As the name suggests, 3D printing involves the making of solid objects in 3D from a digital file through 3D printers. This is achieved by using additive processes that stack materials in layers until the object being created is complete. These layers give the appearance of thin slices of the object layered horizontally. For this to happen, the object to be made has to have a virtual design that is made using a computer-aided design (CAD) file. To create a new object, 3D modeling program is used while a 3D scanner copies a design that is already in existence. This file is then uploaded to a 3D printer which proceeds to create the object in seamless layers. 3D printing is used in the architecture, business, fashion, and education world to come up with prototypes, custom components, metal molds, jewelry, and so many others.
Difference Between 3D Printing Materials and Standard Cartridges
Unlike the usual printers like inkjets and laserjets that use canon or HP cartridge, 3D printers use 3D printing materials made of plastic. The two most common ones are acrylonitrile polylactic styrene (ABS) which requires a print platform that is heated due to its tough nature. Polylactic Acid (PLA) on the other hand doesn’t need heat to print and is more stable and eco-friendlier than its counterpart. It also comes in more colors than ABS making it ideal for printing needs that require loads of colors. This is the reason why PLA is the go-to printing material for people who do this sort of printing as a hobby as gives them a glossy finish. The price for these plastic printing materials is dependent on color, size (diameter), and weight. For instance, a kg of 3mm costs around $19 or more depending on the seller which is a far cry from a canon cartridge that can be as low as $2.5 per mm.
Here Are Examples of Top-Rated 3D Printers and Their Prices
These printers are best left for pros because they might be complicated to use as they require calibration and getting used to the technology used. They also require care when handling more so due to their expensive nature. They provide the best quality of 3D printing when compared to their counterparts which is why they are used to handle intricate printing like designing prototypes and jewelry. However, assembling them can be a nuisance even with the guidance that comes with the package. This effectively locks out people with medium skill level when it comes to handling such printers. Examples of such printers include:
- B9 Creator by B9Creations that retails from $3,490.
- Lulzbot Taz 4 by Lulzbot that retails from $2,195.
- Zortrax M200 by Zortrax that comes with a price tag of $1,990.
These types of printers are reliable, easy to use and their designs are high in quality which makes them good value for money. This is especially since their price is not as high as elite printers and neither is the technology used on them. For this reason, they are recommended for both pros and intermediate level users. They are well-built and designed while giving users the ability to tweak their settings for more options. Users are advised to take the time to explore the printers to reach their full potential. Examples include:
- Makergear M2 from Makergear that has a price tag of $1,475.
- Ultimaker Original+ from Ultimaker with a price tag of $1,225.
- Rostock MAX from SeeMeCNC is priced at $999.
Although their price tag is less than that of elite and medium level printers, it does not necessarily affect their performance. These printers can hold their own when it comes to 3D printing and should not be dismissed without checking them out. Some rate higher than their more expensive counterparts in terms of performance, quality output, ease of use, and customer satisfaction even though they cost much less. This makes them perfect for everyone with 3D printing needs from professionals to intermediates to newbies.
- Printrbot Simple Metal from Printrbot that retails at $599.
- MakiBox from Makibox that has a starting price of $200.
- Peachy Printer from Peachy Printer that retails at $100.
Gone are the days when 3D printers were a reserve for a few companies with large budgets as the prices have been becoming favorable. This is due in part to the many brands that have thrown their hats in the ring to produce healthy competition. The key is therefore to spend a little time researching the options available to be able to choose wisely.
Photo credit: Keith Kissel / Shapeways
Sources: Shapeways / Ink Station
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