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Apr 11, 2017

How to select a 3D-printer

Roger Sijlbing

written by Roger Sijlbing

Now the hype is gone and we are all grounded again let’s discuss what you need to take into account when selecting your 3D-printer.

Three steps in selecting a 3D-Printer

Now the hype is gone and we are all grounded again let’s discuss what you need to take into account when selecting your 3D-printer.
I have divided the selection in 3 phases.

  1. Internal requirements
  2. Techniques
  3. Support

 

1. Internal requirements

I can imagine that it will be very difficult to draft a set of requirements for a 3D-printer. You probably don’t have a clear view of the full potential of the technique and you don’t want to limit yourself. My advice is to start with your application. What do you want to get out of a 3D-printer, what should be your output.  Draft a list of must haves and nice to haves. If you can envision what you want to get out of a 3D-printer you will have a starting point to discuss with your supplier.

2. 3Dprinting techniques

In the next phase you need to decide which technique is most beneficial for your application. There are basically 9 types of 3D printers or 3D printing technologies available. These are: FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling), EBM (Electron Beam Melting), DLP (Digital Light Processing), MJ (Material Jetting / Wax Casting), SLM (Selective Laser Melting), LOM (Laminated Object Manufacturing), BJ (Binder Jetting), SLA (Stereo Lithography), and SLS (Selective Laser Sintering). Each technique has its advantages and disadvantages. Based on your requirements you can have a substantive discussion with your supplier to filter which technique offers you the maximum result for your investment.

Material selection plays an intricate role in deciding which 3D-printing technique is most suited for your application. Take into account the material specification because even within 3D-printing technologies the operating windows can diver. There is a great variety 3D printing filament available and in the previous phase you drafted your output.

3. Support

A 3D-printer is a sophisticated precision machine and to harvest the full potential you will have to invest in knowledge and skills.

I mentioned it before: it all starts with your objective or output. What do you want to achieve with a 3D printer. When you have a clear picture of this you will be able to have a targeted discussion with your supplier. The better you know what you want to achieve the better your supplier will be able to guide you to the best solution.

While you are selecting your 3D-printer you are also selecting a supplier. When starting with a new technique you will probably have a high demand for support. Discuss how you can organize this and finalize this in an Service Level Agreement. When you are a hobbyist and you don’t want to spend too much on services ask for useful websites or forums you can join. Try to get a picture of how you can self-educate.

Remember that a 3D-printer isn’t a gadget. It is a precision machine and if you want to get the maximum out of it. You will have to gain knowledge and skills.

With these 3 tips I hope it will make easier to select the best 3D printer for your application.

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