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To buy a 3D printer: Essential guide to buy your first 3D printer in 2021

Buy a 3D printer can be an arduous task if you lack previous experience with these types of tools, and I am completely sure that hundreds of questions of all kinds will arise.

You’ll start reading “weird” words like Nozzle, Marlin or Bowden that will be completely unknown to you, and it is certainly interesting to know them when you buy a 3D printer. So I have proposed to make this “short” article oriented to users without any previous experience in 3D printing.

In this way, any avid reader will be able to discover the most basic aspects of this type of technology and acquire some notions that will help us to buy a 3D printer according to our needs.

Before continuing with the article I would like to remind you as always that we have a large community in our Telegram channel. There we usually share all our doubts and experiences. If you want to be part of it, do not hesitate to join us.

 

The reality of 3D printers

Actualiza tu impresora 3D a Marlin 2.x.x con Visual Studio Code y Platform.io

This is a point that I always like to highlight to all people who intend to buy a 3D printer as a hobby, or for the production of parts and prototypes. A 3D printer does not always work perfectly, it is not by far a common household appliance that you can have at home and that works 100% of the time.

Consider that most home users are purchasing 3D printers with prices ranging from 150 euros to 350 euros (made in China).

As you will understand, in a 3D printer that consists of an infinite number of mechanical parts, the quality of the components will be insufficient in the best of cases. You certainly can’t demand too much from a machine in those price ranges.

However, 3D printers pose problems in many cases regardless of brand or cost. It is clear that a high-end printer will always give you much more reliability than the cheapest Chinese printer on the market. But whatever it is, believe me, they all fail, and you must be aware that the maintenance of your machine is going to be vital.

So if you are a person with few patience, you should think about it and consider that printers require regular maintenance, in addition to the problems inherent in the nature of this type of technology.

In any case, I beg you not to misinterpret my words, as I simply wish to expose a fact. It is not my intention to dissuade you or sow the slightest hint of doubt in your decision to buy a 3D printer. 3D printing world is fascinating and I am particularly passionate about it, and it opens up a new world of possibilities for you.

In fact, I always recommend to buy a 3D printer. And I am so convinced of this that some time ago I wrote an article where I explain some reasons. If you are interested you can read it in the following link: 5 excellent reasons to buy a 3D printer.

Being able to manufacture parts in a few hours that previously required traditional methods such as machining, casting or injection was until recently unthinkable. And if at some point in your life you have dedicated yourself professionally to design or manufacturing, working with 3D printers will offer you great freedom and expand your work universe.

 

 

Additive Manufacturing: A Little Bit of History

Chuck Hull with the first 3D printer, the SLA-1

Additive manufacturing could be said to be what we call the entire set of technologies that encompass 3D printing. Trust me when I tell you, it’s a completely transformative approach that has revolutionized today’s manufacturing landscape.

And this does not end here, but this set of technologies inexorably advances with new developments every day that passes, a continuous evolution before our eyes.

Contrary to what it may seem, it is not an excessively recent technology. Although for most people it is something innovative, especially when it comes to seeing a 3D printer in action, the correct thing to do would be to locate its beginning back in 1981.

 

The first 3D printer

A Japanese named Hideo Kodama developed a liquid plastic (photopolymer) that hardens when an ultraviolet light source is applied. With this fascinating discovery, the foundation for stereolithography printing was laid and the starting gun for the creation of other similar additive technologies was laid.

Years later, specifically in 1984, two companies already began to present various patents around this 3D printing technology (General Electric and 3DSystems). So we could actually say that these were really the beginnings of 3D printing or additive manufacturing.

Going back to our time, we will discover that there are various 3D printing technologies. Among all of them, two technologies are more available to normal users like us (Makers, amateurs and/or teachers). These are filament printing (FFF/FDM technology) and printing with photopolymer resins (SLA/DLP/LCD technologies).

There are also other types of 3D printing technologies more oriented towards professional or industrial production, but I do not think they are of special interest for the purpose of this article.

If you want to broaden the spectrum and get to know them, you can find a lot of information about them (or at least about the most important ones) in an article I wrote some time ago: Discover the most important 3D printing technologies of 2021.

