3D printers are powerful machines that allow you to exhaust your creativity and imagination by printing 3D objects. These come at different models, sizes and prices. You can always find one that fits your need whether you are a beginner, hobbyist or professional.
The 3D printer is the evolution of printers that uses additive manufacturing technologies. It offers you three-dimensional objects. This device is the new trend today. It is interesting and very useful because it produces functional objects.
For instance, if you want an organizer, with a 3D printer you can create one for yourself. Moreover, these machines are versatile; it can manufacture simple objects to complicated ones including a working gun, car or a residential building.
With a 3D printer, almost anything you have in mind is possible. The only limitation is your imagination. If you want to know more about 3D printing machine, you are just on the right page.
Read more to get yourself familiar with additive manufacturing. This addicting hobby will surely hook you up. At the end of this article, I will also give you a list of the top 3D printers on the market today. Whether you’re looking for an SLA, FFF or FDM printers, we have it all in our list.
- 1 3D Printer Reviews: What’s the Best 3D Printer?
- 1.1 Beginners’ 3D Printers
- 1.2 Hobbyists 3D Printers
- 1.3 Professional 3D Printers
- 1.4 Buying 3D Printers
- 1.5 Where Can I Buy A 3D Printer
- 1.6 What is a 3D Printer?
- 1.7 Types of 3D Printers
- 1.8 Significance of a 3D Printer
- 1.9 3D Printer Parts
- 1.10 How Does a 3D Printer Work?
- 1.11 Conclusion
|M3D Micro+||$$$$$||3.5/5||2 lbs||110 x 107 x 73.5||55 mm/s||50 microns||ABS - Up to 265 ºC; PLA - Up to 210 ºC||1.75 mm||FFF||1 Year||Beginner|
|Zortrax M200||$$$||3.9/5||16 Kg||200 x 200 x 185 100 mm/s||100 mm/s||90 microns||20 ºC to 35 ºC||1.75 mm||LPD||2 Years||Beginner|
|LulzBot Mini||$$$$||4.5/5||24.25 Lbs||152 x 152 x 158||275 mm/s||50 micron||Up to 260 ºC||1.75 mm||FDM||90 Days||Beginner|
|XYZprinting da Vinci Nano||$$||3/5||10 lbs||120 x 120 x 120||70 mm/s||100 microns||15 ºC to 32 ºC||1.75 mm||FFF||2 Years Limited||Beginner|
|XYZprinting da Vinci Mini||$$||3.3/5||6.85 Kg||150 x 150 x 150||120 mm/s||100 microns||15 ºC to 32 ºC||1.75 mm||FFF||2 Years Limited||Beginner|
|Ultimaker 2||$$||3.6/5||11 Kg||230 x 225 x 205||300 mm/s||20 microns||15 ºC to 32 ºC||2.85 mm||FDM||1 Year||Hobbyist|
|FlashForge Creator Pro||$$$$||4.6/5||24.25 Lbs||225 x 145 x 150||100 mm/s||100 microns||Up to 260 ºC||1.75 mm||FDM||90 Days||Hobbyist|
|LulzBot Mini 2||$||4.5/5||9 Kg||160 x 160 x 180||300mm/s||50 microns||Up to 120°||2.85mm||FFF||1 Year||Hobbyist|
|Makerbot Replicator||$$$||3.8/5||16 Kg||252 x 199 x 150||150 mm/s||100 microns||15 ºC to 26 ºC||1.75mm||FDM||6 Months||Hobbyist|
|Sintratec Sintra||$$$$$||4/5||28 Kg||130 x 130 x 130||750 mm/s||50 microns||Up to 180 ºC||N/A||SLS||1 Year||Hobbyist|
|Ultimaker S5||$$$$$||4.5/5||20.6 Kg||330 x 240 x 300||300 mm/s||0.25 mm nozzle:60 microns|
0.4 mm nozzle:20 micron
0.8 mm nozzle:20 micron"
|180 - 280 °C||2.85 mm||FFF||1 Year||Professional
|Formlabs Form 2||$$$$$||4/5||13 Kg||145 x 145 x 175||1-3 cm/hour||25 microns||Auto-heats to 35 ºC||SLA||N/A||Professional
|Zortrax M300||$$$||3.9/5||30 Kg||300 x 300 x 300||100mm/s||90 microns||Up to 290˚ C||1.75 mm||LPD||2 Years||Professional|
|Makergear M2||$$||3.8/5||12.7 Kg||200 x 250 x 200||450 mm/s||50 microns||Up to 300˚ C||1.75 mm||FFF||6 Months Limited||Professional|
|Raised3D N2 Plus||$$$$||4.3/5||65 Kg||305 x 305 x 610||300 mm/s||10 microns||Up to 300˚ C||1.75 mm||FFF||1 Year||Professional|
3D Printer Buying Review Guide
If you want to own one, you should know that choosing high quality 3d printer can be a daunting task especially that there are tons of manufacturers claiming to deliver the best 3d printers on the market.
