So you want to buy a 3D printer? Read this guide before you go shopping to get the best printer for your needs and your budget.
You’ve heard so many great things about 3D printers and what you can do with them. There are so many wonderful machines which can make your builder’s dreams come true. But if you want to buy a 3D printer, what model should you choose? How much should you spend? And where’s the best place to buy a 3D printer? Here’s a guide to the most pressing questions when buying a 3D printer.
How to Buy a 3D Printer – Question #1: Should I Buy a 3D Printer?
Before you start shopping, first think about what and how often you want to 3D print. Here’s our experience in a nutshell:
- If you are eager to try out the technology, you’re probably better off visiting a Fablab or a Makerspace near your location. As 3D printers are expensive and have a steep learning curve, you’ll get help directly from the good people there – and you can save a lot of money if you don‘t click with the technology.
- If you just want to have a single part printed once a month, there‘s no need to buy a 3D printer yourself. It is significantly cheaper to use 3D printing services and networks such as 3D Hubs, i.Materialise, Sculpteo or Shapeways to get your stuff printed professionally. There are a lot of alternative 3D printing services you can use. To get the best price, please use All3DP’s price comparison service.
So, if we can rule out these exceptions, you are a candidate to buy a 3D printer.
How to Buy a 3D Printer – Question #2: What Type of 3D Printer Should I Buy?
Currently, there are nine major 3D printing technologies (read all about them here). As you probably don‘t want to buy a $500.000 metal 3D printer, there are just two consumer 3D printer types which are relevant. They are called FDM and SLA.
1. Buy an FDM 3D Printer
FDM is the most common 3D printing method used in desktop 3D printing. Thermoplastic filament is heated and extruded through an extrusion head that deposits the molten plastic in X and Y coordinates, while the build table lowers the object layer by layer in the Z direction.
This type of 3D printers is a cost-effective means for product development and rapid prototyping in small business and education sectors since it’s capable of fabricating robust parts reliably and quickly. They use a variety of interesting materials.
If you buy a FDM 3D printer, you can choose from a variety of brands, there are at least 50 great companies to choose from. You can find the best FDM 3D printers here, the prices ranges from $300 to $5000.
2. Buy an SLA 3D Printer
SLA works by exposing a layer of photosensitive liquid resin to a UV-laser beam so that the resin hardens and becomes solid. Once the laser has swept a layer of resin in the desired pattern and it begins to harden, the model-building platform in the liquid tank of the printer steps down the thickness of a single layer, and the laser begins to form the next layer. Each layer is built on top of the preceding one.
Like the FDM 3D printer technology, objects with overhangs 3D printed with this type of 3D printer will require support structures. And after printing has completed, the object must be rinsed with a solvent. Sometimes it’s also baked in a UV oven to finish processing.
SLA creates smooth surfaced objects with extreme detail, and it’s increasingly popular in industries like jewelry and cosmetic dentistry for creating castable molds.
The price range for an SLA 3D printer is between $3000 and §10.000. You can find the best SLA 3D Printer models here.
How to Buy a 3D Printer – Question #3: Where Should I Buy My 3D Printer?
If you want to buy a 3D printer in 2017, you can choose from a lot of options. Here are some 3D printer buying tips:
1. Buy a 3D Printer from Amazon
Amazon is a great source for buying 3D printers. They offer lightning-fast delivery, have most items in stock, and you can count on their reliability and obligingness.
All3DP offers several articles on buying 3D printers and 3D printing accessories at Amazon. They are updated on a regular basis.
- 10 Best 3D Printers in Spring 2017 - Buyer's Guide & Reviews
- 20 Best Cheap 3D Printers Under $500/$1000
- 20 Best-Selling 3D Printers of the Month at Amazon
- 19 Best-Selling 3D Scanners at Amazon in Winter 2016-2017
- Best-Selling 3D Printer Parts & Accessories at Amazon
But please be aware that of 3D printer manufacturers don‘t sell their printers through Amazon – but you can buy most of the 3D printer models directly from the manufacturers. Here are the best makes and models.
2. Buy a 3D Printer For Less Money
If you don’t have a ton of money on your hands, you still can buy a great 3D printer – here’s a list of the best affordable 3D printers.
Of course, you can always buy a second-hand 3D printer. Here‘s what you have to consider:
It doesn’t stop there. If you have some experience in building things, you can also buy a 3D printer kit. You’ll have to assemble the printer yourself, but that’s probably the best way of learning the most about your 3D printer. Most kits cost significantly less than assembled 3D printers. You can find the best models here.
3. Buy a 3D Printer on Kickstarter
Quite frankly: If you’re just entering the wild and wonderful world of 3D printing, better refrain from backing a great looking, dead cheap 3D printer atKickstarter or Indiegogo. First, you won’t get instant gratification and will have to wait several months (if not years) until the printer arrives. Second, there’s a risk in buying a 3D printer through crowdfunding. There are a lot of things that can go wrong, fraud being one of them.
But if you know what you‘re doing, a Kickstarter 3D printer can be a great way of getting a cutting-edge 3D printer. Also, many great 3D printing companies on Kickstarter.
All3DP provides a weekly updated and annotated list – you find the 16 Kickstarter 3D Printer Projects Live Right Now here.
How to Buy a 3D Printer – Additional Info: What Else is there to Know?
There’s a lot to learn when it comes to 3D printing. Here are some resources that will help you understand 3D printing better:
- The Comprehensive Guide to 3D Printing (feat. 101 Questions)
- Troubleshooting Guide to 22 Common 3D Printing Problems
- 14 Most Important 3D Printing Terms (Glossary of Terminology)
If we can help you in other ways on buying a 3D printer, please let us know in the comments.
License: The text of "Beginner’s Guide on How to Buy a 3D Printer" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.