 

Buy a 3D printer: What kind of printer do I need?

The needs of each user can be completely different, and this will mark the type of 3D printer that we must choose and its technology. We can find a user with a more professional profile, who needs a printer suitable for printing with excessively technical filaments (PC/ABS, Nylon + Carbon Fiber, PVC, etc.).

Or on the contrary we may have the need to produce high definition miniatures
(quality) for sale or later personal use, or just a cheap hobby printer to make parts or components for own applications. As you can see, there can be numerous cases.

Each of these users would require a completely different printer, and this is where special emphasis should be placed since we are facing the most important decision.

Buy a 3D printer not suitable for the job we need would simply be a waste of money and you do not want this to happen in any way. That is why it is crucial or rather critical to have in mind the concrete idea of ​​what we need and what we have available in the market.

I don’t want to complicate reading the article with ruthless acronyms for different 3D printers and their technologies. So I will name the most common that are usually acquired for our homes or for different professionals (mainly SMEs) and ignoring those of an industrial nature.

 

Filament 3D Printers

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Filament 3D printers are certainly the most common in the “Maker” or hobbyist universe, and they are the ones we usually find in our homes. The concept is very simple, a 1.75mm (or 3mm) plastic filament is melted and pushed into a very high temperature small size brass or steel nozzle.

This nozzle will expel the molten plastic and it will travel over a heated bed (or printing surface). It will literally “draw” layer by layer the piece we want to produce.

If you’ve never seen the process of printing with filament, you can take a look at this video and it will captivate you. They are time-lapses of parts printed frame by frame in fast motion, something to see.

This type of printer is ideal to enter this “world” and is suitable for all types of users. From the smallest of the house, always with a little supervision, to anyone interested in learning a little about the world of 3D printing.

You can make with it from functional parts, to toys, enclosures for electronic components and much more. They can offer you a fairly high quality, as long as you have the printer perfectly calibrated, but without reaching the definition of a resin printer.

As a recommendation I leave you here some filament 3D printers (with their respective links) that exist in the market and that have a wide community of users.

It is not my intention to flood the article with dozens of links to a multitude of 3D printers, so I have simply added some of them with a good performance and are an excellent (and inexpensive) option to consider as your first 3D printer.

It is my duty to tell you that if you decide to buy a 3D printer using these links, 3DWork will receive a small commission that will help maintain the website. It will not involve any increase in the final price of the product and I will be very grateful.

FILAMENT 3D PRINTERS
Creality Ender 3
Creality Ender 3 v2
Artillery Sidewinder X1
Artillery Genius
FLSun Q5
Prusa i3 MK2/MK3/MK3S+

 

Creality Ender 3

Creality Ender 3

About the Creality Ender 3 there is certainly little to write that has not already been written. Within the price offered by the Chinese company Creality in this model, which is usually around 150 euros or even less, it is very difficult to buy a 3D printer that can compete with this one.

If what you want is to buy a 3D printer as cheap as possible, with a massive community behind it providing support and that is mechanically reliable, this without a doubt is your ideal option.

Obviously, as you can imagine, the standard components are quite humble, starting with somewhat outdated and noisy electronics. But this does not mean that it prevents you from achieving excellent print quality, as long as we have it properly configured.

Once you enter this world, you will make countless updates and improvements, which are contributed by the huge existing user community. Without a doubt, a great option to consider.

 

Creality Ender 3 v2

Creality Ender 3 v2

As you can well imagine, the Creality Ender 3 V2 it’s a new revision of the massively sold Creality Ender 3. In this model Creality has implemented numerous updates and improvements on the great foundation that this printer already had.

The Ender 3 V2 greatly improves the user experience. Including among other things a new 32-bit electronics, drivers for silent stepper motors, a new vertical display, resumption of prints after power outages and some other improvements.

Whichever, Ender 3 and Ender 3 v2 they are excellent options to enter this world at an affordable price for any type of pocket.

