3D Printer Buying Guide: What to Know Before Purchasing

3D printer in use

3D Printer Buying Guide: What to Know Before Purchasing

As we enter 2020, we’re seeing an exciting time ahead for 3D printing in the industrial and manufacturing industries. As the technology of additive manufacturing continues to transform and reshape our approach to construction and the way we build components, we are seeing the innovation that would otherwise be impossible. With this innovation in mind, The Equipment Hub wants to offer a 3D printer buying guide to help professionals in the manufacturing and construction industries better understand what to look for and what to consider when making a purchasing decision. We’ve outlined a number of factors you should take into account before investing in a 3D printer for your manufacturing line. If you’re ready to buy a 3D printer for your business, we recommend taking the following into account before finalizing your purchase.

3D Printer Guide: Finding The Right Machine for the Job

3D printing is a general term for a host of technologies with very targeted applications. For industrial applications, these applications can run the gamut of materials and the intended use of the final product. Therefore it’s crucial that you are purchasing a 3D printer capable of handling the precision and specific applications needed in your manufacturing process. Manufactur3D, an online magazine, breaks down specific technologies to their applications and provides an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of using each type of technology for high-quality prints.

 

3D printer buying guide graph

Matching Materials to Specifications

Once you’ve determined the functionality you need out of your industrial 3D printer, you need to ensure the materials with which it can work are suitable for the requirements of the final output. It won’t help your manufacturing line if your 3D printer uses nylon and plastics, and your final product is an intake manifold for an engine requiring a blend of metals.

 Similarly, it’s crucial to consider the types of materials that will in fact be sufficient to support your final product needs and the availability and cost of such materials. Specialized materials suitable for use in 3D printing that includes flame-resistant properties as well as certain metallic materials can be difficult and ultimately extremely expensive to source. This could affect productivity and print quality, causing you to explore alternative printing approaches that might necessitate additional accessories for your 3D printer or possibly even a different form of printing altogether.

The Size of the Final Product Impacts 3D Printer Choice

Determining what items you will be 3D modeling, and at what volume, will help to determine the type of 3D printer you should be purchasing. If you require a constant output of a number of items that are relatively small and rarely need to print a larger object that would require a larger printer, it’s more cost-effective in the long run to outsource the larger jobs and purchase the printer capable of precision printing the smaller items at volume. The opposite is true, as larger printers might not offer the precision you might need on a single item, but they can support your need for large pieces in bulk; in this case, you’d buy a unit that could accommodate your larger print jobs and outsource the rare job that requires a fine finish in the final product.

Precision Work Requires High-Resolution 3D Printers

Depending upon the intricacy and level of detail you need in your final printed product, you’ll need to consider the new 3D printer’s resolution. A 3D printer capable of printing at high-resolution prints in thinner, smoother layers, allowing you to print objects that are extremely detailed. While your operation might not need this immediately, acquiring a machine capable of printing at higher resolutions can save you time and money in the future, as it’s more cost-effective to downscale your printing operations on a high-resolution printer than to upgrade your equipment later.

Is This 3D Printer Fast Enough?

Manufacturing efficiency revolves around how quickly you can move items through your production process. For 3D printers, speed is measured generally in how many millimeters per second can be printed out. You want to ensure that your chosen 3D printer can output the number of finished products necessary to keep your production floor downstream efficient and producing.

Do You Have a Need for Color?

While not the most important factor in play, knowing what range of materials your machine of choice can use and whether it can print final products in multiple colors could be important to your process and impact your final decision on the type of machine you choose.

 of a mechanical project, sketch, project on computer, prototype with a 3d printer, and the final product (3d render)

3D Printer Buying Guide: Software Considerations

3D printers are often powered by input from computer-aided design (CAD) programs, so you’ll need to ensure your operation includes someone savvy with such software for prototyping and design. Once complete, design work can be uploaded into your 3D printer’s interface.

At this stage, other software considerations come into play. 3D printers generally operate off of proprietary software used to digitally slice object designs into the layers that will be used to render the final 3D printed parts in physical form. If you want to use other 3D printer software, make sure the unit will allow you to either install or remotely access cloud-based software via a web-based interface. 

Manufacturer Reputation and Support

If you have little experience with 3D printers, there can be a pretty severe learning curve involved. While few manufacturers of 3D printers provide around-the-clock operational support, industry-leading manufacturers do provide online resources that include training videos, best practices, and troubleshooting to help minimize downtime. Warranties and support are also crucial considerations. While setup and software and firmware updates are included, 3D printer warranties can be very limited in scope and length.  

3D Printer Buying Guide: Purchase From Experts

As America’s premier machine tool dealer, The Equipment Hub maintains a marketplace of used and new industrial machines to support all of your manufacturing needs. If you can’t find the make or model you need, or you think our expertise in matching your production needs to the right machine for your operation might be helpful, contact our team of specialists today.