For a couple reasons, you probably should not buy a 3D printer for your home unless you have the extra money and want to play. 3D printing technology is still evolving. People bought the first electronic calculators in the 1970s but paying hundreds of dollars to add, subtract, multiply, and divide numbers did not make sense for most people. Today most phones have a calculator app which does far more. The evolution of 3D printers works the same way. Even better, there are printing services where you can take your digital files and print on the latest printers.
What to Look For
Some things to consider when looking to buy a 3D printer:
- What materials does the printer use? The more expensive a printer, the more likely print materials will be more than plastic. Be sure to check exactly which materials the printer can print with, as well as the cost for materials.
- Be sure the print field or volume — the maximum height, width, and depth you can print — is big enough for what you want to print.
- Research the cost of commonly replaced parts, for example, the extruder and base plate. These may clog or break with heavy use.
- Check the layer resolution, the height of each layer deposited to build your models. The smaller the layer resolution the more precise the result and longer it takes to print. A range of layer resolutions offers more flexibility.
- Software used to control the printer should be integrated, not require you to find, download, then configure software.
And, as with any product you buy, be sure to search online with the phrase, “[product name] problems” where [product name] is the product you want to learn more about. You’ll be able to tell legitimate complaints from people who like to complain. You’re looking for common problems you wish someone had mentioned before you buy, as well as subtle problems you might encounter as you use a product.
Don’t assume a higher price will spare you hassles. All 3D printers require tweaking to work well. More important than price is learning the experiences others have with the printer you want to buy.
Here a few printers to consider if you do want a home 3D printer for fun and have low expectations, plus links to reviews to keep up with the evolution of 3D printers over the next few years. These printers also use plastic instead of resin because resin printers tend to be more expensive and labor-intensive to use.
Printers to Consider
This low cost printer comes in two versions, build it yourself and pre-assembled. Buy the pre-assembled version unless you really like to put machines together. The Printerbot is a very simple, bare bones printer. It works great for small projects. And you can see exactly how all the mechanical parts work together because the printer exposes the gears, print head, and other pieces to keep costs low.
Another entry level printer to look into is the New Matter Modt, which features fewer moving parts with a low price. The CEL Robox also works as a basic printer.
Cubify makes two printers worth a look, the Cube for $999 USD and the Cube Pro for $2799 USD. Cubify designs 3D printers to reduce the complexity of printing. The print field for the Cube is 6 inches wide, high, and deep and for the Cube Pro roughly 11 inches wide, 9 inches high, and 10 inches deep. Cubify printers also are designed to look good in your home or workshop.
Other printers to consider are the Makerbot Replicator for $2899 USD and Ultimaker 2 for a similar price.
Why 3D Printing is Overhyped
Home 3D printers take us on a maddening journey into another dimension
Evaluation Checklist: Seventeen Things to Consider When Reviewing 3D Printers
3D Printing: What You Need to Know
Tom’s Guide: Best 3D Printers 2014
PC Magazine: Best 3D Printers
Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014
Business Insider: Here Are The Best Consumer 3D Printers On The Market
New Matter Modt Printer
3D Printing Essential Toolkit
And don’t forget gloves and face masks for any micro-toxins emitted by a 3D printer.