Looking for a good 3D printer but don’t know what that means? That’s where our 3D printer buying guide comes in. Here’s everything you should be looking for.
You’ve seen them everywhere—3D printers They are starting to feel like the new computers and copy machines, where everyone needs one. If you’re like most people, you’re probably ready to take the plunge and have identified a reason to use it.
With this 3D printer buying guide, we’ll be breaking down which printer to buy and how to get a quality 3D printer without breaking the bank.
What Are You 3D Printing?
This is by far the most important question before making a purchase. If you’re someone who is looking for a one-off print, then buying a 3D printer is not a great option. But chances are you have identified a need for the printer and will more than likely be using it repeatedly.
Those using 3D printers are usually looking to use them for two main purposes. Hobbyists tend to purchase these printers to create knick-knacks and household gadgets they can personalize. Business owners and other professionals often purchase 3D printers for the purpose of incorporating the 3D printer into the business to help produce products.
The two most common types of printers are Stereolithography (SLA) and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). The biggest factor separating these two is SLA can render a 3D object without breaking an object into layers, while an FDM can not. This gives SLA printers a slight edge in terms of quality over FDM.
Industrial 3D printing can run the cost up quite a bit because of the material used. The most common type of industrial 3D printer is still the SLA version but at a much higher cost.
3D printing can be a great way to cut back on costs thanks to its ability to keep consistency and material low. Those running from home businesses can speed up the process of specific items which would otherwise take a few days to complete by hand.
Is Speed Important?
Speed for 3D printers is extremely different among different models. Speed is not always a good thing when it comes to 3D printing. The higher the speed the better the chance of producing a lower quality product.
This can be scaled up as well. The larger the piece that needs to be printed, the more time it will typically take to make. Printers boasting fast print speeds can actually be creating lower quality products and can lead to easier damaged products.
Increasing the resolution of a product can also determine the amount of time a printer takes. Printing a lower resolution means faster speeds, but a not so nice looking product. Printing at a higher resolution means slower speeds but a much higher quality product.
One of the most underrated features of any printer is the safety features. It is common for cheap printers to have next to none and continue to print even after creating a disaster.
One of the biggest features which are typically disregarded is the print resume feature. Having downtime on a project can be irritating, but it would be even more irritating to have a printer that continues on with a project after encountering an error and working past it. It can ruin the entire piece, require a complete restart, and result in a huge waste of materials.
Another feature to look for is the ease of removable parts. Some printing companies will make it a hassle to have specific parts removed. In case of emergencies, this can lead to issues that would have otherwise been prevented if you had access to remove the said piece.
Important Software to Have
What type of software you want to be running on the printer needs to be prioritized as well.
3D printer software is broken into two different categories. 3D modeling software to create the pieces in 3D on a computer and see a preview of what they will look like. Then the actual printing software, usually called Slicers or 3D printer hosts.
If you’re looking for this printer to do one job and one job only, then the software will not play a huge portion of your decision. But if you want to customize and make adjustments as necessary or repurpose, then a 3D printer that allows a multitude of different software to be used is greatly appreciated.
Those who are looking for industrial-size printers will typically come with software specifically designed for that specific printer. These types of software are meant to be user-friendly and can be controlled easily to ensure production is smooth.
How Much Is Each Type of Printer?
This wouldn’t be a complete 3D printer buying guide without listing some prices.
FDM printers have been around for the longest amount of time and thus will typically run the cheapest. You can look to find these printers for around $150 to $1,000.
SLA printers are newer and because they have a quicker and more defined process, they run higher. SLA printers for hobbyists and those working on a minor scale can look to spend anywhere from $500 on the low end and up to $2,500 on the high end.
Industrial sized SLA printers are when the big money comes into play. These bad boys will range anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000. SLA works with resin, so if you need different materials, you could be looking to fork even more money over.
Industrial based FDM printers can be $5,000 or more. There are printers that can use several different types of materials which are generally priced at $10,000 or more.
Key Takeaways From This 3D Printer Buying Guide
3D printers will continue to be on the rise over the coming years. As the demand goes up, the cost will go down making them more affordable and accessible to the everyday person. We may even see a day where everyone has a 3D printer in their house just like we see paper printers now.
Along with this 3D printer buying guide, be sure to check out the rest of the classified section to support businesses. If you have friends looking to dabble in the industry or know of businesses who may need a 3D printer send them this article.