Choosing a 3D printer
Could be quite a challenge. However, when you ask yourself the question : What will it be used for? You are already aiming for the right one.
Before taking a decision, try to step back and visualize all the important specifications you need for your application and compare them with the existing 3D printers.
Tips and materials
The next thing to consider is the compatible printing material itself. Most 3D printers use a spool (or Coil) of filament in either ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) or PLA (polylactic acid) available in all kinds of colors.
Many printers in the past used both ABS and PLA, and many still do (like the Cube or CEL Robox).
These two plastic materials are known as thermoplastics, which means they can be heated to become flexible (semi-liquid) and as soon as they are cooled they revert back to being solid, no matter how much the process is repeated. ABS material is flexible, strong and has a high temperature resistance which is why it’s preferred for professionals. PLA can arguably produce thinner layer thicknesses, sharper printed corners and is available in a wide range of colors which makes it preferred by schools and hobbyists. A major difference however between ABS and PLA is that PLA is corn-based and as such is significantly more biodegradable. Nevertheless, you do not need to worry about your parts “going bad” any time soon as PLA still lasts a long time. There are quite a few other options available:
• Nylon : There are a several types of Nylon material used in 3D printing, the most popular is the Nylon 618. It has a natural white color that can be colored according to your tastes. It has great bio-compatibility and is mostly used in the medical industry.
• Resin : This material creates particularly smooth and precise objects with its rich texture. However, exposing a Resin printed object to UV light will cause its discoloration. The users of this type of material usually paint the model with varnish after printing.
• Wood : This filament is a mix of recycled wood and binding polymer. If you like to create objects that look and smell like wood this printing material is for you. The printing process with Wood is very similar to the one with ABS and PLA.
• HIPS : High Impact Polystyrene filament is a good example of support 3D materials. It has an interesting property that makes it well suited as a support material. However, its filaments have adhesion problems, which can be reduced by using a heated bed during the printing.
• Stainless Steel : This material is a mixture of hybrid of stainless steel and bronze. It’s the hardest of all 3D printing materials. Usually, desktop 3D printers cannot print in this material.
ABS and PLA are available in spools* with two common filament diameter sizes: 1.75mm or 3mm, and not all 3D printers are compatible with both diameters compatibility. It should be noted that some 3D printers have a special ABS or PLA cartridge and as such, it is strongly suggested that you purchase replacement filament produced by the same manufacturer as the 3D printer.
Define the money you are wlling to spend
Last but not least, choosing a 3D Printer is like choosing any other household device. It will depend on the budget you’re ready to invest.
Concerning desktop 3D printers, the price range goes from 200$ to 4000$. Needless to say, higher the price, higher the quality of prints and more features you’ll have. Usually, the price of the printer will directly reflect its output quality and functionalities. However with the popularity increase of 3D printers and the rough competition between manufacturers, the prices of printers will go down while the quality will improve.