How to Decide which 3D Printer to Buy

Determining which 3D Printer is most appropriate for your needs is becoming increasingly complicated as more 3D printers become available.   This post outlines some of the features and characteristics that you should consider when looking at buying a 3D Printer

  • 3d printer - makerbotProcess: How does the printer work? Is it a plastic extrusion device, a powder-based unit or a resin machine? Each process has different advantage and challenges. The process used will have a significant impact on cost and will be significantly influenced by the types of objects you plan to print
  • Materials: What material types is the machine capable of printing? Plastic extrusion machines could use ABS, maybe PLA, perhaps even NYLON or HIPS.
  • Resolution: How smooth is the output? Often specified as “layer size”, this factor determines the smoothness of your print. The smaller the better, although more layers means more time required to print.
  • Speed: How fast does the machine print objects? For extrusion devices, it’s often specified in mm/s because the extruder must traverse every single voxel of the object, but for other processes it might be cm/hr as whole layers are printed at once, regardless of the amount of material on a layer.
  • Brand: This shouldn’t matter, but it does for some people. Unfortunately, there are a vast number of brands available today and it is difficult to determine which are “the best” because it’s always changing.
  • Support: How will you get help when something goes wrong? Is there telephone support? An online 24/7 forum? How large is the community behind the device? It won’t matter at all until something breaks, at which time it becomes a critical factor.
  • Software: What software comes with your 3D printer? Some manufacturers include sophisticated 3D modeling software in addition to software to control the printer. Were sample print files provided?