As 3D printers continue to become more prevalent and widely adopted by individual consumers, online availability of the printers, filament and associated supplies has skyrocketed. If this is your first purchase, congratulations on joining the maker movement and taking a step into the future of on demand manufacturing! Here are a few things that you should know when purchasing your first 3D printer.
Different Types of 3D Printers for Sale
First and foremost, there are many different types of 3D printers for sale on the market today. Some are better suited for industrial uses, and others are best for most home users. Factors you might consider in determining if a printer is best suited for industrial or person use include: The size and cost of the machine, the cost of the expendable materials (filament, resin, or specially formulated powders), and the required maintenance of the machine.
One of the most popular types of readily available 3D printers for sale to home users is the fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer. This type of printer creates models by feeding a solid line of filament (often a plastic based material, like PLA or ABS) into a “hot end” extruder. As the material enters the extruder, it melts into a semi-liquid state – in a manner very similar to a glue stick entering a glue gun, on a smaller scale. A series of motors control the positioning of the extruder, creating a detailed model by repeatedly depositing layer upon layer of material. Over the course of hundreds or even thousands of layers (depending on the quality of the print and size of the object), the actual object takes shape.
This method of 3D printing is popular with individual Makers, primarily due to the wide variety of consumer priced machines available. The relatively straightforward technology allows individuals to tweak and modify their machines for optimum results. As of this article’s writing, FDM 3D printers are easily the most popular style used in the consumer market.
That in mind, there are (in addition to other emerging technologies) two other popular types of 3D printers for sale. Specifically, Stereolithography (SLA) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). These two types of printers are generally more expensive as compared to FDM printers, but offer unique value. SLA printers use a laser to cure layers of liquid resin – a more expensive design, but with the payoff of a very fine resolution that allows exceptionally small details to print successfully. SLS printers require more space and significant maintenance of materials – their powder-based method of fabrication makes home use impractical at this time, but in the right application allows for development of parts in materials currently unmatched by the other two technologies. As of this article’s publication, a few SLA printers have made their way into the consumer market – with a number of promising competitors developing similar machines. Over time, we expect SLA printers to play an increasing role in the world of home-based makers.
Expendable 3D Printing Supplies
Keeping your printer in working order doesn’t need to break the bank, but it does require that a few expendable materials be kept on hand.
Examples of supplies that are regularly consumed include 3D filament (the actual material used to fabricate your objects, Kapton tape (our preferred method ensuring good adhesion between your object and the print bed) and printing stickers (an alternative option for improving object to print bed adhesion).
If you have questions about the quality of aftermarket products, or just need a hand selecting the best supplied for your intended use, be sure to give us a call (toll free at 844-3D-Supply). We are happy to lend our expertise to help you make a purchasing decision, and if appropriate, help put together a custom order for you.
3D Printer Safety
Like any mechanical device, all of the 3D printers for sale in our store require a certain amount of attention and consideration to safety. Please use common sense, and follow any specific safety warnings that are included with your machine. Be aware that various parts of all FDM 3D Printers necessarily heat up to significant temperatures (in some cases exceeding 220 degrees Celsius at the point of extrusion), so it’s important that appropriate care be taken in the placement and monitoring of your printer while it’s running.