learn-3d-printing , knowledge-about-3d-printing

The 3D printer comparison guide

When a company considers investing in an industrial 3D printer, of course they want to do a 3D printer comparison. 3D printers come with a wide range of features and different specifications, which means that the 3D printer price can vary hugely. The big difference often comes down to the specific construction parameters of both devices.

What is the difference between 3D printers? Where is it based upon and how to do a 3D printer comparison? When you are looking for the best solution for your business, it is worth understanding a little more about 3D printers. We summed up the main criteria to consider when comparing 3D printers.

TL;DR – Key take-aways

✓ The more features you desire, the higher the price of the 3D printer will be.

✓ When you are new to 3D printing it is best to buy a more advanced system that is easy to handle and maintain. When it comes to getting a 3D print right, there can be a huge array of features on the list of settings.

✓ You need to consider beforehand what materials you want to use as that can have a detrimental effect on the cost.

How to make a good 3D printer comparison?

For businesses looking for a viable option that can deliver results, an FDM printer offers the perfect solution. It is competitively priced and can deliver results efficiently and effectively. Choosing a 3D printer depends on your business’ unique needs and budget. When you are looking for the best 3D printing solution for your business there are some questions you want to ask yourself. We summed them up for you.

How large are the objects you want to print?

3D printers come in a number of different sizes depending on the needs.

The industrial 3D printer price can vary considerably based on build size. This means, when you want to get most out of your budget, you first have to consider first your requirements regarding the build volume. The bigger the printer you need, the more you will pay for it. Of course if you have a need to print large objects and want to do so in an economical way, then a large volume industrial 3D printer that can print a large object in one process is always the best option. Also when you want to print large batches of smaller objects this is your best choice.

The storage of the 3D printer will also play a part in determining the cost. It could mean that you, for example, need a warehouse transporter or mobility system if you want to move the printer around.

How high do you want the quality of your 3D prints to be?

When designing exquisite models for FDM printing, you may want them to be as detailed as possible so that you can truly see the expertise put into it. That’s why you need to consider a few features in your 3D printer comparison so you know beforehand your 3D printer can handle even the finest details.

Resolution

If you want your output to have as much detail as possible, you need to do a comparison on the 3D printers resolutions. The lower end printers will have a lower resolution while the higher end will deliver a higher resolution. Opting for a printer with a lower resolution will mean that the 3D printed layers are thicker which will use more material and result in a lower quality finish.

> The higher the resolution, the more detailed your object will be. This is measured in microns; a high resolution of 10 microns is a layer thickness of 0,01 millimeters.

Parameters/settings

When it comes to getting a 3D print right, there can be a huge array of features on the list of settings. When you are doing a 3D printer comparison you need to consider all of them. This can include things such as extruder (nozzle) temperature, layer height (resolution), printing speed and the distance between the main print and the support, not to mention the heated build platform temperature. The list needed for a good 3D printer comparison can be considerably long.

We do have a ‘rule of thumb’ for you which can make your 3D printer comparison easier. Industrial 3D printers often come with preconfigured software settings, which includes the specific parameters required for certain filaments. They make it possible to print at the highest of quality, while ensuring that the right parameters are in place to help create a successful print. In the case of consumer 3D printers, they often not come with the correct parameters, as they are lower in price and designed for users who want to spend more time tweaking the printing process.

First layer adhesion

There are also some differences in specifications concerning the first layer adhesion. The first layer is the most important one. When the layer is uneven or the adhesion to the build plate is not sufficient, the whole 3D print can fail. To ensure a good first layer there are some handy features like automatic build platform compensation whereby the build plate is leveled automatically. Also a heated build platform will help, as this will improve the adhesion of the layer. Don’t want to deal with glue or hair spray for sticking the prints to the bed? Then a PEI build plate is advisable, as it requires no preparation in starting the 3D print. Of course all these features influence the price so when you do a 3D printer comparison, consider first what you really need for your projects.

Process automation

When it comes to printing a complex object, additional features such as automatic build plate calibration or out-of-filament detection, will become a useful option. When a 3D printer doesn’t have this, there is a lot to think about, that means that the print time increases and the chance of errors is higher. That is why this is an important option to consider when choosing between 3D printers.

How fast do you want your object to be finished?

When using a 3D printer, you probably want to see your finished object as soon as possible. That is why it is important to consider the speed when you make a 3D printer comparison. It will determine the type of printer you require. The less expensive, lower end printers often print at a speed of 100 millimeters per second while the more expensive printers can deliver several pounds of materials per hour.

> When a 3D printer has a printing speed up to 200 mm/s, it means that an object of 100 grams can be finished in less than 1 hour.

Do you want to be able to use multiple materials?

