Table of Contents
- The Best Choice – FlashForge 10745 Creator Pro 3D Printer
- Value-for-Money – ANYCUBIC Photon S 3D Printer
- The Cheap Choice – ANYCUBIC Photon Zero
- TechnologyOutlet Creality Ender 3 Pro 3d Printer
- ANYCUBIC Photon UV PTA002 3D Printer
- FLSUN QQ-S Delta 3D Printer
- BIBO 2 3D Printer
- 3D Printer Buying Guide
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- Removable Flexible Magnetic Plate: Provide all-round protection to your 3D printer build plate and...
- Resume Printing Function: Ender 3 Pro can resume printing from the last recorded extruder position...
- Semi-Assembled Kit: This easy-to-setup kit comes partially assembled, allowing you to learn about...
- E Axis working: The E axis motor will start work when the nozzle temperature reaches over 185℃,...
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- Extrusion reduces the risk of clogging and poor displacement; V-shape with POM wheels make moving...
- Strict test: 24 hours for key components before delivery and real-time technical support. Secure...
1. ANYCUBIC Photon Zero – The Cheap Choice
Anycubic is certainly among the best entry-level 3D printers available today and without doubt one of the most popular models. Offering features more than enough to cover the needs of a homeowner or even small business, Photon Zero’s greatest advantage is its price and reliability.
At a Glance
- Brand: ANYCUBIC
- Model: UK-PZA0BK
- Technical Specifications
- System: ANYCUBIC Photon Zero
- Operation: 2.8-inch Touch Screen
- Software: ANYCUBIC Photon workshop
- Supported format: .stl, .obj
- Connectivity: USB
- Technology: LCD-based SLA
- Light-source: high-quality filament（wavelength 405nm）
- XY Res.: 0.1155mm
- Z-Axis Res.: 0.01mm
- Layer Res.: 0.01 ~ 0.2mm
- Printing Speed: 30mm/h
- Rated Power: 30W
- Supports up to 16x anti-aliasing
- Lead screw and linear rail
- Upgraded UV Module
- Brushed Aluminum Platform
- Integral FEP Film
Design & Features
Someone already versed in 3D printing technology will probably not be impressed by Photon Zero’s features; he will be impressed though by the performance of cheap a 3d printer.
Starting with the printer’s design, the Photon Zero is compact and fully framed – which is usually a good thing for homeowners. Closed frame printers are safer (especially if you have children and pets in the house), and do not allow much of the fumes and odours of the melted resin to diffuse into the room – which can be unbearable for the inexperienced nose. Note that the device comes fully assembled.
Build quality is rather good, while setup (like build plate levelling) and operation are pretty simple and straightforward, even if you have never work with such devices before. The combination of the linear rail and lead screw for a more stable and thus more accurate Z-axis movement is great for such a low-priced 3D printer. It also boasts an upgraded UV lighting module and markings in the resin vat, which allow you to check the amount of material left.
As to performance, Photon zero sure is not a high precision 3D printer – but never claimed to be either. The resin vat features staggered ml markings on the long edges of the internal volume, which makes the resin rationing a bit easier. Still, compared to other similarly priced models, it requires slower speeds to output prints of the same quality. Yet, its mechanical reliability and ease of use compensate for this drawback. Keep also in mind that you will find some sort of print artefacts through the Z-axis, by they far do not affect the print itself.
Another cool feature is the resin cure time test, a printable file allowing you to compare the features of test prints, pick the best one, note down its corresponding cure time and use it on your future prints.
Safety is improved compared to other budget-friendly models. Aside from having a fully closed frame, the printer is equipped with a lid-removal sensor, automatically stopping operation if someone removes the lit.
All the necessary preparations for the printing are performed with Photon’s upgraded Workshop, which is relatively easy to use and navigate. It comes complete with support preparation, model hollowing and splitting for tackling larger parts in multiple stages, and all sorts of other useful features. Still, it feels a bit outdated and has a serious drawback: there is no undo option in cases of manual support addition.
