Whether you plan to enter the 3D printing field as a hobbyist, professional designer, or something else, you should be prepared. While 3D printing is a fun hobby and a rewarding way to earn money, there are several aspects to buying and installing a 3D printer in your home or facility you need to consider. Here are the four things you should know before buying a 3D printer.
Whether you buy 3D printers online or in a store, assess what kind you need and whether you have the budget for it. The higher the price the better the quality of print produced by the machine. If you’re just getting into 3D printing for fun and know next to nothing about the process, you can find a cheap and affordable printer for $200 or less. That way you can see if it’s for you without taking too much of a bath financially. More expensive and fancier models can run from $1000 to even higher prices. You get what you pay for, however, and your prints will look sharper. However, if you prefer the safety of an enclosed bed, the price will go even higher. Shop around and find a printer that you can both afford and afford to use.
The next of our four things you should know before buying a 3D printer is this: what materials do you intend to use? Again, for fun projects intended only for your shelves and display cabinets, you can go with affordable materials like Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and Polylactic Acid (PLA) filament; these are fun and flexible materials that can be applied to many different projects. But if you want prints that are stable and capable of producing durable working models, polycarbonate filaments and even stronger materials are preferable, especially if you’re printing for clients. Check to see what materials your potential 3D printer uses before buying.
Pick the printer bed that’s best for your projects. The bed is the place in the 3D printer where prints are held and, well, printed. The bigger the bed the bigger the prints you can produce, so if you’re planning larger scale projects, go with more bed “acreage.” If you pick a printer with dual extruders, a bigger bed allows you to produce more pieces, parts, or what-have-you at one time. That will save time as well since you don’t have to clear and prepare the bed for each print job.
Assess who is using the machine and whether they need more protection. Children, of course, take very well to 3D printing, and the number of projects for your kids or students is endless. That said, 3D printers have very hot parts, emit various fumes, and require a certain amount of adult supervision when used by kids. Enclosed printers are better for little ones but are usually slightly more expensive. Still, it’s a fair tradeoff when kids are part of the equation. Keep safety in mind when you buy!