Choosing the right 3D printer is as important as having the right paintbrush for an artist. In order for you to create a masterpiece, you must first have the right tools. You need a machine that will be tailored to your needs whether it be for prototyping, making scale models, or just things to play with. I'd like to review the top three 3D printing machines currently available on the market. In this review I am comparing price, durability, build area, and layer height of each machine.
I am an aspiring Architect with two certificates of achievement in Architectural Design, from Orange Coast College, California. Bringing my skills from California to New Mexico I'd like to share my knowledge of 3D printers. 3D printers are widely used in the field of Architecture, with the advancement of technology Architects have been ahead of the curve by implementing the new technology as a vital tool in their practice. The main applications of 3D printing can be seen in this report found on Forbes website. The top three: proof of concept, prototyping, and production are critical in the 3D printing success in Architecture.
Starting off with the Anet A8, one of the primary appeals for this 3D printer would be its price. The retail price of the Anet A8 is about $200, that's an unreal price for what you get. This also comes with extra accessories such as pliers, and a small amount of filament, although it isn't enough to build a large model at first, it does in fact get you started on calibrating the machine so you know how much material you will need. Now, you might say to yourself, that is way too cheap to for the printer to actually be good. As someone that owns this machine personally, I am here to tell you, "this machine is as good it gets at that price". Price is not the only perk of this machine, it is fairly easy to use, there are plenty of tutorials and forums online to explain issues of problems that you might face. The acrylic frame of the machine is easily cut and mass produced. This is one of the reason the machine is so affordable, they are able to mass produce the frame, cheaply and quickly. The acrylic actually helps minimize rattling and vibrations from the printer, essentially making the machine a lot quieter than its counter part aluminum machines. With its effective build area of 220mm x 220mm with a max build height of 240mm, It is insanely design friendly. This is enough build space to produce large scale objects, such as Halloween masks.
The build quality itself is very fine tuned, with an optimal layer height of .08mm. At this layer height, it has a fairly smooth finish, with layer lines nearly invisible to the naked eye.
Now for an examination of the lower aspects of the printer. Although the acrylic frame is good for reduction of vibrations and sound, it is insanely brittle. In many cases, moving your 3D printer would never be an issue, but in this case it would be wise to reduce how often you move it. A minor bump with another solid object can crack the entire frame, in which case it would be pretty difficult and time consuming to have another one sent out to you. Another issue, would have to include its obvious exposure of its electrical parts, if you don't have a lot of space for the machine and are in an area where it can be bumped easily you need to be weary of the materials around the machine.
The next machine, is probably one of the highest praised machines of 2018, the Creality CR-10. With a price of about $500, this machine comes nearly fully assembled, with Aluminum framing. This machine does not come with additional accessories, like filament, a scraper, or pliers. This additional cost will only run you another $30, overall a strong contender for a low cost machine. This is still near the lower mid range in the grand view of 3D printing machines, but with top notch quality prints. The aluminum framing makes this machine immensely stronger than its acrylic counter part. It has an 300mm x 300mm build area, with a 400mm build height, which makes it one of the best printers with the largest print area. This 3D printer has a max layer height of .05mm, giving it even more detail than the Anet A8. According to Chris Garrett "you get more than this printer than any I have seen", he is referring to the tools accompanied with the machine. Being large in stature with aluminum framing, you can safely assume that this machine is going to rattle and make a bit more noise than the Anet A8. Although I don't personally own this machine, for the extra bit of money, it sure carries its weight in value.
The last 3D printer is the Formlabs Form 2. For a price of $3,500 you'll be getting the pinnacle of 3D printing technology. This is a whole different category when compared to the Anet A8 and CR-10, it is a top of the line printer used for super high resolution prints. It uses SLA (stereolithography) technology that involves a laser that solidifies resin layer by layer. With a 100-micron layer thickness, its resolution is 4 times better than competing printers. This printer comes with all accessories to get a print started as soon as it is dropped at the door. But because this is such an expensive machine, replacement costs are high. Out the door price with full accessories, such as the usable material, and cleaning material would be around $4,000. One major difference from the two other printers, is that it is fully enclosed, which reduces exposure from dust and outside forces. One huge function that I like about this printer, is the option to print using wifi, this makes loading projects considerably easier.
This machine does come with its own faults, that being its build area is only 145mm x 145mm with a 175mm max build height. This lack of build space, limits its ability design capabilities for larger scaled objects.
Columbus, Louis. “The State Of 3D Printing, 2017.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 23 May 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/louiscolumbus/2017/05/23/the-state-of-3d-printing-2017/#1baf2e4d57eb. This article provides predictions for 2018, and has graphs with statistics on what companies are using 3D printers for.