 

Artillery Sidewinder X1

Artillery Sidewinder X1

In the third place of this brief list of recommendations to buy a 3D printer I would add the Artillery Sidewinder X1. This brand of printers until recently only had 2 models in its catalog (Sidewinder X1 and Genius), and recently added a third model, the Artillery Hornet.

However, although its catalog is very limited, it has been able to interpret the niche of cheap printers very well and has launched two models that offer us great performance compared to other machines on the market, the Sidewinder X1 and the Genius.

Although they raise the price a little compared to the Creality Ender 3 and Ender 3 V2 in my opinion they are mechanically somewhat superior to these. And if you don’t mind investing a little more, they are an excellent option to consider.

The Artillery Sidewinder X1 offers us a reliable extrusion, a large printing surface (300x300x400mm) and to see it in operation is a delight, since it is completely silent compared to other machines on the market.

In addition, as usual, it incorporates a filament cut sensor, recovery of impressions after power failures (light cuts), a maximum printing speed of up to 150mm/s and a precision of 50 microns.

 

Artillery Genius

Artillery Genius

This is another of the Artillery company’s models, launched mainly to compete in price against a range of printers somewhat cheaper than the Sidewinder X1. Although it does not have the printing surface of the Sidewinder X1, it inherits all the experience Artillery acquired in the manufacture of its first model, which gives me a lot of confidence.

The 3D printer Artillery Genius it is somewhat smaller and cheaper than its older sister, although it also has a silent 32-bit electronics, touch screen, filament sensor and power cut detection (light).

It is also equipped with the famous Dual Z synchro system that Artillery printers normally bring and the bed heating is extremely fast (about 130 seconds to reach 110 degrees Celsius).

Installation is very simple because the machine is practically pre-assembled and the aluminum structure is quite stable in my opinion.

 

FLSun Q5

FLSun Q5

I found it interesting to add a Delta printer to the list of recommended 3D printers, specifically the FLSun Q5. These Delta printers have a completely different kinematics than what we are used to seeing, such as the Prusa, Creality or the Artillery that we have mentioned in this article.

In Delta printers, the heatbed remains immobile throughout the 3D printing process, not moving in the Y axis and avoiding generating unnecessary inertia. This allows us to increase the printing speed of our machine, reducing times considerably (and without loss of quality).

It has three arms and each one is managed by a single stepper motor, which move independently to control the position of the print head at all times.

The FLSun Q5 printer is a very inexpensive machine, suitable for beginners and it offers great performance for the price it has. It has a 32-bit electronics (MKS Robin Nano v1.2), silent drivers (TMC2208) and a 2.8 “inch touch screen.

 

Original Prusa i3 MK2/MK3/MK3S+

Prusa i3 MK2/MK3/MK3S+

I didn’t want to end the list of recommended filament 3D printers without talking about the widely known printers from manufacturer Josef Prusa. In case you don’t know him, Josef was an important developer within the RepRap movement and in 2012 he launched his own line of printers, under the Prusa3D brand.

From the beginning, Josef has offered the community 3D printers of extreme quality and exceptional results, always innovating and constantly updating software and mechanics to improve printing and, of course, the user experience.

Now we can find its latest iteration on the market, the Original Prusa MK3S+, which includes a lot of improvements over its predecessors. Acquiring a Prusa is synonymous with quality, and not only that. Prusa develops its own open source Slicer for all its filament and resin machines, including specific profiles down to materials, called PrusaSlicer.

Acquiring a Prusa MK3S + means having all the possible information, software, manuals and of course an extensive active community behind it. It could be said that it is one of the best supported printers on the market, a completely safe bet.

You have all the features, as well as reviews and analysis carried out on it, in its official website where you can consult everything you need. Among its main features, I would highlight that it has the best instructions for use and assembly on the market, a large capacity for updates, printing with up to 5 filaments (MMU2s) and a multitude of sensors of all kinds that will help you finish all your prints successfully.

Although, the only drawback it presents is a much higher price than any open Chinese printer on the market, but I honestly believe that it is worth it. If your intention is to acquire a versatile, robust printer that gives you the least possible problems (production-oriented), this choice would be very suitable for your needs.

