New 3D Printers: Faster, Easier, Better, Cheaper
Consumer-based 3D printers have come a long way, and they’re more powerful and versatile than ever. Like any technology, there are some limitations that restrict what you can do, how you do it, and how much time, energy, brain power and effort it might take to go from concept to completion.
To address these issues, manufacturers have and will continue to focus on four critical issues.
Many new users are dismayed to discover some desktop 3D printers can be somewhat slow. Existing versions haven’t completely resolved this, but many mid-range and commercial models offer faster “build rates” or “build speeds,” two common terms used to describe how long it takes to move from an empty platform to a progressively emerging object. Just as ink and laser printers advertise PPM (pages per minute), 3D printers are beginning to promote IPM (inches per minute) or similar measures of speed.
If you follow 3D maker blogs, pins or videos, you already know some newbies found first-gen printers complex and overwhelming. Keep in mind, it took decades (yes, plural) for laser and inkjet printers to become robust, reliable and easy-to-use devices. New-gen 3D printers feature design and technology improvements that make them easier to use, but it will take time to reach sophisticated plug-and-make status.
The quality of 3D end products varies greatly based on technology, design complexity, material used and operator skill.
Most printers are designed to handle a particular material such as clay, plastic or metal, and this factor limits the type of objects you can produce. Finished quality also varies. Plastic items have a nice appearance, but they may be structurally weak. Metal objects are more durable, but they often have a rough surface. If that’s the look you want, you’re good to go, but if you want a high polish or soft sheen, items could require additional finishing.
While manufacturers continue to refine these capabilities, several existing versions handle varied materials, offer more control over finishes and produce higher quality objects with greater strength, durability and stability.
In recent years, 3D printer prices have fallen to the point where many desktop units are quite reasonable. Prices span the gamut from a few hundred dollars for small ones with limited capabilities to a few thousand for those that produce larger, higher quality objects. At each price point, new-gen 3D printers are offering expanded possibilities at a cheaper price.
New-gen consumer-based 3D printers are more powerful and affordable than ever, and with each successive generation, manufacturers continue to leverage technology, design and material-handling advancements to make 3D printers even faster, easier, better and cheaper.