As a beginner in the exciting world of 3D printing, you may be overwhelmed by all the choices on the market. I know this because I’m one of you. I’m purchasing my first 3D printer, and the options are seemingly endless. There is so much to consider, from filament type to size, budget, and everything in between.
However, I have done a ton of research, and I am here to give you a summarized version of what I learned in my journey through buying a 3D printer.
This beginner’s guide will provide you with all the necessary information to make an informed decision. From understanding the different types of 3D printers, to considering factors like price and print quality, this guide has you covered. So let’s dive in and learn all about the wonderful world of 3D printing!
What is a 3D printer?
A 3D printer is a machine that is used to create three-dimensional objects. The 3D printer builds the object by adding layers of material, such as plastic, on top of each other until the entire object is complete. This process is called additive manufacturing, allowing users to create objects of almost any shape or size with high precision.
3D printing has many applications, including prototyping, manufacturing, and even art and design. For example, here at the MakerHub, we use 3D printers to make things like phone cases, pencil holders, and much more.
Are 3D printers beginner friendly?
These printers may look simple enough. However, I’ve learned that 3D printing is inherently not user-friendly. You will have to learn many new skills, including leveling the bed and learning new software, and you will need to learn how to assemble the printers (and there’s a lot of assembling).
Additionally, you will need to learn how to troubled shoot when things go wrong (and they will go wrong at some point). After all, catastrophe failures do happen. And when they do, its on you to fix them and clean up the mess.
What are the different types of 3D printers?
Several different 3D printers are available, each with unique features and capabilities. Some of the most common types of 3D printers for consumers include:
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
- Stereolithography (SLA)
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
- Digital Light Processing (DLP)
- Multi Jet printers (MJP)
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers are the most popular 3D printers for consumers. They use a plastic filament that is heated and extruded through a nozzle to create the object layer by layer.
Stereolithography (SLA) printers use a laser to cure a photosensitive resin, creating the object layer by layer. They are known for their high print resolution and accuracy.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) printers use a laser to sinter (or fuse) a powdered material, such as plastic or metal, to create the object layer by layer. They can produce strong, durable objects with a high level of detail.
Digital Light Processing (DLP)
Digital Light Processing (DLP) printers use a digital light projector to cure a photosensitive resin, creating the object layer by layer. They are known for their fast printing speed and high print resolution.
Multi Jet printers (MJP)
Multi Jet Printing (MJP) printers use an array of nozzles to deposit layers of material, such as plastic or metal, to create the object. They are known for their high print resolution and ability to produce objects with complex geometries.
What are some things I should consider when purchasing a 3D printer?
When purchasing a 3D printer, there are several factors you should consider to ensure you get the best machine for your needs and budget.
1. Consider why you want a 3D printer in the first place?
Consider why you want a 3-D printer in the first place. For instance, some people use a car just to get around, others prefer others are passionate about cars and work on them for fun. Similarly, a 3-D printer can be used to print practical parts that you can use, or you can 3-D print because you want to build your skills and do it with a passion for this technology.
Either way, you’ll have to think about why you want the printer in the first place. This will definitely guide you in the price point department.
2. Consider the price
As you start your journey into the exciting world of 3D printing and design, one of the first things you’ll want to consider is the price of a 3D printer.
Depending on their features and capabilities, 3D printers can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. It’s important to determine your budget and look for a printer that offers the right balance of features and price.
The cost of 3D printers can vary widely, depending on the printer’s size, features, and quality. Entry-level 3D printers can be purchased for as little as $200 to $500, but more advanced or industrial-grade 3D printers can cost thousands.
While it might be tempting to choose the cheapest option, remember that you get what you pay for. A cheaper printer might save you some money upfront, but it could cost you more in the long run with subpar results and lots of frustration.
On the other hand, splurging on the most expensive 3D printer on the market might not be the best option either. It’s important to strike a balance and find a printer that offers good quality at a reasonable price. Take some time to research different models and compare their features and prices to find the one that’s right for you and your budget.
3. Concider the filament compatability
When choosing a 3D printer, it is important to consider the type of filament compatible with the printer. The filament is the material used in a 3D printer to create the object, and different printers can use different types of filament. Some common filament types include:
Each type of filament has unique properties and characteristics, so it’s important to choose a printer that is compatible with the type of filament you want.
PLA, or Polylactic Acid, is a biodegradable plastic made from renewable resources like corn starch or sugarcane. It is a popular choice for 3D printing because it is easy to use and produces strong, detailed prints with a glossy finish. As a beginner in 3D printing, you may want to consider using PLA filament for your prints. PLA is a user-friendly and versatile material well-suited for many applications.
ABS, or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, is a strong, durable plastic commonly used in products like LEGOs and car parts. It is more difficult to print with than PLA, but it can produce more flexible and impact-resistant objects.
PETG, or Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-Modified, is a plastic that is stronger and more flexible than PLA or ABS. In addition, it is known for its durability and transparency, making it a good choice for creating functional parts and prototypes.
Nylon is a strong, lightweight, and flexible plastic known for its toughness and resistance to wear and tear. It is often used for printing functional parts and prototypes that need to be durable and long-lasting.
Different materials will produce different results, so if you have a specific look or feel in mind for your prints, make sure the printer you choose can handle the material you need.
