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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

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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