FDM 3D printer buying guide

Open spaced 3D printer

If you are planning to buy an FDM 3D printer and are really confused with the different options available, this post is meant for you. And if you are a kind of DIY person and possess some mechatronics skills, there are enough resources available on internet to built your own FDM 3D printer.  But if you wish to buy one directly and don’t want spend time reinventing the brick then yes, do read the post. There are hundreds of different makes and models of 3D printers available in the market one may get confused before buying one. FDM 3Dprinter buying guide sums up some of the points you must consider for making up mind to buy a 3D printer. Before we start let’s talk a little about 3D prining, then we will come to FDM 3D printing. 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process where three dimensional object to be made is sliced into several 2D constituent layers in a slicing software. Later this information in the form of G-codes is send to a 3D printing machine which according to it’s manufacturing process makes these layers one by one, till we get the desired end product.

Now, 3D printing can be of several types based on the material and process being used. Some of the types are Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), Stereo Lithography(SLA),  Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Multijet etc. Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is the one where a polymer filament (thin wire, usually of 1.75mm or 3mm) is fed into the printer, where it gets melted and gets deposited layer over layer to get the end product. 

Before purchasing a 3D printer one must identify the following few things so that they can narrow down the product range that suits there purpose the most. Here is our FDM 3Dprinter buying guide.

1. What's the purpose you want to use it for?

​Yeah, as obvious as it is, one would like to print 3D parts from it, but whether the usage is professional, educational or personal makes a lot of difference in the product you may end up spending your money for.​

Professional usage may means a better print finish, ability to print with different materials with lesser down time while switching from one material to another etc. Such professionals may include architects, engineers, artists, sculptors, product designers and several others. Industries which generally opt for such categories of printers medical, robotics, biomedical, manufacturing, architecture, aerospace, research and many others.

Educational usage mostly intend to make students aware of this divine technology, making them understand the mechatronics behind the machine and introducing them to the limitless opportunities and the joy 3D printing brings in. The print finish may not be the matter of utmost concern but definitely the 3D printed part should be presentable. Again they may or may not need to print with different materials.

DIYers, enthusiasts, school and graduation students belong to the category of personal usage. People here may be newbies to 3D printing or may have a varying experience and knowledge with this technology. Those who already have some know how of 3D printing can easily figure out their needs and can invest accordingly in the machine. But, the beginners may start this vast journey with a DIY desktop printer whose part replacements are easily available. Now let’s talk about the print materials in slight details.

2. What mechanical properties of print you expect?

 The mechanical properties depends on the filament material. Filament is the thermo setting plastic which melts and get deposited layer by layer and forms the 3D printed part eventually. There are several types of filaments available like PLA, ABS, nylon, filaments with metal infill etc. and have different characteristics which are inherited by the prints.

Most commonly used one are PLA and then ABS. PLA filament is available in different thickness, diameter, make and melts in range of 180-220 degree Celsius. PLA prints does not require a heat bed and can be printed directly onto a glass plate by simply applying some glue from glue stick.

ABS is most widely used plastic. Most of our daily usage plastic products are made from this plastic. ABS itself comes in huge variety. ABS is more tougher than PLA and has a higher melting point.

3. How much you are willing to spend on it?

The amount may vary for different kinds of usage. If you are a newbie and just want to explore the 3D printing you may like to start with DIY 3D printing kits or to save yourself from this little trouble of assembling the parts into a 3D printer you may like to start with Assembled 3D printers. If you wish to print larger parts at one go, you may be interested in large size 3D printers. If your purpose of printing 3D is educational and target audience is small kids you may prefer enclosed space printers but if the kids are smart enough not to touch the printer in operation large size printers are good to go. The same is the case when you look for professional prints and prints from different materials enclosed space printers are the best way to proceed with.

4. The know hows of 3D modelling and using the 3D printer

If you are a newbie to 3D printing world then its okay, because anyone whom you go to purchase a machine will provide you the know how of operating it. But if you are a new to 3D modelling and 3D prinitng both and want to print custom build objects, you will need to start with learning 3D modelling first. There are several software both opensource and licensed with tonnes of youtube tutorial available on the internet.

5. After sales support

If you are starting as a newbie in 3D printing it is most likely that you will need support for a while. Here only you will realize that how important the support and guidance from an 3D priting techie is? Once you get stuck in some part of the process you will need someone to tell you the do’s and the don’ts. We are resellers of an Indian make 3D printers called Garuda 3D. They are based in Hyderabad and make some really good machines and have years of 3D printing expeience. 

Hoping that the FDM 3Dprinter buying guide is of some use. We welcome suggestions to improve this post.