 

Filament 3D Printers (closed)

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With your permission, I wanted to differentiate between open and closed filament 3D printers (or completely encapsulated). The reason for this “division” is because I believe that encapsulated 3D printers offer us better performance compared to typical open “Prusa” style printers, where the bed moves on the Y axis forward and backwards.

The simple fact of moving the printing surface generates an infinity of inertia (or also called Ghosting), which directly affects the final quality of our pieces. And not only that, but they also offer us complete rigidity compared to the open ones and the possibility of printing with a greater range of materials, among other things.

However, open printers still being an interesting option since they work perfectly, especially if you are going to use them for private use (maker, hobby, education, etc.). But if what you want is to take a qualitative leap, and be able to print technical materials such as ABS, Nylon, HIPS, Vynil, etc., the ideal is to acquire a fully encapsulated printer for this purpose.

Already entering this type of printers, the price can be around 300 euros to what you want to spend, since this category includes high-performance printers that can even cost thousands of euros. However, the market currently offers us completely closed machines at a very good price and with excellent performance.

I will now list some options that I think are interesting to take into account when you buy a 3D printer, for performance and price, if your intention is to purchase a closed printer:

FILAMENT 3D PRINTERS (CLOSED)
Anycubic 4MAX Pro 2.0
QIDI TECH X-Plus
QIDI TECH X-Max

 

Anycubic 4MAX Pro 2.0

Anycubic 4MAX Pro 2.0

The Chinese company Anycubic , a famous manufacturer of resin and filament printers, surprises us again with a closed printer at a really spectacular price, the Anycubic 4MAX Pro 2.0. Few printers are currently on the market that have all the features that this machine offers us as standard and its price is less than 400 euros.

Despite being a closed printer, which usually have “moderate” size printing surfaces, the Anycubic 4MAX Pro 2.0 has a build volume of 270x210x190mm, more than enough for most prints.

The structure is completely rigid and made of metal and, as expected, it is protected by numerous injected plastics as panels. This gives it an excellent semi-professional finish.

It comes standard with 32-bit electronics with silent drivers (TMC Drivers), high extrusion power with the typical double gear system, graphite bushings on the Z axes to improve stability, filament detector, automatic shutdown and many more options to consider.

And due to its ease of use, it can be used by all types of users, from novice to advanced. Really a great machine at a very competitive price, totally recommended if you want to buy a 3D printer to start with.

 

QIDI Tech X-Plus

QIDI TECH X-Plus

QIDI TECH is another manufacturer of 3D printers with a lot of experience already in the world of 3D printing, with its catalog of numerous filament printers (open and closed) and also resin printers. This printer is another great option to consider, as is the Anycubic 4MAX Pro 2.0, although its price is somewhat higher.

It has a remarkable printing surface of 270x200x200mm. But among the features that should be highlighted I would mention that you can store the filament inside the printing compartment, and its exceptional mechanics in the Z axis. I personally use it in my day to day life and it really is an exceptional product, at least in my experience of user.

If you want to know more information about it, I beg you to visit this article that I wrote a few weeks ago with an exhaustive analysis of it: QIDI TECH X-Plus: Industrial-grade, high-performance 3D printing for your desktop

Another excellent option when you desire to buy a 3D printer, without a doubt.

 

QIDI Tech X-Max

QIDI TECH X-Max

The 3D printer QIDI TECH X-Max, as you may have already imagined, is the older sister of the QIDI TECH X-Plus. It has identical characteristics to its predecessor, with the same mechanics, extrusion and electronic systems, but with a superior printing surface that reaches 300x250x300mm.

Although they are very similar, I wanted to highlight the printer QIDI TECH X-Max first for the great versatility in terms of materials (PLA, SPLA, ABS, TPE/TPU, PETG, PC, PP, Nylon, Carbon fiber), and second in case within your needs is to have a larger printing surface.

If you are interested in knowing in detail all the mechanics and other general characteristics, I place you again to read the article of the QIDI TECH X-Plus at this link.

And if the purpose is to buy a 3D printer to orient it to semi-professional production, such as a 3D printing service, this would be an ideal tool to have on hand.

