3D printing is the process of making a three-dimensional object from a digital source file. Also called additive manufacturing, there are several processes and materials that can be used for 3D printing, but plastic is by far the most popular. Early 3D printers were expensive and used only to make non-functional prototypes. Nowadays, however, there are affordable 3D printers that users can take home and make all kinds of fun and functional gizmos. Keep reading to see what you can expect when shopping for your first 3D printer.
How to Pick Out the Right Cheap 3D Printer
Choosing a 3D printer is never easy, especially when looking to purchase a cheap model. Here, we go through the essential features and considerations to keep in mind.
Purpose of Your 3D Printer
The “whys” in a 3D printer will help put a lot of questions to rest. It is crucial to have a clear why as it varies from the desire to showcase your skill on a passive level to being able to print educative tools or printing prototypes. A hobbyist printer may be much smaller than if you are getting one for commercial use. When the why is out of the way, then you can deal with specific features.
Many 3D printers will need some level of setting up. Some will be simple, while others are complicated and only need to be left to the tinkerers. DIY kits need to be assembled, which will be a lot of work since manufacturers do not need to level or calibrate the unit before shipping. It may take long hours, which can be frustrating if you are not excellent at building stuff.
It is quite obvious, but the larger the built platform, the larger the objects it can create. Cheap 3D printers are not the best for big prints, mostly because of FBM technology. In this case, you are looking to have less complicated designs that will not take too much time to complete.
LCD screens are always a welcome feature for simplified controls. All you need is to tap in the instructions to start printing. You will also encounter other displays, including LED and touchscreen, that will come in handy while operating the printer.
This involves both modeling and slicing software. 3D modeling software creates the designs that you will use in printing. It includes software like 3D slash, TinkerCAD, SketchUp, Blender, etc. They provide the proper platforms and advanced features that give your designs the best specs.
Slicing software helps in the execution of a 3D print. This is by slicing the model that you created into layers that turn into an STL file or G-code. You will get other settings like the temperature, which makes it easy for the printer to print the exact object.
Slicing software includes Simplify3D, Repetier, NetFabb, Craftware, etc.
It may not seem obvious, but cooling fans are essential when trying to maintain the ideal printing temperature. Active cooling will provide improved features on the prints, which result in smoother and finer edges.
3D printers mostly print from computers using a USB cable. But with advancements, these printers can accommodate SD cards and also Ethernet cables. You may also find more advanced models that can connect via Wi-Fi to enable printing from smartphones.
A heated print bed is preferred if you want to print with many different filaments. But if you are comfortable with PLA only, a non-heated bed will be all you need. For heated beds, you will need to watch out for warping due to high temperatures. A heated bed also provides excellent adhesion of the print to the base. It will, therefore, be handy with most plastic that needs a sturdy foundation.
Here you are looking at features that are not common in our budget but are significantly helpful if you find them, from laser engraving capabilities to copy printing, removable beds, automatic leveling, and factory calibration. You will be happy with a few extra attributes on a cheap 3D printer.
3D printers have now become affordable. You have no reason not to explore your passion with one your own. These models have high-performance features that are designed to produce quality prints. You will find DIY kits, 3D printers for beginners, schools, home, and entry-level models that are pleasing from the very start.