Upgrading Your Desktop 3D Printer: Is It Time for an Update?

By on August 8th, 2023 in Ideas, news

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Is it time to upgrade your desktop 3D printer? [Source: Fabbaloo /LAI]

Should you upgrade your desktop 3D printer?

Desktop 3D printers have been available for many years now, and our surveys indicate that most Fabbaloo readers own their own device. But, like any technological device, they do age and eventually become obsolete.

That might be the time for an upgrade. Or is it?

What’s driving the current trend of upgrading your desktop 3D printer, and is it time for you to upgrade.

Factors Driving the Need to Upgrade Your 3D Printer

More than most years, a number of factors have contributed to a heightened need for upgrading your desktop 3D printer.

The most important of these factors is by far the recent increase in print speeds. Through a combination of advanced firmware, calibration and CoreXY motion systems, several 3D printer manufacturers have produced models that print two, three or even five times faster than the typical 3D printer speeds we’ve seen for many years.

Common 3D printer print speeds have been in the 40-60mm/s range, with advanced models able to hit 100mm/s. Now there are multiple devices hitting the market with speeds of 500mm/s or even 600mm/s. You don’t actually achieve those high speeds during the entire print job, but the print durations are vastly shorter.

This all means that current speed 3D printers will soon, if they haven’t already, be seen as “old and slow”.

That’s a reason to consider upgrading.

Another reason is advances in calibration and management. Several machines now incorporate AI-based tools that can assist with calibration and print reliability. Some are, for example, able to stop a print job if a failure is detected.

These are quite advanced over older machines, which, I suppose in a few years will be viewed as not only “old and slow”, but also “dumb”.

Another factor is pricing. Years ago desktop 3D printers were priced in the US$2,000 range, but prices have dropped considerably. Outstanding devices are easily available at the US$1000 mark, but competition is driving prices down far lower. It’s now possible to get high speed machines at very decent prices.

Given all the new features and capabilities of newer machines, it’s troubling to look at one’s older devices and realize they are quickly falling short of what’s now possible. Upgrading will come to your mind, sooner or later.

Questions to Ask Before Upgrading Your 3D Printer

But should you upgrade? There are a number of questions you should consider before upgrading.

3D Printer Adequacy

Is your current device adequate for your needs? It’s possible that many people continue to operate an older device because they simply don’t need any more features. If the job requirement is consistent, perhaps with a long term client, then is there actually a need to make any changes? Don’t break things that work!

3D Printer Finances

Can you afford a new machine? In spite of lower prices, many people may not have funds available to acquire new 3D printing gear. What is your budget?

But there’s another consideration here: if you’re using your 3D printer for profit, then a high speed machine might change the financial equation. If the machine can produce objects, say, three times faster, it’s essentially equivalent to having three machines instead of one. For some operators that keep their machine busy, a faster machine could produce a lot more profit much faster and negate any concerns about acquisition cost.

3D Printer Age

How old is your device? Is it still supported by the manufacturer? Can you get parts or have questions answered?

Even if the device is still working well, there is a risk that it may break in the near future, particularly if it is older. When (not if) that happens, you may suddenly find yourself without any recourse, if the answers to the questions above were not positive.

In other words, if your desktop 3D printer is old, it may just be time to get it replaced with a new one to avoid downtime.

On the other hand, if you don’t use your device often you may be able to withstand an outage and you can wait until that inevitably happens.

3D Printer Expansion

Have your needs for 3D printing changed? Do you now need to, for example, print larger objects? Do you need to access different materials that are not easily printed on your current machine?

These are questions that might drive you to consider an upgrade to a device that can better handle your new upgraded needs.

3D Printer Availability

If you’re in a rush to upgrade, you might consider waiting just a bit longer, if at all possible. The advent of new AI-powered high speed desktop 3D printers is just starting, and many companies have just issued their first models of this type.

It’s likely they have many refinements yet to perform that could show up in subsequent models. The bottom line here is that the market is in a bit of a flux yet, and it might be reasonable to wait a few more months to see what comes out on the market and then make a choice.

Shiny Object Syndrome

Do those new advanced features get you excited? For many, that’s entirely true. These are the folks that get new tech just for the sake of having it. If you’re one of them, then by all means, go get a new device as soon as you can.

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!

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