4 Things to Know Before Buying a 3D Printer

Once you’ve decided to buy a 3D printer, it isn’t quite as simple as just finding one you like at a good price and making the purchase. Just like regular printers, there are different types and each has advantages and disadvantages. There are lots of things you’ll want to know and understand before you buy your 3D printer. Here are four things to consider and these devices before you can make your first 3D print.

You Need a Good Computer

You’re going to be entering the world of 3D, and that means your computer is going to need to be able to keep up with manipulating, changing and processing these 3D models for printing. At the very least, you’ll want a good amount of memory and a capable graphics card, which can come at an additional cost if you don’t already have one. Lenovo suggests you read more about Intel’s Arc display cards as they offer great performance at an attractive price point, and you don’t need a big power-hungry gaming graphics card for 3D printing.

There Are Two Types

There are two very distinctly different types of 3D printers – the FDM printer and the SLA printer.

An FDM (fused deposition modelling) printer uses strands of filament to build up a print by passing it through a very hot extruder to soften it and place it precisely on the printed object layer by layer. The filament is quite cheap but getting a good quality print is more complex and the printers have many different variables you need to be aware of. Choose an FDM printer for decent quality prints with a lower cost for materials.

An SLA (stereolithography) printer uses a liquid resin to print. It builds up prints in much the same way as an FDM printer, but it cures each layer using UV light as it prints. Resin is a more expensive consumable than filament, but the print quality is consistently higher than that of the FDM printer and smaller details in prints are better with an SLA printer.

You’re Going to Have to Learn the Software

Using a 3D printer isn’t quite as simple as downloading a 3D model from the internet and clicking print. There’s a little bit more to it than that, but in reality, most of us will be able to manage with a bit of learning and patience. You’ll start with an SDL file and then send it through slicing software so the correct printing instructions can be sent to the printer. Slicing software is responsible for telling the printer about each layer, whether it is hollow or solid and where exactly it should start printing. Some printers will come with this software, while others will need you to find your own. 

Just like any new hobby, there’s a learning curve involved when it comes to making successful 3D prints, but you don’t need to feel overwhelmed by it. There’s plenty of documentation and a thriving community online that will happily help you get started in your journey into the third dimension.