How many of you here have been searching for the right 3D Printer? Confused with what features you should look out for ?Here is a technical Best 3D Printer Buying Guide for beginners as well as intermediates.We have mentioned few factors to consider while purchasing your next 3D Printer or even spares for your 3D Printer. For those looking for a basic guide to buying a 3D Printer may click on the following link –

1.High Nozzle Temperature

The HotEnd Nozzle temperature defines the variety of 3D Printing Materials that a 3D Printing Machine can print. The clone hotend have a range of 260 Degrees C while the E3Dv6 can attain up to 380 Degrees C.While 3D printing the most important factor is the nozzle temperature. The clone HotEnds come with bulb sensors which are slightly complicated to mount and are also prone to fall off from the mounting slot provided thus giving fluctuation in temperature readings. E3Dv6 from UK on the other hand have well secured sensor mounting slots and also have a wider printing temperature range. E3d is one of the pioneers in HotEnd manufacturing segment that have been providing high quality products time and again.

2. Do I Need A HeatBed ?

While printing Various Materials like ABS, Carbon Fibre, PC, etc, a Heatbed is a must. The heat bed actually reduces the temperature difference between the nozzle and the print surface thus making it easy for the part to stick well during the initial layers. The Heat Bed also helps in maintaining the overall chamber temperature in an enclosed 3D Printing Machine.

3. 3D Printer Mechanisms

Image Credits – Pintstein

The FFF or FDM 3D Printing Market have two widely used mechanisms –
  • Cartesian Mechanism 3D Printers
The Cartesian Mechanism 3D Printers are Box Shaped 3D Printers. The most common  are the Ultimaker 3D Printers, Prusa i3 3D Printer Kits, Zortrax 3D Printers etc. Here you have the Bed either moving in the X/Y Direction or in the Z Direction. This requires frequent calibration as the bed is constantly moving. With more heavy moving parts, the Printing Speed is comparatively slower than delta machines.
  • Delta Mechanism 3D Printers
The Delta Mechanism 3D Printers are the Triangular Shaped 3D Printers. The most common brands are the Delta Wasp, He3D, 3Deometry etc. Here the Bed is fixed and the nozzle moves around the bed, hence calibration frequency is on the lower side. With few moving parts, the printing speed is slightly faster.

4. Bed Moving or Not ?

Certain Cartesian 3D Printers have a fixed Bed while the others have a moving bed. Almost 80% of the Cartesian machines have a moving bed while the remaining 20% have a fixed bed. These are easy to calibrate, and have a nominal installation time.

Using a delta 3D Printer may be slightly difficult for people trying to build it from scratch as it requires lot of initial setup time and calibration time. But once it is setup it is more of a plug and play machine that requires minimal installation time. Hence Clients prefer these machines.

As mentioned in the previous points the Bed stability is very important factor, while selecting 3D Printers. As per a survey which includes users using both the delta mechanism 3D Printers as well as the Cartesian 3D Printing Machines – Almost 85 % Users prefer using Delta 3D Printers. And I Quote “Once a Delta User, Always a Delta Lover”.

5. Auto Bed Leveling

Delta Bed Leveling
Cartesian Bed Leveling

 

This Feature is used to notify the machine that the bed may be slightly tilted and this needs to be rectified for a smooth first layer this also helps to stop the nozzle from hitting the build plate.

For Cartesian 3D printers auto bed leveling is a must as the frequency of calibration is on the higher side. On the other hand the Delta Mechanism 3D Printing Machines require less frequent calibration hence it is not a must, but something that may be good to have.

6. Larger the Build Volume, the Better

Build Volume is basically the maximum volume in which the nozzle can print, basically the bounding box for the nozzle. This includes the maximum build height, width and length of the machine for Cartesian 3D Printers and Maximum Diameter and Height for Delta 3D Printers.The larger the build volume the better as you can print huge parts in a single go, but due to the limitation of speed in FDM/FFF 3D Printing it would take more time to complete the prints. This is more dependent on the end user with their application put in mind.

7. Layer Resolution – Smaller the better ?

Layer resolution is basically the height of each layer. People generally look for additive manufacturing machines which have the capability of printing at lower resolutions. But is that actually needed? Machines come with resolutions of up to 50 microns for fdm 3d printers this gives a high quality surface finish.But let me throw some light on the reality. Let’s say part A takes 12 hours to print at 200 microns, It will take 24 hours or even more to print at 100 microns and the same part A will take 48 hours to print at 50 microns. Is it actually worth the time? I don’t think so! As per our survey, 200 microns is faster to print but also pleasing to the eye.

8. Chassis

Just as the chassis of the car defines the stability and the maneuverability of a car similarly the chassis defines the stability of the machine. Various machines use wood or acrylic frames to setup the integral structure of the machine which is slightly delicate and may show ringing in 3D Printed Parts. An all metal Chassis absorbs the vibrations and remains stable with sudden jerks of the machine movement giving high quality finished parts.

9. Printing Speed

There are two speeds which all manufacturers mention in their catalogs one I the movement speed and the other is the printing speed, so what is the actual difference between both?

