So what really is all the hype about these next-generation 3D printers nowadays? It’s almost unbelievable to learn all of what 3D printers can do along with understanding the wide range of capabilities these printers can perform, depending on the specific job the user is requiring. In fact, check out our article: 5 Awesome Uses For 3D Printing.
Whether you’re printing 3D clothing for high-fashion runway models, or designing and printing titanium beams strong enough to support a 500 ton bridge, 3D printers sure do make our super fancy smartphones look like like a thing of the past.
Alright, let’s slow this down for just a minute here. We get it, you aren’t a fashion designer or a contractor, you’re just a medium-sized business owner curious about basic 3D printing and a 3D printer may seem like an extra, unnecessary expense for your business.
However, 3D printers are actually making very important impressions on our business industries a lot more frequently than you think. 3D printing can, and will, bring many changes and benefits in ways we live and do business, now and in the future.
Still not sure if a 3D printer is right for your business? Check out this informational article we’ve published on the, 3D Printing Benefits for your Business. This might help you better understand the advantages of purchasing a 3D printer for your business. Or maybe this Business News Daily article will give you some more ideas: How Businesses Are Successfully Using 3D Printing.
If you have read enough to decide you do in fact, want to purchase a 3D printer, it’s important you ask some vital questions before doing so. 3D printers are probably still unfamiliar to you and it’s important you pick the right one that will best suit your company’s needs.
You’ve got a lot of choices to choose from and it’s pretty impressive (and can even seem overwhelming) to look a the many different options of 3D printers. 3D printers are exploding as more applications become possible, from toys to industrial manufacturing to medical use. And with a broader selection, comes confusion.
We’ve created the top six questions you must make sure to answer before you purchase your 3D printer in order for you to truly understand what all 3D printing entails. You should use these questions as a resource to help guide you throughout your search.
The 6 Questions You Need to Ask Before Purchasing your 3D Printer
1. Printing Interests and Uses: What is it that you’re looking to print and will this be for prototype or production purposes?
The largest and most common use of 3D printing continues to be for prototyping. Prototyping is the act of building a sample of something to represent or show an original idea in order to alleviate major bulk costs in the beginning stages of production. Prototyping is a simpler way to present something by showing a basic idea of what you’d like to see produced.
If you're looking to create prototypes, you can generally use a slightly more budget friendly printer rather than using a 3D printer, which entails full on production (particularly for manufacturing and engineering uses).
However, as functionality improves and prices decrease, 3D printing for production, merchandise, retail-ready, and functional-ready products, are all growing segments of the 3D printing marketplace. It really just depends what your company is interested in printing and how they plan on printing it.
2. Materials: What type of material is needed for your prints and will the prints be monochrome or color?
The material of what your printing is one of the most important aspects you need to look at when making your decision. The materials for dental and medical applications are going to be much different than materials for rapid prototyping. And both of those will be different from aerospace or food.
Most 3D printers print using a process called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). FDM consists of a single filament head of plastic or metal wire. Each print is one specific color, the color of the print is the color of the material used.
There are also 3D printers with multiple heads that can print different colors to different areas of a printed object. We offer an exclusive line of 3D printers depending on the specific materials and colors you are wanting to use. Reference our 3D Products page to help you narrow down the 3D printer options.
Even though the technology of 3D printing has been relatively the same for such a long time, new advancements are certainly coming to light. It’s becoming more common for 3D printers to have the capability to print in multiple colors and shades.
3. Size and Dimensions: What are the dimensions of your object and can the object be printed into different parts?
You’ll have to do your research on the product size each 3D printer is able to print, depending on the dimensions and assembly of the parts you plan to create. 3D printers can potentially be a very large piece of equipment taking up space in your office.
If you have designs that can be printed into pieces and then can later be assembled, you would probably be safe with a smaller 3D printer. That way, your printer won’t be taking up as much floor or counter space.
Tom’s Guide, a product review website, put together a buyer’s guide for buying a 3D printer that can help further answer your questions on printer size when relating it to product dimensions and assembly.
4. Quality: What type of finish are you looking for?
Unfortunately, this question comes bearing a lot of other questions with it.
• Have you decided what type of final finish you'd like on your printed products?
• Are you looking for surface finish quality?
• Are you looking for a specific micron level parameter?
• Will the application be used in daily use?
All of these questions will help to narrow the field of 3D printers you are choosing from.
It’s also very important to note that the material you use will impact how much finishing you need, and the kind of finishing you'll do, such as: sanding, lacquer, or even a “bath” to fill in holes in the 3D-printed object.
This might seem a little complicated, which is completely normal. Don’t fret! It’s important to remember that 3D printing is very different from the typical printing you’ve been familiar with your entire life. That’s why questions such as type of print quality, are important to answer and understand while you’re shopping for your printer.
5. Money Money Money: What’s your budget?
This is the part of your search that you probably have the hardest time answering. It’s difficult to come up with a specific budget of what you’re comfortable investing. Fortunately for you, there's a 3D printer for any budget!
Heck, there's even a 3D printer (the da Vinci miniMaker) that you can buy for kids to design and print toys for under $250. With the previous four questions and answers in mind, look for the right machine in your budget range.
Another great reference for you to take a look at is the Senvol database. This is a free database of additive manufacturer machines and materials, geared toward industrial machines.
6. Pre-Assess: Have you asked the manufacturer for a benchmark before purchasing?
Any great 3D printing manufacturer should absolutely show you examples and let you test out the product before making your purchase. This is a big purchase and you have the right to explore it before you buy it.
Once you’ve researched different types of 3D printers, narrow your list down to your top three. Schedule appointments with each manufacturer and have them show you the benefits of each one so that you feel assured that the 3D printer you purchase is the best one for you and your company’s needs. Here’s even another article of things you should consider before you buy: Buying a 3D Printer? Consider This.
If you make sure to ask these six questions before you purchase your 3D printer, we can assure you’ll be much happier and much more knowledgeable with your purchase. It may take a little extra time in the beginning, but in the long run, you will be happy you did.
AIS is committed to giving you easy resources at your fingertips, especially when it comes to making a big purchase. If you’re ready to arm yourself with more knowledge, click on the link here and download our FREE eBook on 3D printing. This eBook will give you even more insight on what you need to know before you purchase your 3D printer. Once you’ve done your research, start a conversation with one of our business technology consultants and they will be happy to listen your 3D printing needs as well as help you make the right decision on your next purchase.