What 3D Printer is best for me?

by Kevin Quach

With the boom of 3D printers becoming more prevalent in today’s world, a question I am often asked is, “What’s the best printer?”

In reality, there is no one printer to rule them all so to speak.  Every printing technology has its advantages and its disadvantages. The best question to always ask yourself is, what are you planning to do with your idea?  Are you using it for prototyping? Tooling?  Marketing? Making that sweet action figure you never got as a kid?

The point is, the sooner you figure out what your application is and what are the most critical factors of your prototype, the sooner you can find a printer that works best for you. The good news is that GoEngineer offers both FDM and Polyjet technologies from Stratasys and Objet.  Although I’m not going to be able to catch everybody’s ideas in this blog, I’d like to offer you my own personal tips and experience from working with many of our customers who have found success.

TIP# 1: Customers who found the most success, spent time not only figuring out what criteria is most important, but also by printing a sample part.  There are many questions you can ask about what the parts can do, but nothing gets straight to the point than getting a sample part of something you can hold in your hand.  One of my favorite things to do is getting a file of a small project a customer might be working on and sending them the part so they can evaluate the real thing.  In many cases, we can even drop off the part to you and show you a demo of the printers as well.

TIP #2:  Another common concern I hear about is evaluating costs or justifying the purchase of a 3D printer.  In reality, if your company already outsources your prototypes and you’re spending a few hundred dollars a month doing this, then you should definitely consider getting a printer in house.  Stratasys machines offer a lease to own options which in many cases cost less than sending out for one part.  Think about it, your company just spent $400 this month on ONE part.  Why do that when you could have your own 3D printer, making as many parts as you want in a month. 

 

TIP #3  “Well I’ve been seeing some Kickstarter printers and some of the other cheaper printers out there, why even look at your printers?”  I have heard this line too many times to count. All I have to say to this is that it’s AWESOME you’re already looking at implementing 3D printing into your business model. The biggest distinction I will make between the consumer printers and professional grade printers is consistency and repeatability.  Are you just a simple concept company who’s main goal is to get your idea across?  Perfect, then those printers are great for you.  If you are a company that’s concerned about fit, form, and function, then consistency will be something that will be difficult to achieve on those machines (I know, I have a hobbyist printer myself).  Fact is, exploring different printers is something you should always do, and finding what works for you best with your investment.  The reason why Stratasys and Objet printers are widely used is due to their dependability, consistency, and user friendly software.  So if you’re exploring 3D printing on a budget, remember, what is the most important criteria to you? 

 TIP #4:  Last thing I address pretty frequently is metal printing.  Metal printing is what I like to consider in its current state, very bleeding edge.  The technology is amazing and the fact that you can 3D print parts that would be impossible to make on a CNC machine. The downside?  Metal printers use metal powders, requiring special facilities (including an oven for post processing), and also careful handling to avoid breathing in the dust particles. Furthermore metal printers can be expensive, some start at a million dollars and require a full time dedicated operator.  So again, remember what you need your parts for as it will play a huge part in making a decision. 

Of course with these things in mind, nothing is more effective than having someone knowledgeable who can answer your questions.  As such, GoEngineer is always more than happy to assist you with any questions you have, so contact us today if you would like more info, getting a sample print or a demo.

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