Been getting this question asked a lot lately so thought it would be helpful to list the things or approaches one can take to decide when planning to get a new 3d printer?
We’ve also gone through the same experience initially and even now when getting and exploring 3d printers. So while this is by no means a definitive, be-all-end-all list of things to think about and find out, it’s probably a good start on what to look for and at.
Be specific of your needs for 3d printing
A 3d printer is a pretty versatile tool with equally diverse range of uses. Hence, it may be easy to get distracted with all the wonderful things which you may be able to print with it. Knowing what you want to and need to achieve at the bare minimum is a useful way of gauging which printer may fit or may not fit your needs.
Also, knowing what you want to achieve with a 3d printer will help you be much more focused in the following steps you can take (see below), and not make it so vague that others are unable to help you out meaningfully.
Another thing to be wary about is to go down the slippery slope of wanting more and more out of the 3d printer and end up paying much more than you initially planned. Having a certain budget in mind will help narrow down the options for you too.
Visit a local 3d printer store, makerspace, university or library to see the 3d printer in action, and talk to folks who actually maintain and run it
Check out the 3d printers in action and speak with the staff in the 3d printer store. If all you get to see are printers sitting silently on display or just in pristine new boxes, it may be a sign that the place is more interested in moving stock than helping you achieve your application needs. See to it if they have a wide variety of models and experience in 3d printing projects for a diverse range of applications so that you can glean much more broad-based and useful advice.
For even more unbiased thoughts on different brands of 3d printers, you can always try to check them out at a local makerspace, university, school or library. Bonus if you manage to speak with the staff or tech person running and maintaining the printer on a day to day basis to get a much better and unbiased sense of things! The down side of these is that they may tend not to have the kind of 3d printer that you are looking for in your price range, especially if they had to bring in their 3d printers via a local distributor due to the tendering and purchasing requirements (but that’s just getting a little technical here!)
Watch youTube reviews or videos of the 3D Printer
Nothing beats a video when coming to understand more on a 3d printer (especially if you don’t have access to seeing one physically in real life)
Try to avoid, or at least take with a massive pinch of salt, any official video reviews or online “media”/blogger reviews of the printer as obviously these may tend to take on a much more positive light.
Instead, check out some insightful and unbiased youTubers such as Makers Muse and 3D Printing Nerd. Their other contents on the topic of 3d printing are awesome too so do check them out to learn more.
Check out where a 3D Printer’s online community of users are
As most 3d printer manufacturers still tend to be smaller outfits without an army of after-sales support/customer service staff, checking out and knowing where the bulk of users of a brand’s 3d printer hang out online can be insightful. This can help you get a sense of what the typical issues you may face with the 3d printer can be, and also see how supportive/helpful the community it.
In the past, these could be places like the official online forums or Google Groups of the various 3d printers but as of late, it is more likely that they tend to be hosted on Facebook as communities also.
Checking what others have been 3d printing out on their 3d printers also helps you ascertain if it would be a good fit for your application in mind.
Talk to other Local 3D Printer enthusiasts and users, join a meetup event
Find, hang out and talk to folks in the local 3D printing community or makers’ community. This could be as simple as finding where the local 3d printing or makers meetup is held so you can speak with other non-biased folks who have experience using 3d printers. Once again, knowing the kind of application you have in mind helps to get feedback/advice which is relevant to your needs.
This will also be a great journey of discovery as you meet other folks who share your passions and learn even more things you can do with your 3d printer. Just be sure to also hang out and share back when you’ve gotten your footing and be a part of growing the next newcomers to the community!
For example, if you are looking to get a 3d printer to create props for your cosplay hobby, looking and chatting with other folks who have done just that would be very useful in helping you understand what you may face in your journey of 3d printing and also just as importantly, any pitfalls or potential problems you may want to be aware of to avoid.
Learn about the warranty/support you get get if things don’t go well
3D printers are still pretty finicky machines. So knowing the kind of support you can come to rely on is important in terms of getting you started, hardware warranty support in the case of factory problems, or just to ensure that you have a regular source of spare parts, consumables and supplies down the road.
Well, think that about covers it for a start though we may come back to edit in more thoughts and points as we go along.
Clichéd though it may sound – this will be more of just the start of the journey so always remember to have tons of fun along the way! 🙂