3D Printers: Is Now the Time to Buy Your Own?

3d-printer-inarticleIt’s a fact: 3D printing is the technology of the moment, and it’s gaining popularity and momentum across every potential use, from lifesaving applications to manufacturing to entertainment.

It makes perfect sense. 3D printing offers manufacturers a wide variety of benefits, including lowered manufacturing costs and new material combinations that could help revolutionize their products.

But how do you know if it’s time for you to buy a 3D printer for your business or project? Sure, you’ve been thinking about it non-stop and you can already picture how and why you might use it, but there are practical considerations before you take the plunge.

 

We’ve put together some points to ponder while you decide whether or not now is the time to buy a 3D printer:

 

The Coolness Factor

No question, a 3D printer will up the coolness of your company. It will draw attention and telegraph the idea that you and your team are ready, willing and able to embrace trends and new tech.

At this point, one major benefit of deciding to buy a 3D printer is that you’ll get a jump on your competition. And a more practical (but still cool) benefit is that you can create prototypes quickly and efficiently, or lower your production costs by as much as 70%.  You will find 3D printers in a wide range of companies now, they are no longer the tool reserved exclusively for design firms or specialists.

You can produce on demand rather than guessing at quantities and filling warehouses, creating less waste. What’s cooler than that?

 

Pricing

As 3D printing technology becomes more mainstream and more available, pricing is getting more affordable. In fact, over the past few years, 3D printer prices have come down substantially in price.

As you figure out how much you’re willing to pay, make sure you consider:

  • What type of printer you need (FDM or resin based?)
  • The size of the 3D printer (How big an item would you like to be able to print?)
  • Where you’ll put it (How much room do I have available?)
  • The cost of replacement parts and maintenance (Do I want open source or not?)

A cross section of all these considerations should give you a range of what you can afford, and, as mentioned above, the abundance of choices now on the market means you should be able to find one with a price tag that’s just right.

 

Quality

Be aware that that affordable price tag may come with…a price. We all know sometimes you get what you pay for, and in those cases, you could be paying for a subpar item.

A low-quality 3D printer is not worth the investment, and it’s not worth your CFO’s wrath to keep replacing an expensive piece of equipment every two years.

So follow these simple steps to make sure that if you’re getting a good deal, it’s the real thing:

  • Do your homework and shop around
  • Read consumer reviews
  • Talk to any colleagues who might have experience with 3D printers

 

Ease of Use

Not everyone was born with the tech gene that allows him or her to understand and dominate every mechanical beast they ever encounter.

And there is nothing wrong with that—you will find big differences in usability between the different brands out there.  Many now offer wifi connectivity and an app for your smartphone that makes printing much easier.  Again, check out the reviews or request a demo to see if it feels right for you.

 

So is now the right time to buy a 3D printer?  What you get for your money is always improving and it’s hard to see cost being a barrier any more. Use our suggestions to decide, and, in the meantime, you can read other helpful tips and ideas about how to optimize everything for your design projects in our blog.

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Jarrod Barker
About the Author
Jarrod Barker
Jarrod has a keen interest in technology development and operations. He has an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering and his industry experience spans product design, sports technology, medical device engineering and power generation. He has worked for a leading design consultancy in Cambridge, UK and now runs the Outerspace branch in San Diego USA.

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