The future has arrived in the form of 3D printers. If you want to know what to look for if you're in the market for one, check out this buying guide.
Resin or filament 3D printer
There are two main types of 3D printer: filament or resin. Both are good choices if you have basic requirements but there are key differences between the two that might influence your final choice. Filament printers are more common and they work by using fused deposition modelling which melts down a string of plastic, known as filament. The filament is added layer by layer until the final print is produced. They're more affordable and simpler to use, and if you are a beginner, it is a solid option.
What about resin?
With resin printing, a build plate lowers into a vat of resin and a light source cures liquid resin into layers. These printers usually deliver better results than filament ones mainly because of the fine detail they deliver. Because of this, resin printers are more expensive. Be warned though, resin is messy, making the machine can be harder to clean - but the results are probably worth it.
Check your speed
If you're printing for speed, then filament printers are usually faster than resin printers. However, speed can be deceptive with 3D printers and faster is not always better. For example, on larger prints, faster printing might mean fine details are overlooked, and may even create problems such as vertical banding, or ringing. At the same time, too slow of a print could lead to stringing. This is why it's important to check the speed of the printer against what you want it to do: slow might actually be better.
This is a very important feature as it best calculates the distance between the nozzle and print bed. Software adjustments then ensure that the nozzle maintains the correct distance from the bed while printing. While manual bed levelling is available in many printers, an auto-levelling 3D printer streamlines the printing process and is probably the best bet for beginners.
You'll need to send a 3D printable file to your printer before you can do anything, so a printer that makes connectivity fast, simple and reliable is well worth it. Most 3D printers feature a USB cable connection with many of them also having a SD card slot or USB port for plugging in a flash drive or SD card.
Consider the size
How much space do you have? That's an important question to ask yourself as 3D printers come in all shapes and sizes and the one best suited to your requirements might not fit into the physical space you've allotted to it. Always be aware of the full dimensions of your preferred printer. Larger printers can also produce a fair amount of noise, so this is something else to factor into your purchasing decision.