There are tons of DIY and kits that you can find online and it can be confusing what to get, so you should need this guidline.
If you want to save more, there are also used 3D printer for sale. If you are really keen on buying one, I suggest that you consider this buying guideline first to find the best quality 3d printer.
Price – 3D printer cost differs. There are affordable and expensive machines but its price is determined by its features and specifications. When it comes to price, you better consider your budget and the type of printer you need. You might also need to consider the timing when a brand offers a discount.
Materials – Determining your intended application and the material characteristic is a significant factor in selecting a 3D printer. For instance, for concept modeling applications, the physical properties of the object is not very significant. However, materials for rapid manufacturing applications need to be castable or should be high-temperature resistant. Thus, consider your application whether it is for concept models, verification models, pre-production applications or digital model or manufacturing.
The two most common materials are Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) but there are also ceramic, wooden, bronze and more. There are 3D printers that combine multiple technologies and can accommodate a number of materials, which adds to its flexibility.
Print Speed – This refers to the time required for printing a finite distance in the z-direction. Remember, this uses additive manufacturing process that builts a component layer by layer. 3D printers with higher vertical build speeds are preferable for concept modeling because it allows rapid production of different parts in the shortest time possible.
Second, print speed could also be the time required to print a specific part or volume of an object. This method is often applied to technologies that quickly print a single simple-geometry part but the process slows down when additional parts are added or when the complexity or size of the geometries being printed increases.
Overall, having a high print speed is always an advantage especially for concept modeling because it will allow you to quickly make an alternative of your digital 3D model for comparison and improve it in a short span of time.
Part Cost – This performance attribute is determined by how much total material a 3D printer consumes to print a given set of parts. You can find the lowest part cost with powder-based 3D printing technologies like gypsum powder, where the unused powder is recycled and re-used.
Other plastic part technologies use consumable materials for printing the part and the support with less waste. However, other plastic part technologies separate the less expensive support that needs to be removed after 3D printing by melting, dissolving or blasting with pressurized water.
These technologies are expensive because they use a greater amount of material to print the support and may require special handling and disposal precautions. The water blasting method, for instance, requires a water source and drain that can add thousands to your preparation cost.
Be aware that some popular 3D printers blend expensive build material into support material during the 3D printing process to create support but this will increase your total cost of materials consumed. In addition, this produces more in-process material waste. So when choosing a 3D printer, learn how it operates before purchasing it or you might spend more when using it.
Detail Resolution – This 3D printer attribute is usually stated in dots per inch (DPI), Z-layer thickness, pixel size, beam spot size and bead diameter. You can double check the resolution by visual inspection. Use a digital microscope and examine the edge, corner definition and texture. If you need a 3D printer for verification testing, you need one with a great detail resolution because the printed parts need to follow the design accurately.
Accuracy – This attribute refers to the quality of the printed parts. The entire additive manufacturing process allows you to produce each part additively and you may have to deal with material shrinkage, which needs to be compensated to produce accurate results. Power-based 3D printers have the least shrink distortion and are generally accurate. Meanwhile, plastic 3D printing technologies that use heat, UV light or both are subject to more variables that can reduce its accuracy. Accuracy is critical for printing-specific measurement test parts and in producing objects with solid print quality.
