How to Choose a 3D Printer

by Albert T.

Regarding the 3D printer’s price, I personally think that because of the certain technical barriers in this industry, the high-level products usually have great premiums. Moreover, the quality of the products from different manufacturers varies greatly, so, regarding the evaluation of different printers, the quality of the product is usually not proportional to its price. When choosing a 3D printer, we can consider which of the following indicators you really care about, and then pick the one with the most attractive price.

Strictly speaking, the accuracy is only one of the indicators to evaluate a 3D printer (desktop level). Other important metrics include, but are not limited to: reliability/success rate, maximum print size, print speed, user interaction/ease of use, print noise, monochrome / bi-color printheads, supported consumable types and costs, after sales service, etc.

In all of these indicators above, personally think that there are several important, in order of priority: 1) maximum print size 2) the types of consumptive material 3) monochrome/color 4) print reliability 5) printing accuracy 6) after-sales service.

A slight explanation of the reasons for ranking.

1) First, the maximum print size is an important indicator for differentiating between desktop and industrial printers. In general, the larger the supported print size, the more expensive the printer is. If you need a 3D printer that prints the size of a microwave oven, I’m afraid you have to price it to at least $3,000. Most desktop 3D printers on the market today can only play relatively small things. Even if you want to print the size of the bottom of the iPad, I am afraid that many printers cannot do it. But if you only need to print teacup-sized objects, maybe almost every printer on the market can do it.

Desktop 3D Printer

Desktop 3D Printer

Industrial printers print volumes are generally large, suitable for large-scale production. However, correspondingly large volumes lead to the exponential doubling of system complexity, increased material costs, high costs of testing, installation, transportation, and maintenance; and in particular, the reliability of each part is basically harsher, So as to ensure the printing accuracy and stability of the whole machine. These factors will multiply the printer manufacturing costs. In addition, industrial printers are not as simple as home printer design. In general, there are various compliance designs to meet the needs of different industries, which will also greatly increase the cost.

Industrial 3D Printer

Industrial 3D Printer

  • the type of consumptive material. The consumables here mainly refer to the resin, and the common plastic used in most printers (mainly ABS and PLA, not to mention other niche materials). The main difference between the two is the resin print out the effect of more sophisticated. The plastic, whether it is ABS or PLA, the print results are slightly worse than the resin, of course, for most purposes are acceptable. Printers that require resin are more expensive for the price, and the resin consumables themselves are also very expensive. So unless there are special requirements for the printed surface effects, plastic consumables are generally sufficient.

There are two common plastic consumptive material, ABS, and PLA. ABS is a very common engineering plastic, and it is also a consumptive material that is widely used in early 3D printing. Its main problem is the smell when printing, and material cooling faster, easily lead to shrinkage after printing material deformation. As a result, it is often necessary to add a heating module inside the printer and a thermal design in the enclosure to keep the printer operating with internal temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius or higher. Accordingly, printers that support ABS typically cost more than printers that support PLA only. PLA (polylactic acid) is a biodegradable material, it does not have the ABS problems, is ideal for desktop 3D printer materials, is currently the world’s most popular 3D printing supplies.

Industrial printers generally support a wide range of different print materials. In addition to the common plastic consumables, many other materials are also supported, such as nylon, as well as a variety of unusual but industrially demanding materials.

3) Monochrome or two-color. This is easy to choose. At present, desktop printers have at most two print heads, which means that only two colors can be printed. Roughly speaking, the same manufacturer, double-headed printer is about 1.5 times the price of a single-headed printer.

4) Next is print reliability and print accuracy. There is a reason why I place the accuracy of printing behind reliability. Print reliability, in general, is the print success rate. Print success rate is a measure of the design team’s ability, it is also an important indicator for differentiating between desktop and industrial-grade 3D printers. As industrial-grade printers are used to mass production. The printing process is usually lengthy, usually for at least a few hours, and printing fails even as long as one of the details is not handled. In this case, no matter how precise the other details are, the job is worthless. And the whole plastic was wasted. Without exaggeration, even today, using our company’s most consistent desktop 3D printer, the print success rate is only over 90%. This also means that printing one hundred times, for various reasons, can waste about 10 times the amount of material used. And these materials will not be able to be recycled by users, they can only be thrown away. So, each print failure is a time-consuming, costly thing. For users, reliability is not an objective indicator, after all, it is difficult to be quantified. So before buying a printer, it is best to refer to the feedback of other users and the views of the industry. Or pick a good brand reputation vendors to ensure good enough quality and professional after-sales service. Of course, brand printers are generally more expensive than other printers on the market, which makes sense.

5) Printing accuracy. Personally, I think that since the early days of 3D printers have been hardware open source, the design based on 1/16 stepper motors has also been used in almost all desktop 3D printer designs (industrial printers generally use servo motors). Therefore, any desktop 3D printer that can not achieve the accuracy of 0.2mm has relatively serious problems in the overall mechanical and electrical design, and individuals do not recommend buying. However, if a manufacturer assures you a precision of 0.05mm, regardless of the price, you should consider whether he is bragging. Because the tolerance of the whole system is very difficult to do so well, such as the error of Z motor torque control, the error of X / Y motor torque control, traction belt friction and stretching, etc., especially in the high-speed printing process, This is almost impossible to do.

6) Do not underestimate the after-sales service. Now desktop 3D printer prices have exceeded the average computer, and print jobs require users have some expertise. Seeking after-sale technological support during usage is almost certain to happen. In this indicator, brand companies have some advantages. Of course, not all good brands have good after-sales service, which requires buyers to do more research.


Related Article: 9 Types of 3D Printer Rapid Prototyping

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