Choosing a 3D printer can be a daunting task especially if you’re a beginner in this field. There are numerous things you need to consider, from build area and filament diameter to the user interface. In this guide, we’ll discuss the important things you should consider before purchasing the best 3D printer.
1. Build Volume
The Build volume is the maximum size of the object 3D printer can build. It is measured in inches and millimeters. When buying a 3D printer, you should keep in mind what kind of objects you want to print. However, you can fill the build volume with many small parts or one large object. Many small parts mean if your object is larger than the build volume of your printer, you’ll have to make it in parts and join them after.
If you’re new in 3D printing and want to print small objects, go for a beginner-friendly 3D printer like the FlashForge Finder 3D Printer and QIDI TECH X-one2. If you plan to print particularly large objects like for Architects, you need a machine having large build volume such as MakerBot Replicator Plus.
Also, keep in mind that 3D printers with a large build volume cost more. They can be five times expensive as the 3D printers with a small build area. A good quality FDM printer with 11″ x 8″ x 6″ can cost you about $5000 like Raise3D Pro2. You can find some of the best 3D printers based on different budgets from here.
2. Material Used
For Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers, you can use many different materials for 3D printing. These materials can be PLA, ABS, Nylon, Wood, glass filled polyamide, HIPS, silver, titanium and more. From all of them, PLA works best with FDM printers. This filament gives consistent results and works well with most of the printing applications.
Several 3D printers support a range of materials apart from PLA. These material includes ABS, have higher shrinkage factor than PLA, Nylon, PETG, PMMA and more. These printers may seem flexible to work but you just have to remember that every material requires the user to change the printing settings, so it’s not easy as it may sound. Printing with the wrong settings can affect the performance of the machine.
If you’re new in 3D printing, we recommend you to stick with one or two filament materials. However, if you’re into professional 3D printing and if you’re willing to take extra efforts, then you should not have any issue to work with a variety of materials.
3. Layer Thickness
The layer thickness is the essential characteristic of every 3D printer. It refers to the measure of height and thickness of a layer that a 3D printer can deposit in one go. It is the vertical resolution of the z-axis. The layer thickness is measured in millimeters or microns to determined the accuracy of a 3D printer.
When it comes to layer thickness, all 3D printers are not technically equal. Some 3D printers offer lower layer height while some offer higher. You should consider high layer thickness in 3D printers because the low layer thickness takes more time to make a 3D printed object of a given height.
When it comes to layer resolution, we recommend you to go for low resolution. However 3D models printed in low resolution leave some thick and visible layers but they finish the process in less time. On the other side, high-resolution printers offer a very smooth finish with no visible lines but they take a long time to finish the projects because the print head needs to deposit more layers.
4. Print Bed
The print bed is a crucial factor to consider when buying a 3D printer. It is the part of the 3D printer where a filament is deposited to form a solid object. They are of two types – heated and non-heated bed. The heated bed allows you to print with more filaments like ABS, HIPS, Nylon, and Polycarbonate. Whereas non-heated bed can work only with PLA based filaments and TPUs that don’t necessarily require a heated surface.
If you are looking for buying 3D printers for kids, then the non-heated print bed will be safer but you have to remain limited to PLA filaments. Print beds come in different configurations like some are magnetic and offer a removable print bed for easy maintenance and quick project removals. You should give priority to the aluminum print bed if you want to buy a heated bed 3D printer because they heat up faster and won’t break if accidentally dropped.
5. LCD Interface
Nowadays, most of the 3D printers come with an LCD interface, it allows you to 3D print without the need for computer connection or any software. However, not all 3D printers come with the same setup. Some printers offer touchscreen display whereas some printers come with basic LCD display to control the printing process.
A 3D printer having a touchscreen interface doesn’t mean that it is better than a basic LCD controlled interface. There are various factors that determine the overall performance and quality of 3D printing. The FlashForge Creator Pro is such an example of LCD interface printer, which is also considered as one of the best 3D printers under $1000.
Connectivity is another important aspect to consider when choosing a 3D printer. Many 3D printers come with USB and SD card connectivity features, while some offers Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity also.
A 3D printer with Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to print from any machine very quick and easy. However, Wi-Fi connectivity is not a superior factor to determine the overall printer quality, so you don’t have to get trapped in by manufacturers who claim that their 3D printer is of top quality just because it features Wi-fi connectivity.
7. Ease of Use
Before proceeding to buy the 3D printer, you must ensure it is convenient and flexible to use. As all machines do not come with equal features, some manufacturers have put a lot of efforts to make 3D printing simple for their users. A good 3D printer consists:
- has a powerful and easy to use software that allows you to print easily with overall good print quality.
- an enclosed-frame 3D printer is safer. They are worth to consider especially if you have kids and pets around your house. These printers produce less printing noise which is good when you are working in the same room as a long print job.
Keep in mind that cheaper machines can be quiet difficult to operate. They use 3rd party open-source software that may require a complicated coding process so you have to choose wisely according to your needs.
8. Customer Support
It is an extremely important factor to consider when you’re buying a 3D printer. You should check what kind of services you’ll be getting from manufactures, especially if you’re new in 3D printing. The best way to get this work done is by reading customer reviews. You can check reviews of 3D printers on Amazon to verify how the manufacturer treats its customers.
9. Other Features
Apart from the above-mentioned features, there are several other things you should consider to determine the overall performance of the 3D printer. A filament sensor that allows the 3D printer to detect and automatically pause the print when it is out of filament. An onboard camera that allows you to monitor the print progress from home or anywhere else. A 3D printer with the auto-leveling system offers an easy process of bed leveling during the pre-print setup.
Buying a 3D printer can be confusing, we hope that this buying guide will give you a good basic idea of what to look for. If you have any questions and suggestions about this guide, let us know in the comment section below.