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namebrand

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Reply with quote  #1 
I have seen many discussions on the topic of what the best 3D printer is and which one to choose, but the take away to me is almost always the same...there isn't a "best". Like almost every tool, every 3D printer has pros and cons and can be suited better for one or more types of job. If someone is looking for the magic bullet of 3D printers that will do everything, then they won't find it. That's not to say that you can't find a printer that will do everything you want it to do, but when it comes to doing everything there isn't one. Of course I'm no expert, but this is what I have found.

To start with there are different types of printing technology to contend with, and each has areas it excels at. I'd say the main ones are stereolithography (SL or SLA) and fused deposition modeling (FDM).

SLA uses light (often a laser) to harden the building material in layers to create the printed object. This means that the potential to create higher resolution prints is there and the complexity of the prints can be much higher (interlocking pieces, gears, bearings, all printed in an assembly in some cases). With this comes cost and there aren't as many consumer level options. Far less post prep/clean up for a finished piece.

FDM has been sometimes referred to as a glorified hot glue gun. They squirt out melted plastic to build the printed item. There is a wide variety of these sorts of printers out there and they are the cheapest option available right now. The print resolution is usually much lower, but they tend to be a lot faster. Often a great deal more post prep/clean up for a finished piece.

Choosing which technology ultimately depends on your end goal. If you make a lot of small, detailed pieces that would suffer in the post prep/clean up process then SLA would likely be a better choice. Also if you want something that pretty much is ready to print out of the box without a lot of tinkering. If you're making larger less detailed items where sanding, filling, or other forms of post prep won't harm the details you do have then FDM is a great option. Cost can be a huge factor as well, but if you're just buying something because it's the cheapest then you might be disappointed with your purchase regardless. Considering the product you want to make is the main thing.

The drawbacks of SLA are usually speed, they take a lot usually longer to print, cost of the machine and often materials, and the print volume (at least on consumer level machines) is usually a lot smaller. The drawbacks of FDM are the lacking in being able to print small or highly detailed parts. They can require a lot of adjustment and tinkering at the beginning and sometimes per print job to get good prints. There's a higher failure rate as well.

All that doesn't take into account the different makes and models of printers out there. Some will be hard and fast supporters of one company or model while others will hate it. Like cars, people can hate a brand and love another, but ultimately if it gets you from point A to point B and it works for you then it's the right tool.

In the end, it would be ideal to have more than one printer using more than one technology so that you can reap the benefits of each and do much more. Sadly that would be a costly venture.
oxenham1

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Reply with quote  #2 
Thanks for the information namebrand! I know were looking at a 3d printer in the near future, and you've certainly shed a lot of light on it!
Keep the cool pics coming!
8)
JWO

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Jamie Oxenham http://www.oxenhamdesign.com
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http://forums.oxenhamdesign.com/post/3d-summer-modelling-challenge-6946988?pid=1283204501#post1283204501

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