To get started in the exiting world of 3D printing there are a few things to consider before deciding on what printer to buy. The first obvious thing is do you already have a project requirement or are you just wanting to learn the art.
If you have a project in mind you will need to do a lot of research into its requirements. It may pay to start with a simple entry level printer to learn “the ropes” before investing in a large printer with all the extras. For now we will just concentrate on the base model printers to get started with.
Choosing the right Printer
The most common variety of desktop 3D printers are filament 3D printers. They are easy to use, relatively cheap and reliable.
Things to consider when making a choice to buy is how much effort you want to do to set everything up. When getting started with 3D printing, we suggest your first purchase should be a plug and play unit. This avoids the frustration of getting everything to work.
Maybe a later purchase could be a kit when you have an understanding of how everything works. Make sure the software is compatible before you purchase either option.
Consider a 3D printer that can also scan objects so you have a ready made image to print with your printer. An enclosed printer is also a good option to avoid any outside interference when printing.
Filament printers usually use organic PLA or ABS plastic to operate. The cost of this should be considered when making a 3D printer purchase. Higher end printers can use air dried material such as clay. When first starting out PLA is a good plastic to use as it is more forgiving and easier to achieve good results
What to Print
There are libraries of free 3D images available on the internet that you can download to print or use a 3D scanner to create your image to print. Creating your own images does require a fair amount of effort. If you are good at graphics you may want get straight into it with your preferred program. If not a good package to start with to learn how to create models is Autodesk 123D Design. Free, powerful, yet simple 3D creation and editing tool for 3D printers.
If you want to use multiple colors you will need a printer with multiple extruders. This will also speed up the printing process, but you should only consider this option after gaining some experience or you have a specific requirement for it.
Having a well ventilated room for your printing is essential. If possible use an extraction hood similar to that of an oven cook-top. Remember some of the coloring pigments used may also emit non-desirable fumes, maybe worse than the plastic itself.
Starting to Print
When first starting to print it is a good idea to print some small hollow cubes to make sure everything is set up and working correctly. Check produced items with a set square to make sure XYZ are at 90 degrees.
Use some digital calipers to make sure that the dimensions are correct. When printing more complex items start with test printing some of the trickier parts first. You can use Autodesk Meshmixer to slice your model up into pieces.
Choosing the right printer can be a daunting task and if you choose something not suitable for your needs it can be demoralizing to say the least. It can also delay your venture into the wonderful world of 3D extrusion. Choose a printer with great reviews and good support.
Our recommendation as a good entry level hardworking printer is the QIDI TECH X-Plus