Things your need to consider before buying the Best 3D Printer
In this buying guide, we've got you covered with all the factors you need to consider to find the best 3D printer for your needs. From printing materials to building volume, we'll take you through the essential features and considerations so you can make an informed purchase decision.
What You’ll be Printing
If you're considering buying a 3D printer, it's important to determine what you plan to use it for. The materials you use and the type of printer you purchase will affect the strength, smoothness, and quality of your prints. If you're just using it for casual hobbies, budget filament-based devices are a good option. However, if you're using it professionally to produce machine parts or objects that need to withstand wear and tear, it's best to invest in a more expensive powder or resin material printer. The possibilities with 3D printing are endless, so it's important to consider every possible creation you'll be making.
3D Printing Materials
Before you start making your first 3D masterpiece, you need to figure out the type of materials you’ll be using. The materials you choose will have a big impact on the quality, strength, and durability of your prints. Plus, some materials work better with certain printers than others. Here are the two main types of materials you need to know about:
With FDM printers, plastic filaments are used to print layer by layer. Do note that various materials have a significant effect on the final printed output. While filament materials come in different variations, they do have their own specific uses. Here are the two most common plastic print materials:
ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene: This is a cost-efficient and very common material that is highly recommended for tiny kitchen items as well as other basic objects. As we all know, ABS plastic is standard when it comes to consumer manufacturing and toys. ABS print materials are one of the most practical materials due to their convenient availability and affordability. PLA or Polylactic Acid: The eco-warriors' choice! This material is super friendly to the environment and is often used for disposable items and food storage. However, it's a bit pricey and might be harder to find compared to ABS. But if you want to save the planet while printing cool stuff, PLA is the way to go. 2. Resin
Various manufacturers have other names for the resin they produce, but to keep it simple, there are three resin quality categories that you’d best be aware of.
Standard: This is the most basic type of resin material, which is usually transparent. It is the most affordable yet durable, making it highly recommended for users who need to print sturdy objects. One drawback, however, is the potential lack of clarity and accuracy in color with lower-grade resins. The finished product may appear cloudy and not quite as crisp as desired. High-Grade: High-grade resin materials feature very specific colors that make them an excellent choice for specific projects. They have superior durability compared to their standard counterparts, which makes them a more reliable choice. One drawback, however, is their premium price point. Medical-Grade: As the name suggests, this type of resin is used in the medical field, and it is also the material of choice for extremely high-quality print jobs. Aside from that, its complexity and high durability make it a practical choice for use in various professional applications. It is also the most expensive material used in 3D printing. 3. 3D Printer Specifications
Much like any other device, there are some specifications you have to consider before making a final decision. Here, we’ll be showing you the significance and importance of each.
Resolution: You’ve probably heard this when it comes to your gadget’s screen, but 3D printers work a bit differently. In a 3D printer, the smaller the resolution, the better the quality, and that’s basically all you need to know. Speed: While you might think faster is better, that isn’t always the case. 3D printers that have higher print speeds might sometimes sacrifice quality for better efficiency. Slower models can take up a lot of time, but they do create much more detailed and complex prints. So, if you want to ensure a good-quality print, it’s best to go for a slower device with a better print quality since no matter what you’ll be printing, it’s going to take up a bit of time anyway. Compatible Materials: Trying to determine the type of material your 3D printer supports is essential to figuring out the regular cost. There are some materials, like powders for SLM printers, that aren’t easily available and are often expensive. It’s best to know how often you’ll be printing and what types of objects you plan on creating before deciding what types of materials you should use. Print Capacity: This is also called the build area, which tells you the maximum size of your project. Do note, however, that a larger printer means a more expensive base price and printing materials. You do have the option to print items in parts so that you’ll be able to assemble them into a larger object later on. This is something that a smaller printer is more than capable of, so a large build area isn’t exactly needed. However, if you’ll be using this professionally and you’ll have to create a large part, then it’s best to go for a model with a large print capacity. 3D Printer Types
There are two common types of entry-level 3D printers—SLA and FDM—that are perfect for beginners. While there are various types of 3D printers, SLA and FDM printers are the most accessible and affordable options. It's important to know the differences between these two printers, such as the materials they use and how they operate, to make the best decision for your needs.
1. FDM Printers
FDM or Fused Deposition Modeling printers, use heat to melt filament and feed it through a tube in order to create different shapes. By adding materials to the X, Y, and Z axes, you’ll be able to make various objects. FDM printers are also the ideal choice for hobbyists, and they also have two types of frame construction:
Cartesian: These printers feature three orthogonal axes—X, Y, and Z—which allow the printer to determine the correct position and direction of the print head. Delta: These printers feature separate motors for each axis, leading to longer print times and a sloppier output. 2. SLA Printers Stereolithography, or SLA printers, use photo-solidification, which is a chemical treatment process, in order to form layers of the final product from the liquid resin. Using an ultraviolet laser, the print pattern is hardened into the material, a single layer of resin at a time. These types of printers are capable of super high-quality prints with impeccable detail, and unlike FDM, SLA printers have a smooth final product with little to no post-print work. 3. SLS Printers Selective Laser Sintering or SLS printers operate similarly to SLA; however, these devices use a laser and powder material to create their final print. The laser points at specific areas within the powder, hardening it and creating durable yet detailed objects. SLS printers are generally used for making machine parts or items that need to be complex and intricate, yet highly durable. 4. DLP Printers Digital Light Processing or DLP printers, while working similarly to SLA, have one significant difference. Unlike SLA printers, which use ultraviolet light, DLP printers use conventional light sources. Although technically an old-fashioned form of 3D printing, DLP printers still boast high quality, even by today's standards. However, they are hard to find and generally expensive, which is why they aren't commonly used out there. 5. SLM Printers Selective Laser Melting, or SLM for short, utilizes a high-powered laser beam to make 3D items out of powdered materials. While these types of printers aren’t commonly found in homes, they do have their place in universities and the medical department. These types of printers specialize in creating parts that are extremely complex, incredibly thin, and highly detailed.