Buying a 3D printer – the convenient option

If you want to be creating as soon as possible, buying a ready-built 3d printer is the smartest option

As the last post says, the easiest way to get a 3D printer is to buy one. It costs more than building your own but if you want to have your printer up and running as quickly as possible this is definitely the way to do it.

There are several advantages in buying a printer, and for many users these more than make up for the extra cost. Mostly it comes down to why you want a 3D printer in the first place. Many people are enthusiasts and hobbyists; they want to explore, and develop, new technology. If that sounds like you then you’ll probably have more fun building a printer yourself, either from a kit or from scratch. If you need it to produce objects for work or a hobby, though, then buying one is probably the way ahead. Here are the main plus points:

  • Speed. If you buy a printer that’s ready to go out the box you could have your first project starting to take shape within an hour of unpacking it. At most you’ll have to fit a few large parts together and load it with filament; at that point it’s ready to connect to your PC and switch on.
  • Convenience. A self-built 3D printer can be finicky. It often takes a lot of tweaking and calibration to get it working properly, and while that’s an interesting challenge for an enthusiast it can be frustrating if you just want to get the thing running and start printing the parts for your new prototype. A ready-built printer shouldn’t need more than simple, usually automated, calibration before it’s ready to start work.
  • Support. When something goes wrong with a device you built yourself you’re on your own. Buy a printer and it comes with a guarantee and probably technical support. If you need the printer for work, and can’t afford to have it out of service for a long period – and don’t want to spend hours fixing it when you could be working – support isn’t just nice to have; it’s essential.

If those sound like compelling reasons to buy a ready-assembled printer the next question is probably where to look for one. A few years ago your options were pretty limited, but now they’re widely available. Even electronics shops like Currys now often sell them, although prices are high and the selection is limited. Many can be bought direct from the manufacturer, like the high-end MakerBot series. You can find specialist dealers online who offer a choice of printers along with software and consumables. One of the simplest solutions is to just go to Amazon and search for “3D printer”; you’ll find a wide range on there.

Printers that qualify as pre-assembled – either ready to go straight out the box or needing only basic assembly – range from RepRap-based designs to large professional models. Even familiar names like Dremel are entering the market with their own designs. Prices start at around £200 and run up into thousands, so there’s something for any budget – and you’ll be printing more or less straight away.

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