Want to get into 3D printing? It's an exciting and evolving field for sure, but can also be an expensive one. Here are 5 questions every designer should ask themselves before taking the plunge...
01. How much money should I spend?
First, consider what the printer's main purpose will be. If you'll be using it for an artistic venture, you should opt for a capable budget printer. However, if you want to create professional prototypes, to show clients and moving parts, think about investing a little more on a printer with a wider range of features and higher print quality. Check out these articles:
- 5 affordable 3D printers (opens in new tab) for designers
- The best pro 3D printers (opens in new tab)
- 3 great desktop 3D printers (opens in new tab) for clutter-free designers
- 3 great budget 3D printers (opens in new tab)
02. Will I be making moving parts?
This might seem like a strange question, but different 3D printers have different limitations, so you need to ensure it can do the job you require it to. For example, in some more complex models or parts, overhangs may not be able to be printed, or layer delamination may cause parts to break in certain machines.
03. Should I use a 3D print service?
If your budget or storage space doesn't allow for your own personal 3D printer, then fear not, you're still able to print using a dedicated 3D printing service, such as Shapeways (opens in new tab). This might be a better option for you as you can turn your ideas from digital designs into real products from your desktop and have them shipped to your door.
04. What material should I use?
3D printers tend to use plastic filaments. The most common consumables used by 3D printers using the FDM (fused deposition modelling) technology are ABS, PLA and PVA – all of which are used in a large variety of applications in the industry and come in a number of colours, diameters and lengths. Before you buy, check the materials options. Start with our easy guide to 3D printing materials (opens in new tab).
05. What software do I need?
If you're just getting started, there are a number of 3D modelling software options available that can be downloaded for free. SketchUp is fun and free and known for being easy to use. Blender (opens in new tab) is also a good free option, as are basic apps like SculptGL (opens in new tab) and OpenSCAD (opens in new tab) – this software application creates solid 3D CAD objects using OpenCSG.
This article was originally published in 3D World (opens in new tab) issue 190.
Like this? Read these...
- Useful and inspiring flyer templates
- Download free textures: high resolution and ready to use now
- The best photo apps for iPhone, iPad and Android