Geeks2U Promise
We guarantee you'll love our fast, friendly service - or we'll refund your money.  
133,572 Happy Customers & Counting
Need tech support?
1300 769 448
Extended hours, 7 days a week
Home  /  geekspeak  /  Home 3D printing is far from smooth sailing

Home 3D printing is far from smooth sailing

As prices drop it’s easy to get excited about the 3D printing revolution, but do your homework before you take the plunge into the world of make-it-yourself.

3D printing is one of those amazing technologies which has made the transition from science fiction to science fact, seemingly granting you the ability to create practically any object out of thin air. The rise of 3D printing points to a future where we’ll no longer buy physical objects but instead we’ll simply print what we need on the spot.

Early 3D printers were prohibitively expensive but prices have plunged and today’s budget models are within reach of your average home. XYZprinting’s new da Vinci Jr 3D printer sells for less than $600 and you can be sure other 3D printer makers will join it in the race to break the $500 barrier.

The 3D printing revolution is full of promise but it’s important to stop for a quick reality check if you think that a cheap 3D printer is going to change your life forever. Rather than focusing on the price tag, start by thinking about what you want to print. A budget 3D printer isn’t a wise investment if it can’t actually deliver the goods.

There are many factors to consider when assessing 3D printers. The size of the print chamber will determine the maximum size of your 3D models, while the price tag will determine which materials you can print with and the accuracy of the results.

The cheapest consumer-grade 3D printers rely on the Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) printing process, spitting out melted plastic bit by bit to build up your 3D model. Some restrict you to using PLA plastic filament. Others offer the choice of printing with ABS plastic which can offer better results when precision is important, but the trade-off is a burned plastic smell that you probably don’t want wafting through your home. You’ll also find blended filaments which mix PLA or ABS with materials like wood, chalk and metal – assuming your printer will handle them.

Budget 3D printers are fine for producing toys and trinkets, but you can struggle to produce precision parts. It pays to do your research in terms of printing techniques, resolution and calibration options to ensure the budget model you’re eyeing off will meet your long-term needs. That means it’s important to know what you’ll want to print after the novelty wears off.

The next step up in terms of precision is Stereolithography (SLA) printers which start at several thousand dollars and use a laser to carve out 3D models from plastic layer by layer. Add an extra zero to the price tag if you’re interested in industrial-grade Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printers which can print in both plastic and metal.

Just like a normal photo printer, over time you’ll probably spend more on consumables than you initially spent on the printer itself. Some 3D printer manufacturers lock you into using their own brand of filament and stop you from using third-party refills, so your upfront savings from buying a cheap 3D printer are eaten away by expensive running costs.

Whichever 3D printing method you favour, it’s important to keep in mind that home 3D printing is still a fiddly process. It’s for people who like to tinker with technology. Be prepared to spend a lot of time and effort getting to know your 3D printer, especially if you’re looking to produce precision parts. It’s far from the magical one-click process that you might be hoping for.

Share

Recent News

Popular social media destination Facebook made worldwide headlines recently, and not for the kinds of reasons that Facebook might want to be noticed. That’s because for a roughly 12 hour period, access not just to Facebook, but also Instagram and Whatsapp — all services owned and operated by Facebook — consumers worldwide had issues connecting… More 

There’s a well-known test that taxi drivers in London have to sit, called “The Knowledge”, that can take years to pass, detailing just about every street in the UK’s very disorganised capital road system. It’s tough learning that many roads, although it may have side benefits, with some studies suggesting that London black cab drivers… More 

Not that long ago, Apple surprised everyone by updating its line of Mac Mini computers. The Mac Mini isn’t like any other Mac that Apple sells. Where much of its output is in laptops, or the 2-in-1 style iMac computers, the Mac Mini is instead a “headless” computer — a fancy way of saying that… More 

There’s been a lot of speculation around foldable phones in the past 12 months, fuelled by the hype from the manufacturers busy producing devices that can fold from phone to tablet and back again — or even crazier concepts, like phones that become slap bands when you place them around your wrist. That latter idea… More