3D printing has developed rapidly over the past decade to become a powerful technology which represents significant savings to businesses and exciting opportunities for home users.
Until recently the technology has been used primarily as an experimental tool by Universities and businesses, and as a hobbyists tool for the home user. However, improvements in technology, software, 3D scanning and the solutions the technology can offer, now may be the time to buy a 3D printer. Whilst it’s possible to buy a cheap UK 3D printer, our blog is a guide to 3d printing miniatures and the features you might consider before committing to a purchase.
Considerations when choosing a printer
Choosing the best 3D printer will depend on a number of factors, and it is important to know what sort of applications a 3D printer will be used for. Fundamentally a 3D printing machine should be an effective tool for producing low volumes of items and for prototyping.
Common uses today include producing small parts which are no longer manufactured, models for gaming and designing new products. Some additive manufacturing printers can perform milling and grinding functions, and some add subtractive manufacturing to their range of function. Here we discuss some of the factors you might consider when searching for the best 3D printer.
When you buy a 3D printer, price is a key consideration, though this needs to be balanced against the functionality you require from a 3D printer. As the technology has improved it has become possible to purchase a cheap 3D printer which is capable of delivering basic 3D printing. The best budget 3D printer will almost certainly be ideal for the home user.
It is also possible to keep the budget in check by purchasing a 3D printer kit, but the build time for these, with some taking up to 8 hours to put together, may be off-putting. Makerbot, XYZprinting da Vinci Mini and Ultimaker are amongst the most popular brands of UK 3D printers.
It is important to know what you need a 3D printer to do. The best beginner 3D printer might not offer the full range of technologies that a more advanced 3D printer can deliver, but this may not be necessary, and other factors including size and running costs will also be part of the decision. A large 3D printer is likely to offer a much greater range of options and features, and mid-market products are probably the best home 3D printer option.
Versatility in 3D printing machine is achieved through the interchangeability of toolheads which enable a single machine to perform a wide range of functions, and the products the machine can use to print. The ZMorph multitool 3D printerprints in standard plastics, but also prints ceramics, food (chocolate, paste, cake), BandLay, LayBrick, LayWood and rubber.
Although considerably more expensive, metal 3D printers are also now available. Their high cost off-set by the savings they offer to UK businesses requiring this technology. It is also essential to check that your 3D printing machine is able to use a variety of plastic filaments and spools – some are limited only to the filaments produced by the same manufacturer.
3D printers come in many shapes and sizes, with mini 3D printers available for users who are only ever going to need to produce very small parts – these are ideal for modellers and gamers. However, some of the 3D printers for sale currently that fulfil the price and size brief may not offer the milling and grinding functions which are required, so the savings in cost and size may need to be offset against a separate tool for these functions.
A large 3D printer such as the ZMorph, though much more expensive, act as three machines in one but is still a sensible size for home use and is capable of producing decent size models.
When you buy a 3D printer design is not just about how it looks in your office or workshop, it’s also about the simplicity of cleaning the machine and replacing parts (given that 3D printing takes its toll on components). For this reason a cheap UK 3D printer may be more difficult to clean and maintain than a more expensive machine, though buying a kit may be a good way to keep costs down and learn how the printer goes together (for when a part does need to be replaced).
As your skills and uses for a 3D printer develop, you may find you need a more powerful machine. Buying a large 3D printer might seem unnecessary initially, but if you’re likely to need a bigger printer in the future it’s probably worth making that investment as part of your first purchase.
It is also worth making sure that any 3D printer for sale is going to offer the versatility you need, in terms of materials and toolheads. More advanced 3D printers include laser engraving and laser cutting, though the best beginner 3D printers won’t include these features.
Buying a 3D printer is a large investment and one of the many available UK printer kits may be worth considering to get better functionality at a lower cost. It is also worth doing some research to explore the full range of UK 3D printers available so that you can choose the best tool for your requirments.