What to look for when you buy a cheap 3D printer?
Here’s what to look for when you buy a cheap 3D printer. First you have to determine what 3D printer type you need. Secondly it’s a good idea to check what materials the 3D printer is made of. Additionally you have to check if there’s customer support or an online support community.
3D Printer Types
Within the spectrum of cheap 3D printers you can choose between Resin or Material Extrusion 3D printers. There are simply no other 3D printer types available in this price range. SLA and DLP printers are classifiable under Resin printers. FFF / FDM is the most popular and well known technology and is classifiable under Material Extrusion.
We’ve covered cheap SLA and DLP 3D printers in this article.
Within FFF / FDM there are different kinds of mechanical arrangements. Cartesian-XY-Head, Cartesian-XZ-Head, Delta, Core XY are all different types of 3D printers and they all have their pro’s and con’s. What is interesting, is that within the Cartesian 3D printers there are two segments: let’s say the Prusa Mendels and the Ultimakers. A Prusa moves the bed over the y-axis and an Ultimaker moves the bed over the z-axis. Most experts agree that the Ultimaker types can achieve higher print speeds and a higher accurracy. A Prusa type machine which moves the bed over the y-axis can handle more weight, is mechanically simpler and is easier to maintain. Both Delta and Core XY are known for their hight print speeds. Core XY uses a belt-driven system and can be difficult to calibrate. Delta printers almost always have a fully automatic bed leveling system which makes printing easier.
What is the 3D printer made of?
3D printers have quite a few moving parts and can shake a lot while printing, especially at higher print speeds. Therefore you need a little weight to keep your machine into place and not find it vibrating itself off the table and onto the floor.
You must also be cognisant of a flimsy frame as this could lead to distorted and skewed prints. For this reason we prefer solid heavy frames made of wood or aluminum. With that in mind some cheap 3D printers will use a metal frame but is so thin that it really provide nothing in terms of rigidity. A good metal frame that is considered tough will range from 3.0mm to 6.5mm in thickness.
So this brings us to the last point, customer service. Support comes in many shapes and forms. Does the company deliver one-on-one customer support with a helpdesk employee via mail or phone? Do they have a forum, a Google or Facebook group where the community helps out each other? All of these can be very helpful tools in the event you get stuck on something whether it be the 3D printer or the print outcome itself. In addition this can also be a great way to get involved in the community and some day you may be helping someone else with a problem you overcame.
All in all we recommend first consulting customer reviews. Hands on usage from the public and real users is the best way to cut through all the marketing hype and it is the best way to gauge the quality and function of a product before committing your money.
Did we forget a 3D printer that we should really add to this list? Let us know in the comments below or contact us.