Now that you know the important details that you need to learn before young your machine, it’s time to the different 3D printer reviews to see what machine suits you best.
3D Printer Reviews: What’s the Best 3D Printer?
Beginners’ 3D Printers
The 3D printers in this category are mostly plug-and-play. These machines don’t need any assembly and rarely fails which make it a great printer for beginners.
#1 M3D Micro+ 3D Printer Review | Best Entry Level 3D Printer
For those looking for a great-performing and cheap 3D printer, this one is for you. M3D Micro 3D Printer is affordable and it’s competitive. Some even dubbed this as the “best 3D printer for beginners” that’s why this tops our list for entry-level 3D printers.
I understand that those who are new to this craft prefer a working and cheap 3D printer, so this is the best choice. This 3 d printer looks like a toy but, it’s definitely functional. It has a super compact and cube-shaped design and is very easy to operate.
However, due to its cheap price, it also comes with a number of drawbacks. This 3D printer needs to be physically connected to a computer the whole time to be functional, which I assumed would not be a big deal if you simply want a 3D printer to get started. In addition, it can only print small objects and has a slow printing speed but with a good print quality.
If your budget is tight and you desperately need a 3D printing machine to get started this is a great starter kit.
#2 Zortrax M200 Printer Review
This 3D printer is popular due to its reliability, efficiency, and precision. It features an integrated system and comes with a wide selection of professional materials with a variety of qualities and colors.
With its dimensional accuracy and precise repeatability, Zortrax M200 will meet every inch of your expectation. Moreover, it is offered at a more reasonable price, which makes it one of the most competitive 3D printers on the market.
Zortrax is very simple and easy to use. Print failures are incredibly rare which makes this a great entry level 3D printer. Those who are new to 3D printing will surely love these qualities.
If you can’t decide what 3d printer to buy and you don’t want to encounter any problems in the future while 3D printing – Zortrax is the best 3d printer. It is reliable, effective and delivers good print quality outputs!
#3 LulzBot Mini Printer Review
LulzBot Mini is a high-quality and high-performance desktop 3D printer that used the so called fused deposition modeling which is a type of rapid prototyping.
This is pre-assembled and fully calibrated. In addition, it has a self-cleaning nozzle and a self-leveling tray so it’s ready to print out of the box.
This quality 3D printer is very easy to operate and is great for rapid prototyping. You can use it after unboxing and within minutes you can have your first 3D print.
Moreover, it comes with straightforward software and easy to read and comprehensive documentation which is very helpful for newbies who are still treading water in this activity.
Another great thing about this brand is its army of enthusiasts. For 3D printing beginners who may encounter any printing problems, you can bank on its community for support because they are always willing to help. This is one of the best FDM printers on the market.
#4 XYZprinting da Vinci Nano 3D Printer Review
Da Vinci Nano is designed to make 3D printing accessible to everyone, so beginners should rejoice because this is for you. It is small, affordable and most importantly, it works!
The great thing about this unit is that it uses quality and pre-tested materials. In addition, it is fully assembled with auto-leveling software and auto-feeding filament system. So, you don’t have to spend so much for calibration and maintenance.
In fact, you can use this straight out of the box. Just load your digital 3D model and press print.
For parents who want a 3D printer for their kids, this is highly recommended. Nano has non-heated print bed and enclosed print area to keep children from touching the hot extruder or any moving part. However, parents should still supervise their children because if you open the front door, the printer keeps working.
For beginners who want to experiment with their friends, this machine is small and portable. You can take it with your and start 3D printing wherever you are.
#5 XYZprinting da Vinci Mini | Best Home 3D Printer Review
da Vinci Mini is solid and dependable. It is easy to set up because it is equipped with auto-calibration. You can also set it to be fast or slow. So, although it’s calibrated, you still have the freedom to make some adjustment.
