Picking a 3D Printer? Here is what you need to consider
Closed or open source
Some printers only accept filament from their own company. This preventing you from using 3rd part filaments with it. However, they are typically very well calibrated to their own filaments. This preventing you from having to set the machine up yourself to suit the new brand. This is often simpler for the novice user.
Self Assembly Vs Preassembled
Not all printers come assembled. Self-assembly kits are often cheaper as manufacturers do not require to assemble, calibrate and test the machine. However, this takes some confidence and skill from the customer who is taking on the responsibility of making it themselves. It also assumes that they will have the necessary tools and skills.
Software Compatibility and Connectivity
Printers come with their own dedicated software, this can open .stl models, slice them then be communicated to the printer. Check if it is compatible to PC or Mac.
Many printers operate by USB connection (typically type B)
Some printers offer an Ethernet connection
Some printers operate wirelessly, using a wifi connection. They can link to computers or often to smart phones
Some have USB or SD card slots so you do not have to rely on an external computer during the print
Warranty and Maintenance costs
How long is the warranty also what does it include and exclude? Consider how much are replacement parts? The most common piece needed replacing on a 3D printer is the Hot End. How much are they? Consider buying some in advance so that your production is not slowed down.
LCD screens will often show more information about the print e.g. bed and extruder temperature. If you are looking for a cheaper printer consider something without a high-tech screen. Anything with a touch screen is automatically more expensive as it will be offering extra features
On board camera: to keep an eye on prints, to monitor their progress or to record the process and to take photos of the final print.
Material recognition: some printers are closed source systems and will not let you load other materials into it. This can be useful if you accidentally try and use the wrong material with the wrong print head though. It can potentially prevent damages.
Your standard printers will take PLA and ABS. If you are looking at more complicated types of material, you will need to check if they are compatible.
Aesthetics: Is the printer being put somewhere with the intention of people watching it e.g. a school? Might be best to get one with a clear enclosure so people can see into it. Or at least with a camera to stream its progress, in case you don’t want a slightly noisy machine in the workspace.
Is it being placed into a professional setting or hacker/maker space? A lot of newer machines are equipped with sleeker designs to add a professional aesthetic to the workshop environment.
Of course price will be one of the overall deciding factors. Desktop printers range from the hundreds to the thousands. Typically the price of the printer will reflect the quality of the prints it gives. The higher the price the higher quality of the prints. Also the higher the price of maintenance and replacement parts. But 3D printers are popular, this generates a lot of competition between manufacturers. Meaning that prices are likely to go down and the quality shall improve.
Take some time to pick what is right for you. Compare our 3D printers online to make the best choice for you.