There is no doubt that the Photon Zero offers the basic and is far from what we would call an advanced 3D printer, but it is probably the best and most reliable model you can get at this price. If you don’t care much about prime precision and don’t wish to spend more, then this is an excellent pick.
Slightly more expensive, the Creality Ender Pro 3D printer is the more advanced model of the Ender 3 series and by far the most popular, combining ease of use, reliability, print quality and an affordable price.
At a Glance
- Brand: TechnologyOutlet
- Model: Ender 3 pro (B07K3SZBHJ)
- Number of Items: 1
- Style: Ender 3 Pro w/ 1KG PLA
- Machine Size: 440 x 440 x 465
- Machine weight: 6.9kg
- UPC: 608410981720
- Print size: 220 x 220 x 250mm
- Print Speed: 180 mm/sec
- Nozzle: Single 0.4mm
- Print Precision (Layer Thickness): 0.1-0.4mm
- Layer resolution: +/- 0.1mm
- Filament Diameter: 1.75 mm
- Filament Compatibility: PLA, ABS, TPU, Copper, Wood, Carbon Fibre, Gradient Colour etc.
- Supported File Formats: STL, OBJ, AMF
- Number of Extruders: One
- Print Plate (Build Platform): Heated bed max 110C
- 3D Printing Software: Cura/ Repetier-Host, Simplify3D
- Connectivity (Interface): USB, Online, SD Card
- Operating System: Windows/ Mac/ Linux
- Power Requirements:
- Input: AC 100-120V/6.8A 200-240V/3.4A 50-60hz
- Output: DC 24V 270W
Design & Features
Let’s clarify something. The “Pro” designation is an exaggeration that merely conveys that this is the most advanced model of the Ender 3 series – nothing more, nothing less. It is surely an excellent model for homeowners or even small businesses with a small printing volume, but it is not designed for professionals.
This printer requires assemblage. It takes some time – more than an hour – but it is much easier than it sounds. Mounting the belt moving the extruder proved a bit of chore, but that was the only problem we faced.
Made from aluminium extrusions, and with the Z-axis running on the left-hand side of the frame, the Ender 3 Pro is equipped with a pretty large heated print bed (220 x 220 x 250mm). The LCD display has a clickable control wheel that makes it very easy to use.
One of the most interesting features of this model is its ability to reactivate automatically and continue printing in cases of power loses or disconnections – something usually found in more expensive models.
One of its most advertised features is its the magnetic bed, which has been met with a lukewarm response, mainly because it feels more flimsy than the usual metal blade and less flexible when it comes to positioning. On the other hand, the sheet itself is removable and flexible, while the textured surface makes it much easier to stick the first layers of the model to the bed – which are critical to the success and quality of the print. Unfortunately, this model lacks auto-levelling, so you will have to do it yourself – and carefully too, for it could ruin your printing
One the other hand, the quality of the printing is indeed impressive, par to that of much pricier models. As soon as you have the settings ready and you are done with the bed calibration, the printing is amazing.
Operation is easy and fun, thanks, among others, to the upgraded bearing wheels that are stiffer, minimising friction and thus considerably improving the overall stability of the printing surface. Noise level is surprisingly low too for a budget-friendly 3D printer.
As to the software, Creality provides an SD card with a Cura version, which runs only in Windows, but you can download the corresponding version for Mac or Linux from the Ultimaker website. As you will see, it easy to handle even if you are new to the world of 3D printing, especially if you have someone more experienced get you through the basics. Note that you can also work the printer with the Simplify3D slicing software.
Creality’s Ender 3 Pro is a truly excellent above entry-level pick, having its price, ease of use and excellent print quality as its most important pros.
The Anycubic Photon is a desktop DLP 3D printer that, instead of melting plastic filament within a heated nozzle, like all FDM 3D printers, its uses cured liquid resin. Far from anything that could be called “professional”, the Anycubic Photon UV has been steadily one of the most popular 3d printers among homeowners and is certainly not for beginners. Let us see why.
