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Buying a 3D printer as a gift – Things to consider.

Would a 3D printer be a good gift?

 

In recent years the popularity of 3D printers has grown enormously with a huge number of options to choose from coupled with a massive fall in prices has made 3D printing available to more people. Many people now own a 3D printer and the community has never been bigger but how do you know if 3D printer is a good gift for someone. This article looks at things to consider when thinking of getting a 3D printer and ultimately if you will make a good gift. 

 

How a 3d printer works

This article looks at the most popular and starter friendly style of printing which is Fused Deposition Modelling. A FDM 3D printer works by heating plastic (known as filament, sold separately) and then as a plastic feeds through the nozzle it is positioned, as it cools it hardens creating a tiny layer.  These layers are typically less than 1 mm and are printed on top of each of other to create an object, similar to building a brick wall.  The process of hardening the plastic is quick once it leaves the printer nozzle but printing many tiny layers to make an object takes a long time, typically around 2 hours for items around 10cm high to potentially days for much larger prints.

I replaced a broken section of room rail with this 3d print. (Note the layers are visable when looking closely )

What to consider when buying a 3D printer

The biggest thing for somebody starting out in 3D printing is to ensure that it is as easy to get started as possible, as we all find things more enjoyable the easier, they are to pick up.  A printer that automatically levels the print bed so that it is ready to be used one print after the next is a necessity. I can speak from personal experience when having to finely adjust the printer after every item was the single most annoying feature of owning a printer. The cheapest printers available will often require manual flattening of the print bed after every use so this is why you will need to pay a little more than the cheapest price for an enjoyable printer experience.

Though it wasn’t always been the case the difference in quality of the print is minimal of these days as long the printer is an established brand, print quality shouldn’t be an issue. You will see a big difference in print quality between unbranded cheap printers and the ones recommended in this article.

Another thing to consider is the size of the print area, this can’t be changed on most printers so it’s something that should be considered from the outset. Personally, I find a mid-range size of around 20 x 20 x 20cm print area is suitable for most needs, if you need larger objects the prints can easily be glued together and you must also consider the physical size taken up by these machines. It’s only when you get these machines home that you appreciate how big they can be and how much room they take up, always research the size of the machine and plan where it will be housed before buying.  

Printer Nozzle

Is it hard to use a 3d printer.

As with everything new there will always be some sort of learning curve and 3D printing is no different.  There are many websites that allow 3D models to be downloaded free for you to print without restriction, one of the most popular is Thingyverse.com.  Every object you can think of is likely to be available to print from there and as all models are provided by other people you can also upload your own models for others to download themselves.  Although this is perfectly fine the real fun from 3D printing comes from either modifying an existing model to suit your needs or by building your own models from scratch to your specification.  If the person you were thinking of buying for all likes being creative and trying new things a 3D printer is the perfect gift. Creating 3D models can be done quite easily in 3D paint program with is included on windows 10 , then as their modelling skills improve and they wish to try to create more complex models most 3D modelling programs support exporting the files to the printers.  The printers often comes with a software package for a computer to start the printer, these are easy to use but a computer and basic computer knowledge is required to use a printer.

Conclusions

Hopefully this has given you a better understanding of what to look for in a 3D printer and ultimately if it is a suitable gift. A fantastic gift for someone who is creative and who likes to learn new things, as an option for those who want a quick plug and play option and things to be done automatically would be best looking somewhere else for a gift.

Below I have recommend two printers one by flashforge and the other by cetus both these companies have been making good printers for many years and over that time they have upgraded items to deliver the best printer possible. Never go for the unbranded option in 3D printing and always research the company making them, see their track record and product reviews, a single bad 3D printing experience is enough to put someone off entirely. I have also included some recommendations for 3d printer filament below.

It is extremely satisfying to create your own object, be it ornamental, gifts, toys or just to create something to fill a need around the house, the feeling of holding something that did not exist 1 or 2 hours earlier never gets old.

Order these from amazon by clicking the images below or check the prices from other retailers by going to our 3D printers section HERE

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