This is built for home use and works straight out of the box. In terms of performance, this is quite impressive for its price. It delivers quality prints – smooth and clean.
da Vinci Mini is a perfect starter kit for beginners who are on the go because this is light and small and can easily be moved around. This is also a good 3D printing machine for kids who love to start 3D printing. However, parents should supervise their children.
da Vinci Mini has an elegant design and outstanding performance. If there’s something I don’t like about XYZprinting 3D printers, perhaps, it’s the fact that their machines only work with XYZprinting filament. But filaments are cheap, so it shouldn’t be a huge concern.
Overall, considering the design, speed, resolution, and price, da Vinci Mini presents a good competition in the market, especially for entry-level 3D printers. So, for beginners, this is highly recommended.
Hobbyists 3D Printers
The 3D printers in this category are more demanding than 3D printers for beginners but not as advanced as those designed for professionals. Check out the best 3D printers for hobbyists in this section.
#1 Ultimaker 2 3D Printer Review
Ultimaker 2 is engineered to perform which makes it a great option for 3D printer hobbyists. So, if you are planning to take your 3D printing experience to a higher level and you are looking for FDM printers, you should check this out.
This 3D printer is not fully assembled, but it’s almost completely assembled. Some directions are not clear and you may need to do quick Google searches to make this work. That’s why we don’t recommend this for beginners, only to hobbyists whom we consider to have enough 3D printing experience.
It has different nozzles allowing you to conveniently switch to achieve the speed and resolution you desire. Changing the filament may need a little practice since you have to go back and forth between the display on the front and the filament feeder.
This rapid prototyping 3D printing machine can be used for a variety of applications from prototyping to customizing tools. Thanks to its technology you can enjoy the rapid prototyping advantages including lower cost and more efficiency by enabling you to realize concepts more quickly.
This comes with premium features and offers high-quality results. You can also save your digital 3D model to an SD card for stand-alone printing.
Ultimaker 2 is perfect for those who want to get a dual extruder 3D printer with a bigger build area and better performance. However, you’ve got to prepare a huge sum of money as this is more expensive compared to other brands.
#2 FlashForge Creator Pro 3D Printer Review
FlashForge Creator Pro is one of the impressive 3D printers for intermediate users. This is mostly pre-assembled, so you’ve got to do a few things to make this work. Also, we believe that you need to have enough understanding about 3D printing to maximize its results.
For instance, a number had issues with its software. FlashForge Creator Pro only supports limited software. Setting this up and finding the perfect software can be time-consuming and challenging. But once you’ve figured this out, you will love this rapid prototyping 3D printer.
This 3D printer has striking similarities with the MakerBot Replicator 2X. This model is a better version of the entry-level Flashforge Creator, only that it comes with a metal frame and enclosed chassis.
It also comes with an improved platform leveling system, metal build plate and a guide rod to help with stabilization and durability. Furthermore, it is more flexible than most 3D printers because it has dual extruders, but you’ve got to make your way around this as sometimes this may fail. FlashForge Creator Pro can accommodate different printing materials including ABS, PLA, and PVA plastic filaments.
Overall, this 3D printer is stable. It is easy to use and delivers quality output. The manufacturer also offers full warranty and lifetime support. Considering its price and quality, this is a steal! So, for those looking for the best 3D printers, this is highly recommended.
#3 LulzBot Mini 2 Printer Review
LulzBot delivers hardware improvement in Mini 2. This 3D printer includes Einsy RAMBo electronics with Trinamic 2130 stepper motor drivers for a more silent printing operation.
Mini 2 comes with a redesigned tool head. However, changing a printing material can be a bit challenging as there’s a tendency that the plastic filament would get stuck below the extruder hobb.
It took some time for us to eventually maneuver the tip of the filament to get out without too much effort. Thankfully, after toying around we eventually solve the clogging issue. This is the reason we recommend this for hobbyists and not for beginners.
Aside from the aforementioned, among the new things we love about this is its redesigned PEI print bed that worked like a charm. We tried printing different materials and models and didn’t encounter any issues with adhesion or warping.
