3D Printers: What You Need to Know Before Buying One

If you're considering buying a 3D printer, there's a lot to think about. This guide aims to talk you through everything you need to know about 3D printers before buying, so let's get started.

3D Printers: What You Need to Know Before Buying One
Photo by Kadir Celep / Unsplash

If you're considering buying a 3D printer, there's a lot to think about. This guide aims to talk you through everything you need to know about 3D printers before buying one. So, let's get started.

Printer Types

The most common forms of 3D printing processes are Resin (SLA) and FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling). These two technologies are comparable in that they both use the same principle of layering material to create a three-dimensional item. They differ, however, in terms of the materials they employ, the types of items they can manufacture, and the precision of the end output.

Resin printing, uses a liquid resin that is hardened by exposure to a UV light source. This allows for the creation of highly detailed and accurate objects with smooth surfaces and sharp edges. Resin printing is typically used for small, intricate objects such as jewellery, figurines, and medical models.

On the other hand, FDM printing uses a filament of plastic or other material that is heated and extruded through a nozzle to build up layers of the object. This process is slower and produces objects with a rougher finish compared to resin printing. However, FDM printing has the advantage of being able to use a broader range of materials, including metals and composites, and can produce larger objects. FDM printing is typically used for prototypes, functional parts, and other objects that require a strong, durable material.

In terms of cost, resin printing is generally more expensive than FDM printing due to the cost of the resin and the need for a UV light source. However, the higher precision and smoother finish of resin-printed objects may justify the added cost for some applications.

One key difference between resin and FDM printing is the level of post-processing required. Resin-printed objects often require washing and curing to remove excess resin and improve the surface finish. FDM-printed objects, on the other hand, typically require little to no post-processing, although they may need to be sanded or smoothed if a smoother finish is desired.

Overall, resin and FDM printing are both useful technologies with their own advantages and disadvantages. The choice between the two will depend on the specific application and the desired properties of the finished object. Resin printing is best suited for small, detailed objects with a smooth surface finish, while FDM printing is better for larger, functional objects that require a stronger material.

Print volume is a term that refers to the maximum size of the object that a 3D printer can print. It is typically measured in cubic millimetres, inches, or centimetres, and represents the maximum dimensions of the printable area in the X, Y, and Z axes.

The print volume of a 3D printer is an important factor to consider when choosing a printer, as it determines the maximum size of the objects that can be printed. A larger print volume allows for the production of larger objects, while a smaller print volume is better suited for small, detailed objects.

The print volume of a 3D printer is determined by the size of the printer itself, as well as the size of the print bed and the movement range of the print head.

In general, larger 3D printers with a larger print volume are more expensive than smaller printers with a smaller print volume. However, the ability to print larger objects can also be useful for some applications, such as producing architectural models or functional parts.

Print speed is a term that refers to the speed at which a 3D printer can produce an object. It is typically measured in millimetres per second. This represents the rate at which the printer's print head moves as it lays down layers of material.

The print speed of a 3D printer is an important factor to consider when choosing a printer, as it determines how quickly an object can be produced. A faster print speed allows for the production of objects in a shorter amount of time. Whilst a slower print speed may be necessary for producing highly detailed or complex objects.

The print speed of a 3D printer can be influenced by several factors, including the type of printer, the size and complexity of the object being printed, and the material being used. In general, printers that use FDM technology tend to have faster print speeds than printers that use resin technology.

In addition to the overall print speed, some 3D printers also offer the ability to adjust the speed at which different parts of the object are printed. This can be useful for optimizing the print speed for specific applications or achieving a higher level of detail in certain areas of the object.

Overall, the print speed of a 3D printer is an important factor to consider when choosing a printer, as it determines how quickly objects can be produced. Faster print speeds can be useful for quickly producing objects, while slower print speeds may be necessary for achieving high levels of detail or accuracy.

So what 3D printer do I buy?

FDM printing is best suited for large, functional objects that require a strong material. Whereas resin printing is better for small, detailed objects with a smooth surface finish.

Once you've decided which route you want to go down, start looking for printers that meet your requirements. Some reputable brands to look at include Creality, Prusa, Anycubic, Lulzbot & Elegoo. Once you've found the one you like, get some filament and start 3D printing.


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