Just a few years ago, a 3D printer could cost tens of thousands of dollars. These were also only confined to industrial use.
Nowadays, there is a multitude of models intended for home and recreational use at particularly affordable prices. However, it is not easy to choose the right 3D printer with so many options available on the market. Especially since it is a product that is relatively new and we can imagine that your knowledge is limited on the subject.
We, therefore, suggest that you discover our guide containing all the useful information to know in order to help you find the model that suits you best.
What is a 3D printer?
3D printers are electronic devices that you can control from a computer in order to manufacture various and varied objects.
In practice, you must design and model the object of your choice in three dimensions in software specifically designed for this purpose. The 3D printer is then responsible for manufacturing the object using different plastics and polymers.
Objects are crafted by rapidly adding multiple layers of material, each covering the previous layer. The material used becomes flexible and flexible under the effect of heat, then applied through the nozzle of the printer called an extruder. When the material cools, it becomes solid again.
What can be made with a 3D printer?
3D printers are mainly used in the professional environment (industry, commerce, health, etc.). They are used for the tailor-made and rapid production of spare parts, prototypes, medical accessories, tools, etc.
Today, many small 3D printers have become accessible and allow individuals to print objects for home use. As long as the dimensions of the 3D printer allow it, you can make almost any object.
What is the best 3D printer Consumer Reports?
We have selected for you five of the best 3D printers available in 2022. You will certainly find the model capable of materializing all your creative ideas.
This Anycubic Mega Pro 3D printer is a 2-in-1 device offering 3D printing and laser engraving. In less than a minute, you can change the attachment head to switch between laser engraving and 3D printing. The engraving tool is very precise and allows you to work on many types of materials such as wood, paper or even leather.
The printer is space-saving and can easily be placed on a desk or counter. Its metal frame is very robust and ensures an excellent lifespan for the device. It is equipped with a very intuitive touch screen offering you simple and quick navigation between the different menus. The printer has a color printing function allowing you to configure the printing and change the color of the filament up to six times.
When the filament runs out, an alarm is triggered and automatically interrupts the printing process. Once the spool is replaced, printing resumes where it left off. Printing is very quiet and the assembly of the printer is within everyone’s reach. You can create objects of good dimensions (210 × 210 × 205 mm) with a good degree of precision given the particularly accessible price of this device.
- Excellent value
- 2-in-1 device (3D printing + laser engraving)
- Solid construction
- Many features
- Touchscreen is slightly outdated
The Creality Ender-3 V2 printer from Comgrow is a particularly affordable option. With quite a decent print capacity (220 x 220 x 250 mm), it is an ideal device for home use. The printer has a sleek and neat design and the construction is sturdy. The print quality is very good for an entry-level device. The print bed is textured glass, which allows the object to stay firmly in place when hot and easily peel away when cold.
The control screen is in color but is however not tactile. You must use a wheel to navigate through the different menus. In the event of a power cut during printing, a function allows the device to automatically resume printing where it stopped.
- Very good value for money
- Good print quality
- Textured Glass Print Bed
- Easy to handle
- The screen is not touch sensitive
- Inconvenient filament loading system
The FlashForge 3D printer Creator Pro is one of the most powerful entry-level printers on the market. The construction is particularly robust, the print bed heats up quickly and it has a completely closed print chamber. This is ideal for printing with temperature-sensitive materials that may warp in the open air.
The dual print head allows you to print multi-color or multi-material objects. The printing capacity is correct with the dimensions: 225 x 145 x 150 mm. The 6.3mm thick print bed is made of heat-resistant aluminum. The LCD screen is controllable via control buttons located on the front of the device. The use is relatively simple and intuitive after the realization of one or two projects.
- Dual print head
- Robust build
- Closed print chamber
- Simple to use
- No automatic resume function
The Anycubic Photon Mono 4K Resin 3D Printer features a 6.3-inch monochrome LCD screen for easier printing. You can print objects with decent dimensions (132 x 80 x 165 mm), although smaller than the other models presented.
The main feature of this device is its 4K screen with an HD resolution of 3840 x 2400 allowing you to create objects with an exceptional degree of precision. The print speed can reach up to 50mm/h, which is significantly better than what most other resin printers offer.
The light source is powerful and uniform with 15 LED lights. In addition, the quality of the proposed light source offers you the possibility of using most of the resins available on the market.