Overall, this 3D printer is compact, reliable, and has additional features than its predecessor Lulzbot Mini which we recommend for beginners. It also allows you to print from SD card.
#4 MakerBot Replicator 3D Printer Review
MakerBot Replicator offers you the easiest and most versatile process of getting your models 3D printed. It embodies the new standards of convenience, quality, and reliability with its smart extruder, motion controllers and gantry design.
Aside from this, it is equipped with Wi-Fi, USB and Ethernet connectivity for seamless production workflow. It also comes with an app, is cloud-enabled, has onboard camera and diagnostics, and has assisted build plate leveling.
MakerBot Replicator is highly recommended for those hobbyists especially those who want to improve their 3D printing experience because this machine delivers unmatched print quality. In addition, 3D printer enthusiasts will surely appreciate its extra features.
For instance, this includes an onboard camera inside the printer that enables you to monitor the progress of your project remotely. So, if you want a convenient, easy to use and versatile 3D printing machine, MarkerBot Replicator is one of the best 3d printers to buy.
#5 Sintratec Kit Printer Review
Sintratec Kit is one of the most innovative new 3D printers on the market. This machine is the first SLS 3D printer kit form and is highly recommended for those who are moving up from the beginners level.
This 3D printing machine has been nominated in the “Personal 3D Printer of the Year” category at the 2018 3D Printing Industry Awards. So, I can guarantee you that you will be taking your 3D printing experience into a new game with this machine.
We recommend this for hobbyists because this product is delivered as a kit. The user needs to have enough knowledge about 3D printing machines to get this ready and running.
This rapid prototyping 3D printer prints in almost infinite freeform. Its movable parts and high edge definition are ideal for the production of functional prototypes and models.
This comes with its own Sintratec software and intuitive interface that allows you to easily import your 3D object and 3D print your projects.
Overall, Sintratec Sintra is a great upgrade from your 3D entry level, especially if you want to improve the quality of your output. In fact, you can use this in doing business due to the high-resolution output that it can deliver. But, you may need to make adjustments as this uses selective laser sintering (SLS), a type of 3D rapid prototyping, and not the usual fused filament fabrication (FFF) technology.
We just didn’t consider this in the professional 3D printing category because its build volume is not that big. But this is highly recommended for those who wanted to improve their 3D printing experience!
Professional 3D Printers
These 3D printing machines are designed for serious 3D printing enthusiasts, professionals, skilled designers, engineers, and businessmen.
#1 Ultimaker S5 3D Printer Review
Ultimaker S5 is a powerful, reliable, versatile 3D printer. With its large build volume, industrial-grade parts and materials, accurate and high-resolution prints this is a complete professional 3D printing solution.
S5 is the most advanced 3D printing machine from the company. This is built with the capabilities of Ultimaker 3 but with lots of improvements.
It has a simple and sturdy built with a stylish enclosure that features tinted glass doors for optimal temperature and airflow. It is also equipped with an intuitive touchscreen and helpful interface that displays the detailed status of your printing.
For ease of use, this 3D printer comes with a responsive and full-color touchscreen that gives you full control at your fingertips. Loading, unloading and changing material is effortless with its ergonomic locking lever built into each feeder.
It has a smart system, too. This 3D printing machine also comes with a built-in filament flow sensor that intelligently detects when material stops moving or nearing an end. When the material runs out, Ultimaker S5 will automatically pause and prompt you to take action.
With Ultimaker S5, you can print large scale and technical parts in high quality with dual extruders. You also don’t need to worry about its adjusting its setting when printing complex projects because this comes with pre-configured settings.
#2 Formlabs Form 2 Printer Review
This 3D printer offers you everything to get started with 3D printing. In fact, it offers more. Formlabs Form 2 has a powerful optical engine and automated resin system for bigger and better prints with less mess and longer tank life.
Forrmlabs Form 2 is a professional 3D printer that uses the stereolithography SLA technology. It is even considered by many as the champion of desktop SLA 3D printers. This is great for skilled 3D printers or those who are into 3D printing service businesses because its resin-based process allows for higher resolution and more precise prints than FDM.