At a Glance
- Brand: ANYCUBIC
- Model: Photon UV
- Precision: 2560 x 1440 2K HD
- Masking LCD Printer
- Smart Touch Colour Screen Off-line Print
- Technical specification:
- Operating System：ANYCUBIC Photon
- Slicer software: ANYCUBIC Photon Slicer
- Connection: USB
- Technology: LCD-based SLA
- Light-source: UV integrated light（wavelength 405nm）
- XY DPI: 0.047mm (2560 x 1440)
- Z axis resolution: 0.00125mm
- Layer resolution: 0.01-0.2mm
- Printing speed: 20.5mm/h
- Rated Power: 40W
- Power Requirements: 110-220V 55/60Hz, 12V5A 60W
- Physical parameter:
- Printer size: 220 x 200 x 400mm
- Printing volume: 115 x 65 x 155mm (4.52″ x 2.56″ x 6.1″)
- Printing material: 405nm photosensitive resin
Design & Features
Assembling and setting up the Anycubic Photon DLP 3D printer is straightforward enough, and it will hardly take more than half an hour or so. Make sure you level the Z-axis of the printer correctly unless you want to ruin your prints. Best unscrew first the print platform to make it easier for you.
As you’ll see, its build volume is relatively small compared to other models – but this probably the gravest flaw you will find. Anycubic Photon uses DLP technology (Digital Light Processing), which involves projecting the image of each layer separately and curing the resin layer by layer. Once each layer is solidified, the build plate moves up and the projector then displays the next slice of the 3D model. This technique produces exceptionally detailed objects.
Indeed, the Anycubic Photon comes with a 2K resolution – great for its price range. Considering that it was designed for beginners, it produces surprisingly high-resolution 3d prints.
Note though that models made in this way require some post-processing: washing the model with ethanol, curing them and cleaning the build plate. Also note that, despite being a fully closed-frame 3D printer, the odour of the resin will be strong, so make sure you operate it in a well-ventilated room. Still, this is hardly a problem of this model per se. All DLP models have more or less the same issue.
Considering its price and that it was not designed for professionals, the ANYCUBIC Photon UV PTA002 3D Printer surely is impressive, especially when it comes to the quality and resolution of its prints.
FLSUN QQ-S is the new and slightly upgraded version of a 3D printer that had already proved popular and successful.
At a Glance
- Brand: FLSUN
- Model: FLSUN QQ-S
- Technology: FDM
- Machine weight: 12 kg
- Shipping box weight: 14 Kg
- Machine Dimensions: 290 x 350 x 800 mm
- Number of Items: 6, 90% pre-assemble
- Voltage: 110-220V
- File Format: STL Consumables
- Diameter: 1.75mm
- Maximum Print Size: 255 x 360mm
- Auto Levelling
- Moulding Technology: FDM
- Slice Thickness: 0.1 – 0.4mm
- Printing Specifications:
- Layer Thickness: 0.1 – 0.3 mm
- X Y Axis Position Accuracy: 0.012 mm
- Z Axis Position Accuracy: 0.004 mm
- Print size (X Y Z): 260 x 370 mm
- Print Speed: 300 mm /sec
- Filament Diameter: 1.75 mm
- Nozzle Diameter: 0.4 mm
- Filament Compatibility: ABS, PLA, HIPS, Flex, Wood etc.
- Software Specifications:
- 3D Printing Software: Cura, Repetier Host, Simplify3D
- Supported File Formats: .STL, .OBJ, .GCODE
- Operating System: Windows, macOS, Linux
- Temperature Specifications:
- Extruder Temperature: 270°C
- Heating Bed Temperature: 100°C
- Electrical Specifications:
- Power Requirements: 110-240V AC, 50/60Hz, 1.5A
- Connectivity (Interface): USB, SD-Card
- 6 + 21-point multi-dimensional auto-levelling on full coverage platform.
- Power resume function
- Noise Level: below 50 dB
- Printing speed up to 30 – 300mm
- Full-colour touch screen control
- Supports offline printing
- Supports flexible printing, with a self-developed flexible extruder
- Manufacturer Warranty: One Year
Design & Features
FLSUN QQ-S is a Delta printer, which means it comes with a very particular circular print bed, while the extruder is suspended above it by three arms. This D-shaped design accelerates the printing process while keeping the print bed still, making it ideal for specific print projects.
