Which profile fits you the best?
Beginner
Hobbyist
Prosumer

Correct!

Wrong!

Would you like to build the 3D printer yourself (DIY kit), or buy a preassembled ready-to-print one?
DIY kit 3D printer
Preassembled 3D printer

Correct!

Wrong!

How large of a build platform do you need? I.e will you be creating large objects?
Small (6 inches or less)
Medium (7 to 10 inches)
Large (11 inches or more)

Correct!

Wrong!

Do you need to print dual colors or materials?
No, I only need one extruder
Yes, I need dual extruders

Correct!

Wrong!

Which is more important to you?
Quality
Speed

Correct!

Wrong!

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How to choose a 3D printer

Level of experience

As with most hobbies, you don’t start out by purchasing the single most expensive equipment right away. You might find out that you don’t enjoy this new hobby as much as you thought you would, so don’t be fooled into wasting money on something you’re not sure you will invest a lot of time into.

If you plan on selling your 3D printed objects somewhere in the future, it’s also a shame to buy a printer that is so basic and cheap that it does not produce satisfactory results.

So, when deciding on what 3D printer to buy, you should take into consideration, not only your experience with 3D printing, but also how you will use your gained experience in the future. Some printers might even be too basic for you if you have a lot of complex ideas you want to execute.

The best advice to give is that you ask yourself if you’re just curious about 3D printing and you want to test it out yourself, or do you have some bigger ideas you want to try out in the future? If the former is true, then a basic entry-level printer will scratch your itch.

Budget – What you will get in each price class

For this part, we’re going to split 3D printers into three groups: Entry level, mid range, and prosumer. We will cover what you can expect to get in each price class and what to look out for.

Beginner – $500 or less

beginner 3d printerThese types of printers are the ones you should go with if you have no previous experience with 3D printing, and you only plan on playing around with it creating small objects. Choosing this price class will limit you mostly when it comes to build size. The average build volume on entry level printers are around 6” x 6” (150mm x 150mm) or a bit smaller. This should however be sufficient for most people to create small figurines, utensils, and the like.

If you plan on buying a 3D printer for your child, this is an excellent options as many are geared towards kids with easy-to-use operation. If you purchase one for your child, you should get one that has a closed frame as it protects children from touching the heated bed inside. Closed frame printers does also prevent the whole room your working in from smelling. Especially if you’re working with ABS filament.

Hobbyist – $500 to $1500

Hobbyist 3d printerIf you plan on doing more than playing around and exploring what 3D printers has to offer, and want to build more advanced things as you gain experience, then you should look into this price class. Mid-range printers usually gives you a bigger build platform and a higher build quality. Although, you should be careful not to buy one that has the same specifications as an entry-level printer. A $300 one can be very similar to a $600 one, so always make sure you get your money’s worth before making the purchase decision.

You should expect a 8” x 8” build volume and other useful features such as a removable plate, WiFi control, and more than one extruder which allows you to print multiple colors.

Most products in this price class will satisfy anyone who is more than just curious about 3D printing.

Prosumer – Over $1500

prosumer 3d printerWhen going for a prosumer model, you should probably have at least some previous experience with 3D printing, or you plan on selling things you create in the future. Prosumer models will give you an advantage in speed and quality, as well as giving you extra features. The sky’s the limit when it comes to price. You can get one for just above $1500 or $6000 and beyond. It’s up to you how much you’re willing to spend.

When it comes to build volume, expect at least a 10” x 10” build platform. Some can go up to 16” x 16” too if you want to print something really big. Others might vary in vertical and horizontal sizes.

You should also make sure to be offered free technical support by telephone when choosing a printer in this class. Most big brands do, but it’s something you should look into before buying, as these 3D printers can be complex to set up or you might require assistance at some point later.

Materials

3d printer materialsIf you’re new to 3D printing you might be wondering what kind of material, or filaments as they are called, you should use. Every filament has their usage, depending on what you want to create. Let’s look at some of the most popular materials.

PLA

PLA is the most used filament in consumer 3D printers. It’s easy to print with, has low temperature, and doesn’t require a heating bed. It also produces less of a smelly odor than its counterpart ABS. Not only that, but it’s the most environmentally friendly material as well.  PLA will be your go-to filament for most jobs.

Strength: High

Flexibility: Low

Durability: Medium

ABS

After PLA, ABS is the second most commonly used filament. It boasts high durability, but is slightly harder to print with. ABS should be used for items that needs to withstand high temperatures or might be handled a lot, that’s where its strong durability shines. Together with PLA, this filament is a good general use material for most jobs.

Strength: High

Flexibility: Medium

Durability: High

TPE/TPU

This material is extreme flexible, almost like rubber. TPE/TPU is useful when making things that will bend, stretch, or compress. However, it’s not the best material for beginners, as it’s more difficult to work with than PLA or ABS

Strength: Medium

Flexibility: Very high

Durability: Very high

Nylon

A material which is good in all strength, flexibility, and durability. You can also dye it after you’re done printing it. A downside to nylon is that it easily absorbs moisture. Nylon can be used to create tools and mechanical parts to name a couple.

Strength: High

Flexibility: High

Durability: High

PETG

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is commonly found in water bottles and plastic containers. In 3D printing a variation called PETG is used as a filament. It’s more flexible than PLA and more easier to print with than ABS. As with nylon, PETG also absorbs moisture from the air, so remember to store it correctly. This filament is good for items that will be subjected to stress like mechanical parts.

Strength: High

Flexibility: Medium

Durability: High

Printing size/build volume

This refers to the maximum build capacity the printer can print. The area is measured in inches or in centimeters (usually the manufacturer will give information in both). The regular build platform in most entry-level printers are rectangular and measures 6” in length, 6” in height, and 6” in depth. You will also come across smaller building platforms in entry-level printers, but usually not bigger.

If you move up the price range, you will see printers with larger areas for building, all the way up to 16” x 16” for those who wish to build massive objects. One thing to take in to consideration is that for the price of one 16” x 16” printer, you might get two 8” x 8” printers so you can print two pieces of the same object simultaneously, reducing the time it takes to complete the whole thing.

Most people will find that a small-ish build volume is more than enough to satisfy their needs. The only time you would want a very large print size is if you have something specific in mind that you know will be large in size.

Kit vs pre-assembled

DIY or preassembled 3d printerWhen buying a 3D printer you can choose to either go for a pre-assembled model which come pretty much ready-to-use out of the box, or you can buy a kit which you have to put together yourself. This comes down to how hands-on you want to be. Some prefer to follow instructions and build it themself. The good thing about this method is that you will know exactly how everything goes together so if something breaks in the future, you can easily troubleshoot and fix the problem as you should already have the knowledge to do so.

But not everyone is DIY-savvy and prefer to rather buy the whole printer assembled and ready to go. This can save you a lot of time and headache because a 3D printer is not as easy to put together as a simple IKEA furniture. Sometimes you just want to plug it in and hit print.

Deciding on which one of these to buy, really comes down to how “nerdy” or passionate about building things yourself you are.

 

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