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6 Things You Should Know Before Buying a 3D Printer

13. 05. 2022.

When you learn about the many functions a 3D printer can perform, you can get pretty excited about getting one. 3D printers are fancy because of the many models you can get to print with them; figurines, smartphone cases, and an endless list of things.

There are different specifications of 3D printers, and they vary according to size, function, and technology. So, before you buy a 3D printer, read this article to learn things you should know about 3D printers.

1. Types of 3D Printers

Before buying a 3D printer, you should know the types of 3D printers that are available.

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) Printers

FDM technology was first developed by S. Scott Crump in the late 1980s and later commercialized in 1990. Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) is an equivalent term for FDM created to give a phrase that is legally unimpeded in its use.

In order to create an object with an FDM printer, the files have to be in a computer-aided design (CAD) format which must be converted to a set-up that a 3D printer can understand, in most cases the STL design. These printers use both modeling materials and support materials. The modeling material constitutes the concluded object while the support material holds up the object during printing.

These materials take the form of a thermoplastic filament which is uncoiled and directed through an extrusion nozzle. The nozzle then melts the filaments and places them on a build platform or base. The build platform and nozzle are regulated by a computer which helps generate the X, Y, and Z coordinates to be adapted during printing. The nozzle moves vertically and horizontally over the base forming a thin layer of plastic which after cooling hardens and binds the layer beneath it. The base is then lowered to enable the formation of the next plastic layer, this process continues until the whole design is complete.

The final part of the printing using the FDM technology is removing the object from the printer once it is complete. This is done by soaking the object in a detergent and water solution or by breaking off the support base by hand. To improve the appearance, the object can be painted, sanded, or lacquered as desired.

Stereolithography (SLA)

The SLA printing process creates a model by illuminating a UV light beam on resin or any other photosensitive liquid to harden the area and create the desired model. This method makes the object of higher quality than that of FDM printed objects.

SLA printing uses similar technology to other minor 3D printing processes like Digital Light Processing (DLP) and LCD.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

The SLS printing model also uses a process similar to that of SLA. However, the only difference is that SLS uses lasers instead of Ultraviolet light beams and powders instead of photosensitive liquid. The laser melts and fuses the powder to create a solid model.

SLS printing process is the 3D printing process that can print metal objects and models.

2. Your Budget

When you know about the price of 3D printers and the cost of running them, you might reconsider getting one. However, do not panic; you can get a 3D printer for as low as 180 EUR-  a simple model like Creality’s Ender 3.

The FDM printer price ranges from 500 to 1500 EUR, while an SLS price ranges from 6000 to 18,500 EUR. Here you can get the best price from best buy 3D printers.

Note that the cost of the 3D printer does not cover all the materials you will need to print the models and objects. The cost of the material varies directly with the cost of the 3D printer. The prices of filaments change regarding the materials that were used in their production.

So, do not just consider the initial cost of getting the 3D printer; consider the subsequent amount you will need to 3D print objects. Spare parts are very affordable, and the price of 1 kg of the most popular filaments is around 20 EUR. With 1kg of filament, you can print a huge amount of 3D products. The consumption of filament depends on several different factors, so it is difficult to determine the exact number of models you can make with 1000g of material. Consumption is affected by model fullness, layer thickness, product size,…

3. Features

When you decide what type of printer you would like to get, you should check out the features you want your printer to have. Some FDM printers can cool the nozzle when you are done printing, and some other printers can move the nozzle away after printing to prevent overheating or the production of excess filament.

Apart from these safety features, be sure to check for other features like:

  •  type of plate,
  • touchscreen interface,
  • build volume,
  • print bed size,
  • sensor filament,
  • bed leveling,
  • how many extruders have,
  • Does it have a direct drive extruder or a Bowden tube system,
  • Wi-fi connection,
  • Diameter of filament (1,75mm or 2,85mm), …

4. End Result 3D model/ Which 3D material is best to use?

What you intend to print will determine the type of material and the 3D printer you will use. Each type of 3D printer has different kinds of material it supports. 3D filaments are very different from each other in their properties. If you want beautiful, aesthetically pleasing filaments, then SILK or PLA will be the right choice for you. However, if you need a strong and light filament, you will print the PAHT filament with carbon fiber. It is important to know the properties of the materials with which you will 3D print;

PLA FILAMENT (Polylactic Acid)

PLA filament is one of the most popular materials in the 3D world. It is used to create household items, figures, vases, phone accessory cases, holders, and home plastic materials. You can get it in full and transparent colors, with the addition of wood (PLA WOOD), glitter (PLA glitter), a special pearl gloss (PLA Pearl), …

Pros

  • It is eco friendly and biodegradable
  • It cools quickly, which prevents model warping
  • Suitable for non-heated print beds and adhesives

Cons

  • It has a low melting point which sometimes causes models to deform when you subject them to high heat.
  • It is not suitable for making joints or interlocking parts.

