Think Tank

6th June 2015 by Pambos Palas

3D Printers [PART 1 – Selecting a Printer]

The advance of 3D printing has not only opened doors in manufacturing, making previously “impossible” designs now possible, but it has revolutionised prototyping. Designers can now quickly and easily bring their CAD designs to life, allowing them to test mechanisms, better gauge the actual size of the product, and test how it feels to hold and use. Moreover, the price of desktop printers has reduced dramatically over the last few years, and the quality has increased – opening the door for small firms and even hobbyists.
This article briefly covers our experience in setting up an in-house 3D printer, after having already spent many times its value in outsourcing printing work. Given the incredible amount of choice out there at the moment, I hope this article will provide some insight to this particular model and hopefully help convince anyone who is looking to buy one.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a printer, and several types of printers to choose from. Priorities might include:

– Print Quality
– Print Size
– User Friendliness
– Printer Cost
– Ease of Maintenance
– Availability of filament
– Choice of print materials
– Availability of Support
– Speed of Print
– Physical Size of Printer
– Noise Level of Printer

Luckily for us, we had a fairly good vision of what we wanted. The quality of the print ranked high in our list, which initially pushed us towards a resin based printer (one that uses UV light to cure the plastic allowing greater control over detail). However, the limitations in print size were too restrictive, and the quality of standard additive printers was already more than good enough (FFF – Fused Filament Fabrication). Although budget wasn’t a huge constraint (we were willing to invest in a good printer), we were surprised to find that the printers we were looking at were already relatively cheap.
Having done our own research online, it seemed that the Ultimaker 2 was the right choice. It seemed to receive the top reviews in most sites, and it looked great on paper. We were lucky to find a great 3D print shop within walking distance from our office that also sold printers (iMakr) and they also offered the Utlimaker range, so we went to see a print sample.
In person, it was just as impressive as we imagined it – perhaps even more so. The store was filled with different printer models printing away, as well as countless examples of prints. Most impressive were the ones coming out of a B9 Creator, a DLP based printer, featuring details that you couldn’t believe came from a desktop printer. Also impressive, were samples coming out of the Ultimaker, though for other reasons – they featured a wide range of materials, ranging from a soft rubber to a material that felt like wood!
In the end we chose the Zortrax M200. Its incredibly similar to the Ultimaker – in the technology that it uses, the speed of printing, the size of print etc. They even look fairly similar! The tipping point for us was the final quality of the samples. Thought the Ultimaker was brilliant, it seemed that the Zortrax was marginally more consistent in quality. Of course our assessment was based over a limited sample set, and it was hardly conclusive – I would say both printers are great, and excellent value for money.
The following post will show our unpacking and describe our experience setting the printer up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *