Selecting first 3D printer

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With plethora of selection of 3D printers in the market, which one is really suitable for discerning beginners? For me, it is enough of readings and watching videos about 3D printing! I was intrigued enough that I decided to jump straight into the action and purchase first 3D printer. You may be surprised, but there are literally hundreds of different 3D printer models from variety of brands from different countries. Selecting first 3D printer from that vastness can be daunting and this article hopes to help you navigate that.

Selection criteria

First, there are different types of 3D printing techniques and the most common are:

  • FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling)
  • SLS (Selective Laser Sintering)
  • SLA (Stereolithography)

You can find the detailed explanations of the different techniques in the next articles but for the purpose of this article, we will only look at FDM printers- as this is the most common type of 3D printers and the simplest to use and understand.

When I was selecting first 3d printer, there were several factors that I tried to answer to ensure that I was purchasing printer that is of right fit for me:

  1. Use Case: What I am going to use the printer for.
    • In this case, I would envision to use the printer to learn more about 3D printing and also perhaps if there’s space capacity I could offer 3D printing services.
  2. Cost: How much I was willing to spend?
    • I think my budget would be around SGD 300-500 for first printer.
  3. Print Quality: What is the reliability & print quality of the printer I am looking for.
    • At this point, I am not looking for super high commercial-like quality. But the same time, the reliability & print results cannot be very lousy: it should be decent for the price.
  4. Ease-of-use: Is it beginner-friendly?
    • I am congnizant that this is probably one of the trade-off together with item 2 and 3- and also affected by number 5. As I am willing to learn, I am ready to accept printers that requires steep learning curve for beginners- so long there are support/ instruction materials out there.
  5. Support: Either official or community support should be solid.
    • Yes, printer with strong community support would be desirable

The shortlisted

There are many printer models that form my initial list:

  • Ultimaker S3
  • Makerbot
  • Prusa i3 MK3S
  • Flashforge Finder
  • Anycubic i3 Mega
  • Ender 3/ v2/ Pro/ 5
  • Dremer Digilab 3D45

After some initial research based on the criteria when selecting first 3D printer, I whittled down the list into 3 and I will go over the details of these printers below.

Ender 3 v2

Ender 3 v2
  • Price: around SGD 400 from various e-store. Item is mostly available in Singapore with very quick delivery.
  • Print Size: 220 x 220 x 250 mm
  • Print Quality: From various blogs & articles, quality is said to be very good and reliable.
  • Ease of use: The printer will be delivered as a kit where self-assembly is required. English instructions would be provided and have clear & detailed steps. Failing that, there are plenty of YouTube tutorials.
  • Support: Strong community support with plenty of articles and reference videos available online.
  • Pros: glass print bed, silent printing, LCD control screen, pause/ resume printing, great print quality for the price.
  • Cons: manual bed leveling, filament loading can be tricky.

Prusa i3MK3S

Prusa MK3S+
  • Price: printer is available from Prusa website for direct purchase- and available as kit or assembled. I reckon it would be safer to buy it as a kit as it is probably easier to transport safely from Czech Republic to Singapore. Price for kit= USD 749 + shipping to anywhere in the world USD 49.30= USD 798.30 / SGD 1070 in total + 7% GST ($75) for import into Singapore. So the grand total for printer to reach your house is SGD 1145.
Prusa i3 MK3S+ Price to Singapore
  • Print Quality: Of the 3 shortlisted, this printer has the highest rating.
  • Print size: 210 x 210 x 250 mm
  • Ease-of use: Prusa has has more *automated* features compared to Ender. For example, the bed leveling is automated in Prusa. Bed leveling is one of the hardest elements to get right. So it is a big plus.
  • Support: Prusa i3 has strong followers and community to support it.
  • Pros: Automatic bed leveling, pause/ resume printing, filament sensor, great quality, upgrades are awesome (like being able to print in 5 colours simultaneously) and available for purchase easily.
  • Cons: price is on the higher side if this is truly your first foray into 3D printing- but comes with reliability and great print quality.

Flashforge Creator Pro2

Flashforge lineups

There are many Flashforge models in its Consumer category. It can be confusing to navigate as some of the models have the same features at at around the same price points. Here are the quick summary of the different models of Flashforge printers:

  • Finder: For true beginner, small print volume 140 x 140 x 140mm. On official website: USD299+ USD90 shipping to Singapore = USD 389/ SGD 520.
  • Dreamer NX: dual extruder, print volume 230 x 150 x140mm. On official website: USD 449 + USD 180 shipping to Singapore= USD 629/ SGD 845.
  • Creator Pro 2: Independent dual extruders (IDEX), print volume 200 x 148 x 150 mm. Price on official website: USD 899 + $0 shipping to Singapore. = USD 899/ SGD 1210.
  • Inventor II: single extruder, wifi connectivity, print volume: 150 x 140 x 140mm. Price on official website: USD 629 + USD 80 shipping to Singapore = USD 708/ SGD 950.
  • Adventurer 3: auto leveling, print volume: 150 x 150 x 150mm Price on website: USD449 + USD 80 shipping to Singapore= USD 529/ SGD 710
  • Guider II: prosumer grade, print volume: 280 x 250 x 300mm. Price on official website: USD 1199 + USD 120 shipping to Singapore = USD 1319/ SGD 1775.

I think the among all the offerings from Flashforge, the most exciting printer for beginners and at reasonable price point is Creator Pro 2.

Flashforge Creator Pro 2
Flashforge Creator Pro 2
  • Print quality: this is a newly-released printer in 2020 and has not gotten much review. But based on review of previous models, it should produce decent print quality.
  • Print size: 200 x 148 x 150 mm with independent dual extrusion. What this means is that there are 2 print heads- one for each colour. The 2 print heads share the same Y-axis, but independent X-axis. This would result in all kinds of interesting prints.
  • Ease-of-use: Printer comes fully assembled and with features that make using it easy: auto-leveling bed and LCD screen.
  • Support: There are online articles and videos online. But community is not as large as Ender or Prusa.
  • Pros: Interesting IDEX dual filament feature at very reasonable price point and printer is fully enclosed making printing some materials like ABS easier.
  • Cons: Print volume is in the small size and community support not as strong as Creality or Prusa.

So what did I decide to purchase?

As this is my first purchase of 3D printer and that I do not have any experience or exposure to 3D printing before this, the most important things when selecting that first printer are (1) price and (2) community support.

Price should be very reasonable (in case 3D printing is not for me) and community support (where I can find educational articles, forums and tutorial videos easily to learn and fix what’s not working). I decided on Ender 3 v2 as first printer.

Read my purchase & unboxing experience in the next article.

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