Finding the Best 3D Printer for Your Needs
One of the many marvels of modern technology is 3D printing. Sure, investing IoT devices is helpful, but a 3D printer will truly help you step into the Digital Age.
3D printing allows people to make three-dimensional objects and offers many benefits. From advancing prosthetics in the health care field to being the future of architecture, and a godsend to cosplayers (3D printed suit of Power Armor? Yes, please!), the value of a 3D printer continues to increase as we get further into the Digital Age.
Now is as good a time as any to buy a 3D printer; but, what exactly is 3D printing? And how can you find the best 3D printer to fit your needs?
What Is 3D Printing? 3D Printing for Home Use
I’m sure you’re thinking that a 3D printer will set you back a pretty penny, and you are correct, because it can. If you want the best of the best, it’s going to set you back thousands, and that’s not even counting software.
Luckily, there are plenty of good budget choices for neophyte 3D printing enthusiasts to choose from.
XYZprinting da Vinci Mini
The best budget 3D printer is the XYZprinting da Vinci Mini. Not only is it the best for your wallet, but it’s the best for newcomers as it is easy to set up and easy to use. The software and UI are easy to navigate even if you’re going in blind.
On the negative side, XYZ printers need XYZ’s own material in order to print objects, and this material is more expensive than others. And of course, seeing as how it is a mini, don’t expect to create a life-size statue of Batman with this one.
But all in all, this is a great starter 3D printer.
Our second budget choice is the Monoprice Voxel 3D printer. Just like the XYZprinting da Vinci Mini, the Monoprice Voxel is easy for beginners to use, and a fair bit quicker too. The Voxel uses a quick change nozzle making it easy to, well, change quickly.
The Voxel comes with a camera to monitor the printing process, but it can be a hassle to use. If you have any issues that you would like to take up with the manufacturer, Monoprice has a bit of a reputation for clunky website navigation, and poor customer support.
LulzBot Mini 2
Goofy name aside, the LulzBot Mini 2 is a powerhouse 3D printer. And it should be since it costs $1,500. The Mini 2 is an upgrade over the original Mini and offers up a larger printing area, fasting printing speeds, and compatibility with more materials. It is also very quiet, making it great for public use since it doesn’t cause a ruckus.
Setup is easy to use, and the Mini 2 comes with pre-loaded profiles for more than 30 different materials. Unfortunately, the quality of your prints may be somewhat inconsistent. But if you have a fair bit of money to spend, the LulzBot Mini 2 is hard to beat.
Ultimaker 3 or Ultimaker S5
Both are outstanding 3D printers that offer up some of the best printing quality that you will ever see from a 3D printer. The biggest difference between the two is the build volume and price. The S5 has more build volume but also costs $6,000 as opposed to the 3 costing $3,500.
The software for Ultimaker used to be a bit janky and sees regular updates, but it has gotten a lot better. The printing quality also comes at a price, because printing here is pretty slow.
Best 3D Printing Software Companies
Tinkercad is a 3D design tool that is a great starting point for beginners. It’s free and has great lessons that are easy to follow. A few minutes and you’ll be on your way. Given a couple of days of tinkering, you should be able to get a good grasp on 3D design with Tinkercad.
Tinkercad is a great starting point, but not a settling point. You can forget about creating complex designs with Tinkercad because that’s not what it’s made for. Once you’ve moved on from beginner territory, you should probably move on from Tinkercad.
Another great, free 3D design tool is Meshmixer. Just like Tinkercad, it’s easy to use and easy to master. Meshmixer has a wide variety of uses and comes with a ton of editing tools for you to use.
It’s not without drawbacks, though. Make sure your computer is top notch or else you might deal with some annoying lag issues. Meshmixer is also better at editing 3D designs than creating an entire 3D design.
Ultimaker’s software has improved a lot, and Cura is great once you’ve taken off your 3D printing training wheels. You may need to watch a few YouTube videos on Cura to really get the hang of it, but once you do, it’s like learning to ride a bike: you’ll never forget it.
Some aspects of Cura’s interface are a bit clunky and will take some getting used to, but overall, it’s great and continues to improve.
Stainless Steel 3D Printing Services
Stainless steel looks great and is an inexpensive metal to boot. But if you want to do it yourself, I hope you’ve got an inheritance and have a lot of spare room.
Or, you can browse a few stainless steel 3D printing services and have someone else do it for you. This is likely the better option since the processes of printing stainless steel is different than standard at-home processes for other materials. I want some cool new Dungeons and Dragons tabletop game pieces, but not that much.
Companies like GPI Prototype & Manufacturing Services, Xometry, and Materialise are great options if you want some stainless steel 3D-printed work done for you. Head over to their respective websites to get quotes.
At first, 3D printing your own objects might seem like a daunting task, and that’s okay. It’s easy to get the hang of, and for the most complex of designs, you can just have someone else who is more skilled make them for you.
3D printing also has a pretty awesome reward factor. Once you know what you’re doing, it feels great being able to create things. You can go from building toy models to printing them out and painting them. Want to give your kids some cool toys for them to play with? Print them out! 3D printing’s usage continues to increase and will make for a staple piece of technology in the home.