Perhaps you want to try 3D printing at home. Maybe you no longer want to outsource your 3D printing needs to a printing service. Regardless of your reason, you need to find a 3D printer that meets your needs and budget. What is the best 3D printer available? Here are some important tips to keep in mind when choosing a 3D printer.
You should always consider the materials that the printer can use. For instance, SLA printers can produce parts from thermoset resins. FFF/FDM printers, on the other hand, can 3D print components from thermoplastics. Although 3D printers have the same technology, each of these machines is compatible with a certain set of materials.
Professional 3D printers can accommodate composites, nylon, and other engineering-grade materials that require closer process control and higher processing temperatures. Lower-end FFF 3D printers are limited to prototyping materials such as PLA.
You may also want to look for a 3D printer that can accommodate multiple materials. Many FFF/FDM 3D printers have dual extrusion capabilities, allowing you to print in 2 different colors. The second extruder also can be used for printing dissolvable support structures. Printing supports that melt in water creates components with a better finish, helping you save a lot of time and effort during post-processing and cleaning.
Some printers can use third party materials, allowing you to choose from a larger selection. Other 3D printers, however, can only accommodate materials from the original manufacturer, and these materials are usually expensive.
Maybe you want to make end-use functional components such as fixtures to meet your organization’s internal operations. Perhaps you need a 3D printer to create prototypes. The durability and properties of the material might be the most important factors for you. These choices will affect your decision regarding the 3D printer type and process that you’re going to get. Always consider the end application of the 3D printed parts when choosing a 3D printer.
Connectivity and Software
Both hardware and software are important factors that you should consider when buying a 3D printer. These machines come with the slicer or the software used to create the CAD files. The slicer’s capabilities can vary significantly. For instance, it usually comes with predetermined parameters that are set for each material and 3D printer.
Some 3D printers have tools that make monitoring, management, and connectivity easier such as cameras, Wi-Fi and sensors. By using these tools, you can schedule print projects with ease. This is convenient when you are using 2 or more 3D printers in a school or office.
What is the best 3D printer available when it comes to resolution? Keep in mind that resolution depends on 2 factors – the minimum feature size and a layer height of the printer. The smallest feature size that the printer can produce depends on its setup.
SLS and SLA machines, for instance, are capable of producing parts with greater detail. This is because the laser spot size of laser-based 3D printers is usually between 0.1 and 0.2 mm. On the other hand, FFF 3D printers with a nozzle diameter of 0.4 mm can’t create details smaller than this size.
3D printers work by building components layer by layer. Theoretically, a small layer height will produce an end result that’s closer to the designed file. However, a smaller layer doesn’t always provide the best results. The best layer height for most applications is 100 microns. Increasing the layer height and making use of a larger nozzle is often the best way to print large components. Doing so can reduce the build time by half or more.
Now that you have an idea on how to choose the best printer for your needs, you should know how to introduce 3D printing to your organization. One of the best ways to do this is to become a 3D printing champion. These individuals are keen on the possible effect of technology in their industries. As a 3D printing champion, you will initiate the adoption of this technology in your organization.
Of course, this also means that you have to learn the strengths, limitations, and capabilities of existing 3D printing systems and the basic vocabulary associated with it. When you have this knowledge, it will be easier for you to emphasize the value that 3D printing can contribute to your organization.
You can also attend events and trade shows or subscribe to media outlets that focus on 3D printing to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in this technology. Here are other tips for introducing 3D printing to your organization:
- You can also incorporate 3D printing in your next project so that you can show the results of your work.
- Find any inefficiency in your current workflow when it comes to wasted time or resources. Determine if 3D printing can speed up your design process.
- Gather data so that you can present a stronger business case.
- Don’t forget to include the end result and how much time you saved through 3D printing.
Once you have proven that 3D printing is beneficial to your organization, you should increase your 3D printing activities. There are various ways to do this. One of these is through product design evolution. Find ways on how you can design and produce products with superior performance through 3D printing.
You can make optimized structures that are designed for your application’s functional requirements. These structures are usually economically impractical to produce using traditional methods.
Another way is to support internal operations through 3D printing. Find ways on how you can use this technology to make processes within your organization more successful. Manufacturing custom tools and rapid prototyping are some of the best ways to do this. You should also reconsider supply chains. 3D printing allows you to manufacture parts when and where needed.
So, it is probably not a surprise that spare part production is becoming one of the mainstream applications. Consider this: is it possible to design for both traditional and additive technologies? This way, you can take advantage of the economies of scale of conventional manufacturing technologies, and eliminate the upfront costs of producing and storing the spare parts needed for aftermarket sales and repair.