7 Things To Ask Yourself Before Buying a 3D Printer

By on September 11th, 2013 in Ideas

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You’re considering buying a 3D printer for your own use? There are things to think about before you take the plunge: 
  • Time. 3D printing anything takes much time. Not only the printing itself typically takes hours, but 3D model preparation and finishing also can take a lot of time. If you don’t have at the very least several free hours per week, we suggest you don’t buy a 3D printer. If you buy a kit, prepare to spend hours building and calibrating it. 
  • 3D Modeling Skills. Aside from finding an existing 3D model that you’d like to print, you’re certainly going to want to create your own 3D creations from scratch. This requires 3D modeling software, which can be very expensive and certainly requires a lot of time to become proficient. You’ll need a lot of time for this too (see above). 
  • Expense. 3D printers are not cheap. Typically the least expensive you can reasonably go these days is for a USD$500 kit. Assembled units are usually over USD$1000 and often over USD$2000 or even over USD$3000. Oh yeah, you’ll need to buy plastic filament (or resin) for your printer, too. And maybe software as well. Ouch!
  • Environment. Don’t even think about installing a 3D printer in your home unless you have adequate powered ventilation. There have been questions recently regarding the toxicity of fumes and nano-particulate matter produced by open-air 3D printers.
  • Safety. To permit viewing of actual 3D printing operations, many personal 3D printers use an “open-air” concept where the moving extruder can be easily observed. This also introduces some safety concerns, particularly if small children or pets are nearby. Extruders can be very hot, as well as the plastic they extrude. Some print beds are heated and can cause burns. If there is anything in your home that might trundle into those possibilities, think twice about buying a personal 3D printer. 
  • Patience. Personal 3D printers just aren’t that reliable yet. They are not like 2D paper printers that just work. 3D printers fail, maybe as much as 50% of the time in some scenarios. Be prepared to get frustrated as you re-print items frequently. 
  • Need. Do you really need your own 3D printer? Perhaps all you need is a 3D print service that can accept your 3D model and mail it to you later. Are you merely looking for the thrill of seeing a print appear? Perhaps you can get prints done in other ways.
If you can get past the above, then by all means proceed with a 3D printer purchase. They can be challenging, but once overcome, they can be a lot of fun and may lead you to entirely new making ideas.  


By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo 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!