3D printing is a pretty fascinating manufacturing technology which allows for the production of a wide variety of parts that are simply unheard of when compared to traditional forms of manufacturing. Through the layer by layer additive manufacturing process, 3D printing can create virtually any shape! Whether it is organic, or incredibly intricate, 3D printing can help your situation better than other styles of manufacturing in most situations. There are so many choices when it comes down to choosing your printer or material though; where should you start when looking to get a printer? Prior to purchasing a machine for 3D printing, you might want to weigh a couple options.
First off, how often are you going to be using this machine? 3D printing devices are not cheap in most cases; sure you can find value deals, but you might want to consider using services like Kraftwurx or Shapeways for your 3D printing needs. If you and/or your team would like to have an in-house printer that will have models produced within a day opposed to a couple weeks, you might be on the track to buying a printer.
Second, you need to find out what purpose you have for your printer. Are you a part of an engineering firm? If so, you might want to consider purchasing a machine that offers ABS and other thermoplastics for your prototype needs. Are you involved with a concept development team? If so, you might want to get a printer that offer Objet digital material or a Z corporation full color printer. The parts created from these machines may be fragile, but they hold great detail, and hundreds of color swatches to present to clients.
Are you involved with an architectural firm? If so, you might want to consider if you want to have full scale colored models, or if you want to simply have a nylon based printer to produce solid white designs. The full color might leave more of an impact, but the nylon possibilities will get the same message across at a more inexpensive rate. Perhaps you’re trying to rival a machining shop and you wish to create metal parts at a more inexpensive rate with greater detail.
If this is your situation, you are more than likely going to want a machine that offers Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) so that you can use 3D printing for metals. Perhaps you are in the dental industry and you want to make accurate pieces based off scans. Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing might be the best bet; the company envisionTEC might be the place to shop at. Perhaps you’re just a hobbyist who is interested in 3D printing.
I want to emphasize using services of Kraftwurx or Shapeways before you would buy your own 3D printer at a hobbyist level, but there are alternatives for you. Makerbot offers printers that are under $1,300.00 for very basic models. These models involve ABS plastic with low levels of detail and small build sizes, but it is still something! Stratasys recently came out with the Mojo 3D printing machine which offers ABS plastic builds with great detail and a reasonable size for under $5,000. Just an option! There is quite a bit of thought that should occur before you purchase a 3D printing machine.
Just keep in mind; do you really need to spend the money on it? There are international services on the web. What industry do you belong to and what purpose do you have? There are quite a few manufacturing methods within 3D printing, just be sure to choose the right one! Finally, be sure to keep a budget in mind. With some exceptions, you typically get what you pay for. If a printer costs over $150,000, it more than likely will take care of everything you need, while a Makerbot will struggle to work for a hobbyist at under $1300. I hope I’ve helped you in your journey for a 3D printer or printing services!