Well it’s simple, the movement speed is basically the maximum speed that the nozzle can achieve while hopping from point A to point B. This is generally achieved when the nozzle hops from point A to Point B without spilling a drop of molten plastic material during retraction.

Printing Speed on the other hand is basically the rate at which the nozzle is moving while depositing material. Here the raw material is more to be blamed for printing speed as it requires a minimum time gap to cool before the next layer is being deposited. Faster the cooling the faster the part can be manufactured.

10. Are All Metal HotEnd Worth it ?

As mentioned previously the local or clone hotends generally are all metal but they have PTFE lining either on the upper or lower throat of the heat break. This is one of the major factors that causes nozzle clogs.Nozzle Clog is an issue which is faced when the motor keeps pushing material but the material does not come out of the nozzle. So the molten plastic basically finds a narrow path between the PTFE tube linings and gets stuck or solidified at that location allowing no  material to pass through. Certain times if the temperature exceeds 260 degrees, due to fluctuation or even trying to print high end temperature materials, the PTFE lining tube tends to melt this gets the whole extruder to come to a standstill, which may need rigorous cleaning or replacement.

11. Carriage Movement Mechanism

Rollers VS Rail GuidesRollers Mechanism is basically a bearing provided with a circular sleeve to provide movement to the carriages. This basically is more of an unprofessional way of making machines but this cuts down the costs of the machines drastically and provides moderate finish prints.Rail Guides on the other hand are high precision mechanism that provides high positional accuracy and provide high quality finished parts.  These are expensive and hence used in high end 3D Printing Machines.

12. Software Compatibility

Certain machines use dedicated slicing software for printing. Here the options for printing are simple and less complicated but the machine is limited to the option of materials that can be printed.

But for those who love experimenting this is a drawback as few machines give you the option of tweaking the settings a bit thus giving you faster prints as well as high finished parts. Software’s such as Simplify3d, Cura, Slic3r etc provide more option to end user to fine tuning the machine and also print a variety of materials from various manufacturers.

13. Material Compatibility

Certain machines, recommend using 3d printer filaments as per their guidelines and these are also manufactured exclusively by them at exorbitant prices. Here the end user gets no option to tweak with the printer settings as well as the materials that they can use.Initially this may sound amazing for someone who is starting off with 3D Printing for the first time but as you become more aware you wish you could have been able to tweak the machine for better speed and also print a variety of materials.

14. Enclosed Chamber

For printing materials like ULTEM 9085, ABS, PC etc, an enclosed chamber is a must to avoid layer separation. The heat generated from the heatbed maintains the temperature inside the machine and certain machines have dedicated heaters to maintain the temperature within the printing environment.

15. Power Fail Safe feature

This feature is for those where power outage is a common issue. The machine basically store the positional co-ordinates after the power fails and can continue printing after the power comes back.

This is a feature that can be compensated with the use of inverters or UPS that can continue printing for hours based on the rating of the UPS or Inverter.

16. Extruder Mechanism

Bowden Drive Extruder 3d printing mechanism
Image Credits – 3D Printer Power
Direct Drive Extruder 3d printing mechanism
Extruder mechanism is the mechanism used for filament pushing motor. There are two mechanism
  • Bowden Extruder
This mechanism has a motor on one end and the hotend at one spot and is connected by a simple PTFE Tube. The advantage to this mechanism is that it makes the hotend light which can also print at faster 3D Printing Speeds.
  • Direct Drive
This mechanism has the motor mounted right above the hotend thus reducing the distance between the hotend and the motor. The added advantage to this is that it can print flexible materials but can print at lower printing speeds due to the added weight.

17. Filament Runout Sensor

The filament runout sensor is also something that you might want to look out for. This basically stops the print and gets back to the home position when it senses that the material is going to run out.

All you have to do is replace the filament spool and resume the print and you are good to go. This feature is not a must but is complimentary to have.

18. Spare Part Availability

This is one more important factor that people tend to avoid. They try to buy either kits or even high end machines that have service and spare part availability. This brings in huge downtime periods which may affect your business.

Trying buying machines from local vendors as they will obviously be within your vicinity and easy to catch hold of any issue. Secondly you will get faster after sales services and support.

19. Affordability

Few of the 3D Printer Manufacturers build high end machines which require expensive filaments manufactured by them itself. This will make it an expensive process as you will be limited to buying their own spools regularly at high prices and secondly the availability issue as most of these high end machines and filaments would be imported.

Please do not feel shy of asking the manufacturers the Cost Price of Printing in terms of price per gram of printing. This will give you a basic idea of how much it would cost you in the long run.

20. Connectivity

Well if you plan on having one or Two machines than this feature is not required but If you plan on making a farm, you will realize how handy it is to have this feature.

You will save on time searching the files from the folders and also Manage a whole lot more machines using just a single PC to access them.

If you found our ultimate technical 3d printing buying guide helpful, please do give us a thumbs up or even share this post. Stay tuned for more articles like these and feel free to subscribe to our newsletters as well, for useful information related to 3D Printing.