Aside from delivering high-quality prints, this 3D printing machine is very intuitive. It is engineered with precision and is designed with your comfort in mind.
It comes with a new touchscreen interface and wireless connectivity, so you can easily send prints over Wi-Fi, reprint your previous jobs and manage print queue wherever you are because you can access Form 2 anytime and anywhere.
Overall, this SLA 3D printer is one of the best SLA 3D printers in the world. It produces laser-sharp prints with a stunning surface finish, not to mention the comfort and convenience it offers. Peopoly Moai is another SLA 3D printer that you can try on.
#3 Zortrax M300 Printer Review
Zortrax M300 is a desktop 3D printer with a large print volume. This produces big prints with remarkably high quality making it a great option for professionals.
This 3D printing machine is an upgrade of the renowned M200 model. Plus, it is equipped with the production capabilities of large industrial-class machines. So this is a perfect choice for those who are into 3D printing services.
M300 is used by professionals. This is designed to be an indispensable prototyping and manufacturing tool for high-profile designers including the NASA Johnson Space Center engineers.
I love the quality and build of this 3D printer. From the look and feel, it is reliable. You will be an instant fan when you see its output because it produces incredibly clean and detailed prints. Unfortunately, you need to have a good grasp of the 3D printer because it is not fully assembled.
M300 requires a bit of assembly and some heavy lifting, so this is for serious 3D printing enthusiasts only. It’s not that easy to set up, but not that difficult either as long as you’re capable of reading and following basic instructions.
Overall, M300 is highly recommended for professionals. It is expensive, but worth it especially if you are making money out of it.
#4 Makergear M2 Printer Review
Makergear M2 is manufactured in the US, this is the third generation of the company’s 3D printer. This is designed with high-quality components and combines it with industrial-level precision which is the reason this makes it into our professional 3D printer category.
This is built with a solid metal chassis that gives it a sturdy structure. This is also equipped with a heated platform that uses various plastic filaments including ABS PLA to build objects.
M2 is durable and completely modular. Maintenance is a breeze which means less time troubleshooting and more time innovating.
Although this is easy to use, this is more appropriate for experienced users because this allows you to adjust and tweak the machine to your like. It has interchangeable nozzles and swappable dual-extruder. It takes a certain learning curve to maximize the full potential of the machine.
This has open chassis design and is not the quietest 3D printer you will ever find in the market. But this doesn’t turn us off considering the precision and reliability it offers. We highly recommend Makergear M2 for those looking for 3D printers with dual extruders for business.
#5 Raised3D N2 Plus Printer Review
Raise3D N2 Plus is the latest printer from the brand. It has massive build volume, dual extruder, 7-inch full-color touchscreen and up to 10 microns for good print quality and accuracy. Due to these properties, we consider N2 Plus as among the best professional 3D printers today.
Thanks to its 7-inch full-color touchscreen print monitoring and fine-tuning have been made easier. This is also integrated with N2’s resuming feature that allows you to immediately resume a print when it’s interrupted due to power outage or accidental shut-off. It can also be accessed via WiFi over LAN setup. Thus, you can control the 3D printer anywhere in your home or office.
It makes use of a patent-pending all-metal hotend, allowing it to print most 3D printing filaments including ABS PLA, PC, PETG, and HIPS to name a few.
This isn’t the easiest 3D printer to setup, but they have an impressive support team that you will surely appreciate. If you send them an email, you will get a response within an hour and if you watch your email you can have a live chat with them through your email. They are very responsive!
Overall, Raise3D N2 Plus is easy to use and reliable. In addition, this dual extruder 3D printer delivers impressive prints. It’s a good value for money that’s why it makes it into our best 3D printers list. So, this is highly recommended!
Buying 3D Printers
All of the brands mentioned above are great 3D printers, but take in mind that it has different features, specifications, sizes, and prices. The best 3d printing machine for you is the one that fits your budget, requirements and need. Don’t worry as there is always one for you.