 

Resin 3D Printers (SLA/DLP/MSLA)

Resin printers are another type of 3D printing technology on the market and lately they are having a very good reception among users of filament printers and amateurs (Makers).

Until very recently, and even though this was the first 3D printing technology that saw the light, this type of technology was used basically in professional or business fields.

But after the appearance of the resin printer Anycubic Photon a few years ago, prices became very affordable and many filament printing users began to purchase machines with these characteristics.

In this type of 3D printers, a source of ultraviolet (UV) light is emitted through an LCD that filters the rays, allowing only the necessary light to pass into a tank of resin. This photopolymer resin, upon receiving light, will solidify layer by layer to generate our final piece.

The main feature that should be highlighted about these machines is the extreme quality that they can offer us, being an excellent option to develop pieces or figures with a very high level of detail (click on the image for more details).

In addition, it is widely used in jewelry and in the dental field, where great precision is necessary for the production of the pieces.

We leave you here 3 very interesting recommendations when you need to buy a resin 3D printer. They are two normal size printers and one large format in case you need high volume printing. The 3 printers have monochrome LCDs, which last much longer than the previous LCDs as they are more degraded by the UV rays emitted by the lamp to cure (solidify the parts).

However, as the degradation is much greater in older LCD printers, I have decided directly to recommend only monochrome. Yes, the price is much lower in non-monochrome LCDs but the life of your printer is also, so I think that today it is better to opt for a monochrome without a doubt.

RESIN 3D PRINTERS
Elegoo Mars 2 Pro
Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K
Anycubic Photon Mono X

 

Elegoo Mars 2 Pro

Elegoo Mars 2 Pro

The Elegoo Mars 2 Pro is the most advanced product in the Elegoo Mars series of resin printers, always talking about 6-inch LCD displays. Specifically, its monochrome screen is 6.08 inches and has a 2K resolution, to achieve maximum definition in the printed parts.

This display size gives it a print volume of up to 129x80x160mm. per piece, a very common measurement for 6″ inch printers on the market.

The curing times in monochromatic ones are very fast, if we compare them with the old RGB displays, reaching 2 seconds of curing per layer. Something that you will certainly appreciate if you have been a user of resin printers with RGB (much slower in curing).

It also has an active carbon filter, to try to alleviate the strong odor given off by the resins, 2 additional replacement FEP films and offers a 1 year warranty for the printer and 6 months for the 2K LCD screen (consumable that goes away degrading with intensive use).

 

Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K

Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K

The resin printer Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K It is the latest 6″ printer developed by the Phrozen brand and launched recently. Phrozen printers have always given me a very good result and are among my favorites.

In 3DWork we did two analyzes of two previous models some time ago, which you can consult if you wish in the following links: Sonic Mini and Shuffle XL Lite.

It has some characteristics very similar to the printer Elegoo Mars 2 Pro, as the 130x70x130mm print volume, but it reaches a resolution of 4K. However, and although in theory it is twice the resolution, I am not so clear that we can observe a considerable improvement in terms of quality. I have always thought that it is something more commercial than something else, the 2K really achieves an already extraordinary definition.

According to the manufacturer Phrozen, its monochrome display can withstand more than 2000 hours of useful life and a new technology called ParaLED technology. This type of technology defines how UV light is applied on our monochrome LCD screen, being as parallel as possible and increasing the definition in the pieces (avoiding possible distortions).

 

Anycubic Photon Mono X

Anycubic Photon Mono X

Here we find another resin printer from the famous manufacturer Anycubic, specifically the Photon Mono X model, but with a much higher printing volume than the two previously mentioned. Specifically, we would be talking about an 8.9 “inch LCD display.

Obviously the display is monochrome, allowing us to cure times of 1.5 or 2 seconds compared to RGB screens, which are usually around 5-6 seconds. In addition to saving considerable time in printing parts, this incredible reduction makes it possible to reduce the deterioration of the display and lengthen the useful life of our printer (up to 4 times longer).

This display size, with 4K resolution of 3840×2400 pixels, offers us an incredible print volume of 192x120x250mm, something enviable compared to 6 “inch machines.

