3D printing world has been expanded tremendously in previous few years. As a result, there are numbers of 3D printers which can make things more complicated when you are looking for the best machine for you. In this post you will find the fundamental things you should decide before buying a 3D printer. Do not go crazy in crowd and reduce your options with our guide!
1- Objective: Why do I want to have a 3D Printer? This is the first question that you need to answer before searching for models. If you want to have a 3D printer to start a new hobby, probably you will not be looking for a printer above two thousand dollars. For more professional objectives, there are many options to choose from printing volume to ability of printing different materials. However if you are looking for something more simple at the first step, consider something that can meet your expectations at affordable prices.
2- Assembled or Not Assembled (DIY Kit): If you are good at mechanics and if you enjoy playing with electronics and cables a DIY 3D printer can be your new adventure. Building your own printer can be cheaper than buying an assembled one. Your final decision will depend on whether you want to start printing right away or you are patient enough to set up from zero.
3- Printing Volume: Obviously a printer with a bigger printing surface (base) will print bigger objects. If you would like to print objects for commercial use, go for more professional printers with bigger build volume since the desktop printers generally do not exceed 200x200mm printing surface.
4- Material issue: 3D printers use plastic spools as material, the main 2 materials are ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and PLA (polylactic acid). There are many printers which can only print with one of them. The reason is, ABS printing process will require a heatedbed surface (around 100-110ºC). If you know which material is suitable for your final product you can easily choose which type of printer you should buy.
5- Printing Quality: Printing speed and layer resolution are the most important factors that affect printing quality. It is possible to get a higher quality with a slower printing process and with a thinner layer resolution. These parameters can be configured using the printer software, but there are minimum values; these are what you would need to look at.
6- Extruder: The extruder part is a very important piece formed by a printing nozzle (the piece where the extruded plastic comes out melted), a heater block (metallic piece where heating is done), a heater resistor, a temperature sensor, a “body” that join the hot zone and the feeding system and a motor which push the filament into the nozzle. The nozzle size will determine your printer minimum layer width. Mostly 3D printers on the market have one extruder. However, more than one extruder will allow you to print one object in different colours or materials. In terms of realibility, all-metal extruder-hotend systems are the best ones.
7- Software: Most of the printers have their own 3D printing software that can open and process STL files (your 3D design files) with the software you can scale, rotate,resize, etc your model. You can choose many parameters like layer thickness, % filling, etc. If your printer is a DIY kit and does not come along with software, you can easily find it out online and configure it out.
8- Ease of use: DIY printer kits are more challenging to assembly, besides the software configuration is more complicated since it depends on the printer assembly itself. If you do not want to adjust your printer before each printing process it is better to get a pre-assembled one. Other option is a DIY which includes a “auto-calibration” system.
9- Safety: The design of the printer is important for safety as well as its looking. They work under high heats. If you will have a open structure printer you must be careful with heated parts. Printers with closed structure are safer and also provide a print area protected from external agents during use. This covering, reduces the “warping” and “cracking” when printing ABS material.
10- Price: Usually, the price of the printer will depend on its output quality and functionalities. The price range of desktop 3D printers goes from 200$ to 4000$. Obviously, the higher the price, the higher is the quality of printing and its functionality. At the end, the price issue will depend on the budget you would like to invest, but at least you can have a list of features to shape your need and define your best options within your price range.