3D printers can help you convert concepts into 3D models, allowing you to create a wide range of unique items from the comfort of your home (or office). Despite their undoubted importance, 3D printers require a considerable amount of work. So is buying a 3D printer worth it?
Buying a 3D printer is worth it only if 3D printing is a passion or hobby that you want to pursue further or learn more about. Investing in a 3D printer is also worth it if you don’t mind the technical difficulties associated with 3D printing or if it’s a significant part of the work you do.
Are you thinking of buying a 3D printer but don’t know if it’s a worthy investment to make? If so, then you couldn’t be in a better place. Read on as I discuss some of the key considerations you should make before purchasing a 3D printer.
What To Consider Before Buying a 3D Printer
3D printing isn’t for everyone. The hobby might appear interesting at first, but without the technical knowledge of creating your designs from scratch and making complete use of a 3D printer, chances are you’ll end up bored quickly.
There are many factors to consider before buying a 3D printer, which I will discuss in the next section.
Determine Why You Need a 3D Printer
Before splurging your hard-earned cash on a 3D printer, the first thing you should consider is your interests and intentions.
Do you want to use a 3D printer to pursue a particular passion? Is a 3D printer going to take you closer to your career or personal goals? Or do you want a 3D printer only to keep you busy in your free time when working from home?
Your answer to these questions will help you decide whether or not to invest in a 3D printer. As a good rule of thumb, you shouldn’t get a 3D printer if its purpose is to keep you ‘entertained’ when you have nothing else better to do.
But if you want to purchase a 3D printer for several projects you have pending (with the potential for several other future projects), then investing in one is likely a good idea.
Determine if You Have a Long-Term Plan for It
A 3D printer is an excellent asset for creatives looking to bring their unique designs to life. You can use a 3D printer to make your own board game, create models (buildings, planes, and cars), and even make action figures if you’re an avid gamer.
3D printers are also great assets for teachers who prefer using 3D printed items to help students grasp concepts better.
Therefore, if you have a long-term plan and intend to put your 3D printer to constant use, then purchasing one wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Not only will buying a 3D printer allow you to make your own items with ease, but it’ll also help lower costs of mass production as you won’t need to outsource to third parties.
But you should avoid buying a 3D printer if your interests don’t align with 3D printing. If you have a handful of designs you’d like to print, it’s best to outsource to a 3D printing service.
Know the Challenges of 3D Printing Technicalities
Although not rocket science, 3D printing is no walk in the park, either. This explains why most people who pursue 3D printing have some technical experience in fields like programming, circuity, and laser cutting, among other technical skills.
A 3D printer helps make the work more accessible for people with technical skills, especially for projects requiring regular experimentation.
To start printing your own 3D items, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with 3D modeling software like Inventor, Blender, and Solidworks.
You’ll also need to know enough about computers and troubleshooting to make the most of a 3D printer.
Therefore, if you aren’t interested in learning to use new software and troubleshooting whenever a 3D printer misbehaves (either due to incorrect software or a jammed filament), then you should steer clear of a 3D printer.
Consider the Costs of Owning a 3D Printer
A 3D printer will only be worth the investment if you put it to good use. This means you must be prepared to buy several components on a recurrent basis for your 3D printer to add value.
If you opt to work with regular filaments like Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA), you’ll be spending an average of $25 per kilogram. But the cost of filaments can go higher when dealing with premium, specialty filaments.
You’ll need to maintain the nozzle every once in a while, more so when it gets dirty. Besides cleaning and replacing the nozzle, you’ll also need to lubricate the rods and axis while monitoring the different moving parts.
Besides the recurrent costs associated with owning a home 3D printer, you must also consider the cost of the type of printer you want to purchase.
Beginner 3D printers cost as low as $160 but come with several limitations. You might have to pay thousands of dollars to get a professional-grade 3D printer, but the investment will be worth it if you have heavy usage needs.
Check for 3D Printing Services in Your Area
The availability of 3D printing services should also determine whether or not you invest in a home 3D printer. Buying a 3D printer would make sense if your usage is heavy and you live or work in an area with limited 3D printing services.
However, if there are several 3D printing services around you, then buying a 3D printer might not make much financial sense, especially if you don’t plan to use the device frequently.
Buying a 3D printer is worth it if you plan to print tons of prototypes as part of your project. However, if you’re just a hobbyist looking to try out 3D modeling, then it’s best to outsource your designs to a 3D printing service.
Investing in a 3D printer can prove costly, especially if you opt for the advanced models, but the investment will be worth every penny if you put the device to maximum use.
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I started 3D printing since 2013 and have learned a lot since then. Because of this I want to share my knowledge of what I have learned in the past years with the community. Currently I own 2 Bambulab X1 Carbon, Prusa SL1S and a Prusa MK3S+. Hope you learn something from my blog after my years of experience in 3D printing.