Should I get a 3D Printer?

So, you're thinking about getting a 3D printer, but you're just not sure if it's for you. I'm still a beginner when it comes to 3D printing, but we got our printer about a year and a half ago, so I hope I can answer some of your basic questions.

1. How much do they cost?

Anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars. There's a really wide range of features and abilities available. If you're looking for something basic, they've gotten much less expensive in the last few years. There are some really nice printers under $500, and if you're willing to DIY the set up a bit more, you can get a nice basic printer for just a few hundred dollars. We ended up going the basic DIY route and got a Creality Ender 3 Version 2. There are tons of articles comparing printers. We ended up getting an inexpensive one because we weren't sure how much we'd end up using it. 

2. Are they hard to use?

Well, there's a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the printer set up, printing usually works well. Some more expensive printers may require less set up out of the box (like leveling the print surface) and other beginner troubleshooting issues. There are tons of articles online to help you figure out what's going wrong with your prints, so there's help if you get stuck. It took us a while to get ours set up to print, but once we did, printing has gone mostly smoothly. I was fairly intimidated at first. It was my husband's idea to get one, and I was worried it would be hard for me to figure out how to use it, but I picked it up pretty quickly. I use it more than he does now.

3. Do I need to be good with computers to use one?

Moderately. You have to be able to use software to slice the designs to prepare the print and be able to navigate the menus to set up certain printing requirements depending on what you're printing. I'd say it's pretty comparable to learning how to use the software for my Silhouette (cutting machine). 

4. Do the designs cost money?

There are tons of free designs available. People share their designs freely on several websites and sell them for small amounts on others. It's very easy to get free designs, but there are some that cost money.

5. Is it easy to make your own designs?

No. This requires a lot more of a learning curve. I have yet to design any files for our printer. My husband made a 3d letter from an existing font, and since he was familiar with the program he was using, he said it was pretty easy, but if you aren't familiar with 3D modeling software, this will take more learning.

6. Are they safe to use indoors? 

It depends on what kind of plastic you are using. One of the most common types of plastic for 3D printers is PLA. It's a plant-based plastic that doesn't create fumes. PETG is also usually fume free as long as it's kept below a certain temperature. ABS and other types of plastic may require ventilation or enclosures. Some printers come with enclosures for this reason.

7. Is the plastic expensive? How much do you use to print a project?

PLA and PETG usually cost between 15 and 30 dollars for a 1 Kg roll--most brands averaging around 20 bucks. You can get many projects out of one roll. We actually weighed some of our early designs to get an idea how much we were spending. The card tray (pictured below) cost about $1 in plastic.

8. Do the prints take a long time?

Yes, they take a while. We've had small prints that take about 20 minutes to print little pieces, but more complicated prints, even on a small printer, can take upwards of a day (24 hours) to complete. Most basic smallish prints take 1-5 hours to print.

I hope that answers some of your questions! If you have more, let me know in the comments. Check out some of the 3D printing projects we've tried on our little 3D printer.


Popular posts from this blog

Plastic Wrap Alcohol Ink on Small Ceramic Bowl

Splatter Resist Alcohol Ink Tile

Alcohol Ink Washer Necklaces