So You Think You Want to Buy a 3D Printer for Yourself

There are a lot of things to consider when thinking about buying 3D printers for the first time. The who, what, when, where, and why were important things to consider.

  • Who. I know you’re awesome and that you will devote an awesome amount of time towards making this work. Be realistic about time commitments with regards to the following answers.
    • Who are you? How much money do you plan to spend? How much is in the budget for repairs?
    • How tech savvy are you? What is your experience with 3D printing? How well can you Google answers to your questions?
  • What. So many choices. What to buy? Below are some questions to consider before having your heart set on what someone else bought.
    • What are you going to do with the 3D printer(s)? Look at the materials, level of detail you want, and how big are the things you want to build. Can they be pieced together if too big?
    • Will this machine fit all your needs? If not, are you considering an ecosystem?
  • When. When will you need them?
    • With some brands of 3D printers, do not expect them to work out of the box.
    • If you have never worked with 3D printers, expect at least 10 hours (not including print time) worth of work before you decide to take on printing orders from others. Expect additional time investment with MakerBots.
  • Where. These machines take space. They also take workspace. Be realistic about the amount of use you want out of them.
    • Where do you want to put it while you use it?
    • Where will it be stored if not where it is used? If you store it somewhere not where it is used, it might not be used as often as you would like.
  • Why. Yes, let’s all agree that these little additive manufacturing machines are cool. Other than that, why are you buying these?

Considering all of these, the following were the steps I took:

  1. As I read about 3D printers on Wikipedia and watched Print the Legend, I thought about my tech savviness. I’m decent. I enjoy learning tech stuff and have a high tolerance for tech frustrations (that are within my control).
  2. Googled “types of 3D printers” and “Best 3D printers of 2015”. Be mindful that many things change very rapidly in the world of 3D printers. This was complied in late March early April. Some guides I considered:
    1. 3D Hubs – Based on many product reviews
    2. 3D Print – This looks at the best cheap printers, but I do not necessarily agree with everything they’re saying.
    3. Tom’s Guide – There is a table to compare the specs.
    4. 3D Forged – Nice Pro/Con charts
    5. Amazon. Good old product reviews of 3D printers on Amazon.
  3. I started my own spreadsheet of products. I did not want to spend more than $1500 and wanted dual extrusion, ABS or PLA (so I needed a heated bed wiht adjustable temperatures), and I wanted something that was upgradable.
  4. LulzBot was single extruder, PrintrBot required too much set-up, MakerBots seemed to be okay with sending out machines with problems that I cannot fix due to warranty, so FlashForge Creator Pro was my choice.

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