Things to Consider Before Buying a 3D Printer
The emerging trend of 3D printing has evolved massively over the years and is on the brink of commercialization. In fact, a number of 3D printers have already been made available to consumers on a large scale.
Various types of 3D printers are available in the market that have the potential to bring manufacturing right at the comfort of your home. These have given customization an entirely new meaning. However, every printer differs from one another by a number of factors.
If you are planning to buy a 3D printer, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. Let’s take a look at these in details before you take the plunge.
Types of 3D Printers
While buying a 3D printer, you are quite likely to be faced with a number of choices. There are various types of 3D printers available for both, commercial as well as home-based usage. The primary aspect that these 3D printers vary in is the technology used. Some of the common ones include the following:
A beam of ultraviolet light is concentrated on a pool of photosensitive liquid. This hardens the liquid and it produces a high-resolution 3D model of the object you wish to print.
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS):
This method is similar to stereolithography. Instead of UV light and photosensitive liquid, this method employs laser and powder respectively. The laser melts the powder to create layers of printed material. It can be used to print metal.
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM):
In this technique, melted thermoplastic materials are joined together to form the 3D printed object.
Other common techniques used include selective laser melting, electron beam melting and so on.
Purpose of Buying a 3D Printer
Your choice of 3D printer should largely depend on the purpose of buying it. If you are a designer, you might want your 3D printer to print high resolution, multicolored objects. The requirement for the 3D printer for a school would include easy installation and low maintenance. For large scale manufacturing purposes, the ideal 3D printer would be the one with a large build area that can print multiple objects at once.
Various kinds of materials can be used for 3D printing, including plastics, ceramics, metals and so on. Two of the common types of plastics used in 3D printing are polylactic acid (PLA) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). While PLA is environment-friendly and provides a smooth finish to the objects, ABS is highly flexible and has a high melting point.
The same object printed by two different types of printers using the same material may turn out to be quite different. One of the primary reasons for this is the resolution of the printer. Two types of resolutions that a 3D printer works with are:
- Horizontal resolution
- Vertical resolution
The horizontal resolution is the smallest movement of the printer along the X-Y axis (one layer of the object). The vertical resolution determines the same for the thickness of the object. The lesser the resolution, the smoother and more realistic the product will be.
Various 3D printers print at different speeds. This largely depends on the object being printed. If the object is highly detailed and complex with a lot of edges, the print speed will be slow. Apart from that, printing speeds may differ considerably owing to a number of factors, one of which include the acceleration and the deceleration of the printer.
Some of the other specifications that you need to check before buying a 3D printer include:
- Width of the filament
- Build area
Most 3D printers have a plastic filament. The width may vary. The build area determines the size of the object that can be printed. The extruder is the end of the filament that prints the object. A 3D printer with a single extruder will only be able to print objects of a single color and material.
It is important to determine your budget before choosing a 3D printer. While the printers of a high price range may come with a variety of features, there are certain affordable printers available for as less as $600 which can print quite well. You need to understand your purpose of buying the printer, go through the specifications that your shortlisted printers offer and choose the one that fits your requirements best within your budget.
The best way to choose the printer suited to your requirements would be to take a look at the objects printed by the 3D printer. You can also read reviews by buyers. You will need to invest some time in research before you locate the 3D printer that is best suited to your needs, but it may be one of the best investments you can make for your production needs..