Beginner’s Guide on How to Buy a 3D Printer

Planning to buy your first 3D printer? The job is as tough as it is to learn and bring the technology itself to work.

To start looking for the best options you have, you must ask yourself a few questions before you buy a 3D printer.

From the reason for your purchase to the different features you want in your 3D printer.

The budget available and the best place to buy a 3d printer. These are few to start with.

Once you have an idea about all of these pressing questions, choosing the right 3D printer would be a lot easier.

There are many who do not research well and end up paying for something that they are unable to use. Or, have no usefulness for their needs.

You won’t like to take that same road. Hence, here is a guide which answers the most crucial queries that most start-up or individual look for when buying a 3D printer.

Do I Even Need to Buy a 3D Printer?

why 3d printing

That’s the first and very important question you must answer before saying I want to buy a 3D printer!!

Do you even need it? What can you do with a 3D Printer ?

Apart from the 3D printer price, the cost connected to its printing which include material cost, maintenance cost, electricity cost etc may put you into huge pressure.

If your usage isn’t enough to compensate for these costs, buying a 3D printer wouldn’t be a wise choice.

For example, if you are printing one item in a week, why not outsource your CAD file to the companies that offer 3D printing services.

Moreover, if you have not tried 3D printing before and have only completed a few courses, you must first try it.

You can easily visit a close by marketspace and find someone to show you how to 3D print parts.

Because 3D printing isn’t cheap and has a very sheer learning curve, you will find many people eager to help you out.

If after trying the technology, you think that the technology isn’t for you, you can stop right there.

Instead of spending money on 3D printers and then realizing the same thing.

In any of the above cases, buying a 3D printer would be a waste of time and money.

Even if you do not fall in the above category, you can still take time while outsourcing your orders to the 3D service centre until you make the final decision to buy a 3D printer.

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Which 3D Printer to Buy?

Once you know about 3D printers are your thing, it’s time to check out the 3D printer for your needs.

I am assuming that you must have expertise of working with 3D printers if you have decided to buy one. And, you are also aware of what you want to do with your 3D printer.

So, here are a few things that you must evaluate before choosing the one for yourself.

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The 3D Printer Process

3D printing works on about 10 different processes.

And, not every process is for commercial use unless you are looking to pay over $100,000 for an industrial 3D printer. There are two 3D technologies that are suitable for commercial purposes.

Learn more about 3D Printing Process and types here: 3D Printer Types: The Complete List

You can choose between an FDM 3D printers, Stereolithography 3D printers and SLS 3D printer.

#1 FDM 3D Printers:

This additive process includes heating the filament and extruding it to form layers of the item you wish to 3D print.

The 3D printers based on this technology are easiest to handle and are cheap as well. It is widely available and you can find it on online stores as well as nearby markets.

Among all the three listed technologies above, FDM is the cheapest.

#2 Stereolithography:

Using this technology, a photosensitive resin is cured with the help of UV light source which hardens the liquid forming the layers of the 3D print. Items printed with this technology has better quality and finer details.

With higher quality prints, the budget also increases to a few hundred dollars. This technology is used to print complex geometrical shapes with ease.

#3 SLS:

SLS which is also known as selective laser sintering. In this technology the powder bed is sintered using lasers to bond the particles together and form the layers of the 3D prints.

The process is somewhat similar to Stereolithography. However, UV light is replaced by lasers and liquid resin is replaced by powder. This again is an expensive choice as compared to FDM.

So, unless you do not require such complex printing, you are good with FDM. Usually FDM are for those starting 3D printing for the first time.

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Want to Buy or Build it Yourself?

If you are looking to cut costs further, you can choose to build one by yourself.

There are many communities for 3D printing experts who are always eager to try their skills into building and making new 3D printers.

There are various guides available online with building instructions and kits for making 3D printers.

build diy 3d printerCredits: instructables.com

However, if you think you cannot handle it, you can always opt to buy one. FDM, as mentioned are the least expensive 3D printers available.

Because building a 3D printer all by yourself will require time apart from the basic skills of following instructions.

So, if you think making room for some extra time is a challenge for you, better buy one.

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How Much Is a 3D Printer?

It is rare to find such a huge price range for an electronic machine. It starts from as low as $100 and goes beyond $100,000.

You can do the calculation of the difference between these prices have. If you are looking to go for a higher quality prints, you can choose a price range between $2000 to $4000.

However, if you are only trying to step your foot inside 3D printing, you can even choose the one available for few hundreds starting from $100.

These printers would have more limitations as compared to the other choices with higher price range. But you can learn and practice while honing your skills to be able to spend into expensive 3D printers.

