10 important things to know before buying a 3D printer

With the recent invention of a 3D printed mosquito repellent ring, the future possibility of 3D printing is reaching new heights. Over the past two decades, 3D printing as a technology and an industry has experienced tremendous growth. While it used to be a specialized and niche technology, 3D printing can now be seen even in the homes of consumers.

Companies plan to build schools and entire homes using 3D printers. But for those getting into the field and looking to buy a 3D printer for the first time, there are a few basic things to keep in mind.


Expensive doesn’t mean better

While a more expensive printer can sometimes equate to better quality, that’s not always true. Over the past two years, competition in the 3D printing industry has skyrocketed, which has also led to cheaper and better quality products.

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The price of a 3D printer can depend on many factors, such as whether it is an FDM or SLS printer, the features provided by each model and the associated brand, etc., but for beginners, even Cheaper 3D printers can provide quality and features. Printers like the Ender 3 can do just about anything a beginner would need.

PLA is the most beginner-friendly material

There are different materials available for 3D printers, and each of them has different advantages and disadvantages. PLA or polylactic acid materials are the most versatile, cheapest and safest to use. They are also among the best materials to use for entry-level 3D printers.

PLA can be used to produce durable objects and it doesn’t give off as many harmful fumes during the process. PLA is also less expensive than other options and it is also biodegradable. PLA also has a lower melting point, making it easier to use for entry-level printers.

Better to have a self-leveling printer

If the print bed of a 3D printer is not level, it can lead to unstable foundations, clogging or scratches on the object. Although hand-leveling printers have their advantages with certain functions, a beginner will rarely use them. Users can also get an auto-leveling accessory with their manual printers.

A self-leveling printer has sensors attached near the tip of the nozzle, which measure distance and balance and adjust accordingly to ensure the bed is level before starting the process. There are excellent 3D printers for under $500.

Make sure the filament is of good quality

The filament determines the quality of the object being printed. Poor quality filament will lead to a brittle, warped or rough end object. Consumers can find good quality PLA filament for around $30 per kg, and it can last over a month for most users.

The price of filament varies depending on the brand, quality, color, if it is phosphorescent, extra resistant or has a better texture. Keep in mind that cheaper filament doesn’t always mean poor quality, it’s best to always read reviews. Other materials, such as ABS or resin, may cost more.

Understand the basic operation of a 3D printer

It is very important to understand the basic operation of a 3D printer, as future upgrades, replacement of parts, lubrication of rods, and replacement of worn nozzles may be required.

If a 3D printer is well maintained, cleaned and updated from time to time, it can last for years while operating efficiently. Typically, 3D printers and their nozzles can last three to six months with heavy use and up to three years with occasional use. Understanding how a 3D printer works is very important when it comes to getting comfortable with the machine.

Pay attention to the quality of the print bed

The quality of a print bed will play a huge role in the final print quality. A bad print bed can lead to problems such as layer adhesion, poor temperature retention, prints stuck to the bed, or an uneven print bed.

Print beds are made of plastic, aluminum, or glass, with the latter being one of the most popular, usually due to the ease of removal from the final object. Some of the best and easiest to use printers consider the quality of the printer bed.

Getting a 3D printer and some filament is not the end of the printing process, users will also need a set of tools to facilitate the final printing process. This usually includes a spatula, filament storage container, adhesive substances, and tweezers to clean the final prints and nozzles.

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A spatula is handy for removing the final print from the bed and without proper filament storage, filament life can be significantly reduced.

Keep Safety in Mind

Operating a 3D printer can be a lot of fun, but at the same time it can also be dangerous for your property and your health. Make sure your 3D printer is in a well ventilated room and there is no fire hazard nearby.

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Keep the printer out of the reach of children and pets as they can become very hot and release harmful fumes. Getting a case for the printer is also a great idea to keep it dust and water free.

The slower, the better

Getting the perfect 3D print can be a slow process. The overall quality of the final object is highly dependent on the speed at which the printer prints. This is one of the choices people have to make: either get faster printing but compromise on quality, or get the best quality but wait a long time.

The size of the nozzle will also impact the speed and quality of prints. For example, if a 0.4mm nozzle takes 11 hours at 150mm/s, a 0.8mm nozzle can do it in less than 8 hours at 65mm/s. But at the same time, a larger nozzle may not yield the most detailed end product.

Stay true to FDM printers

The two most common types of 3D printers are SLA and FDM. While the former prints an object layer by layer using a liquid resin material and UV light and can also provide higher resolution and a smoother finish, they can also be very expensive and the filament also costs significantly more .

FDA printers, on the other hand, are much better for beginners. They are less expensive and there are a wide variety of filaments to choose from. They are also much easier to maintain. One thing to note is that SLA printers are getting cheaper which could be a future option for a beginner hobbyist.

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