First 3D printer

How can you know which one is best for you? So many 3D printers and so many outlets for 3D printers. Here's a list of details you should keep in mind before you choose a 3D printer. These are the things that will influence your final decision.
To choose a 3D printer, you need to consider what it will be used for.
3D printing technology has applications in many areas of life, such as electronics, industry, medicine or even art. A 3D printer is a piece of equipment that offers great possibilities, but like any device, it should be optimally selected to meet the needs of the user. 3D printing technology is hugely popular, which means that there are many devices available on the market. What types of 3D printers are there? What are the characteristics of professional and home devices? How do you choose the right model?

1. Speed

Influences how fast the 3D Printer can make your model. This is measured in mm/s. Sometimes 3D printers can take longer than expected to make some parts. Fortunately, you can change the printing speed of the 3D printer. The maximum speed of a 3D printer ranges from 50 mm/s to 150 mm/s, and sometimes even more. The difference between the slowest and fastest 3D printer is significant. 100 mm/s instead of 40 mm/s are hours of time saved. Faster 3D Printers are more expensive, but you get what you pay for. If you have extra money to spend, buy a faster one! Note that speeds above 150 mm/s tend to reduce quality.

2. Quality

Influences the thickness of the layer. High quality = smooth parts. 3D Printer quality means the highest resolution with which the 3D printer can print. Resolution is measured in microns. Microns are very small units of measurement. A micrometer is 0.00004 inches or a millionth of a metre. The lower the highest resolution, the better the print quality and precision. A 3D printer with a resolution of 25 microns (0.025 mm) will provide a very high quality print. A resolution of 150 microns (0.15 mm) is a lower quality print, while 100 microns is average quality. Budget 3D Printers will usually have a maximum resolution of at least 100 microns. This is usually fine unless you are creating product prototypes or tight moving parts. However, it is important to note that the print quality will also depend on the material used and the printing technology of the chosen printer (see below). For example, a part printed using SLA will be of higher quality than a part printed using FDM.

3. Printing platform
The object you 3D print is made on a printing platform. A good printing platform will ensure that the printed object sticks to it during printing and comes off easily after printing. The printing platform is where the filament is placed to form a uniform object. Like the print head, the print platform affects the overall performance. The print platform can be heated or unheated, this depends on the type of filament used and the manufacturer's instructions. A 3D printer with only an unheated platform is safer and applies to PLA and other materials that do not require a heated surface, but limits the use of other filaments. With a heated print platform, you can print with a wider range of materials, including ABS, ASA, PC and HIPS. The printing platform comes in a variety of configurations. Some are magnetic, allowing for easy maintenance and quick removal of completed prints. The material of the printing platform is also a factor. An aluminium printing platform heats up faster and will not break when accidentally bumped. A glass printing platform offers a flat surface, is easier to clean and is not prone to warping.

4. Print size and volume
Something that most beginners forget to assess is the volume of the printer. There are 3D printers designed for desktop computers and also there are larger printers designed for more professional use. The larger the volume, the larger models can be made. Most hobbyists choose 3D Printers small enough to fit on desktop computers. Of course, a larger print volume usually comes with larger printer dimensions, so make sure you have enough room if you plan to make large prints. Also, printers vary in terms of the frame: it can be open or closed. A closed frame will reduce the sound and smell from some fibres such as ABS and is safer if you have children or pets.

5. Connection
This is related to ease of use. You need a way to transfer the 3D model to the 3D printer. This can be done via WiFi, USB, SD card and other methods. When choosing a 3D printer, consider the connection options available at the outset. Some can connect via USB and SD card or one of these mentioned. There are also 3D Printers that can connect via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. The connection options may affect where the 3D Printer is placed. A 3D Printer that has SD card transfer (via the built-in interface) can be placed virtually anywhere in the room. In contrast, a 3D Printer that connects via a USB connection must be placed close to the computer, resulting in a more crowded desk. Remember that Wi-Fi connectivity is not a reliable indicator of product quality, so don't be taken in by companies that make their 3D Printer better just because it offers Wi-Fi connectivity.

6. The number of print heads and their type
Some 3D printers have more than one print nozzle. This allows multiple materials to be printed simultaneously. The configuration and quality of the entire printhead affect print quality, print speed and material compatibility. The printhead is divided into two sections, each designed for a specific task: cold end and hot end.

The cold end (extruder) pulls the filament from the spool and pushes it to the hot head (hotend), which melts the filament and deposits it on the print bed to form a uniform object. The configuration and quality of the entire print head affect print quality, print speed and material compatibility.

