3D printers can vary in size, 3D printing technology and cost.
For the consumer market, 3D printers are built for the desktop and use Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF / FDM) printing technology. Average cost for the 3D printer itself runs about $1,000 to $2,500.
In the industrial market, 3D printers are available in large scale platform and use a different printing technology, either Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) or Stereo Lithgraph (SLA). Average cost for a commercial 3D printer can start at $25,000 and go as high as $1M.
Whether you are building a 3D printer from stratch using a DIY build kit or buying a pre-assembled 3D printer, desktop 3D printer will include two integral parts: 3D software component and 3D hardware component.
3D Software Component
Design Software – The first step to 3D printing involves create your digital blueprint of the object you want to create. Design software will help you build a 3D model from scratch and store your digital blueprint as a STL (STereoLithography) file.
Control Software – Once you complete your digital blueprint, control software breaks down the information and instructs the 3D printer on how to build your 3D object layer by layer.
3D Printer Hardware Component
Extruder – The extruder is the part that feeds the 3D material, such ABS or PLA plastic filament, into the hot-end. Some 3D printers have dual extruders where you can feed two different materials or colors simultaneously.
Hot-End – The hot-end is where the 3D material is heated, liquified, and squirted out. Hot end can come in various sizes, between 0.2mm and 0.8mm. With a smaller hot end nozzle, you can print more detail but it takes longer to print.
A – Extruder
C – Print Bed
Print Bed – The print bed is the physical surface upon which the 3D object is created. The print bed temperature can be heated up to 230°F (110°C) or remain at room temperature. Depending on your 3D printer model, print bed can also move with the print head.
Filament Spool – The filment spool contains the 3D material, including plastics (ABS, PLA, PVA, etc.), nylon or other materials. Filament spool typically weighs 1kg (2.2lbs).
If you are in the market for a new desktop 3D printer, there are some characteristics you might want to consider when buying a 3D printer.
Purchase price is always a good starting point, especially when you have a budget. If you are looking for a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) 3D printer kit, price ranges between $500 to $800. Pre-assembled 3D printers can cost between $1,000 to $2,500.
|Ease of Use||
When it comes to 3D hardware interface and 3D software controls, you definitely want to consider buying a platform that is easy to setup and comes with a straightforward and easy to follow manual.
With printing speed, you might want to consider two types of print speed. First, how fast can the hot-end lay down the 3D material? Second, how fast does the hot-end move to different print areas without laying down 3D material?
How close will the printed 3d object resemble my design? To answer this question, it is helpful to compare identical parts created by various 3D printers. You may see noticeable differences in print resoultion among different 3D printers.
Print volume is important especially if you want to print large parts without having to literally cut your print job in half. With a large print volume, you can not only build large parts but also different parts at once.
Since not all 3D printers are built the same, you definitely want to consider additional features, such as the ability to print different 3D material types and sizes.
Here's a list of desktop 3D printer manufacturers in the United States.
Disclaimer - We do not recommend or endorse products or services offered by these 3D printer manufacturers nor the accuracy of any information presented on their web sites. All brand and product names are trademarks, registered trademark or service marks of their respective companies.