The FlashForge Finder is a user-friendly, entry-level printer designed for classrooms and homes. This very compact 3D printer has a very clean design with cables concealed from sight within the plastic alloy body so that the printer is more or… Continue Reading
Highest Rated 3D Printers
|Dremel Idea Builder||Read Reviews|
|FlashForge Dreamer||Read Reviews|
|XYZprinting Da Vinci 1.0||Read Reviews|
What to look for when buying a desktop 3D printer
Some basic things to consider when browsing through printer models include ease of set-up, use and maintenance requirements. Depending on the objects to be printed, some may opt for a machine that has the ability to print using more than one color of filament. Print resolution and the size of the build area are other characteristics to consider. These machines create objects using molten plastic filament extruded in layer after layer in a process known as fused filament fabrication.
Stereolithography printers create objects a little differently. The devices focus an ultraviolet laser on a container filled with light-sensitive liquid polymer resin. Every point on a layer where the laser makes contact solidifies the resin. The process continues layer by layer until the project completes. Printers are also available in a wide price range. Most people are looking at printers priced at or below $4,000.
When looking at printers, make sure that the build area is large enough to accommodate the overall size of the objects that you want to print. The build area is the three-dimensional region where the print comes into existence. Print build areas average anywhere from six by six inches to nine by nine inches in width and length. The height of the area varies from a few inches to more than 24 inches. Build areas are also not necessarily square.
Consumer-sized 3D printers use plastic filament contained on spools that melt and extrude through a nozzle into the desired shape layer after layer. Each layer then in turn solidifies. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS and polyactic acid or PLA are the two most common types of filaments used by the machines. ABS requires higher temperatures before melting and requires a heated print bed. The material is also more flexible, but emits fumes during the melting process that many find unpleasant. PLA prints provide a smoother appearance, but are more fragile.
Other types of filament include high-impact polystyrene or HIPS, Tritan polyester, polyvinyl alcohol or PVA and polyethylene terephthalate or PETT. There are also bronze, copper and wood-filled filaments in addition to UV-luminescent and nylon filaments. Each type of filament comes in a specific line of colors and varies in the temperature needed to melt the material. While some printers accept multiple filament types, others are limited to a specific material due to the temperature parameters of the device.
Filament is created in diameters of 1.85 and 3 millimeters. Most consumer-based models use the smaller filament. Each spool weighs a little over two pounds and retails anywhere from $20 to $50. Though spool sizes vary, individual printers accommodate certain spool sizes.Stereolithography printers use liquid resin that comes in bottles. Available colors are typically limited to clear, gray, white, black and gold. The overall printing process is somewhat more complicated as the finished product must be bathed with alcohol to remove any resin that does not harden.
Platforms serve as the space where the object becomes a reality and must have a surface that encourages the filament to adhere to the platform during the building process. However, the object must also be easily removed. Many printers have platforms made of glass that stays heated during the build, which prevents the edges of the object from curling upward.
Some platforms require that the user apply glue from a glue stick or blue painter's tape to ensure proper adhesion and easy object removal. A few printers require placing a board perforated with tiny holes that fill with filament and serve as a solid base to keep the model in position during printing. However, removing the print becomes tedious when needing to remove the plastic plugs from each hole.
Platforms can become tilted, which throws off the dimensions of the object. Some printers require that users manually level the platform using calibration functions that determine platform position by moving the extruder nozzle over different points. Other machines calibrate and level the platform automatically. Positioning the extruder over the platform at the appropriate height is another requirement for proper building. Some printers require manual calibration and others perform the task automatically.
Printer Connection Options
The majority of printers perform the desired build from software on a computer, SD card or a USB device. However, there are printers available that contain memory, which enables the machine to store project instructions and operate without the need to connect to an external device. Some offer wireless connectivity via a direct, peer-to-peer link. However, transferring the desired files from a device to the printer is a time-consuming process.
Printers come with either open or closed framed cabinets. Open-framed models provide a greater degree of visibility during the build process along with quick access to the finished product. Closed-frame versions feature walls, a lid and one or more doors. This type of device might be safer when children or pets are present. The enclosed frames also serve to reduce printer and fan noise in addition to maintaining the fumes and odors emitted by the melted plastic.