Regarding the hardware, it mounts two linear guides that offer great stability in the Z axis, a fully machined aluminum platform and great robustness, necessary to make completely safe prints. The light exposure is also parallel, as in the model Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K.

 

Components of a 3D printer (filament)

If you will allow me, I would like to list some of the most important components that you can find in a filament 3D printer. They are not all, since there are countless components, but the main ones to understand the basic operation of this type of technology when buying a 3D printer.

I do not want to go into extreme detail in each of them, since it is not the intention of the article, but if you have any about one you can leave us a comment at the end of the article or enter our Telegram channel.

 

Extrusion system

DyzeXtruder Pro: Extrusor de alto rendimiento para entornos profesionales
DyzeXtruder Pro: High-performance extruder for professional environments

The extruder or extrusion system could be defined as the mechanical component that carries out the task of pushing the filament to melt it through the Hotend to create our parts on the printing surface.

There are countless of them, and they are usually composed of 1 gear against a bearing (or 2 gears in the best case), which squeeze the filament and push it in a consistent way. They are not only in charge of pushing, but also of retracting the filament itself, something also common during the printing process.

It should be noted at this point that it is a extremely important component when you buy a 3D printer, since a good stable extrusion is vital to ensure that our parts have quality. And certainly I usually recommend updating it on printers that have low-quality extruders.

There are mainly 3 extrusion systems on the market. Two of them are used massively (Direct Extrusion and Bowden), and the third of them (Remote direct extruder) is somewhat “experimental” and the reports on its operation are diverse, although we will mention it in the article to keep it in mind. Go for it:

Direct Extrusion

In direct extrusion systems the extruder is usually found practically attached to the Hotend (area where the plastic melts), as you can see in the image above. This implies that the extruder and Hotend are installed together in the same head and in this way the path of the filament will be minimal.

This minimum distance between both components gives us a series of interesting advantages when printing in 3D. The first one is that the movements of the filament will always be more precise and the thrust will have greater power.

Retractions, movements that you must always configure correctly on your machine, will be minimal, avoiding subsequent jams. And this, believe me, is something that when printing flexible filaments you will greatly appreciate. And finally we will have less problems of “drips” or also called Oozing / Stringing.

However, on the other side of the coin, we will have much more weight on our head , which will influence our prints with inertia problems (if we print at high speeds) and possible vibrations that will affect the quality of our pieces.

At the 3DWork Printing Service I always try to use this extrusion system, due to the reliability it offers us. So if you can choose, this extrusion system would be my recommendation for you.

 

Integral extrusion systems

Within direct extrusion systems, there are some extruder options that I usually call integral extruders, a term that I have completely invented so do not expect to read it elsewhere.

This type of extruder, in addition to carrying all the usual components to push filament, include the fully integrated Hotend.

There are certainly few on the market, but the ones out there are quite compact compared to a single extruder + Hotend, and the ones I’ve been able to use have spectacular performance. On the other hand, it must be said that they are not cheap, some of which exceed the price of complete printers.

However, I wanted to comment on them, first because you know all the available options and second because in 3DWork we carry out some Reviews on them and that you can consult in the table below.

I would be pending to analyze the Matrix extruder, although I anticipate that I liked it a lot during the tests carried out. So as soon as I take a little time I will prepare a short article about him and publish it.

EXTRUSORES INTEGRALES (HOTEND + EXTRUSOR)
Hemera E3D (Review)
DyeXtruder Pro (Review)
BIQU H2 (Review)
Matrix

 

Bowden Extrusion

In Bowden extrusion systems, the motor and gears that push the filament are outside the printer head and the filament is pushed remotely and guided through a Teflon tube to the Hotend (where filament melts).

It is a system a little less reliable than the direct extruder, since we add more components susceptible to failure to the extrusion system. However, many users and manufacturers want to “free” the printer head from the weight of the motor and gears to obtain higher print speeds without possible artifacts (loss of quality), and opt for this system.

The main advantages that this extrusion system offers us are the weight we remove from the head, allowing us to increase speeds and accelerations during the printing process and also eliminate possible vibrations from it.