The 3D printer is a great investment especially for engineers and designers because it enables you to produce any 3d design you have in mind be it a small organizer, clothes for your fashion collection, a household tool, a vehicle or a building.
Where Can I Buy A 3D Printer
For those who are asking themselves this question “where can I find a 3d printer” or this “where can I get a 3d printer” the best place to buy 3D printer is by visiting the website of the brands, we mentioned above because they have a 3D printer for sale. They have customer service that is expert on their product, so you can guarantee their after-sales support.
You can also search for “3d printers for sale near me” to find 3D printers sellers near you. The good thing about buying the machine near you is that you can test it before your purchase.
You can also visit e-commerce corporations like eBay and Amazon as some retailers offer 3D printer kits on the site. The good thing about buying from these sites is that you can read a lot of reviews about the product prior to buying one, so you will be guided accordingly as to what particular model to purchase.
What is a 3D Printer?
The old printers only print an object in two dimensions. You can see and touch it but you can’t feel its edges and curves. Two-dimensional objects are devoid of texture, weight and volume.A 3D printer is the new evolution of additive manufacturing. It’s the device used for the 3D printing process.
On the other hand, 3D printing machines produce things that you can touch and feel. It produces objects with texture, volume, and weight. More importantly, they are usable.
3D printing, on the other hand, is an additive manufacturing process that helps you realize a three-dimensional object from a two-dimensional digital design. It builds the three-dimensional physical object by dividing the digital model into layers.
The 3D printing machine prints each layer and it piles up. As a new layer is added to the object it gains weight and volume. For this reason, the term additive manufacturing is also used to refer to 3D printing. The two are interchangebly used because 3D printing is also used as a synonym for additive manufacturing.
So, you can refer to this process as 3D printing or additive manufacturing. For this article, we will use the two terms interchangeably, so don’t be confused if you read the term additive manufacturing, because that also refers to 3D printing.
If you can’t afford a 3D printing machine, you can start 3D printing with 3d drawing pens.
Types of 3D Printers
There are two main types of 3D printers for additive manufacturing: the small and large.
Small 3D Printer – This type of printer is usually used to print small objects like mini figurines, cartoon characters, tools, utensils, shoes, gadget accessories, keychains, and more. These devices only have a small printing area and can even be placed on your desktop. Learn more about portable 3D printer here.
Large 3D Printer – This machine can print large objects like vehicle parts, music instruments, furniture, and even a house. Learn more about big 3D printing machines here.
Significance of a 3D Printer
If you are a businessman who wants to present a new project to your potential client, what’s the best thing to do than bring a prototype? Of course, you can present papers but bringing a model that your client can touch and feel is different. It is better, more convincing and effective.
Initially, if you want to build a model or prototype you have to carve it or sculpt it. The process is tedious and may take days. This is the reason why the overall process tends to be expensive. You have to pay for the raw material and labor, which could take days, weeks or months.
On the other hand, a 3D printer has the power to speed up the process and help you cut cost. With a 3D printer, you don’t need to wait for weeks to finish your prototype, deal with your workers’ inefficiency and pay for labor.
Getting a 3D printer saves you time and money. In addition, it keeps you from worries and gives you peace of mind.
3D Printer Parts
Aside from understanding the additive manufacturing processes, you have to be familiar with the printing machine’s main components to better understand how it operates.
By familiarizing a 3D printing machine, you will also be able to:
• Achieve better quality, strength and speed
• Easily maintain it
• Choose the right one that suits your needs
• Upgrade and modify a particular part for a specific applications
Here are the different parts of a 3D printer that you need to know.
Z Resolution – Layer Thickness
This refers to the minimum thickness of a layer printed down in a single pass. A high resolution 3d printer has a small number of layer thickness. The lesser the numeral, the smoother and more detailed the print is, but the slower the process.
This is the maximum size of an object that you can create with the 3D printer. It is measured in XYZ dimension. If your 3D printing jobs are complicated and huge, you can split it into smaller parts and combine afterward.
