Which Desktop 3D Printer Do I Buy? Part One

Editor: We are totally tickled to present our very first guest post - and we're greatly honoured to have it written by well-known 3D Printing blogger Joris Peels. Most recently Joris was the Shapeways Community Manager, and now he's blogging at Voxelfab. Over the past few years Joris has written extensively on 3D printing helping the community immensely and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with us. This is part one of a two-part post. Enjoy!
 
This is actually not an easy question. As Fabbaloo just reported the benchmarking of 3D printers has begun in earnest. When you compare 3D printers you are actually comparing very different production technologies, however. The right 3D printer for you is as much about who you are as it is about the relative merits of the technology or system. 
 
To illustrate this let's imagine we are a medium sized US architecture firm and want to buy an in-office easy-to-use 3D printer in order to prototype the buildings we plan to construct. Lets limit our shortlist to 3 of the biggest brands and their entry level systems.
 
Zcorp 310
 
I'm intentionally leaving out the new Zprinter 150 & the Zprinter 250 since they're so new they currently don't have a track record. The Zcorp Zprinter 310 is a tried and true legacy system by Zcorp. It prints a fine plaster powder using an inkjet head. The material cost is the lowest in the industry and the system costs $20,000. Unlike most other Zcorp printers this prints monochrome. The parts are not very strong and have to be infused or cured after printing. 
 
The Good 
  • Cheap to buy & run 
  • Build speed is quick
 
The Bad
  • Very weak parts & parts could break during production. 
  • Very thick wall thicknesses needed for a lot of parts (<2mm) .
  • Many things can simply not get made with Zcorp. 
  • Post processing required so overall speed to get a part finished is slow
  • Separate depowdering & infusion stations required
 
Who is it for? 
People very worried about TCO. 
 
Recommendation: If you want to get the cheapest option in the long run you might want to consider this printer. But, it will not wow our architect's clients and together with post processing will not be easy in an office environment.
  
Also consider:  the Zprinter 650
 
On the other end of the Zcorp spectrum we have the Zprinter 650. This comes in at $100,000 if you add in all the post processing and other gadgetry you need. This prints color and the colors are much clearer than other older Zcorp systems. This system allows you to remove the Zcorp powder within the system. This would be a good system for a larger architectural firm that wants to put in the extra effort in terms of financing and manpower that this system would require. The system would benefit from a trained operator as especially the post-processing steps can be finicky. A lot of geometries can not be made with Zcorp so this is a limitation. I would recommend this system for a larger architectural office that makes a lot of models to show to customers. The color is unique and would help make a mall or other building shown in situ much more compelling. 
 
Dream Customer: AEDAS 
 
You can follow Joris Peels on Twitter here or read his 3D printing blog VoxelFab here.    
 
Editor: Stay tuned for part two tomorrow, where Joris will express his opinion of the Dimension uPrint and the Objet Alaris 30. 

General Fabb

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has been writing Fabbaloo posts since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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