Choosing a 3D printer is easy once you know the key specs to look out for. Here are the two steps to getting started with 3D printing. For a deeper introduction, I also recommend reading our introduction to 3D printing.
Step one: Decide what you want to create
- How big do you want to print? The “build volume” is the max dimensions that the printer can produce. This max print size is not something you can easily change so if you have specific things that you need to print, know the dimensions of the objects. Bigger is better as you keep your options open to printing larger items.
- How much detail do you require? This is the main spec that determines the overall quality of the printer. This is usually measured in microns. The lower the microns the thinner each layer is.
- Do you want to build your 3D printer? Most printers are large and are dismantled for shipping, so you do need to build them up. Instructions are included and most have videos online showing step by step construction. Expect building to take 20 to 30 mins. There are some prebuild models, that work right out of the box, but they are more expensive and most have a small printing size.
- Do you want full color? Most printers are a single color, multicolor printers are available but there are fewer models to chose from. Consider how important color is for your projects as most objects you don’t need multicolor and if you do, a single base color can be painted after printing.
Step Two: Choose a printer
Once you know roughly what you require, you can start looking for a printer. When navigating the product pages, these are the key performance specs to look out for.
Check the Build Volume
It is usually written as 3 numbers – 300*300*400.
This is the nozzle diameter, it is where the filament is squeezed out. 0.4 mm is the standard general use size and is fine for most jobs. Go smaller for more detail and larger for increased speed. For intricate objects, you will need a smaller nozzle size. Most printers have exchangeable nozzles so you can swap them to match the project to be printed.
Resolution can be changed in the printer settings but the minimum height (most detail) the printer can go is stated in the specs. 50 microns gives you a lot of detail, you don’t really need anything lower than that for most situations. Even if you get a 50-micron printer, you will likely use 100+ micron prints.
Why would I not use 50 microns if it is more detailed then 100?
The more detail you have the longer it takes, 50 microns is painfully slow, 100 or more is a lot faster and gives acceptable results. A deeper explanation of layer height.
Are you ready to get started?
Now you know the basic things to look for when buying a 3D printer. If you are ready to start making your own 3D creations, get started with one of our bargain 3D printers.