Extruder: with the cold end, you need to check the filament feeder system, which is present in the direct drive configuration or the Bowden configuration. In the former, the cold end is on top of the hotend, which means that the print head has more mass to carry, affecting print speed. In the latter, the cold end is separate. It is mounted somewhere on the frame, making the hotend move faster. While the direct drive is most recommended for flexible materials, an optimised Bowden can also get the job done.

Hotend: with a hotend there are several things to consider, the most important of which is the maximum operating temperature. Some materials require very high temperatures, which can only be achieved with an all-metal hotend. The hotend carries a nozzle, a small hole at the end that extrudes the molten filament and deposits it on the print bed. It comes in various diameters, with 0.4 millimetres being the default diameter for most 3D printers.

The nozzle diameter affects both print speed and print quality. With a smaller nozzle, the 3D Printer can produce smoother and more detailed 3D models, but at the expense of printing speed. With a larger nozzle, the opposite is true. On the other hand, the material of the nozzle affects material compatibility. A brass nozzle, which is the standard, is good enough for most basic materials and a few composites. But for highly abrasive materials, such as metal-filled fibres and carbon fibre-reinforced fibres, a hardened steel nozzle is recommended.

You can modify the printheads to achieve the desired results. With enough tinkering, a low-cost 3D printer can transform into a 3D printer that can print at high resolution and use a wide range of materials.

Dual extruders: some 3D printers are equipped with dual extruders, allowing you to print in two colours without changing the filament mid-print and print more complex 3D models using soluble auxiliary materials such as PVA.

Dual extruder 3D printers come in two variants: Dual Extruder with a single print head equipped with dual nozzles and Dual Extruder with a pair of print heads that move independently of each other. With independent dual extruders, two of the same 3D models can be printed at a faster rate, increasing productivity.

While dual extruder 3D printers may seem tempting, they are not recommended for beginners due to their learning curve and more demanding maintenance. If you fancy a dual extruder setup, you can always upgrade your single 3D printer in the future.

7. Filament size and type
Consumer 3D Printers use either 1.75mm or 3mm filament, with the former being more widely used due to its availability and ease of use. Unless you install the appropriate hardware, you cannot use 3mm filaments on a 3D printer designed by default for 1.75mm filaments and vice versa. Choose a product configured for the size of filament you want to print out of the box.

8. Other Additional Features

-Automatic platform levelling:

3D printers equipped with an automatic levelling system are much easier to handle during pre-print setup. With this system, no intensive physical work is required to get the printing platform perfectly level. All you have to do is run the system and the 3D printer takes care of the rest. If your 3D printer does not have an automatic levelling system, you can always add one in the future, but this would require some tinkering.

-Aided platform levelling system (semi-automatic):

The assisted platform levelling system (semi-automatic) differs from a fully automatic bed levelling system in that it analyses the actual state of the platform and prompts you. The 3D printer automatically scans the print platform and then tells you exactly how to manually align the screws under the print bed, with instructions displayed on the built-in interface.

-Filament sensor:

With a filament sensor, the 3D Printer will be able to detect and automatically pause printing when there is no filament, giving you the opportunity to load a new spool before resuming printing. Many 3D printers are equipped with a filament sensor out of the box, although some companies do not mention this in their marketing materials.

-Power loss recovery:

With this feature, the 3D Printer will be able to resume the printing process after a sudden power loss. Like the filament sensor, this feature is particularly useful when printing large, high-resolution 3D models that take more than 20 hours to complete.

- Wi - Fi connectivity:

As mentioned above, some 3D printers can connect via Wi-Fi out of the box. A 3D printer with this feature allows you to start prints and monitor print progress from afar, although not all products offer the same remote options. Some only offer the ability to cancel prints, with no real remote visual monitoring.

-On-board camera:

The on-board camera allows remote monitoring of printing progress on a computer or mobile device. However, few 3D printers offer an integrated camera. With most 3D printers, you have to manually install one, and this requires you to purchase your own camera and place a mount for the camera.

-Touchscreen interface:

Some 3D printers have a touchscreen interface instead of a basic LCD interface with controls. Touchscreens vary in quality. Some offer smooth and lag-free operation, while some require an annoyingly hard press to register each input.

In terms of features, not all 3D printers come with additional functions. Some are loaded with convenient features that make them better to use. Others are more limited and have no more than one or two features but really stand out. Here are some of the features available in 3D printers.

If you are a beginner and want to learn as much as possible, you should have a 3D printer that is cheap, easy to use and offers excellent customer service.
For professionals making large and complex items, a printer with a large print volume and two extruders will be the best fit.

For teachers, it is best to have a 3D printer that is fast, easy and safe.

Printers for production processes and prototyping would require a higher budget to get good quality and performance.