Although it’s a relatively new industry, there are a lot of 3D printers available on the market. On one hand, choice is good, and allows us to purchase something more aligned with our needs. However, many 3D printing enthusiasts opt for printers that they later regret, so it is definitely worth doing a bit of research before you make a decision.
Decide what you need first
Whether you are looking for a desktop 3D printer to print out toys for your kids, or a full scale laser sintering machine for the fabrication of end-use parts, make sure you know exactly what you need, and the price range you are willing to pay. There are many different technologies out there, all with their own benefits and shortfalls. Understand each technology (FDM, SLS, SLA, Jetting SLA, etc) and how it may or may not be able to cater to your needs. Google and Wikipedia are your best friends in this case.
What do the forums say?
Forums are a regular starting place when we look to make many important purchases. They provide a useful space for users to speak openly about the experiences they have had with a certain product. Have a read through some 3D printing forums to find the answers to any question you may have, including information on issues, technical support and complaints.
See it in action first
It’s helpful to browse 3D printers online to see what’s available and to get a feel for what models you may be interested in. However, without actually seeing a model in action and the output that it produces, you’ll never really know how well it operates. If possible, visit a vendor or attend a 3D printing conference to try a model before you buy it, and you’ll minimize the chance of suffering any future problems. If you can’t manage to arrange to see a printer in action live, then at least do some research on Youtube by watching videos of the particular machine you may have interested in. Be sure to read some of the comments for each video as well.
Compare printers at 3D hubs
If you find yourself undecided between two 3D printers, head to 3DHubs. This site provides a great tool for evaluating the specifications of various models, and deciding which one is best for you or your business. You can also use the site to find and communicate with local stockists.
Does it come with a guarantee?
You’ll find that the majority of 3D printers on the market do not come with a guarantee. Have a browse around to find the ones that do, and purchase from a vendor who will provide a replacement or repair if any issues arise. Failure to do so can be a very costly mistake.
Is support offered?
In a similar vein the previous point, it is important to find out how good 3D printing companies are in terms of help and support. 3D printers are very complex devices, and problems can arise. Having a useful support team available can save you plenty of time and money if you encounter any issues.
Make sure you take all of these points into consideration when purchasing your first 3D printer, and ensure you do not make a decision that you’ll regret. It’s always nice to get it right the first time. With many high quality printers costing well into the 6-digit price range, purchasing the wrong machine could have a major impact on one’s business. Do not rush into the purchase, and do adequate research first.