Guide to 3D Printers
There are so many 3D printers out there that it is impossible to cover all of them in this short guide. Instead we shall point out some good printers and discuss what you might want from a 3D printer.
If you have read this guide then you have probably realised that we are talking about FDM printers. These printers melt and extrude a plastic filament in order to build up a model in layers. There are printers that use a resin to do the same job. These are called DLP and SLA printers but we won't be covering these here.
FDM printers rely on motors to move the extruder and bed in X, Y and Z axis directions. However, there can be many different ways to do this. For example, a standard type of printer will have one motor working for each of the axis. However, a delta style printer has three motors working on the vertical axis which can move the extruder exactly where wanted. Both these different kinds of 3D printer can give excellent results so there is no clear best type of printer.
There are printers for all kinds of budget. However, generally you get what you pay for. A more expensive printer will most likely be of a higher quality and have more functionality. At the bottom end of the scale there is the Turnigy Fabrikator Mini V2. This printer is perhaps the cheapest printer currently available. It also benefits from aluminium parts which are strong and durable. This printer is an excellent introduction to 3D printing and can certainly teach people a lot. It is a favorite for schools and education. However, the Fabrikator Mini V2 is disadvantaged by a small print bed. You can only print parts smaller than 100x100mm which means you would be able to print any large projects you have unless you want to digitally cut them into many small parts.
At the other end of the scale there are printers like the Ultimaker brand of printers. These printers offer a relatively large scale build bed and are well known for their excellent quality. However, Ultimaker printers are held back by their high price tag and the fact that they are made for 3mm filament. As discussed previously, there is not much choice and availability of 3mm filament. However, Ultimaker printers can be converted to 1.75mm filament. See the end of this guide for more details.
Alternatively, you could go for a 3D printer kit. The benefit of this is that it keeps the price low but you will have to assemble the printer. Whilst many people do choose to go for a printer kit as their first printer, if you are not confident in your building abilities you might want to avoid this option.
A very popular line of kits are the FolgerTech printers. These are popular due to the amount of functionality they come with and their low prices. They can also be modified to be exactly the quality of printer you desire. The FolgerTech FT5 is particularly popular due to its large build volume and very low price tag. We have one of these printers and we can safely say that they are great quality.
What ever printer you go for there is often a huge following for each brand. If you ever hit difficulty then you can always ask one of the many facebook groups dedicated to 3D printing or join a 3D printing forum. We would recommend joining the 3D Printing Forum .org which has many really helpful members only too happy to chat about 3D printing!