Indeed, speed is a trait of this model, though, as you will see in our buying guide below, speed is not always a good thing when it comes to 3d printing, as it often results in poor print quality. Still, this is not the case with FLSUN QQS, whose print quality proved exceptional. Equipped with a 32-Bit motherboard and a separate MOS module, it combines speed with stability and produces excellent prints even at high printing speeds.
Noise level is impressively low too, especially at that speed. The manufacturer claims that the QQ-S has an operating-noise of less than -50 dB (ideal for apartments and workplaces).
Solidly built with a full stainless steel frame and beautifully designed, FLSUN QQ-S is incredibly simple to assemble and set-up. It is a bit heavy, but 3D printers are not made for moving around. In fact, its extra weight improves stability, which is crucial during operation. Levelling is a genuine breeze, contrary to most budget-friendly models since all Delta printer have non-moving beds and need to be levelled only once. Equipped with a colour touch screen, it memorizes the date and details of a print, making things for users with recurring print projects extremely easy.
According to the manufacturer, the printing bed reaches up to 100 °C in less than 5 minutes – which is amazing. FLSUN QQ-S features a new Lattice Platform, a heavy-duty composite coating designed to withstand fast heating and thus reduce warping while ensuring firm adhesion throughout the print, as well as effortless removal as soon as the bed is cooled. This means that there is no room for scrapers, hairspray, and messy glue sticks.
QQ-S is also equipped the Titan Extruder that improves the feeding of the filament, which, in turn, delivers far smoother and accurate printing. On top of that, it features a touchscreen and Wi-Fi connection, thus being able to resume printing from the breakpoint, save in case of a power outage, detect filament outage, and turn auto-off after printing finishes. Long story short, it is just great.
The only problem we had with this model is that it comes with an open printing chamber, which means that fumes and smell can get overwhelming. To tackle this problem, make sure to use it in a well-ventilated room.
Simply put, sheer quality. Combining excellent printing quality, speed, stability, ease of use at an affordable price, QQ-S just boasts being one of the top models in the market today.
5. ANYCUBIC Photon S 3D Printer – Value-for-Money
The Anycubic Photon S is probably the best member of the Photon 3D printer series, which changed everything in the market, by providing advanced 3d printing features at rather affordable prices. Let us see if the upgrades of the Photon S justify its higher price.
At a Glance
- Brand: Anycubic
- Model: Photon S
- Colour: Black
- Ean: 0605175697552
- LCD Masking Technology
- UPC: 605175697552
- Technical specification:
- System: ANYCUBIC Photon S
- Operation: 2.8-inch colour TFT Screen
- Software: Photon S workshop
- Connectivity: USB memory
- Technique: LCD shadow masking
- Light source: Matrix UV light (405nm)
- XY resolution: 0.047mm
- Z-axis accuracy: 0.00125mm
- Layer thickness: 0.01-0.2mm
- Print speed: 20mm/H max
- Rated power: 50W
- Physical parameter:
- Dimension: 230mm（L) x 200mm（W）x 400mm（H）
- Build volume: 115mm（L）x 65mm（W）x 165mm（H）
- Material: 405nm UV resin
- Net weight: ~5.9Kg
Design & Features
All Photon 3D printers feature the same overall design, with the fully closed-frame and the hard casing. The improvements can be seen elsewhere, where it truly matters.
First of all, Photon S comes with twice-as much linear rails on both sides of the lead screw for extra sturdiness and stability and less wobble. Photon S also features a much better touchscreen, menu structure and more discernible and responsive icons and buttons. The print volume is a bit increased too, since the Z-axis is longer by 1 cm, making it ideal for miniature, figurine, and jewellery prints.
We already mentioned a few things about Photon’s software – the Photon Workshop – during the Photon Zero review. Other than that, note that all settings, layer cure times etc. for resin printing are handled in the slicer and saved to the sliced files themselves, simplifying your work a lot. The 2K LCD screen masks the slices of your models, making it possible to prints with a 47-micron X- and Y- resolution.
