7 things you need to know before buying a 3D printer
What to consider when buying a 3D printer and how to choose a 3D printer that is right for your project? Find out in this post.
With so many models available on the market today, which 3D printer to buy may be tougher to decide than you think. In this post, we take a look at the key factors to consider when purchasing a 3D printer.
Most printers currently available on the market are FDM printers. FDM stands for fuse deposition modeling and basically means that the object is printed layer by layer.
The two other types of printers are stereolithography and SLS (Selective Laser Sintering). These are significantly more expensive and are primarily used in industrial projects. Stereolithography allows for a higher quality print by using an ultraviolet light beam to harden a mode, while SLS utilizes lasers and powders to create a layer of printed material. Once again, most commercial printers are FDM — and if you are looking to purchase one for your home, you will probably be choosing between the wide range of FDM printers available on the market.
Assembled 3D printer or DIY 3D printer?
This is another question to answer when deciding what 3D printer to buy. With 3D printers mostly used by makers and in creative communities, it makes perfect sense that the tool itself can be assembled by the hands of those planning to use it.
Making a 3D printer entirely from scratch, though, may be quite a challenge. Luckily, you can find a great abundance of 3D printer DIY kits with clear assembly instructions for your creative pleasure. If you prefer to get started right away and skip the assembly, go with a ready-made 3D printer model, which is ready to work right out of the box.
Expensive 3D printer or a cheap 3D printer?
As with most purchases, price is a major consideration when choosing a 3D printer. In most cases, price is direct indication of the quality of the output. However, depending on the type of projects you plan to use the 3D printer for, you may or may not actually need a machine that is top of the line.
These days, you can easily find an assembled 3D printer for USD$300 or less — which is suitable for most types of home projects. If you just want to fix small objects or have a fun tool to play around with, you can even start with a 3D printing pen for under USD$30. If you've already dipped your toes in 3D printing and are looking for a more professional 3D printer with a larger printing bed and working with higher temperatures, you can expect to pay around USD$1000 with top-grade models costing upwards of USD$2000.
3D printing quality
Printing quality is often measured by two key characteristics: how detailed the final product is and printing speed. The level of detail a printer can achieve is measured in microns — the smaller the number, the better print quality it indicates. As for the speed, the faster the printer's extruder moves, the faster your object will be created.
Another important factor to consider is printing volume — the maximum size of the object that can be printed. Some printers come with a relatively small build volume, but the one that suits most DIY projects — 280 x 210mm x 180mm (Geeetech Prusa I3 M201 3D Printer), while some offer a larger build size of 340 x 500mm (TEVO Little Monster Delta 3D Printer).
3D printing filaments
Check out what materials your printer is compatible with. While most 3D printers work with the two main type of filaments: PLA and ABS, some models support more options letting you use wood, metal and other materials. Learn more about 3D printing filaments in the 3D printer filament guide.
Is your 3D printer safe?
When working with high temperatures, it's always important to make sure that all the precautions have been taken and your working environment and tools are safe.
Some printers have specially made enclosures around the printing area, which can get extremely hot. Other models do not have this type of protection. If you are not very familiar with the printing process or the tool will be used by children, it is recommended to choose a printer that keeps the printing area enclosed.
The learning curve: how to work with a 3D printer?
Before starting to 3D print, you will need to spend some time learning about the printer's settings and the software required to print an object. Lower end printers may require more manual calibrations, while higher-end models may have some of these features automated. Whichever model you choose, expect that you will need some time to get used to the printer and understand all the intricacies of the printing process. But once you do, the possibilities are remarkably endless.
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|Build New Worlds: understanding how 3D printing works|
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