Also, as the demand is growing, the prices are further going down. At the same time increasing the quality of the print with lower range as well.

So, decide and take the final decision based on what you can afford and what your goals are. There are lots of affordable 3D printers for sale if you look well enough.

For more details about 3D printer prices, check out this article: How Much Is a 3D Printer ?
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What Material Are You Looking For?

Not every printer can be used with plastic filament or metals. Every 3D printer is used with its own material set.

You must know which material would be suitable for your final product. Depending on which you can make the choice to buy a 3D printer.

If you go with FDM, you have two options for the filament: PLA and ABS. PLA Filament is resultant from corn starch while ABS is derived from petroleum.

Compare the advantages and disadvantages of these two materials and find which would be better for your 3D prints.

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Are 3D Printers Safe?

3d printing process safetyCredits: gknpm.com

This is a concern that every beginner must look into when buying a 3D printer.

Every 3D printer comes with certain safety issue and one must acknowledge those to have a safer experience.

For example, in FDM printers, working with heated plastic can cause burns if used without care. To solve this problem, you may choose for an enclosed build area.

Also, the heating of plastic causes fumes, especially when using ABS.

There isn’t much research done proving the effect of the fumes on general health. However, it is wise to be careful and take precautions for safer 3D printing.

Moreover, you won’t like to 3D print something that can pose a threat to your health or your customer’s.

What can you do with a 3D printer based on FDM technology? While there are many applications, it is not recommended to use it for kitchenware items.

Although ABS and PLA are food grade material, the additives used may not be. Also, the porous surface of the 3D prints made from FDM attracts bacteria.

It is important to know which safety measures must be included with each 3D printer type.

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What 3D Printing Quality Are You Stressing At?

There are two parameters that measure the quality of a 3D printer: Print Speeds and Resolution.

While speed is the amount of time a 3D printer takes to print a product, resolution defines the clarity of the design a printer can achieve for a product. The lower the micron (unit for measuring resolution), the higher the quality.

The best way to find out the answers is to look for results from the printers you have selected to choose from.

There are photos available online and you can certainly check the reviews to closely understand how the selected 3D printer works.

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Look for Communities

Again, you must look for communities online those are devoted to spread knowledge and awareness about 3D printers.

These communities would help a lot in your selection process. You can find different communities using different 3D printing technologies.

This way, you can collect as much information as needed to make final decision to buy a 3D printer.

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Best Place to Buy a 3D Printer?

This is also an important question and must be looked for before buying the 3D printer. Either you buy it online or from a local market, you must take care of following things:

Credits:  Getty Images

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How is the service:

Either online platforms or stores in the local market, each of them must have a designated years of free service option while selling a 3D printer.

And, must offer paid services after the free service limit is over. This is very crucial and you should not buy from a store that does offer after sales services.

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Compare the 3D Printer Prices:

With increase in competition within the companies selling 3D printers, you may find the price difference for the same make of 3D printer. However, you must not overlook the after-sale service offers.

Few companies keep low prices and take out the free service offer from the equation itself.

In such case, it is better to go with the one selling for a bit higher price. Otherwise, you may spend more on maintenance and increase your 3D printer cost anyway.

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Look for Reputed Sellers:

If you are not aware of the reputation of a particular seller, do not choose over the ones you already know about. Even if they are offering unimaginable deals.

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Replacement Offers:

A good company will offer you a replacement if the 3D printer isn’t working after it reaches you, in case you have ordered online. So, ensure you check for such leads before making the purchase.

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Setup Guidelines:

Buy a 3D printer that comes with the setup guidelines. Or else, you may not be able to assemble it properly. Or, you can even destroy your 3D printer by using it with incompatible material or taking wrong measure for adhesion etc.

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Check the 3D Printer Reviews:

If you think that a reputable website will always offer the best option, think again. Even the most popular companies fail to serve their customers a lot of times.

Especially if you are buying from an e-commerce website like Amazon or AliExpress.

There are many sellers registered on these websites and looking for the reviews of these sellers is the best way to determine if they are worthy to opt.

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The Conclusion

3d printers

Buying a 3D printer is a very difficult decision. But the best part is that there are many online helps available for you to access on the web.

You will also find people eager to tell you about the working of these 3D printers. So, coming to any conclusion would be a bad idea before researching properly for the right 3D printer for your needs.

To buy a 3D printer, you must be cautious and seek every information that you can. Being a beginner, you may be rather excited to get the best 3D printer without calculation the budget that suits your business goals.

But, do not lose sight of bigger aims. Even if the 3D printer isn’t worth $2000, it may still be able to serve your purpose.


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