Another nice addition is the activated charcoal air filter, designed eliminate (or, rather, to minimise) the overwhelming odour of the resin. It is indeed effective, but some smell is still discernible. Better operate it in a well-ventilated room, as mentioned in the rest of our picks. Still, it is far better than anything else we’ve tested so far on this regard.
Print quality is exceptional. Speed could be a bit better, but personally, I always prefer efficiency and accuracy to speed.
A small disappointment was the bed levelling (which was a bit… fussy), as well as the fact has no Wi-Fi connectivity option. Still, Photon S itself is packed with several features and accessories that will help you minimise the mess, like gloves, a mask, plastic scraper, and filter-tipped paper funnels.
Excellent print quality and simple operation remain Photon S’ most distinguishing traits – which characterise the whole series. Several upgrades and improvements have been made to this model, which, in my opinion, do justify the premium.
Bibo 2 stands for out for several reasons – but one of them is plain awesome: it integrates laser engraving technology while ensuring excellent precision, stability and efficiency. Of course, all these come at a premium, which is, however, more than reasonable.
At a Glance
- Brand: BIBO
- Model: BIBO 2 U
- Number of Items: 1
- Machine Parameter
- Extruder Number: 2
- Sturdy Frame: 6mm thick aluminium composite panel
- Full-colour Touch Screen
- WIFI Control
- Copy Printing
- Continue Printing After Power Cut
- Filament Run-out Detection
- Removable Heated Bed: Yes (already levelled)
- Number of Fan to Cool Plastic extruded: 2
- Connectivity: SD card, USB flash drive, USB, WiFi
- Machine Size:18.4 x 14 x 14.7 inches
- Printing Parameter
- Build Size: 8.4 x 7.3 x 6.3 inches / 214 x 186 x 160mm
- Printing Layer Resolution: 0.05-0.3mm
- Nozzle Temp.: 270℃
- Recommended Software: Repetier-Host, Cura, Simplify3D
- Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux
- Filament Type: ABS, PLA, Dissolvable filament (HIPS), Flexible filament(TPU)
- Filament Diameter:1.75mm
- Often Included in the Package as a Gift (verify it)
- 1 x engraving module
- 1 x spare USB cable
- 1 x WIFI module (pre-installed)
- 1 x acrylic cover kit (assembly required)
- 2 LBS (1.0KG) PLA filament
- 1 x SD card
- 1 x glass bed
- Warranty: 12 months (90 Days for the Extruder)
Design & Features
When you have a 3D printer of such quality (and price), much of the things you have commented on for previous models are a given with this one – construction quality, stability, ease of use etc. Let us dig into the features that justify its price.
First and foremost, note that you can fully control all the operation of the machine either from the handy touch screen control panel or through a Wi-Fi connected device. Bibo’s software proved surprisingly simple and easy to use, and very responsive.
Equipped with a sturdy metal casing for augmented stability and print precision, the Bibo 2 has impressive large Z and X-axis guide rods. The print bed does not level itself automatically (which is a bit disappointing) but it large enough to allow the printing of two models at the same time (see below about this feature) and is demountable, which means that you can remove it with your print as soon as it’s done, making it much easier to remove complex or large models.
Next, you have of course the 500 MW laser engraving capability, which, while not the most powerful in the market, is indeed amazing. Instead of just have the body of a model and a few minor and basic details, you have the now the ability to give an amazing degree of detail to the model. The lighter the material you use, the better the detail.
Next, there is the pair of nozzle cooling fans (back and front), which is great for 3D printing with filaments that require high temperatures (PLA for instance). Bibo2 allows affords you full control of the fan settings throughout the printing process.
Another great feature is the power-loss proof feature: should you lose power during the printing, the machine memorises all the data and can continue from where it let it the moment the power is back on. This is a lifesaver, since 3D printing is a time-consuming process, and have a model ruined just before the end is not exactly the most pleasant experience. Bibo 2 saves you from such a predicament. It is also designed to cease operation in case the filament ends mid-print and you are not around to put some more. Again, as soon as you put some more, it will restart from where it left it.
