We previously talked about Getting Started with 3D Printing, and Finding the Right Modeling Program, but what if you’re ready to get serious about 3D printing? Well, we’ve compiled a basic shopping list to get you started. This is by no means a complete or comprehensive list, but rather, an overview to help you understand the building blocks of becoming a 3D printing hobbyist.
To Buy a Printer, or Build a Printer?
Getting serious about 3D printing means that you probably want your own printer, rather than buying one-off objects through ShapeWorks. When determining if you’re going to build your own, or purchase an out-of-the-box machine, there are a few pros and cons to consider:
Buying an out-of-the-box 3D Printer
- More expensive
- Works out of the box (less time investing in building)
- Customer support is available
- You can print replacement parts, but it’s going to be more challenging
Build your own 3D Printer
- More time and trouble shooting to get it to work
- More economical
- Total Customization
- Print replacement parts more easily, and you’re familiar with the inner workings of the machine so you can replace them with confidence
Purchasing a Printer
By and far the most important purchase, the actual 3D printing machine is the basis on which your system will be built. It is important to do your research and get one that suits your needs and price range.
If you are looking for a simple, out of the box solution, look no farther than the da Vinci 2.0 Duo from XYZ Printing. Based on the Fused Filament Fabrication “FFF” technology, they offer twelve different filament colors for use in either a single color (da Vinci 1.0 for $499) or dual color (da Vinci 2.0 duo for $649) printer.
If you need a slightly larger build size, the Leapfrog Creatr 3D printer starter package from USCutter retails for $2600, and includes everything you need to get started. The starter kit includes the printer, filament, tools to refine your model and maintain your printer, and training guides. Note that a dual color model is also available for $2900.
For those with industrial size printing needs, the Replicator Z18 from MakerBot offers a 12 in x 12 in x 18 in build size that retails for $6499.
All three models offer similar printing resolutions and speeds, so the decision lies in the size of your models and the price point when choosing the right 3D printer for you.
Building Your Own Printer
Even though the technology has been around for decades, it has only been in the last couple years that building your own 3D printer has become practical and economical. The reason for this change is a large, open source movement for 3D printing. One of the largest groups is the RepRap Project. Touted as the “3D printer that prints itself”, there are several models from which to choose, and a large online community for support. Complete kits are available for assembly, or you can source each of the required parts yourself, which is cheaper and often times, more fulfilling.
Here is a basic list of the required parts for building your own 3D printer:
- RP (plastic parts)
- Can be printed by anyone with a 3D printer, many community based suppliers
- Cost $50 – $100
- The brains of the machine, several models and options available
- Buy preassembled, or etch your own boards
- Cost $140 – $370
- Stepper motors
More information on sourcing your own 3D printer can be found on the RepRap site, and to read posts from other people who are building their own printers, check out this forum. In our next 3D printing article, we are going to give you a step-by-step guide of how to build your own printer! Be on the lookout for that article soon.
The three printers mentioned above use the FFF technology, so you will need to purchase filament to print with. Each manufacturer offers a selection of different colors and material types that is compatible with their printer. Filament cartridges typically cost $28 – $85, depending on size and type. Note that most printers also use glue or a thin layer of tape on the printing bed to prevent sticking that must be applied each time an object is printed.
Every 3D printing manufacturer will supply you with free control software upon purchase. This software needs to be installed on a computer that will be connected to the printer (this is typically done via USB). The software will import a 3D model and use it to create the printer-specific machine code needed to produce the object. If any special build requirements such as rafts or supports are needed, they will be automatically created by the software.
The 3D Model
Of course, you must also have the 3D model of the object that you would like to print. Many manufacturers have free online libraries of objects for public download, such as MakerBot’s Thingiverse, or you can search 3D Printing marketplaces such as GrabCad or Threeding. If you need to print custom parts, or want to design your own model, you will need to use a 3D modeling program capable of saving an STL file (.stl is the industry standard for 3D printing). Many examples and options can be found in our article about Finding the Right Modeling Program
One more thing that you will need that goes without saying – time. Not only is 3D printing exciting and addictive, the actual process can take multiple hours depending on the object size. The exciting part is that companies like Makerbot and XYZ are starting to cater to the hobbyist, so most printers are ready to go out-of-the-box and don’t require a lot of setup, extensive configuration, or complex assembly etc.
Once you’ve picked out your 3D printer, the hardest choices could honestly be which color of filament to buy, and what to print first!
Looking for more 3D printing tips and information? Reply below in the “Comments” section, and we’ll do our best to answer your questions in our next 3D printing blog post!
Hero Image source: XYZ Printing.com