Choosing what 3D printer to buy can be overwhelming, especially if you are a beginner. Therefore, you must do your research before making any decisions. You probably do not want to end up with a printer that is too difficult for you to use or does not match your needs. There is a wide variety of 3d printers out there for different needs and you need to figure out, which one matches yours. This article will help you by summarizing the most important aspects you need to consider when you choose what 3D printer to buy.
What are your 3D printing needs
First of all, you need to understand, what you will be using the printer for. Your needs can vary from home use to professional use to large-scale manufacturing, and the costs of the printer will vary along.
A low-cost 3D printer will work for you if you intend to have it for home use – create decorations, broken parts of household items, or use for educational purposes of your kids. A low to a medium-priced printer will be optimal for you if it is going to be used for educational purposes in the classroom or so. You might want to consider more advanced models if you intend to use it for prototyping or production. These printers will ensure you with higher quality and a speedier printing process.
If you are reading this article the odds are you are a newbie, so we recommend to choose a 3D printer that is less expensive and more user friendly.
Price and type
The available 3D printers on the market range from as little as 100 USD and up to several thousand dollars. Therefore, it is so important to consider your needs to not under or overinvest.
There are over 10 different types of 3D printing depending on the type of material and how it is processed. The most common types of 3D printers for home use are FDM, SLS, and SLA.
- FDM (Fuse Deposition Modeling) – is the most commonly used as well as the cheapest type of 3D printing. It operates by heating a filament and layering it to create the model. This type of printers is mostly used by hobby users.
- SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) – in this case, the powder bed is sintered by lasers to bond the particles together and form the print layer by layer. This type of printer is typically used for industrial needs.
- SLA (Stereolithography) – operates on the photo-solidification principle in which a chemical reaction forms layers that are hardened by the UV light. This type of print typically has higher quality.
Consider your experience level
It is important that you consider this aspect as your experience level should match the complexity of the technology. If you are a complete newbie make sure to choose a 3D printer with a user-friendly interface available, a large community, and easily available support. If this is not your first 3D printer then you can go for a little more advanced option.
Think of the total costs of your 3D printer
The printer itself is a one-time purchase however you are going to need a filament, there are maintenance costs, electricity, and more. Even though the electricity costs do not constitute a lot it still can add up if you print regularly. So make sure you are ready for such investment over time.
If you choose a 3D printer with a different type of filament than ABS or PLA they are going to be more expensive. However, these materials will give your prints extra strength. So consider if whatever you are printing needs to be extra durable.
One of the most important features is print quality. The most commonly used FDM printers typically have lower print quality. The prints often need to be smoothed out after the printing. The more advanced printers can offer extremely high quality but consequently, also the price is going to be way higher.
The next characteristic to consider is the user interface – you need to make sure that it is simple enough for you to understand and operate it.
You need to consider what type of filament your chosen 3D printer uses and whether it matches your needs. For example, the FDM type of printers typically uses ABS and PLA materials that are not recommended to be used with food products. Some printers use for example metal filament but that will increase your printing costs drastically.
Support and communities
Figure out if the 3D printer brand you are considering is offering any support and if it is easily accessible. Does the brand offer a range of videos that will help you with setup? Is there a phone line or chat? Chances are – you might need it, especially if you are a newbie. Additionally, existing online communities of users can help you a lot. These communities – typically in a form of Facebook groups or forums can offer you advice on technical issues, inspiration, and much more.
You should also consider the safety features of the printer, especially if you are buying the printer for your kids. The FDM type of printers, for example, operate by melting the filament, therefore it can cause burns. Many printers, therefore, move away from the nozzle from the printing area so you can remove your print safely. Some printers create fumes when melting the filament. It is not known whether these are bad for your health but it might be a good idea to stay on the safe side and get a printer enclosure.
The last aspect you should be considering is the choice of retailer. 3D printer manufacturers typically sell their products both directly and through intermediaries. If you decide to buy through a retailer you should consider whether the retailer is trustworthy. You should be cautious of pages offering your chosen printer for a below-average price. In this case, carefully consider the pages and/or seller’s reputation as there are plenty of people trying to take advantage of you online.
One of the most popular retailers is Amazon, especially if you live in regions where Amazon Prime is available. Amazon offers a variety of the most recognized brands and good customer support, and is therefore a safe choice. There are plenty of Chinese producers selling their products through pages as Aliexpress. However, you need to be much more cautious with choosing the seller in this case. Additionally, the shipping can take very long unless you pay extra for a faster shipping option.