When you’ve decided to buy a 3D printer there are some questions you should ask yourself before proceeding. The current array of buyable 3D printers is the largest in the history of the world, so having some parameters to make a decision is a good thing.
The questions are actually not about 3D printers, per se, but rather about you. Why? Because the choice of machine must fit its owner, and that’s you.
- Technical: How technical are you? Are you comfortable building electronics and mechanical assemblies? How do you feel if a machine breaks? Do you feel excited about the opportunity to fix it? Or are you struck with fear and asking yourself, “who do I know that could fix this for me?” The answer will help you determine whether to purchase a 3D printer kit or a pre-assembled unit.
- Time: How much spare time do you have? How much of that spare time are you willing to put toward your 3D printing habit? If you don’t have a lot of time to devote to your machine, then perhaps you should seek machines that are pre-assembled and come with a reputation for reliability. On the other hand, if you don’t have very much time to spare, you might want to reconsider the 3D printing thing entirely.
- Purpose: What do you intend on making? Is it artwork (PLA suitable)? Mechanical parts (ABS suitable)? How large might your desired objects be? If you can answer these questions, you will know the size and capabilities of your target machine.
- Environment: Where will you situate your machine? Is it in an area that can be ventilated outdoors easily? If not, then you should not be 3D printing ABS plastic indoors and might require a PLA-only machine. Also, consider how much noise you can withstand. While most current 3D printers are pretty quiet, there are still a few noisy ones available.
- Wallet: What’s your budget? USD$500? $1000? $2000? The amount of money you can spend on a machine will quickly narrow your choices, so long as they are compatible with the answers to the previous questions.
If you know the answers to those questions before shopping, you’ll have a much better chance selecting a 3D printer that will succeed.