4. Consider print quality
Concerning print quality, there are a few key things to consider. First, you’ll want to look at the printer’s resolution, measured in microns. A printer with a lower resolution will produce coarser, less detailed prints, while a printer with a higher resolution will produce smoother, more detailed prints.
5. Consider the size of the print bed
A print bed is a surface on which a 3D printer builds a model by depositing successive layers of material. It is typically made of a heat-resistant material such as glass or aluminum.
If the print bed is not large enough for a particular model, the model will either have to be scaled down to fit on the bed or have built-in multiple parts and then assembled. In either case, this can affect the final product. For this reason, it is important to choose a print bed that is large enough for your needs.
6. Consider ease of use
Regarding ease of use, a few key things to look for in a 3D printer. First, you’ll want to ensure the printer has a user-friendly interface with clear instructions and easy-to-understand controls. This will make it much easier to set up and operate the printer, even if you’re a beginner.
Another factor affecting a printer’s ease of use is its compatibility with different software and file formats. Look for a printer compatible with a wide range of software and file formats, so you can use more than just proprietary software.
7. Consider the size and weight
While it might be tempting to go for the biggest printer on the market, it’s important to consider the size and weight of the printer.
The size and weight of a 3D printer can affect where you can put it. So if you have a small workspace or plan to move the printer around, a larger and heavier printer might not be the best option. On the other hand, if you have plenty of space and don’t plan to move the printer, a bigger printer might be worth considering.
Another factor to consider is the size and weight of the objects the printer can produce. If you have big ideas for your 3D designs, you’ll want to ensure the printer you choose has a large build size. And if you plan to print large objects, you’ll want to ensure the printer can handle the weight of the finished print.
8. Consider the software
In the context of 3D printing, “slicer” software is a type of program that takes a 3D model and converts it into a set of instructions, known as G-code, that the 3D printer can understand and use to produce a physical object.
The slicer software essentially “slices” the 3D model into thin layers and then generates the G-code instructions to tell the printer how to move and extrude the necessary material to create each layer. Some common slicer software programs include Cura, Slic3r, and Simplify3D.
Some 3D printers have proprietary software, while others use open-source software. Proprietary software is developed and owned by a specific company and is not available for others to use or modify. So it’s important to know what software your printer is compatible with before making a purchase.
9. Consider the printing speed.
How fast do you need your print? The speed of a 3D printer is important because it determines how quickly it can produce a printed object. A faster printer can complete a print job in a shorter time, which can be especially useful if you need to print multiple objects or work on a tight deadline.
10. Consider safety
There are a few safety concerns to be aware of when it comes to 3D printing. The most crucial thing to remember is that you will work with heat. Extruders, polymers, and in some printers, the print bed itself, can all become extremely hot and inflict burns if not handled carefully.
Some printers may not have an enclosure surrounding the print area, so use caution when using these printers. It is critical to keep your 3D printer in a well-ventilated space.
Expect fumes to be emitted during printing, especially if you use ABS plastics. However, it is best to take caution and print in a well-ventilated space. Especially if you will be utilizing 3D printers frequently.
11. Consider avaialble support
3D printing can be a complex and technical process, so choosing a printer with good customer support is important. Consider the customer support and online resources available for the printer you’re considering. If you run into any issues or have questions, it’s nice to know that you can easily get help from the manufacturer or other users online.
Also, look for a manufacturer or retailer that offers technical assistance, troubleshooting guides, and replacement parts.
If you want even more tips, check out this video called “Beginners Guide to Buying a 3D Printer” from the Print’ N Play YouTube channel.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Do you still have a question? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about 3D Printing filaments.
What is an STL File?
The STL (STereoLithography) file is the standard file format for printing your 3D model into an actual object. Most CAD systems can generate the file, so if you’re creating your own 3D models, chances are the software you’re using can produce one.
An STL file contains all the information required to create a 3D model. First, the model is split into a sequence of triangles, and the printer uses a list of their XYZ coordinates to build the physical object layer by layer.
What is the blob of death?
A blob of death in a 3D printer is a lump or glob of filament that occurs during a 3D print session. It is frequently the result of molten filament leaking from the nozzle and solidifying on the model. It can potentially cause the entire print to fail or harm the 3D printer.
Is 3D printing a low-cost hobby?
Unfortunately, even if you obtain the cheapest of everything, 3D printing is still an expensive hobby because, even if you get a cheap printer, you still need to buy multiple rolls of filament for the lifetime of your 3D printing.
3D printing is a revolutionary technology that allows users to create physical objects from digital designs. So, whether you’re looking to print out replacement parts, create unique designs, or simply explore the possibilities of 3D printing, there’s a 3D printer that’s just right for you.
This beginner’s guide has given an overview of the most important things to consider when buying a 3D printer. Here are some key takeaways:
- Consider why do you want a 3D printer in the first place?
- Consider price
- Consider print quality
- Consider ease of use
- Consider the size and weight
- Consider the printing speed
- Consider safety
- Consider customer support
So what kind of 3D printer do you want to buy? Let us know in the comment section, and if you want to learn more about 3D printing and modeling, check out our full 3D Design module here at the MakerHub. Thanks for reading, and never stop making.