Buy a 3D printer: 5 questions to ask yourself to make the right decision

You are a professional or a maker and you have recently made the decision to purchase your first 3D printer. You have understood how technology can help you make custom parts, prototypes at lower cost or design components faster, so it’s time to move on to the second step: select the right 3D printer! but what should you know before making such a decision? There are a multitude of brands and prices on the market that can represent so many obstacles in your purchasing process.

To help you make the best decision, you need to ask yourself at least 5 questions that will help you define the brand, budget and technologies that are right for you. Before you start asking yourself these questions, it is also important to know how you will use your 3D printers, the projects you want to carry out and the knowledge you have today in terms of 3D technologies.

Buy a 3D printer: what is my budget?

Once you have defined how you will use your 3D printer, you need to know how much you are willing to spend on this new machine. There are different price ranges: for 200€, you can now find FDM 3D printers in kit form that you will have to build yourself and that are often Chinese made. If your budget is larger, from €1,000, you can turn to plug & play 3D printers, ready to use with printing that starts with a single button.

If your budget exceeds a thousand euros, other technologies are available to you. Between €1,000 and €5,000, you will find 3D SLA and FDM printers with very good printing quality. From €5,000 to €30,000, you can opt for industrial melt deposit machines or more specialized SLA printers for sectors such as dentistry or jewellery. You will also find selective laser sintering machines (SLS), very popular in some industries that use polyamide powders.

Finally, the last price range starts from 80 000€ and more. Such a budget will allow you to access technologies such as HP’s Multi Jet Fusion, or direct metal sintering (DMLS) to create metal parts.

HP printers

Buy a 3D printer: which material will I use?

Now that you know how much you want to spend, you also have to choose your printing materials. A technology like FDM is mainly used with plastics, with filament bobbins available from 20€ depending on the type of technicality desired – there are more technical filaments up to 350€ per kg. If you are looking for SLA technology, you will use photopolymer resins from 70€ per liter. However, it is important to note that there are not yet many colours available today, although some manufacturers are trying to develop others.

If you are considering more industrial applications with your machine, you will opt for SLS or DMLS technologies. In the first case, you will mainly use polyamide powders and in the second case, different metals and metal alloys also with a price that will vary according to your needs.

Buy a 3D printer: what will be my printing volume?

It is important to know what you want to print and in what quantity; printing in small series does not imply the same needs as printing in larger quantities. This is where it must be considered that the cheapest machine may not be the best solution. In some cases, it will take a little more money to get more printing volume.

However, there are FDM machines with a generous printing volume at an affordable price or even large format machines such as Bigrep’s. In the case of SLA or SLS technologies, 3D printers generally do not have such a large printing volume. Concerning 3D metal printers, the sizes vary according to your needs and the investment made but it is already possible to have beautiful industrial parts.

Buying a 3D printer: what is my level of knowledge?

It is important to know where you stand in relation to 3D printing: are you a beginner? Do you have any technical skills in this area? The level of knowledge in additive manufacturing could influence the choice of your printer.

There are 3D technologies that suit everyone, so beginners can use FDM technology, they will find Plug and Play machines, which combine hardware and software. The printer is already assembled and it is possible to start printing directly. On the other hand, there are 3D printers in kit form, which will allow you to print what you want but you will have to assemble the machine yourself. If you are familiar with 3D printing and have skills in mechanics, 3D modeling, etc. you may opt for more professional technologies such as SLA, SLS, Multi Jet or DMLS that require training and additional attention to fully understand the entire process.

An important point to consider is the use of the right 3D software. With less complex projects, you can use very simple 3D software, but as the complexity of your project increases and you need new technologies, it is not uncommon for CAD needs to become more complex as well.

SLA technology requires a longer post-processing time

Also, don’t forget to assess the workload you are willing to accept after the printing process itself; post-processing is more or less heavy when dealing with 3D technologies. Some require more work than others; for example, FDM often involves removing the support material if it exists and sometimes a treatment to reduce the layer effect. SLA technology requires more elaborate post-processing work, while for SLS, you will need machines to dust and process the parts. For 3D metal printing technologies, post-processing is obviously much longer.

Where can I buy a 3D printer?

Now that you have clarified your project and you know which type of 3D printer you want to use, a final question arises: where to buy it? Either you opt for the second hand (via sites such as for-sale, for example) or you go to a specialist store.

They make designer furniture from waste

DESIGN – Three young people under 30 years of age have launched Maximum. An ecological project that makes it possible to rehabilitate industrial waste.

A table built with discarded scaffolding, a stool made of plastic waste and a high chair, made of plastic and parquet slats: you can’t imagine falling face-to-face with this kind of furniture when you push the door of this hangar in Ivry-sur-Seine.

This old building, which will be destroyed in two years’ time as part of the Ivry Confluences project, is currently occupied by three friends, Basile, Romée and Armand, the first two graduates of the Arts Deco school, and the last one from law and commerce.

All under 30 years old, they have launched Maximum, a company specializing in the creation of furniture made from industrial waste, since April 1, 2015.

We work with waste from mass production. Our furniture is therefore made of recurring materials, with the same products every time. This also allows us to produce furniture in series while recycling waste,” explains Armand.

Circular economy

These design creations are placed under the sign of the circular economy, an economy operating in a loop, avoiding the creation of waste. A conception of creation that is important for the three acolytes. “A project launched today, which would not be environmentally responsible is not viable. We still have a world to rethink and rebuild, so we wanted to get involved in this plan,” says Romée.

From waste research to design and manufacturing, everything is handled by the three partners. Currently, they work with five suppliers, which allows them to create three pieces of furniture.

French climbing federation, plastics company, scaffolding manufacturer, and even Notre-Dame-de-Paris: the potential sources of waste are numerous. So, a space dedicated to this waste was created in the workshop, the “waste“. Here, fire suits, test tubes, fire extinguishers are piled up….

In short, a whole bunch of objects that could potentially be used to create future furniture. “Even if there is a lot of waste for which we have no solution,” Armand confesses. “We are also dependent on the amount of waste, because it would be an absolute must to ask to create waste! “he continues.

Do not sacrifice quality

However, creating furniture based on waste is by no means synonymous with a lack of quality and comfort. “Even if we want to reintegrate as much waste as possible into our furniture, we are not hooked on 100% waste, because that does not mean that the furniture should not be pleasant and functional,” explains Romée.

But for him, it’s not just waste, “This waste we work with is not just a piece of raw material. These are objects that have been produced in French factories and that carry within them a know-how.”

Measure its impact at the right price

Since three months, Maximum has been selling its furniture to individuals and professionals. When you go to their website and validate your purchase, the amount of kilos of waste saved is displayed on the screen.

Customers also have the opportunity to visit the workshop to see the different pieces of furniture before buying, in order to get a better idea of what they look like.

Concerning the prices, they were fixed by the three partners, trying to be as fair as possible. “We wanted to park reasonable prices, but we must keep in mind that they are handmade objects, a kilometre from Paris. It would be nonsense to make objects that are too expensive, because our mission is still to empty the skips,” says Romée. For example, for the high chair, it will cost 350€.