- Very high quality resin printing
- High print speed
- Powerful light source
- Difficult for beginners
- Branding software is not very intuitive
If you are looking for a 3D printer with decent performance at an unbeatable price, Monoprice’s Select Mini V2 is the ideal model. The resolution is not exceptional, but still very good considering the price of this printer. The print bed heats up well to promote material adhesion during printing and makes it easier to remove parts once the operation is complete.
The control interface is very easy to use. You will also have no trouble loading filaments or adjusting the print bed. The printing capacity is however quite weak with the possibility of printing objects of 120 x 120 x 120 mm.
Unlike most entry-level 3D printers, the Select Mini V2 comes fully assembled and pre-calibrated from the factory. You also receive a MicroSD card with pre-installed object models as well as a sample PLA filament.
- Unbeatable price
- Robust design
- Very simple to use
- Factory assembled and pre-calibrated printer
- Low print quality at high speed
- Low print capacity
The different types of 3D printer
Entry-level models for home use can be separated into two broad categories: SLA 3D printers and FDM 3D printers.
These two types of printers are totally different in terms of materials used and mode of operation. If you are planning to buy a 3D printer, you absolutely must know the differences between these two models.
FDM Printer – Melted Filament Deposit
FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printers are the most popular, mainly for home use. They work by using heat to melt the material and force it through the nozzle as filaments. Very thin layers are placed on top of each other to make the object.
You can modify the diameter of the nozzle to adapt to the diameter of the filaments. Note that the smaller the diameter, the more detailed the object will be. However, printing will take much longer. FDM printers are those offering the lowest resolution and the lowest degree of accuracy.
The most common materials used with FDM printers are:
- acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) which gives the object excellent robustness in the face of heat and very good durability over time,
- polylactic acid (PLA) which is the simplest and least expensive material to print. It is, however, less resistant to heat or chemicals and may deteriorate over time.
SLA 3D printers
Stereolithography (SLA) printers were the first 3D printers to emerge and are still very popular with professionals today. They use a chemical treatment process, known as photo-solidification. This process makes it possible to form the different layers of the object printed with resin. So you can get exceptional quality prints with breathtaking detail.
In practice, an ultraviolet lamp draws the shape of the layer to be printed and flashes the resin in order to treat it and harden it. This same operation is carried out many times between each layer.
SLS 3D printers
SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) printers work similarly to SLA printers. However, they use laser and powder materials to create 3D objects. The laser points at specific areas of the powder to harden it.
These printers are mainly used for printing machine parts or complex objects. The materials needed are more difficult to find and relatively expensive.
SLM 3D printers
SLM (Selective Laser Melting) printers use a very powerful laser beam to form 3D objects from powdered metals. This printing technique makes it possible to obtain objects of unequaled precision.
They are mainly used in hospitals to create utensils with complex geometry and require an ultra-precise result.
How to choose the best 3D printer?
When you want to buy a 3D printer, we recommend that you consider some important specifications. Find out below the main characteristics to analyze and how these can affect your use.
3D printer resolution
Unlike televisions, the lower the resolution of a 3D printer, the better the quality of the manufactured object. Understanding the resolution of 3D printing is relatively complex because of the three dimensions. Remember that the lower it is, the smoother and more precise the result obtained will be.
Printer print speed
The printing speed of a 3D printer is measured in millimeters per second. Specifically, it indicates the speed at which the printer deposits the material. Manufacturers systematically indicate printing speeds on their products, but this is information to be put into perspective.
Indeed, the printing speed depends mainly on the desired degree of precision. A complex-shaped object with many details will take longer to print than a simple object.
Note that in any case, 3D printing is a time-consuming process. We advise you to choose a 3D printer that offers better print quality rather than high speed.
Materials supported by the 3D printer
Knowing the different materials supported by a specific 3D printer is crucial in order to calculate the costs of use. Indeed, some materials are rarer and more expensive, such as powders for SLM printers. If you plan to print a lot of objects, printing costs can quickly add up.
Most 3D printers sold for home use are used with filament spools in easy-to-find and inexpensive materials (PLA, PETG, TPU, or ABS).
The print capacity tells you the maximum size of printable objects with a 3D printer model. You usually find this data, expressed in millimeters (L x W x H), in the technical sheet. Note that large printers are significantly more expensive.
An ideal solution is to print multiple parts, with a reasonably sized printer at an affordable price. You can then assemble them together to form a larger object.
Take the time to think about the objects you want to create in order to invest in a printer with sufficient printing capacity.
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