Are you planning to purchase yourself a new 3D printer? Well, we know how tricky it can be – whether it’s for your business or personal use, it can be a minefield with so many manufacturers around and not knowing where to start! 3D printing is still an emergent technology and constantly evolving, so it’s important to work out exactly what you want to get out of your device. To help you get savvy, here’s some clever advice to consider, from German online electronics retailer, reichelt.co.uk, which promises to offer you up to 20% cheaper options.
- Get to grips with the technology
One of the key things to first understand is how the technology works. Most 3D printers utilise a process called “Fused Deposition Modelling” (FDM), also known as “Plastic Jet Printing” (PJP). With this technique, layers of a particular material are laid down again and again until the object has been created. The cross-section layers are formed by a continual length of plastic being expelled with a heated nozzle. The plastic then rapidly hardens. Other printers use “Stereolithorgaphy” (SLA), in which a laser sets layers of photosensitive resin. Having a grasp of the process is ideal in order to understand the product and ultimately, how it will function.
- Identify your printing material options
The next element to figure out is the printing material itself. Most printers often use a spool of filament in either PLA (polylactic acid) or ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). These are thermoplastics which can be heated to become flexible and go back to being solid once cooled. ABS material tends to be the top choice of professionals as it’s flexible, strong and has a high temperature resistance. Comparatively, PLA can produce thinner layers, sharper corners and is available in a wider range of colours, making it a preference of schools and hobbyists. However, there are other materials on offer too, such as:
- HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene)
- Stainless steel
- Check out the printer’s attributes
To find the right 3D printer tailored to your needs, think about its attributes. What is its print area? For example, the bigger it is, the bigger objects can be created. Consider the printing speed as well. The material used and complexity level of the print can affect the printing speed. In addition, the layer resolution should be thought about. Some 3D printers enable you to enter the value of the layer resolution, whereas others give you options. This factor will ultimately affect the outcome of the final printed object. Lastly, the extruders of the printer is a key attribute of the gadget. These allow for the melted printing material to be expelled, and therefore, more than one extruder will enable you to print in varying colours and materials.
- Explore the features
Don’t forget about the multitude of features 3D printers offer, which can make your printing experience an easy and enjoyable one. Some offer connectivity options to allow for wireless connection or perhaps come with an SD slot. LCD displays on these devices are also an available feature. Having a visual display on these devices is always great for user experience, in relaying information back on printing progression.
- ‘S’ is for Software
Most of these printers come with their own 3D printing software that can open STL files, which is the typical file format you might use to print a 3D model. With this software you can select print settings, layer thickness and fill types. However, to design and create your 3D models, you’ll need to get your hands on some 3D modelling software. There is large range available on the market either for free or which can be bought. It’s with this software that the STL files can be produced.
- Analyse options according to your budget
Last but not least, settling on a preferred 3D printer will be largely impacted by your budget. Devices can start from hundreds of pounds, going into the thousands for the higher-end type. And of course, it goes without saying that the more expensive the printer, the more features it will have. Essentially, its price will reflect the overall output quality and functionalities of it. You can find a wide variety of 3D printers to cater to hobbyists, businesses and more – all at competitive prices.
For a high-quality, affordable and accessible 3D printer, we recommend the XYZ Printing da Vinci Junior for first-time 3D designers and aspiring inventors. For more advanced projects, theUltimaker 2 Extended is a world-class device that delivers and prints complex models with real ease.