter, we went into considerable detail about the two materials’ various characteristics. It may be a good idea to read through that chapter again if you are unsure. You can use any reel of filament that is compatible with your printer because the majority of them include interchangeable filament spools. With the exception of the Cubify Cube from 3D Systems. Cubify-only cartridges are required for this specific printer.

You won’t encounter any issues with the filament type unless you intend to purchase a Cubify printer, and you should be able to use the materials interchangeably in most cases. Depending on quality, a kilogram of ABS or PLA plastic filament typically costs $30 to $50.

Remember that the main expenditure associated with 3D printing—rather than the cost of materials—is the time it takes to produce a model. Your own time and electricity add up.

Reviews

Before making a purchase, it’s crucial to study the reviews of the 3D printers that interest you. A thorough evaluation can assist disclose the printer’s complexities as well as any advantages and disadvantages that you should be aware of.

You may always do a comparison of the machines by consulting well-known review websites like TopTenReviews.com.

To gather people’s frank opinions on various printer models, think about posting a question on places like Reddit or Yahoo Answers.

Customer Service

You are probably going to run into some difficulties along the way, primarily because you are new to the realm of 3D printing. Teething issues and 3D printing go together like peanut butter and jelly. It is crucial that the business from which you buy your printer has first-rate customer service. You can discover more about them by reading reviews and hearing from their prior clients in online forums.

Because they wish to promote the growth and widespread adoption of 3D printing technology, the majority of businesses that manufacture and sell 3D printers provide outstanding customer service.

Characteristics of a 3D Printer’s Performance

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You need to focus on some more “technical” issues after looking into the elements covered in the previous section.

Here are some of the key characteristics of 3D printers that you should compare based on your requirements.

Printing of Model

Different things can be meant by the word “print speed,” for example:

  • It could be the amount of time needed to print a specific distance in the Z direction in a single print job; or
  • It could be referring to the amount of time needed to print a certain part or a specific part volume.

Regardless of how it applies to you, a quick 3D printer will ultimately help you save money on operating expenses.

In order to see your finished products sooner, having a 3D printer with a quicker speed is also ideal.

Cost of Parts & Accessories

Typically, the cost of a part is expressed as a cost/volume, such as the cost per cubic inch or cubic centimeter. The part cost is frequently specified by printer manufacturers, and you can also estimate it yourself using your STL files, but unless you’re purchasing a printer for business use, you shouldn’t be overly concerned about it.

The concept behind part cost is based on how much material a 3D printer uses to produce a specific set of parts. Powder-based technologies have the lowest prices, but those printers are very expensive to buy in the first place. Unless you want to use your printer for business, we don’t advise you to worry too much about part costs.

3D Printer Accuracy

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Materials that are transformed from one form to another are used in the additive processes of 3D printers to build items one layer at a time. To ensure that the final product has been manufactured with the highest level of accuracy feasible, the shrinkage of the material due to a change in its state must be taken into account.

TL:DR? You’ll quickly become frustrated if your 3D printer isn’t accurate.

Due of the binders they employ, powder-based 3D printers exhibit the least shrink distortion. This explains why the items produced by powder-based 3D printers are extremely precise.

On the other hand, 3D printers that employ plastic as the starting material treat the material properly using heat, ultraviolet light, or a combination of the two. This introduces a variety of new variables that, to varied degrees, can and do impair the accuracy of the final outcome.

Other factors that affect the overall accuracy of the goods include the part size and geometry. You’ll observe that some 3D printers have adjusting tools to enhance accuracy for specific geometries. Manufacturers base their accuracy claims on testing specific parts; however, since part geometry will inevitably affect results, if you feel that your application requires a high level of accuracy, you should speak with the manufacturer so that your unique application geometry can be taken into account.

Filament and Other Materials’ Qualities

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When purchasing a 3D printer, it is important to consider each technology’s specific set of advantages and disadvantages. The manufacturer’s assertions regarding the available materials must be carefully examined because they don’t always guarantee the best results.

Keep in mind that only specific materials can be used with each type of 3D printing technology. You shouldn’t be concerned about this as a newcomer to the 3D printing industry. At the moment, desktop 3D printers can only print with plastics like ABS and PLA.

Color

Three general categories can be used to categorize color 3D printers:

  • printers with one-color printing capabilities
  • printers with multicolor printing capabilities; and
  • printers that print in the complete spectrum

The ProJet x60 from 3D Systems is a full-color printer. Due to its size, it cannot be categorized as a “desktop” printer. Additionally, it costs about $16,580. In all likelihood, you will begin by utilizing a single color printer.

Conclusion

Overall, the opinions of experts on how to choose a 3D printer as a novice to the technology are generally rather similar. In order to concentrate on enjoying your work, you must first evaluate your wants and goals before searching for dependable and uncomplicated equipment. We hope this information has helped you decide whether or not to buy a 3D printer.

If you love what you see on this page and would like to get more details about 3D printing in general, we have a full guide for you here: 3D Printing – A Complete Guide!


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