Last but not least, Bibo 2 comes with Dual Extruders, which truly opens up an array of capabilities for the user, including the creation of two-colour models and double the speed of a print, for it allows you to create two models at the same time – and in different colours too!
Do note that Bibo 2 can handle an impressive variety of print materials, including ABS, PLA, PVA, HIPS, TPU and PLA+, nylons, woods, moldlay, and many more. This gives a major advantage to the user, opening up a vast horizon of capabilities.
Combining a built-in laser engraver, dual extruders, an impressive array of print materials and dual-colour printing with prime design and excellent construction quality, Bibo 2 is hands down one of the best 3D printers of the market, offered at an excellent price for its features and capabilities.
7. FlashForge 10745 Creator Pro 3D Printer – The Best Choice
Closing our list, we have the FlashForge Creator Pro, made by one of the most well-known and reliable 3D printer brands in the world.
Don’t be fooled by the price. This is not an expensive model, because of the capabilities it offers, as well as the quality of its printing. True, it is not cheap, but it was never designed for beginners. Let’s check out its features.
At a Glance
- Brand: FLASHFORGE
- Model Number: 10745
- Colour: Black
- Ean: 6970152950017, 0601209924434
- Volume: 18 cubic centimetres
- Weight: 17.0 kilograms
- Manufacturer Series Number: CREATOR PRO
- Number of Items: 1
- UPC: 601209924434
- Wattage: 350 watts
- Resolution: 0.1~0.2mm
- Build Volume: 230x145x150mm
- Filament Compatibility: ABS/PLA/HIPS/PVA
- File Format: STL, OBJ->X3G
- Operating System: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OX
- Software: Replicator G/ Flashprint
- Basic Parameter
- Extruder: 2
- Technology: Fused Filament Fabrication
- Positioning Accuracy: Z-Axis: 0. 0025mm, XY Axis: 0.011mm
- Printing Accuracy: 0.1-0.2mm
- Layer Thickness: 0.05-0.5mm
- Nozzle Diameter: 0.4mm
- Shaft Speed: 40-200mm/s
- Nozzle Flow Rate: 24cc/h
- Suggested Extruder Temp.: 220-230
- Suggested Platform Temp.: ABS 110-115, PLA 50
- Flashforge 2016 Creator Pro Upgrades:
- The compositional lid is replaced by a uni-body lid
- Almost 180-degree opening front door brings convenience to users.
- Flashprint is compatible with Creator Pro now.
- User-friendly side handles enhance handling comfort
- Solid plastic levelling knobs improve levelling accuracy
- Traditional power is upgraded to a broadband power supply
- 45-degree viewing ergonomic control panel is more comfortable to users
- Add Quick Start Guide
- Smaller shipping size lower transportation cost
- Kit Content: Flashforge Creator Pro, Lid, 2 x Filament Spool, USB cable, Power Cord, Wrench kits, SD card, 2 x Filament Guide Tube, 2 x Spool Holder, Quick Start Guide, Build Sheet, Levelling Card, Tool Bag, Extruder’s Accessory Kit
Design & Features
Again, we will focus on the most distinguishing features of this model. Boasting an advanced stylish and user-friendly design and a solid metal frame and arriving fully assembled, the FlashForge Creator Pro affords an incredibly stable overall operation while increasing the print speed (up to 60% according to the manufacturer) – an ideal combination. Needless to say, the stable operation also improves the printing precision.
Another advanced feature is the advanced heated build platform, made of a 6.3 mm thick aluminium alloy, specifically designed to avert deforming when heated. Its thickness, though, reduces its flexibility, but it has a build-plate sticker that can be affixed before the initial start-up to tackle that issue.
Again, as with the previous model of our list, print-bed levelling is not automatic. Still, its sophisticated three-point metal levelling system makes the process easy enough.