The most used plastic filament diameters are 1.75mm and 3mm. But this may depend on each individual’s preference.
This is one of the most important parts of the 3D printer. It is where the plastic is melted and extruded in little tiny layers.
This is available in Peek Based Hot Ends with a maximum temperature of 230°C and All Metal Hot Ends with a maximum temperature of 320°C.
This is the part that feeds the filament to the hot end. There are two types of extruder: Direct and Bowden.
Direct is when the filament is fed directly to the Hot End from the motor spindle. It is mounted on top of the hot end that allows for finer control over the extrusion. It is also easier to work with.
Bowden is when the filament is fed from a certain distance to the Hot End (the extruder is physically separated from the hot end). Due to the distance, the filament has to travel and it’s oozing more. Thus, this requires better extrusion and retraction calibration.
This is a must-have in every additive manufacturing machine because the process requires active cooling. It can dramatically improve overhanging features, crisp the sharp edges and result in good bridging capabilities.
Cooling fans are designed differently. There are 3D printers that use 25mm, others 40mm. Some are designed to blow at the mid hot end area while others focused at the tip of the nozzle. There are also fans with different shaped ducts.
This is required for all high-temperature extrusion filaments like ABS, HIPS, Polycarbonate and Nylon. This is designed to keep the plastic warm during the printing process and prevent it from warping.
In addition, this ensures better adhesion between the layers that results in a better structural integrity of the printed parts. The temperature in this area usually ranges between 40°C to 110°C.
This is the surface of the 3D printer where a print head lays down the material after 3D printing. This needs to be level and flat.
This allows you to control the printer without the need for a computer or 3D printing software like Cura. It just needs an SD card to read the G-code instructions. The display also allows for more efficient space usage and it frees up your computer for others tasks.
Multiple extruders allow you print in multiple colors or materials simultaneously by assigning each extruder specific material. There are printers that can be upgraded from single to multiple extruders.
The biggest benefit for this is that you can set the support structures with a different material that can be dissolved in water or other types of solvent.
How Does a 3D Printer Work?
How does a 3D printing process work? As mentioned, a good 3d printer produces a three-dimensional object. However, it does so in a different way using the additive manufacturing process.
For instance, if you do a miniature of your dream house, you will need to construct it similar to how you build a real home but with different materials.
For instance, you make replicas of the walls by cutting card and gluing them together. You make replicas of the window, paint it if necessary to follow your design and attach it to the structure you build.
While seeing a machine operating in this manner could be impressive, a 3D printer has a different approach using additive manufacturing. This is similar to an inkjet printer that is operated from a computer. However, it uses a different material in printing an object. Instead of using ink, a 3D printing machine uses layers of molten plastic or powder and fuses them together with an adhesive or ultraviolet light.
A 3D printer does not cut objects and glue it together to form a prototype instead, it uses the additive manufacturing process. It builds the printed parts by joining the material layer by layer from a CAD file.
The 3D printing process divides the whole object into thousands of tiny slices and makes it from the bottom-up repeatedly printing over the same area in a method popularly known as fused depositional modeling (FDM), a popular type of 3D rapid prototyping.
Each layer in additive manufacturing processes can be very complex but a 3D printer can execute it. It creates moving parts like hinges and wheels. You could also print a ready-to-assemble bike, with handlebars, frame, wheels, brakes, pedals and chains without any tools.
The 3D printer works automatically and creates the digital model in just a matter of hours by turning a 3D CAD drawing into thousands of two-dimensional and cross-sectional layers and then sit one layer on top of another, this process is repeated until the object is done.
We hope that our list above will help you decide on choosing the best 3D printers for you. Always remember that this depends on your personal preference and the amount you are willing to spend for the machine. We also recommend that you check out Dremel Digilab 3D45 and Creality Ender 3 Pro because these are great 3D printers, too.
If you know other great 3D printers for additive manufacturing that should be on the list, feel free to contact us and we will consider your suggestions. If you wish to learn more about 3D printing materials, you can visit our homepage.