There is No “Best 3D Printer”, Unless There Is One For You

By on April 18th, 2018 in Ideas

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 Some 3D prints, but are they right for you?
Some 3D prints, but are they right for you?

I read with amusement an investment piece proclaiming the “best 3D printers”. 

I won’t point to the specific piece, but the pundit essentially said that a well-known 3D printer manufacturer “has the best 3D printing tech”. 

After I stopped giggling, I considered the ridiculousness of such a nonsensical statement. Let me explain. 

3D printing technology is a process by which 3D objects can be fabricated in various materials. There are plenty of different processes, and many variants. 

There are even more separate implementations of them, particularly if the original patents have expired. 

So how could there be a “best” process? There isn’t one, unless there is. 

Ranking a group of items always requires a metric to objectively measure the options. In this case, what is the metric? 

My proposition is that the only useful metric – for you – is your requirements for the 3D print you are considering. For any given 3D print job, there is likely an optimum choice of 3D printing process. While many processes might be able to produce the object, the result must meet the engineering and artistic criteria of the requester. 

Nothing else matters. 

Thus the “best” 3D printing process will vary by request. It has absolutely nothing to do with which vendor’s process is under consideration. An analogous question might be “what is the best vehicle technology”. You might answer “self-driving electric sedans”, but I would say this may not be optimal as I intend on making a journey to an island. Perhaps a boat may be more appropriate? 

Another aspect of “best” is the implementation. Consider the many open source 3D printer designs, all of which have been built by many different companies. They use different physical and electronic components of varying quality, their assembly process may be of good or bad quality, their testing and certification processes may or may not exist. Even with a single “3D printing technology”, you are certain to get different results. 

And it’s more than even these: will the manufacturer be able to ship you the device when ordered? Will they be able to repair it when it breaks? Do they have spare parts in your region? Can you call them for support? Are there resellers who can drop by to work with you onsite? 

Marking something as “the best” requires a very careful assessment of all the factors affecting your particular situation. 

It’s entirely ridiculous to proclaim there is a “best 3D printing technology”. The best technology is the one you need, right now, to get your thing done. 

Meanwhile, the real answer to the pundits proclamation is simply this: their “requirements” were simply “which 3D printing technology might be able to make the most money on the stock market?” 

And that is definitely NOT your requirement. 

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!