ABS FILAMENT (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

ABS filament is also a type of plastic made from petroleum-based substances. It is known for being flexible and strong. It is suitable for outdoor products because it can withstand harsh conditions.

Pros

It is very adaptable, making it easy to use to create joints and interlocking parts.

It does not deform when subjected to high heat because it has a high melting point.

Cons

Its high melting point makes it cool slowly and can cause model warping.

It emits fumes that can be dangerous to one's health.

PETG filament (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol)

PETG is a thermoplastic polyester modified with glycol. It has a combination of PLA’s ease of use and ABS durability. It is used to make mechanical components, food containers, and water bottles. If you need a hard, strong piece and you are deciding between PLA and PETG filament, choose PETG and you will not be disappointed. In addition to its durability, it is also important to mention that is made of eco-friendly materials, as it is one of the few filaments that can come into contact with food. However, always ask the manufacturer for a food safety certificate.

Pros

  • It is FDA-approved that it is suitable for edible consumption containers.
  • It does not cause model warping
  • It is heat and water-resistant
  • It has good electrical properties

Cons

  • It is not biodegradable
  • It is more expensive

5. Goals

This is also one of the most important factors to consider before buying your 3D printer. Your goal will determine the type of 3D printer to get, the features it should have, and what filaments should you use.

It is important to think about the conditions in which you will use the printer. Outdoor use might require the printer to be waterproof and UV-resistant. And if you want it for indoor use, it must fit into your home. It is important to consider that if you are going to print ABS filament you will smell it during printing since it has a specific odor and is not the safest choice for your bedroom or your kids’ room.

When deciding where a 3D printer will be placed, you need to think about what print size suits you; how big do you want your 3D printed items to be? If you are looking to print small items such as figurines, phone accessories, car accessories, useful items for your home, etc. you can look at the Ender 3 or Ender 5 series printers. However, if you need larger models, the CR-10 series will be right for you, as it offers a larger print area and consequently larger prints. The CR-10 MAX printer is considered one of the largest on the market, offering prints up to 450 x 450 x 470 mm.

6. Safety

You should look out for safety features before getting your 3D printers, primarily if you use them in your home or areas accessible to children. 3D printers work with heat, and you will need to take extra care to avoid bad burns.

Some 3D printers have enclosures around the print areas, while some take the nozzle away once you pause or stop printing.

Safety also extends to how environmentally friendly the 3D printer is. Some 3D printers use materials (like ABS plastics) that produce fumes. This type of 3D printer might not be suitable for indoor use or in a place that is not well-ventilated.

In addition, know what material is suitable for specific products. If you want to produce kitchenware or consumables containers, you must ensure the material is food-safe. Note that an FDM-type 3D printer can collect bacteria with its porous surfaces, making it unsafe for food containers.

Building vs. Buying a 3D Printer

3D printing technology leaves a chance for you to be a 3D printer maker or creator. You do not necessarily have to buy a 3D printer because you can build one for yourself. And even though making a 3D printer might be more time-consuming and hectic, it is cheaper than buying a new one.

If you decide to go with building your 3D printer, you can get the 3D printer kits where you will find an instruction manual, or you can check online to find available tutorial videos. When building your 3D printer, it is better to use a combination of videos and instruction manuals so that you do not make mistakes.

And if you do not have the time or energy to do this, get a pre-assembled 3D printer. The 3D printers you can buy these days usually come with a few parts that need to be assembled. It is definitely easier and less time-consuming, so if you can’t wait to start with 3D printing, is best to buy a 3D printer.

Extra Tips for Getting a 3D printer

Get an Auto-levelling 3D printer.

If you are into the 3D printing service, it is better to go for an auto-leveling 3D printer rather than a manual-leveling one. Manual leveling requires pre-leveling knowledge and a few DIYs. And in cases where the print bed is not leveled, it can cause scratch marks on the prints, poor adhesion, and nozzle clogging.

Get a decent filament.

The level of quality of your final product is of the essence. If you want to get the best final product, do not go cheap on the filament, as it determines how well the final product will be.

Conclusion

Getting a 3D printer requires your money and attention; you need to pay attention to the details to get the appropriate one for the intended purpose. Consider what you want to print, look out for the features you want in it, and determine if the quality of the final 3d model presents what you want.

Follow these tips diligently, and you will choose the 3D printer you want and need.

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