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How to choose the right 3D printer - 3D printer buying guide

13. 05. 2022.

3D printing technology is getting popular all over the world for making life tasks easier and creating helpful gadgets in many areas. Besides representing a powerful technology with a promising future, it is also helping companies save a lot of money.

We used to associate 3D printing with large corporations, manufacturers, and universities. Although some see 3D printers as just like a toy, they have a huge use if you know exactly how to use them. This is a technology that has a large scale and is being adopted by more and more organizations. 3D printing will play an important role in our lives in the new advanced world.

Now you’re probably wondering where can I get a quality 3D printer? How can I take full advantage of it? What can I achieve with it? In this case, you are in the right place. In this article, we present a quick guide to buying a 3D printer with all the necessary information. Let's get started.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO 3D PRINT?

Household items

There are a dozen household items that you can 3D print. These include everything you can find in your home, surroundings, or at your office. You can print, for example, wall mounts, vases, bottle openers, clips, showerheads, socket protectors, and more. You can practically create whatever you see around you with a 3D printer. The products are not only fascinating to look at but are also useful. So if you are looking for a 3D printer for domestic use, you have to check Creality printers.

External facilities

These are objects that should withstand the forces of nature. With a 3D printer, you can print anything from plant pots, and eye-catching bell stickers, to doors or lawn decorations. In doing so, however, be careful, and use sun-resistant ASA filament or ABS.  You can print ASA filament with almost any printer, but if you choose to use ABS filament you will have to use a 3D printer with an enclosure.

Work of art

You can create anything with a 3D printer. If you are into the creative arts, we suggest you buy a 3D printer that uses resin. Although it is possible to create works of art with an FDM 3D printer, complex models need very accurate specialized printers. DLP Resin printers allow you to easily create interesting works of art that require detail. Resin printers are also frequently used in the dental industry.

Tools

If you use a 3D printer to print tools, the printing process depends on the purpose and use of the tool. For professional purposes, the FDM printer may not be powerful enough, but ABS prints with the FDM printer are highly recommended. A lot of companies also use Carbon fiber filament or Nylon. For printing these materials you need a strong metal extruder, so check the professional printers.

Professional products

With advances in 3D printers, this technology is widely used by several industries. More and more industries are using 3D printed items, including the automotive industry, and the aerospace industry. These industries typically use an FDM professional printer like Flashforge Creator 3 V2 or Zortrax.

Dentistry, architects, jewelry makers

These industries typically use a resin DLP printer, as details are very important. The 3D resin printer is very accurate and affordable. Fort his type of printing we use a special resin material, which is actually a UV-curing liquid plastic. Photo-sensitive resin is characterized by being cured using a laser or light and thus converted into a solid model or product. DLP 3D printers are built to have a construction platform that allows 3D printing of products upside down, while the product hardens with UV light.

3D PRINTING METHODS

FDM 3D printing

With the FDM type of 3D printing, the printer creates objects with a 3D filament. The filament is fed into a tube that pushed the filament into a hot extruder. The material comes out on the other side layer by layer, building a 3D model this way. This is an affordable way to print, which also includes cheap materials.

SLA 3D printing

The SLA method for 3D printing uses resin instead of filament. Here you can add layers that are often 50 microns or less. These types of printers follow a process called photocoagulation. This process involves a chemical reaction that forms layers. SLA resin hardens due to the focusing of photons at a certain point. Compared to other methods, SLA printing offers exceptional accuracy.

SLS 3D printing

The SLS 3D printing method uses powder material that is arranged in thin layers. The laser then helps to melt or solidify the powder in places. This may require “baking” to remove the plastic bond. Then leave a ceramic or metal layer behind. These devices are mostly found in industrial or automotive factories. Compared to other devices on the list, they are expensive and huge.

 

So if you are a beginner in the 3D world, an FDM printer is the best option. Most people go for the FDM method, which is the most popular and affordable. FDM printers are great for beginners and advanced users too, that's why we will continue to focus on this method/technology of 3D printing.

WHAT MATERIALS DO YOU HAVE TO PRINT WITH?

As mentioned, we will focus on FDM technology. You can print with this type of printer the most common types of 3D filament, which are made of materials such as ABS, PLA, ASA, and PETG. In addition, other unique materials are now used, such as flexible wood-based thread. It is important to emphasize that the storage of filaments is a very important factor; for example look at flexible filaments that are very sensitive to moisture and bind it to themselves, resulting in poor 3D printing results. Always store filaments in a place where there is no excess moisture; you can keep them in a plastic bag or in a closed plastic box. For having the best 3d printed results, it is necessary to dry the filament before use with a filament dryer.  Let's check at the most common types of filaments:

PLA filament

PLA is an abbreviation for polylactic acid. It is a plastic of plant origin and deteriorates due to excessive moisture. In addition, it decomposes due to long-term exposure to the sun. This type of filament is best suited for interior projects, gadgets, and aesthetic designs,… However, it is not ideal for outdoor purposes, as extreme sun and humidity can damage your work. PLA filament is popular mainly because it is very easy to print 3D.

