Advice on Buying a 3D Printer

A discussion thread at discusses the question, “what should you consider when buying a 3D printer?” The answer, not surprisingly, turns out to be “it depends on what you want to do”. As with any purchase, you must determine your intentions before proceeding. Once you know your direction, you can then consider the basic factors involved in a 3D print decision. Meanwhile, here are some of the factors we’d investigate:

  • Cost of printer – it’s gotta fit in your budget. What is your budget, anyway?
  • Cost of media – your cost is not only the printer, but also the consumables. How much will that be? How many cubic centimeters will you expect to print every month?
  • Availability of Media – Is there more than one supplier for the media? Is the print media a commodity like sugar/paper/etc, or is it a complex chemical stew that you can only buy from a specific provider?
  • Build size – How big do you expect your objects to be? Your build chamber had better fit! Note that a bigger chamber means bigger printer costs (and more print media consumed too, obviously.)
  • Media and materials – What durability of objects do you require? Are they merely display models (requiring lesser durability) or active, working cogs in important machines (requiring more durability)?
  • Environmental aspects – Where are you locating the device? Beside your PC? If so, the printer had better not spew dust, noise and unidentifiable fluids nearby.
  • Software compatibility – Your source for 3D models might be a repository or perhaps you create them yourself. Either way, the model is in a specific format and that format had better work in your 3D printer.
  • Throughput – How fast do you require printed objects? Would you be satisfied with multi-day prints? Or do you require them faster. Better examine the speed of the printer.

Whew! That’s a few of the main characteristics one should consider when buying a printer. Of course, if you can’t afford a printer or don’t really need one around all the time, you can consider using a service instead.


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