What is a good, expandable entry-level 3D printer?

What is a good, expandable entry-level 3D printer? I’m sure opinions about brand will vary, but what features should I look for?

Can you define “expandable” ?

If your learning and handy with electronics and assembling things I’d consider getting a kit, like a Printrbot, a Prusa, or maybe a Mendal90 from #nophead . Then, because you built it and aligned it and got it working, when you want to change it you will be confident you can get it back together again when you take it apart to change it.

If you’re a job shop and are doing this for clients, you’ll want to partner with some manufacturer and there are a number out there. I don’t have anything to offer there.

Or you can over over to the reprap forums and start reading, there are lots of interesting builds and ideas. I like the CoreXY build thread it has lots of good ideas.

By expandable, I mostly mean something that won’t be obsolete in 6 months. But I am handy with electronics, assembly, etc., so the kit is a great idea. Thanks!

Definitely recommend PrintrBot.

I’m not sure ‘expandable’ is really something you need to keep an eye out for anymore…

Are there really major hardware changes still happening or is it mostly firmware/software?

This has been a great help, I am researching PrintrBot models now and their products do have a nice range of features/prices. Thanks again.

@Gregory_Annen If you want to work in multiple materials, perhaps a cartesian style (as opposed to a delta style) printer would be a good idea. This way, you could do plastic or clay or pastry or whatever.

By large, squirting plastic out of a hole in a hot nozzle will not go obsolete any time soon. There are alternatives like using a laser to solidify a light sensitive gel though. The light sensitive gel costs slightly more and both approaches to making objects has their disadvantages.

If you can find something that would be easy to upgrade, that would be the best idea. A heated enclosure is a good upgrade. Some upgrade their nozzles to get a wider range of plastics to melt (some require a really hot hotend).

You need to think hard about if you want to print in all one color, multiple colors (but only 1-4), a blend of 1-4 colors or true color. Color technology for most 3D printers is limited. It takes a really expensive 3D printer for good color control and it is usually done by using inkjet printer technology to color a powder that was bound together.

A delta style works quite well for multiple materials. It seems to be when I see an alternate material machine (be it clay, wire-fed welder, or pancake batter) it’s usually a delta.

@Mark_Fuller The acceleration for a delta has to go way down when you have a heavier load though and the diagonal arms need to be stronger or a 2nd set installed. There isn’t anything else than basic acceleration reduction to do for such a thing on a cartesian though.

Pro-tip: There are plenty of reasons why the industry has not adopted the “delta” platform and neither should you.

@Matthew_Satterlee OK, here’s what some quick research revealed: “Controlling a linear Cartesian system is mechanically simple and also relatively easy from a software perspective, which is why most 3D printers on the market today use this type of design…Delta printers estimate the head position using less precise trigonometric functions, which requires much more complex control software, so these printers currently don’t produce items with the same crispness as Cartesian printers.” Seems you are correct!

The mathematic overhead isn’t even close to the biggest problem with deltas… IMO mechanical stability or durability are the main concerns.

Love my Printrbot metal simple!

@Matthew_Satterlee That’s pretty much true of any geometry machine, whether parallel or serial kinematic construction. How good is the design?

BTW, PK type machines do excel in a few applications. Especially where moving mass has to be kept at a minimum.

Renishaw has a portable gage system (can’t really call it a CMM) that’s also a PK machine, with a very stable frame. http://www.renishaw.com/en/equator-the-versatile-gauge--13465

Besides, deltas are just more fun to watch. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
I have that on the authority of my 4yr old.