PETG filament

PETG stands for polyethylene terephthalate glycol. This type of filament is a food-safe plastic. However, this does not mean that all your 3D-printed items are food safe. PETG items must have a well-finished layer before they come into contact with food. Always ask the manufacturer for a food contact certificate. PETG is not only used for various food containers but is also extremely popular for printing prototypes and spare parts in production, as it is a very strong and flexible filament. It is also suitable for outdoor projects, as it withstands higher temperatures compared to PLA filament, so the sun does not deform it. PETG is printed in a similar way to PLA, it is very easy to use; you just need to heat the plate and set the correct nozzle temperature.

ABS filament

This thread is one of the hardest plastics you can find. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS works best indoors. It needs a lot of heat to help set the filament and a steady environment. In addition, ABS is best used only if the room is perfectly well ventilated. If you need strong and flexible products that are resistant to very high temperatures, then ABS is the right solution for you. This filament must be printed in a closed printer. It is very sensitive to temperature changes during printing, so there should be no drafts in the room where it is printed. It is important to mention that printing ABS eliminates vapors, which can be harmful to humans, so it is mandatory to ventilate the room after 3D printing. It is suitable for printing various pieces that need to be assembled together, for making prototypes in the automotive industry or the aerospace industry,…

WHAT KIND OF SOFTWARE FOR 3D PRINTERS SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR?

There are two main sources of software used by a 3D printer. While one is the printer itself, the other is the computer that creates the 3D printer files.

The software that you can easily download to your computer is called Slicer. You can use this program to create files for printing purposes. In addition, g-code is one of the most common types of 3D files. You can find many cutting programs online, but here we will focus on the 3 most popular ones, namely Cura, Creality Slicer and Slic3r.

Cura: This open-source 3D cutting software was created by David Brahm and developed by Ultimaker. It is completely free and very popular among 3D creators.

Slic3r: Slic3r is a 3D cutting application that is free software for 3D printers.

Creality slicer: the brand of world-renowned 3d printers Creality has also recently developed its own cutter, which you can also control via their mobile application Creality Cloud app.

In addition, there are a lot of software used on 3D printers. Most 3D printers use Marlin firmware. However, there are different chips for each application. Each printer has special firmware. You can read more about this online.

WHAT FEATURES DO YOU HAVE TO LOOK FOR?

The following features should be considered when purchasing a 3D printer:

Safety features

When it comes to working with any electrical equipment, you can never be too safe about it. Always pay attention to 3D printers that contain additional security features. Such features will help improve your overall experience and always ensure your safety. There are several automated features such as nozzle cooling and more. Also, find a 3D printer that turns off automatically when printing is complete. So pay attention to the safety features when you buy one of these devices.

Resume printing features

There is nothing sadder than destroying a beautiful model in the middle of its printing. The resume printing feature is an important feature that ensures that your 3D prints or models do not stop when there are unexpected errors or power outages. With this feature, the device starts printing where it left off instead of starting again.

Quality user interface

With devices like a 3D printer, a quality user interface can make a difference. Button navigation can be exhausting and stressful. On the other hand, the touch surface makes navigation easier. Plus, you don't have to spend a lot of money on a 3D printer with a touch screen. Even affordable printers today have a quality user interface, such a 3D printer is Ender 3 V2.

Heated plate

The heated bed is crucial for the end result of the 3D product. The advantage of a heated bed is that it provides a solid base and the product is strongly attached to the same place. The filament adheres better to the heated surface and prevents the edges from curling. There are several different plates available - magnetic plate, plain glass, Carborundum glass,  removable PC Spring Steel plate, and the latest PEI plate. After testing all the platforms, we can say that the best choice is the PEI plate, because, in addition to a perfectly heated table and strong adhesion of the first layer, it also allows the easiest removal of the finished 3d product. On this basis, you will no longer need various tapes, spatulas, and other tools to remove the models. If your printer does not have a PEI base, we recommend using Dimafix or 3dlac spray, which has a similar effect as a PEI base.

Axis flexibility

This is another key feature that will save you time. Creating 3D objects often requires tightening or loosening the tension to get the right setting. This can become quite difficult and lead to a waste of time. So find a 3D printer that has easy access to belt tension.

Bed leveling

Adjusting the table is a very important step for successful 3d printing. 3D printers have both manual and automatic table adjustments. However, some newer models combine both modes and offer "smart" leveling, which means you get a wheel for manual adjustment and CR-touch for automatic adjustment, so you can combine as desired. If you have a 3D printer that does not have automatic leveling, you can later upgrade it with CR Touch (automatic leveling of the bed with a metal probe).

