3D printing can be quite the daunting subject if you are jumping in for the first time. It can be difficult to know where to start, what to get, what you need, or what printer is better than the next. That is why we created this 3D printer buying guide to help you learn your way around, and find out what you need to not only get started but to shorten the learning curve to 3D printing success. So, Lets Begin!
Goals – What do you want to print?
Your goals will have a large effect on determining which printer is right for you. If you don’t know your goals at this point that is okay, but some initial questions will save you some time and a lot of money on parts if you ask them at the start. Take a look at this list and answer what you can:
- Do you have a specific print you are looking to make?
- Are you looking to print plastics right away? or Are you jumping into some of the more advanced materials?
- Have you set a Budget?
These questions are very important because not all 3D Printers are created equal, and depending on what you want to print, some printers won’t be able to accomplish your goal without a significant investment in upgraded parts (This is especially important when you get into abrasive materials).
Filament – The Raw Material
All of the printers we sell (at the time of this writing) are FFM (Fused Filament Manufacturing) 3D printers. This means these printers take filament, heat it up and draw it into whatever shape one layer at a time. These printers tend to be on the more affordable side and give you the widest range of filament options to meet a lot of different needs. At the time of this writing, we offer PLA, ABS, and Nylon (See guides below for more information) in 1.75mm and 3.00mm sizes which are not interchangeable. If you are just starting out, we recommend starting with PLA as it is the easiest to print with and gives very strong, beautiful prints.
3D Printer Build Volume
How big is your envisioned print? This is important to consider since all 3D printers have a specific build volume. This information should be in the “Specifications” heading of each 3D printer listing (Usually labeled “Building Area”. Every 3D printer has a different max build volume, the bigger it is, the bigger your largest 3D Print can be. Prints can be divided up within certain design programs, This is still an important consideration when looking to buy a new 3D printer.
Print Speed & Quality
Print speed is another important metric that will affect your ultimate decision. Print speed has a significant effect on the overall quality of your print and can lead to printing issues if set too high. Certain materials need to be set up to print much slower (especially if you are using an abrasive filament). It is an important metric that you will find included in the “Specifications” heading of each 3D printer listing.
Heated Print Bed
Bed adhesion is important to the success or failure of any print especially if you are working with materials that shrink or can warp (like ABS, or Nylon). A heated print bed helps these materials adhere to the print surface and helps to minimize warping and breaking due to shrinkage. If you plan on printing in anything other than PLA, including a heated print bed is a very good idea. (Even with PLA it’s still a good idea).
Parts & Accessories
3D printing is a wide world of parts and upgrades that are necessary for certain materials to get the prints that you want. There are also other ancillary accessories that help you do cool things like 3D print a scanned object, or person (miniaturized of course). Check out the scanners and other accessories such as replacement nozzles, and Kapton tape that will help you get the job done!
Success Guides for Printing with Different Kinds of Filament
- 3D Printing with PLA Success Guide
- 3D Printing with ABS Success Guide
- 3D Printing w/ Nylon Success Guide