Next, not that FlashForge 10745 3D Printer comes with an Enclosed Printing Chamber, which not only minimises noise, fumes and resin odours but also allows you to use many different print materials. Equipped with a closable door and a removable cover, it ensures stable and thus optimum printing temperatures – which is a crucial factor with certain materials, especially ABS. It also averts any danger or dust or other air particles attaching on the print during printing and thus ruining some of the finest details.
The best thing about it is that, if you wish, you can simply open the door and remove the cover, which some users prefer when working with certain materials, like PLA.
FlashForge Creator Pro is also equipped with Dual Extruder, which means you can use for both copy and multi-coloured 3D printing – which is simply great, especially for professionals. The print heads do not move independently on the x-axis as in most other models; their nozzles are fully aligned, increasing overall print speed, since the travelling time of the print heads is significantly reduced.
Dual extruders also offer you the chance to use different print materials, be it PVA, ABS, PLA, HIPS, Flex, T-glass, or Woodfill, CopperFill, and BrassFill composites – just to name a few. A model able to handle such a variety of print materials can boost your creativity and allow you to create much more complex and intricate models.
The last amazing feature of this highly advanced 3D printer is that it uses open source technology. This means that it is compatible with several slicing programs, including FlashPrint, Simplify3D, ReplicatorG and Cura. On top of that, open-source technology allows you to modify and upgrade the printer at will.
Is it worth the extra hundred pounds? Absolutely! FlashForge Creator Pro offers an amazingly rich ensemble of features, capabilities, and construction quality that surely justifies its price.
3D printing technology has been one of the most revolutionary breakthroughs of the last decade. No, we do not mean that 3d printers were recently invented – but they have been commercially available at rather affordable prices in the last ten years.
Needless to say, being able to create an object from a digital blueprint in the leisure of your office is not just cool, but also very helpful for numerous professions and businesses.
Still, 3d printing remains largely incomprehensible to most people, making the purchase of a 3d printer a real challenge. This guide will help you filter out your options and pick the device that best suits your needs at a reasonable price.
Let us start with some key terms that you need to know and understand before starting your research.
3D Printer Terminology
- Build Plate (Print Table/Print Bed): the surface where the 3D part is formed.
- Build Platform: the part supporting the build plate.
- Extruder: the part that melts and layers the thermoplastic material.
- Filament: the plastic material melted and extruded through the 3D printer nozzle.
- Filament Diameter: the diameters of the filament. They are either 1.75mm or 3mm. Most printers can use just one of them.
- Layer Height: the thickness of a 3D printed part layer.
- Nozzle: the part controlling the amount of extruded filament.
- Overhang: parts standing without support underneath.
- Resolution: minimum detail and layer thickness. It is measured in dots per inch (dpi).
- Supports: support materials or physical structures that support gaps between the model and overhangs. They can be removed at the end of the print.
Obviously, you don’t have to memorise all these terms. Just use this list to refer to every time you find them, cause it is really important to understand the description of the 3d printer you plan to buy.
The next step is to ask yourself the following question…
Why Do You Need a 3d Printer?
Pinpointing your needs will help you focus on a specific price range and 3D printer type. Ask yourself:
- What do you want to print, and at what sizes and resolution?
- Do you need maloti-colour printing?
- What type of filament do you want to use?
Answer these questions and you will soon have a clearer view of the 2D printer you need. Of course, to do that, you need to learn a few things about the 3d printers available today and their technology.
What Type of 3D Printer should I Buy?
A 3D printer capable of printing what you want, with the material, resolution and colour you need. You also need a printer that can sustain the printing volume of your business or projects. Home users had better steer clear from certain 3d printing technologies that are both expensive and will not be of great use to them.
Please note that a higher-priced 3D printer does not always mean that the printing quality is indeed higher. Several other factors may affect the price, like the filament diameter. What you need to do is make sure that your pick meets your expectations.
Let us take a look at the basic 3D printer types. We start with the simplest one.
- FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling): it is the most basic 3D printing technology. The printer melts the plastic filament and forms the model.
- SLA (Stereolithography): the oldest (and more reliable) type of 3D printing, it uses plastic in liquid form to form the object.