Extruder type

There are two types of extruders:  the direct-drive extruder and the Bowden tube extruder. The difference is especially noticeable if you want to print flexible filaments. With a direct drive extruder, the filament has a shorter path to the nozzle and consequently has less chance of twisting or getting stuck. The Bowden tube is more suitable for larger prints. Here the filament has a longer path to the heated nozzle. Just like with bed leveling adjustments, the extruder can be replaced or upgraded. So if you buy Ender 3 V2 which has a Bowden system extruder, you can, later on, change it to a direct drive extruder.  The Micro Swiss brand is a world leader in spare parts. If you are interested in how to set up a new Micro Swiss extruder, click here.

Closed 3D printer vs open 3D printer

Most 3D makers who look for their first 3D printer for home use, choose an open one such as Ender 3 S1 or Sermoon D1. Companies on the other hand choose a 3D printer based on the projects they have and the 3D models they need. Architecture offices, pastry shops, and small businesses also often need smaller products made from PLA or PETG, which can be printed with a printer without the enclosure. However, larger companies that have manufacturing or prototype production are more likely to choose a closed printer, mainly due to the use of more sensitive filaments such as ABS filament and Nylon.

Diameter 1.75 mm VS. Diameter 2.85 mm

Most 3D printers accept filament with a diameter of 1.75 mm. The market also offers a much larger range of different types of filaments and colors with a diameter of 1.75 mm than with 2.85 mm. If you want to 3D print with as many different filaments as possible, then a printer with a diameter of 1.75 mm is perfect for you. The 2.85 mm diameter is offered by very few manufacturers of 3D printers, as there is no significant difference in 3D printing. The only advantage would be that a wider diameter can help reduce the chance of the filament slipping. However, if you have a 3D printer with a direct drive extruder or dual gear, it is almost impossible for a printer that accepts 1.75 mm diameter to have any filament jams.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST PRINTER FOR YOU?

So how do you choose the best 3D printer for you? The answer is simple and easy. Just follow and consider the following three factors:

1. Select the appropriate materials for 3D printing

When choosing the right materials for 3D printing, have in mind the bigger picture. Choose materials that suit your printing needs, not just something that is compatible with a 3D printer. Also, when choosing materials, do not put price ahead of other properties. In the end, low-cost materials can yield unsatisfactory results. Quality materials will always give you the best product in the end. For example, consider all aspects of your project, from durability, finished product, strength, etc. Choose materials that meet your requirements.

In addition, some materials in contact with the skin are dangerous. So you need to thoroughly know each material, its properties, how they react to different chemicals, and so on. Do not think of materials as objects, but of how these materials will look like the final product. It is always best to buy a 3D printer that offers flexibility in materials and colors. While this may not affect your current designs, it will expand your options in the future.

2. Select a 3D printer with an easy maintenance feature

3D printers, like any other electronic device, need proper care and regular maintenance. Moving parts must be well oiled, otherwise, there is a risk of getting stuck. Similarly, the printer bed needs to be cleaned regularly for the printer to work properly and keep in mind that each part of the printer may need to be replaced over time.

This applies to all types of printers from all manufacturers. Here again, there are two types of printers; the first type is a group of printers that you assemble yourself, and the second is already assembled, a  “plug & play” concept. The advantage of buying a printer from the first group is that the assembly process will give you an in-depth understanding of the parts. On the other hand, if you choose a 'plug & play' printer you won’t have much knowledge about the operation of the interior of a printer but you will save some time.

If you think that maintenance would be too much, we suggest buying an SLA / DLP printer. In these printers, only the Z-axis moves, and the other parts remain intact. They don't require much maintenance compared to other 3D printers. With these printers, you can easily replace parts that wear over time. Fewer moving parts mean less risk of failure.

3. Select a 3D printer with security features

The resume function is crucial as it continues to print your design in case of faults or power outages. Also, make sure that the manufacturer offers good customer service if you encounter any problems. Many printers can be ordered from China, but keep in mind that if you have any problems, sellers from China will not be able to help you. However, you will have huge costs to resend the printer to China and back. Lastly, make sure the filaments you use are reliable and made of high quality materials.

FINAL RESULT

Although the market offers you a wide range of options, it is best not to get lost in them. An expensive device can offer endless possibilities, but it should also suit your 3D printing needs. Don’t follow the flow blindly and be sure of what projects you plan to carry out. The goal is quality, not quantity. Do not choose a printer with a huge number of features if you are not going to use them. Be precise and write down your needs, features, or specifications that are important to you.

Explore your options and choose the best option for your needs from all of them. With precise understanding and patience, we are sure that you will get the desired device for 3D printing. We hope this article will help you make an informed choice. This article allows you to narrow down your options right now. So we came to the end of this quick guide to 3D printing. If you have any questions or concerns about the 3D printer, we will be happy to help. Contact us at info@azurefilm.com or call us at 00386 31 718 800.

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