By Shelley Iverson

3D printers have made it possible to create a tangible three-dimensional object from a digital file.  This file can be a drawing using CAD software or an image downloaded from the internet. The image must be in 3D saved in STL format. A 3D printer processes layers sequentially through an additive process in which an object is created.  An operation similar to the ink-jet printers.

In the recent past, the cheapest of the 3D printers for sale were from $799 to $1299. In this price range you might be able to purchase an entry-level filament 3d printer. The process uses plastic filament and melts it into a model via thin layers. The build area is small and only prints with one color and material at once.

In between that model and the most expensive Powder 3D Printer for sale are

  • The High-End Filament Printer. This 3d printer’s price starts at $1000 to $3000. While it offers a larger print area and multiple colors on one object, the parts are more expensive to replace if they were to break down.
  • Other-material FDM 3D Printers offered are priced from $2000 and up. These 3D printers are able to make objects from other materials than plastic. You are able to print dishes, and air dried clay pots.
  • Stereo lithography 3D Printers. These 3D printers for sale came into the market in 2013 and run from $3000 on up. Stereo lithographic printing uses a photosensitive resin combined with a digital projector or laser. These printers create very high resolution, smooth prints and is usually quicker than the filament 3D printers, however, the technology and the print resin ($149 per liter) are expensive.
  • Powder 3D Printers. The most complex of all the 3D printers. The 3d printer price starts at $10,000. What makes  the powder printing superior over the rest is what it supports materials such as glass, metals, and plastics. They are the only 3D printers that can accomplish custom color 3D prints.

 

As of late, 3d printers are easier than ever to purchase. A quick search on Amazon and twenty of the best sellers pop up on the screen. Before clicking the “buy” button there are a couple of things you will want to consider:

1.  What are the printing features? Carefully consider speed, print size, and resolution. What is the tolerance analysis? This is crucial in determining if the parts will assemble and function properly after printed.  Printer tolerance measures the filament extruded to determine accuracy. Look at what size print plate the model offers. The standard is 9x9x9 inches.

2.   Layer height or resolution. The resolution is measured by layer height. As long as the layer height is small, the resolution is better. Look for  0.1 mm in thickness.

3.   What filament and cartridges offered is going to help you make your buying decision. The most common 3D printing materials are acrylonitrile butadiene styrene ( ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA). ABS material is a tough material that used a heated print platform in the 3D printing process. PLA is the most chosen filament for prints that are glossy and have a high resolution. PLA is offered in many colors and you don’t need a heated print bed to print with it.  Note: If you are looking to print using more than 2 colors, look for the number of print heads ( extruders)  that are on a the color 3D printer you are considering to buy. You will get more colors if you have a larger number of printheads.

4.  There are now plenty of 3D printer designs offered. Look for:          

  •  How heavy is the frame? Keep in mind that a heavy frame rocks and wobbles less while printing. However, Wood and plastic frames are going to be a bit lighter so you can move the 3D printer around.
  • A LCD screen creates a smoother, easier, more positive 3D print experience.
  • Save your fingers from being burned in ABS printing by looking for a 3D printer with a housing enclosure.
  • If you are just beginning you might want to look into buying  a 3D printer kit rather than buying a completely assembled machine.

 

5.  Make sure your 3D printer comes with support and a warranty.

6.  While considering the connectivity you are looking to implement, remember that if you buy a model that has a “built-in” computer, that will mean that you need to have a mouse and keyboard and                         monitor also. If you want to use the 3D printer with the computer that you already have, you will need these accessories a USB cable, SD card, flash drive or WI-FI capabilities.

7.   Accessories have the tendency to either make your 3D printer convenient or not. The best 3D printers will offer USB cables, maintenance tools, power supplies, and starter filament cartridges at  the                    very least.

8.  The software included may be open source software or CAD programs, while other 3D printer companies will direct you to their website for free downloads. Be sure to understand the level of software                included in the 3D printer package.

We hope our guidelines help you when you decide to buy your first or next 3D printer! Enjoy!