If you plan to use one material then you can opt for a basic Industrial 3D printer, which means that you can opt for a less expensive printer. If you want to print with a number of different materials then you will need to look at a printer with more functionalities, affecting the price. As described before there are a few features like a closed chamber and heated build platform which are required to be able to handle the more demanding filaments. The materials that are being used, mostly determine the costs of 3D printing. A lot of professional 3D printers can only print with their own brand of materials, obligating you to buy a particular brand. Check this carefully when you are doing your 3D printer comparison. With ‘open filament systems’ you have more freedom and can choose your own preferred filament supplier.

If you want to print with a number of different materials then you may want to choose a 3D printer with more functionalities.

Closed chamber (enclosure)

For those businesses that need the use of more demanding (high-performance) materials, the 3D printer should have an enclosed chamber. This makes it possible to print at a temperature that is higher and stable which is a requirement for certain print materials. When a 3D printer doesn’t have a closed chamber, there are more temperature fluctuations during printing. Therefore you can only use a limited choice of print materials and you have to compromise on the quality of your prints as well.

Single or Dual extrusion

When you are doing a 3D printer comparison you should also consider the number of printing nozzles. If you will print with one material during a print job, then one nozzle will be fine. But if you want to print with more than one material during one print job, you will need more than a single extruder.

When you are printing with one material, PLA for instance, it is sometimes difficult to break the supports away from the model. This can cause damage and leave traces that can prove difficult to remove. If supports are printed using a different material to that of the main model, for example water-soluble (PVA) material, it often makes it easier to remove it and reduces the risk of damage and chipping. In this case you need to choose a 3D printer with two extruders (dual head).

Open filament system

When doing a 3D printer comparison it’s important to know that the materials that you are planning to use, mostly determine the costs of 3D printing. A lot of professional 3D printers can only print with their own brand of materials, obligating you to buy a particular brand. With ‘open filament systems’ you have more freedom and can choose your own preferred filament supplier.

How much support do you need?

If you need assistance purchasing a 3D printer then you will need to consider this as part of the overall cost. You might need help with setup, maintenance and even technical support because you never know when you might need it.

Using a 3D printer is great when it works but if you have problems or need support with queries, having the support there when you need it provides peace of mind. So when doing your 3D printer comparison make sure to check the support level by phone, email and/or live chat.

Paying for a higher level of support could be worth it if you are relatively new to 3D printing, but if you are comfortable to deal with any problems yourself then you could make savings. In some cases the purchase of a 3D printer can also include a Service Level Agreement (for free). Besides the warranty this will provide extra services and other benefits during a certain period of time.

How long do you want your 3D printer to last?

We understand how difficult it is to do a good 3D printer comparison. Often new 3D printing technologies hit the market. When you choose a a 3D printer that is modularly build you can add new technologies (for instance a better print head) to the printer and you will stay up to par with everyone else in the industry! As is possible with any machine, some parts of it can malfunction or get worn over time. When a 3D printer is modular build, it is easier to maintain.

Where are you going to put your 3D printer?

While doing your 3D printer comparison you will also have to think about the size and shape of the printer in order to determine whether it will fit into your desired space. The size of large 3D printers can vary and they can often be deceiving so it is important to make sure that the printer is perfect.

Weight is also important when you want to move it around. Thereby you also have to consider the noise level when doing a 3D printer comparison. Especially if you want to work undisturbed next to the 3D printer.

Do you want it to be ‘ready-to-print’ or build it yourself?

When doing a comparison on 3D printers it is important to consider whether you have the ability and the tools available to build a 3D printer yourself. Because in some cases 3D printers are available as ‘Do It Yourself’ kit, for you to assemble. This will save you a bit of money, so can be a preferred option in some cases.

3D printers that are delivered full assembled are often ready to print by arrival. Sometimes this is not possible, for example because of the large size of the printer and shipment restrictions. In that situation the industrial 3D printer manufacturer often offers a service of installation on location. An engineer from the manufacturer will take care of installing the printer on site.

Do you already have 3D printing software?

When doing a comparison on 3D printing connectivity and software are both two important aspects to consider. You will need to think about the types of software you require so that you can connect to the printer, but also communicate with the machine to tell it what to print. Whatever the needs, connectivity is a crucial part in doing a 3D printer comparison.

The correct software will enable you to create print jobs to the highest of standards and share them with the printer. When doing your 3D printer comparison make sure to check if the 3D printing software, is included in the 3D printer price. When you have created a design in for example AutoCAD or SolidWorks, you can save the design as STL file and import the model in the 3D printing software. After indicating the required settings (print material, resolution, etc.), you can save it as G-code file and transfer it to the 3D printer.

How important is the look and feel of the 3D printer?

There is a difference in the look and feel of 3D printers. Each 3D printer brand has its own look so you may want to take this into account when doing your 3D printer comparison. Some printers have extra bells and whistles that are meant to please the eye. Of course, those printers that have a simpler design can cost a bit less while those that are well designed will cost more.

3D printers with a detailed touchscreens will have a higher price than printers with a basic LCD control panel. A screen can provide you a wide range of functionalities, among which the ability to control the machine directly and track print jobs.