On the other hand, you should increase the retractions, you will have a greater possibility of jams and plastic “drips” (Oozing/Stringing), greater difficulty when working with flexible filaments and slower reactions when pushing/retracting filaments (with their corresponding quality losses).

 

Remote Direct Drive Extrusion

And we come to the latest extrusion system available on the market. However, I would like to emphasize that I have only seen very few commercial extruders of this type for sale (Flex3Drive and Zesty Nimble), and some interesting projects in Thingiverse about.

With this I want to tell you that it is a completely experimental extrusion system and that I obviously do not recommend, but I wanted to expose it in the article since it is another extrusion alternative available.

Some time ago I purchased the components needed to make one and make an article on Aliexpress, but after reading some not overly positive Feedbacks, I put the project on hold and promised me to resume it later when they were more optimized.

In theory this extrusion system brings together the best of direct and Bowden extrusion, sounds good, doesn’t it? The extruder motor is outside the header, not adding any weight to it, and the thrust gear system is located directly in the header, right at the entrance of our Hotend.

The trick is to bring a wire rope from the motor to the gears that transfer the motor’s spin to the gears, and the gears push the filament to its final destination. However, these flexible twist-transmitting wires have a certain “tolerance” so the transmission is not quite accurate as it should be.

However, the number of available models has increased since I was aware of their existence, so I understand that their quality will have improved considerably, I have no doubt.

 

Hotend

This is the most critical area of ​​the 3D printer, and certainly where the magic appears before our eyes. It is the component, or better said group of components, where the printer heats and melts the plastic that the extruder will push towards our printing surface.

It consists of several clearly differentiated components that will help us to carry out this work, and which we will now number. Starting from the final part we will find the Nozzle.

This Nozzle, golden in the image above, is what defines the “resolution” of our printer, since depending on the hole size in it we will obtain higher or lower quality in our prints.

When you buy a 3D printer you will find nozzles with an exit hole of 0.4mm, but you can easily buy smaller diameters if you need it. It should be noted that the smaller the hole size, the longer the printing time, since you are expelling a smaller amount of plastic and you will need more passes on the piece to be printed.

If we follow up on the image, you will see that the nozzle (or Nozzle) is screwed directly into a square heater block. This block is very important since in it we screw the thermal resistance that melts the plastic and the Thermistor (a semiconductor that measures the temperature of the block).

Then we would find a Barrel (or throat) that would join this block with an aluminum heatsink as a radiator (you can see it in the image). This Barrel is threaded on both sides to facilitate the union of both components and inside it is hollow so that the filament can pass through it and reach the nozzle.

 

Heatbed

QIDI TECH X-Plus
Heatbed of a QIDI TECH X-Plus 3D Printer

The printing surface, as you can well imagine, is the area of ​​the printer where the molten plastic is deposited and the part is slowly created layer by layer. Depending on its size, we can generate larger or smaller objects and our nozzle should never print beyond its limits.

The beds (or printing surfaces) are usually heated, allowing them to be set at a certain temperature that can reach 100ºC for domestic filament printers, and up to 120ºC if we go to semi-professional printers.

The correct temperature for a 3D printing will be determined by the material or filament that we are going to use, each of them having an optimal temperature range and that the manufacturer always gives us. This will allow us to have much greater adherence of the pieces during the printing process and avoid the dreaded Warping issue.

If you don’t know what Warping is, I strongly recommend that you read this article that I wrote some time ago: Warping: A complete guide to permanently remove it from your 3D prints.

Heated beds also play a very important role in keeping the parts at a stable temperature, especially if our printers have a complete enclosure.

There are some printers without a heated bed, they are suitable for printing PLA filament (the most common), but I would personally discard any 3D printer you have in mind to purchase if you do not have a heated bed.

 

Electronic board and drivers

At 3DWork we have numerous articles on different electronics available for our 3D printers. However, as this is a starting guide to buy your first 3D printer, these articles will be somewhat advanced for you at first, although no less interesting to read.

