What features make for a quality 3D printer at the consumer level?

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Answered by: Olivia, An Expert in the Buying Guide Category
The Buyer's Guide to 3D Printers

In the overwhelming world of 3D printing and additive manufacturing, there are endless choices of machines and materials with which to create new products, inventions, and art. In order to help you get started on your creative and technical journey, here’s a brief guide to the pitfalls, choices and features when shopping for a new, quality 3D printer.



Know What You’re Getting Into

Do your research! Make sure you’re prepared to approach 3D printing with a levelheaded relentlessness to tackle any problem that comes your way. Although 3D printers are powerful and exciting, physically using one comes with a lot of problem-solving and troubleshooting. Printers like the Makerbot, the MakerGear and several others come with thriving online communities and people who will help troubleshoot problems. While some machines are targeted at beginners and ready to use right out of the box, others require hours of assembly and focused learning to fully reach their potential.

What Materials Do You Want to Use?



Whether you’re printing in plastic, resin, wood, or other materials, it’s vital to identify what exactly you hope to achieve with 3D printing. Plastic is ideal for quick, cheap prototypes. Resin can provide you with a hard, clear surface, although it takes extra effort to finish the surface. Additionally, you will require a specialized resin printer if you wish to work with this material. Experimental materials like wood, food-safe plastics, elastic and even chocolate each provide their own quirks that may impact your 3D printing experience. All in all, it’s important to research what materials will work best with your printer of choice.

Where Are You Going to Use Your Machine?

Are you a traveling architect student who needs access to your printer at school and home, or are you an indie innovator in your garage? No matter what type of maker you are, you’ll have endless options for 3D printers. For portability, the BEETHEFIRST 3D printer comes with a built-in handle and case. However, other machines are hardly transportable and make a remarkable amount of noise. There are options for all needs, so long as you know what you’re looking for.

How Much Are You Willing to Spend?

While 3D printers are taking the world by storm, their innovative capabilities come with a cost. Budget printers begin around the $800 range, and the price only increases. Mid-range consumer 3D printers can range anywhere from $1,000-3,000 and more. Additionally, resin printers are prone to failure, which drives up the cost of materials as you redo print after print in resin. If you’re not yet ready to invest in a 3D printer, it’s also possible to use online 3D printing services such as Shapeways and 3DHubs. No matter your budget, you have options for purchasing a quality 3D printer.

Overall, 3D printers offer a remarkable new medium to explore creativity, indie manufacturing, and innovation. If you follow this guide while shopping for your next printer, you’re guaranteed to find success in the complicated and emerging market of 3D printers.

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