Choosing a 3D printer for your business can be a challenge as there are many models available on the market. Rather than trying to get an overview of everything that is out there, it is important to first and foremost get a clear view of what it is that you need, since the value of a 3D printer depends on whether or not the machine fits your purposes. Consider the following points in order to choose the 3D printer that fits your purposes.
Choose your 3D print material
What material do you want or even need to print in? Is it metal, or plastics? Is it just one material, or would you like to print multi-material? Do your objects require to be 3D printed in a material that is both strong and lightweight? Are there any (exceptional) mechanical or thermal properties required?
The material is literally what will make or break the for your purpose required properties of the 3D printed object, and to be able to additively manufacture the material of your choice into an object that meets expectations and requirements, you will need a 3D printer that is able to print with this material in a way that matches the specific properties.
Choose your 3D print platform
Size does matter; when you decide to move to 3D printing for manufacturing objects, you don’t want to end up having to section parts so they will fit the building chamber of the 3D printer. Building separate parts that you later bond together creates weak spots, whereas one of the greatest advantages of completely 3D printed objects is their strength because they consist of one part.
Further to this, even if a 3D printer with a smaller build platform is able to print the desired object in one piece, it might be interesting to consider investing in a 3D print production system that is able to build a complete series of parts in one run, since even though the initial investment might be higher, in the end it pays off because of increased operational efficiency.
Decide on 3D printing accuracy
Accuracy and repeatability are important factors for consistent production quality. Overall, the larger 3D production systems are more accurate and offer greater repeatability than smaller 3D printers. Or to put it differently: smaller 3D printers are overall designed for prototyping whereas the emphasis of larger 3D printing systems is on producing end-parts.
Also, since many 3D printer manufacturers aim at creating user-friendly machines, you often don’t find an awful lot of options to fine-tune the 3D printing process. The higher the quality expectations, the more precision in calibration is required. However, this requires knowledge that you may not have in-house, in which case you might want to consider outsourcing your 3D printing.
Ask feedback from users
Once you have a clear view of what type of printer you need, you might want to collect some feedback from other companies that are already working with a 3D printer, or from manufacturers, so you can make an informed decision. In this respect, please feel free to pose a question in the 3D fab+print Group on LinkedIn.