What’s up gang… Long time lurker here. Finally getting close to venturing into the 3D Printing space. Couple of questions. What’s a good printer? Lol, that’s probably not so easily answered. I guess I’m curious about things to watch out for. Is there a difference in printer beds? Filament compatibility? Are cheap printers not worth the headache and quality? Would like to spend around $1000. Can anyone recommend a few brands for me to look at?
I appreciate any input, thanks!
At that price range the MK3 from Prusa ($750 kit, $1000 assembled but I highly recommend getting a kit) is gonnna be your best bet and you’ll find most people will agree with me. Regardless of what you purchase you want to get something with a heated bed, it’ll maximize your filament capabilities. Next thing to look for would be a highish temp hotend, preferably up to ~260 C works for PETG, nylons, and most composites. Cheap printers are okay but with your budget you should save yourself the headache. No printer is perfect and you will run into problems down the road, it’s just nice to have a machine that’s built well and makes fixing these issues easy.
@Adam_Steinmark awesome, thanks for the reply. Great information too. Gives me a good starting point
@Corey_Miecielica does it matter, if the bed is metal or glass?
Also, why do you highly recommend the kit? I mean, I’d rather get it put together so I don’t f*ck anything up lol. Are they easy to assemble?
Metal is actually better, if it is the right kind. Aluminum Mic6 or ATP5 are thermally stable and typically milled flat. Better thermal conduction than glass, and weighs only 10% more per volume. A good surface on top like pei or ultem creates a much better surface than glass.
One of the only manufacturers that use aluminum beds is printrbot (and only the heated bed models).
@Stephanie_A That Prusa that was mentioned above uses what looks like steel printe bed powder coated with PEI. I take it that’s the next best thing. It says steel, but they show it being bendable to remove prints. :-/
They use a spring-steel sheet that attaches using magnets. It’s the hot new thing. Not sure how it affects flatness but I think the surface below it is aluminum.
I don’t have particular brands to point you to, but I suggest a few things to consider when comparing any two printers:
heated bed is worth the upgrade price: I print nearly 100% PETG these days and heated bed helps a lot. PLA is ok but PETG makes for far nicer prints of almost any propose. I’ve never printed ABS. I bought a keenovo heater after market and so far love it (750 watt AC heater with its own controller so my printer doesn’t have to know or care about the bed)
hot end capable of at least 260C: my PETG of choice recommends 255C and I actually print at 260C (shout out to MakerGeeks; Best filament I’ve used, and among the least expensive). you can upgrade later, but will wonder what sort of current the mainboard will support… get a good hot end right up front
single/dual extruder: dual isn’t as awesome as you want it to be. mine is a dual and I exclusively use just one extruder these days. ultimaker had the right marketing idea where the second extruder is advertised for use with water soluble filament as an easily removed support structure; that’s the main value add and I don’t see much value in it personally. my dual setup does work very well, but there just isn’t any real use for it.
axis calibration: very important. check the owner’s manual before you buy and read through how you’ll go about recalibrating the axes over time. mine was not designed well for this and calibration is a royal pain.
direct drive extruder: if possible avoid Bowden style extruders (long tube connecting extruder motor to the hotend). I can’t print flexible filament because of my Bowden system (and the cantilever design of my printer prevents me from turning it into a direct drive). flexible is very interesting (and might be a valid reason to consider dual extrusion but I’m not entirely convinced)
while others suggest a metal bed, I consider glass to be preferable. glass doesn’t warp. printing on glass provides a nice glossy finish to the underside of your part. my high power 110v AC after market heater has had no problem pumping heat into the underside of my parts through the glass, but a smaller 12v or 24v heater might struggle.
bed size: bigger isn’t always better. large beds mean greater distance for moving parts to travel and so more error propagation along the rails. smaller might be more robust and require less maintenance. on the other hand a large build volume is awesome. I can print 300mm on each axis and I’ve used the full 2D surface area quite often by populating the whole build plate with copies of parts I needed many of (e.g. 50x small brackets I printed for a 3Dhubs customer, I was able to print all of them in one shot rather than just a few at a time). this is a trade off, but if you are comparing two “large” printers and wonder which will stand up to abuse longer, it’s likely the smaller of the two would win with all else being equal.
materials: as mentioned above, I love PETG. get your hands on some right away and try it. it’s fantastic stuff. don’t avoid it.
that’s all that comes to mind. good luck!
@Stephanie_A It may affect flatness a bit but remember the machine still uses mesh bed leveling.
Having used glass, aluminum, and a few different types of magnetic beds I have to say I strongly prefer the removable magnetic beds. The only downside is that heat doesn’t conduct as well throughout so you get cold corners. Prusa’s MK52 PCB bed uses cold corner compensation though so this effect is greatly minimized.
