How To Choose Your 3D Printer: Important Features To Consider

You’ve heard what amazing things a 3D printer can build and have decided to buy one. 3D printers offer an endless range of possibilities as long as you’re creative. There’s a catch however, irrespective of what you’re printing, picking the right device plays a huge role in the outcome of the printing.  

If you want to get started on printing your models, there’s no limit to what you can do from printing custom phone cases to cosplay designs.

There are various types of 3D printers available today each with their unique specifications that in turn caters to their various demands. The typical printer is priced between $100 to several thousand dollars depending on its size and capability. 

There are technical aspects about the 3D printer you should consider before getting one. Some of which include the different technologies ranging from Fused Deposition Modelling to Digital Light Processing it utilizes as well as stereolithography and much more. This might be quite overwhelming if you’re not much of an expert. 

But, don’t worry, with this article you’d be able to find the right choice that suits your needs using some of the features listed below. 

1. Heated Bed

This feature is needed for most high-temperature extrusion filaments such as Nylon, ABS, Polycarbonate, and HIPS. Not only is it beneficial for virtually all the materials, but it also ensures the plastic remains warm in the printing process and prevents it from warping. 

The heated bed makes sure that there’s better adhesion (gluing) between the layers as this will produce great structural integrity of the printed parts. It is very vital for the first layer so it can ensure a proper foundation level. The typical temperature of the bed is between 40°C to 110°C (under no circumstances should your fingers wander around it).  

If you’re going with printers with unheated beds, bear in mind that it can only work with PLA-based plastics and TPUs. Those have a less tendency to warp during the cooling process. The bed is usually covered with PET or painter’s blue tape.

2. LCD Display

The display controller makes it easy for you to 3D print without using a computer system or a software host like Cura. Some of the best resin 3D printer have an LCD display on them such that only an SD card is needed to read the G-code instructions. While this isn’t a very critical feature to look out for when buying, you should consider it as it makes the printing process somewhat less stressful. The display helps you to manage space more efficiently so your computer can perform other tasks. As indicated earlier, it’s really good if you are going to be printing almost every day and can be used for most of your print jobs.

3. Multiple Extruder

Having multiple extruders on your 3D printer means printing various colors or materials simultaneously is possible. You can assign each extruder with the color or material of your choosing. Certain printers are upgradable (can be upgraded from single to multiple extruders) while others can’t. It’s advisable to go for a printer that comes with multiple extruders. 

A major benefit of having multiple extruders is that you can set your support structures with various materials that can be dissolved in a  solvent depending on the type of material you used when printing.

4. Cooling Fan

The fan has a very crucial role in 3D printing and it’s a feature every printer must-have. It is not every printing material that requires cooling but it’s beneficial for most prints

The presence of a cooling fan in a  3D printer will improve overhanging features and crisp sharp edges which will result in remarkable bridging ability.

It is important to note that all cooling fans are not created equal. Their sizes range between 25mm to 40mm. Certain fans blow air at the mid-hot-end area, others concentrate on the nozzle’s tip, and others have ducts shaped differently. 

5. Hot End

It is probably one of the most vital parts of the 3D printer. The hot end is where plastics are melted and extruded into tiny layers. They are of different types (majorly PEEK and metal-based). The maximum temperature for Peek-based Hot ends (prints thermoplastics) is 230°C and for metal-based ones (prints Nylon, PET, Polycarbonate, and other strong materials), 320°C.

The things to take note of in a hot end include the: 

  • maximum printing temperature 
  • size of the nozzle and available options for it
  • active cooling

6. Build Area

The build area is the largest size of an object that can be created with the 3D printer. Its dimension is measured in terms of XYZ (breadth, depth, and height).

When you want to print a mug, a typical measurement can be 3 inches wide (X) by 4 inches deep (Y) by 6 inches high (Z) which is 8x8x10 inches. 

More complex and larger print jobs can be divided into smaller parts before finally combining them. 

Apart from taking note of these important features, you need to consider what product you intend to produce and what type of material would be suitable for it. It would go a long way in helping you to decide what type of printer you should get. 

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