The basic thing that I would recommend you check before purchasing your new 3D printer, is that the electronics were 32bit (microprocessor) and came equipped with TMC drivers. Before, most printers operated with 8bit microprocessors, and they are perfectly valid in reality. But for some time, the 32bit ones start to be more common in all new 3D printers that most manufacturers offer us.

Electronics is the brain of the printer, it is the one who will manage all its components. From kinematics and motors, to calculations of movements or displacements, the temperatures of the fuser and the bed, etc.

And once it is determined that your printer has 32bit electronics, make sure (if your budget allows it) that it brings TMC (Trinamic) drivers with it. These drivers are tiny “boards” that are responsible for managing the motors and their movements in an optimal and precise way.

In the same way, these TMC drivers influence the quality of the pieces, as well as the smoother movements of our printer. And one of its best features is that they are silent, something that you will appreciate if you work next to your 3D printer.

You can find exhaustive information about this type of drivers in the following article that I wrote some time ago and which I recommend reading: TMC Drivers: Discover the best drivers for 3D printing and their available technologies.

 

Stepper motors

The motors are in charge of carrying out all the movements of our printer, in its 3 axis (X, Y and Z) and in our extruder that pushes the filament. They are electromagnetic devices that convert electrical pulses into angular displacements (motor turns).

They are ideal for applications that require extremely precise movements, such as our 3D printers. If you open it, as in the image above, you can see a rotor with a number of magnets and exciter coils.

The normal thing in our printers is to have 4 or 5 motors in principle, for the tasks of movements (kinematics) and extrusion of material (filament). However, if you have multiple extrusion (more than one filament) the number can increase considerably.

 

Components of a 3D printer (resin)

Análisis sobre la impresora de resina Phrozen Sonic Mini (Review)
Resin 3D Printer Phrozen Sonic Mini (Review)

Resin printers are infinitely simpler than filament printers, since they only have one axis and one motor to function (mechanically speaking). This results in a less complicated handling, being able to start removing parts a few hours after purchasing one.

It really takes more than learning when positioning the pieces in the filleting software (Slicer) and how to put the necessary supports correctly, than in the proper handling of it. However, this like everything in life, will improve with our experience.

As main components I would highlight the type of LCD screen, which will directly define our printing volume and that now I would recommend acquiring only the monochrome type (and not RGB). The ultraviolet light lamp (UV), which will project light onto the LCD screen and the Z axis together with its mechanics (it is very important that it be as robust as possible).

For the rest, it is difficult to know which electronics is mounted as standard in commercial resin printers, although the vast majority are Chitu electronics, which work really well. And finally, an element common to all of them, the bucket where we deposit the resin, which has no mystery whatsoever.

 

Printing materials (filament and resin)

Los mejores filamentos de impresión 3D en 2019

Filament and resin 3D printers can operate with an infinity of plastic materials to produce their parts, especially those of filaments. And the choice of material is of utmost importance, especially if the printed parts are to be used in mechanical applications or outdoors.

Explaining each and every one of the different materials would take us a whole article, so I leave you here a guide for 3D printing filaments that I wrote some time ago, and where the most common 3D filaments and their possible applications are explained in detail: Definitive guide of 3D filaments for your printer (properties, parameters, manufacturers, etc.).

Regarding the different photopolymer resins on the market, we will see that there is not so much variety in this regard in terms of mechanical properties. You can buy normal photopolymer resins (very brittle), ABS-Like resins that are more resistant mechanically, castable resins for jewelry and some with elastic properties. But basically, and at the home user level, there is not much else to choose from.

 

Misconceptions about 3D printing

Conceptos erróneos sobre la impresión 3D

There are some ideas, or rather pre-established concepts, about 3D printing that we could say are not entirely true. I also wrote an interesting article on this topic, you have it in this link available for reading: Some misconceptions about 3D printing

However, taking a look back in time, it is likely that some of them may change in the not so distant future, who knows. I hope it can be an enjoyable read and arouses your interest.

 

Well, I think this is it for today. I keep in mind that I will have left a lot of things to explain along the way, so if you have any questions I encourage you to use the comments section at the end of the article.

I sincerely hope that this article has been to your liking and is useful when you desire to buy a 3D printer and entering this exciting world.

 

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