As for kit vs. assembled, I always recommend kits because of how much you learn about the machine when building it. You learn about how all pieces play a part and it’s significantly easier to troubleshoot issues this way. Plus if you’re going to go for any kit printer Prusa is probably the way to go; they have one of the best assembly manuals (http://manual.prusa3d.com/c/Original_Prusa_i3_MK3_kit_assembly). Plus it’s online so users can ask questions about a particular step or share feedback that may be useful to others. Even if you screw up the firmware has automatic X/Y skew compensation so it corrects for most assembly mistakes.
@Jared_Eldredge wow, thanks a lot for chiming in. Totally gonna use this as a little cheat sheet when looking at printers. Honestly the first suggestion for the MK3 …that thing looks pretty sweet. Watching their little promo video had me sold. I wish it was a lit up a little more but meh that’s just superficial so whatever.
I did look at Ultimakers’ printers- kinda of priced too high for a reg sized printer. They had a mini backpack version but its build volume wasn’t exciting. :-/
@Jared_Eldredge I’ll second the comments about PETG and direct drive.
Ultimaker printers produce fantastic results, probably due to it’s unique and lightweight gantry. The price is definitely a factor though and it limits your material capability somewhat, flexibles may prove difficult to print but I’ve had good experience with Cheetah.
@Adam_Steinmark assembly still sounds nightmarishly scary to me but I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said in regards to buying a kit.
So I take it on these (most)printers you can upgrade parts like beds and hot ends?
@Adam_Steinmark I’ve never used a PCB heater but the AC heater I have is awesome. the pad is a full 300mm X 300mm and the whole thing heats up, so no cold corners. I get from ~17C (room temp where I print; I know it’s a bit cold for ambient) to 65C (for PETG) in maybe 30 seconds or so.
also: mesh leveling is great to ensure first layer adhesion, but if you’re printing parts requiring mechanical precision it won’t always help. picture a bed with a bump in the center: mesh leveling will allow the printer draw a “flat” line to follow that bump but, as I understand (please correct me if I’m wrong) it must redefine “flat” to mean “following that bump” so the “flat” top and bottom surfaces of prints will have the same bump in them. for simple designs it may not matter much, but for complicated designs it could ruin the mechanical intent of the printed part.
@Corey_Miecielica To get an idea of what you are getting into for assembling a good printer kit watch these videos. There are 13 of them including calibration. Takes less than a day to do it.
They make a very good high precision starter printer as well in the price range you are looking for. 1,000 cubic inch build space for less than $1,000.
@Jared_Eldredge Using this in my work-in-progress build : https://www.amazon.com/dp/B011U919UO/_encoding=UTF8?coliid=I1EFTEMHQ7ETHY&colid=22UOY7HL1KRC0
Yes, you’re correct in your description of the mesh bed leveling in Marlin. There are other types in I think Smoothie or RepRap Firmware that correct the leveling offsets by varying flow but I won’t go into that. The Marlin situation really isn’t that severe though for most applications at less than the layer height from lowest to highest point. It’s usually only used to compensate for the deformation of a heated PCB when it’s hot. See link below (time-stamped link), Tom explains why it deforms and you can see by his gauge that a cheap heater only bowed 10 microns:
Plus this is also how 3 point leveling works with conductive probes; your XY plane is now no longer perpendicular to the Z plane, the surfaces are just slanted slightly.
Yes Corey, most people do end up upgrading components like hotends to an E3D brand one (usually V6 or Titan Aero) or adding a heated bed to a printer that didn’t originally have one or even something as small as changing a nozzle. There are some other mods you can do to some printers like changing the dimensions of the gantry along an axis (Printrbot Simple Metal) or changing the movement style (H-bot to CoreXY, etc.).
Should add that that putting together a kit (I recommend it) will teach you a lot about your printer. Makes tweaks and mods down the road much easier. When things need to be adjusted you will understand better what to do and why.
Oh, and welcome to the addiction!
The best questions in my opinion are : budget?
Filament you intend to use?
Build size requirements?
Type of printing : fun, business, don’t know
Kit or assembled (sounds like assembled)
USA or other?
With these, you may narrow it down quickly, but certain answers may expose a long road of research ahead.
Rules of thumb many use to narrow the field:
Between $500 & $1000
6” cube or larger
Don’t care, some want in-country shipping, support, etc
@Cameron_Spiller haha, awesome. Yeah honestly the more I look at the MK3 the more I like it! Just nervous about getting a kit.
Just finished building the MK3 kit and it is a piece of cake, you can’t go wrong with that printer! It was my 5th printer and I finally feel like I have arrived at a machine I can turn the wife and kids loose on. Only regret is that I did not start with it but instead fiddled around with cheaper options and wasted a whole lot of time and money. MK3 is without a doubt a sweet spot for what you are looking for.