Having the ability to print an object with more than one color requires a printer equipped with at least two extruders. The printed object must be created using a program file designed for creating this type of product. Each extruder emits the desired color in the desired location and in turn as each layer appears.
Three-dimensional printers create objects by extruding filament in consecutive layers according to file instructions. The resolution used to create the products is the pre-determined height of the layer. Resolution is typically denoted in microns, which equates to 0.001 millimeter for one micron. The lower the number, the higher the resolution. The majority of printers extrude levels measuring 200 microns. Some devices print at 100 microns and a few at 20 microns. Keep in mind that the finer the resolution, the more expensive the machine. Higher resolutions also take longer to print the finished product. Greater resolution capabilities might be preferred by professionals who need objects created in the highest degree of quality possible.
Printers typically come packaged with software printed on a CD disc or available as a download from the printer manufacturer site. The software is generally compatible with Windows, OS X, Linux and other operating system platforms. The software features all of the steps needed to calibrate the leveling bed and the extruder along with instructions and the files needed to create various projects.
By doing the research and reading consumer reviews, you are bound to find the 3D printer that suits your needs. If a problem arises after making your purchase and attempting to use your machine, customer service technicians are generally helpful in guiding users through the processes needed to make any necessary corrections.
The introduction of 3D printers opened the realms of creative possibilities for hobbyists, architects, engineers, research scientists and other brilliant minds. However, the cost and size of the new technology made the devices unreachable for many. The up and coming Wiiboox company based in Nanjing Jiang, China, set out to solve the problem by recently introducing the Wiiboox One Mini. Continue Reading
Despite being one of the lowest priced 3D printers on the market at only $349, the XYZprinting Da Vinci 3D printer has the capacity to provide quality results in a timely manner. This printer is a well-designed and highly intuitive… Continue Reading
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3DSystems invented 3D printing technology in 1989 and remain one of the leading manufacturers of the technology. The company offers a wide range of products, from industrial grade to consumer grade, in all price ranges. They have 3D printers for large and small manufacturing, home enthusiasts, and specialty printers for the medical field. Continue Reading
XYZprinting is a relatively new company, founded in 2013, but has already released several 3D printers to the public. They are committed to creating cost-effective products to the consumer market and businesses worldwide. Continue Reading
The Cubify Cube’s “3D printing for the layman” approach is evident from the outset — its price range is among the lowest on the market, and its appearance can only be described as sleek. While other high-quality and very popular… Continue Reading
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Until recently, the name Dremel has only been affiliated with a selection of elite hand-held power tools. However, recently the company introduced a 3D printer that they call the Dremel 3D Idea Builder. Retailing for less than $1,000, the device… Continue Reading
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The Cubify CubeX Duo is one of the best consumer-level 3-D printers available, and while most home users should be more than satisfied with its capabilities, there are a few minor drawbacks to note. Like all 3-D printers, the CubeX… Continue Reading
The XYZprinting Da Vinci 1.0 is a complete 3D printer priced at $499 for personal, home use, small business and the education market. It offers high-quality build design at a modest price, with an impressive feature set for all but… Continue Reading
The MakerBot Replicator is one of the best consumer 3-D printers on the market, but because this technology is still in its infancy, there are several challenges to overcome. At $1,999, it’s more expensive than other consumer 3-D printers, such… Continue Reading
The UP! Mini 3D printer is perfectly designed to generate compact prints with precision and fidelity. As the name suggests, it’s small enough to fit on a cramped desktop, which is a real relief when compared to some of its… Continue Reading
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A few months ago I backed the widely popular kickstarter campaign for the 3Doodler, a hand-held “3D Printer”. The team at Wobble works surely got what they asked for as the project surpassed their funding goals by more than $2.3… Continue Reading
Additive manufacturing machines, or 3D printers, are being hailed as the next industrial revolution, but what are they? To understand the various types of AM machines and their capabilities take a closer look at some of the more popular models.… Continue Reading
Formlabs was founded by a handful of top engineers who realized that additive manufacturing was an amazing technology that still was unattainable for so many people. To fix that problem they decided to drive down the barrier to entry and… Continue Reading