- SLS (Selective Laser Sintering): SLS uses laser technology to convert powdered material into a solid object.
- SLM (Selective Laser Melting): SLM uses laser to melt powdered metal materials to form the desired object.
- DLP (Digital Light Processing): used mainly for resin or wax 3D prints, DLP uses a projector to cure photopolymer resin or wax type material.
- EBM (Electron Beam Melting): EBM is an advanced method using an electron beam to heat and melt powdered metal.
- LOM (Laminated Object Manufacturing): famed for its speed, LOM uses sheets of layered plastic and paper build materials.
- MJ (Material Jetting): MJ uses inkjet print heads to melt and give shape to wax type materials.
- BJ (Binder Jetting): advanced and relatively cheap, BJ is designed for more complex and functional metal parts, using liquid agents as binding material.
Since you are a homeowner (for if you were a professional you would probably already know most of these things), bear in mind that, of all 3D printer types, FDM and SLA are by far the best options. They will cater to your needs and are offered at affordable prices. So, let us take a closer look at those two.
FDM 3D printers are the most budget-friendly option of the two but do bear in mind that some sophisticated FDM printers can cost several thousand pounds. So, you will still need to check the descriptions and select a printer that does what you want it to do.
SLA 3D printers are usually a bit pricier, but still affordable to homeowners. Known for their versatility and precision, SLAs are very reliable and are usually chosen by small businesses that require 3D printing for their clients once in a while.
Which 3D Printing Resolution is Better?
Well, contrary to other devices, in 3D printers, the smaller the resolution the better.
What About Print Speed?
3D printing speed is measured at mm layering per second. Most 3D printers work at 40-50mm/s, 80-100mm/s, and 150mm/s.
Since you are new to this type of technology, we may well inform you that 3D printing is nowhere near as fast as paper printing. Please remember that faster printing does not always translate to higher quality printing. In fact, in most cases, faster means poorer results – especially if you hear of printers working faster than 150mm/s.
Still, everything depends on your needs. You may run a small business where you need to deliver fast and your clients do not really care about quality. If you wish, though, high precision models, opt for lower speeds.
One- or Multi-coloured 3D Printing?
That depends on your needs. Needless to say, multi-coloured 3D printing is much more expensive technology, for it requires a separate extruder for each basic colour.
What type of 3D Printing Materials Should I Use?
Again, that depends on your needs. You need to make sure though what type of material is best for your printing needs, and then pick a 3D printer, for most 3D printers work only with specific materials. The three most common plastic filaments are (alphabetically):
- ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): ABS is used mainly for kitchen appliances, musical instruments, and toys.
- PLA (Polylactic Acid): PLA is environmentally friendly material and has a wide range of uses.
- PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol): PVA is plastic soluble in water, used mainly in packaging and hygiene products.
Each material has certain qualities that make a better choice for specific projects. Check the internet and find out which of these materials is best for your project, and then start your 3d printer market search.
Check the filament diameter too since, as already mentioned, most 3D printers work only with one size.
Is the Size of the Print Bed Important?
Obviously, the bigger the print bed, the bigger you printed models can be – so you need to make sure that the bed is big enough for your projects.
See also whether your printer has a heated or non-heated bed. Some have both. This has to do with the stability of the object during printing. A heated print bed saves you the trouble of using an adhesive or glue to stabilise the printed object.
What About the Frame?
You have two options regarding the frame, open or closed.
An open-frame 3D printer keeps the printing process exposed, allowing you to monitor easily the whole procedure and access the printer bed and the extruder. On the downside, this exposure makes the machine a bit more dangerous. Also note that there will be more fumes and unpleasant odours from the burning plastic, which can make it impossible for some people to remain inside the room during the whole process and for several minutes after that (depending on your ventilation).
A closed-frame 3D printer is fully enclosed, which instantly mean they are much safer – a very important factor for homeowners with children or pets. They also smell considerably less. The noise is considerably lower too, which may prove important if you are working late or in an apartment complex with nagging neighbours.
That’s it! Now you know enough to make a well-informed pick.