Get started with prototyping with 3D printing

Imagine you are a student with a small budget, but with great ambition with plans on engineering a revolutionary product that could potentially change the world forever. You were so pumped that you set out on a journey to design your product from scratch with your favourite CAD program. When you’ve finally created a draft, you had the sudden realization of how expensive prototyping the idea would be. So there you are, laying back on your chair, spinning your chair slightly side to side with your thinking cap on. Staring into space, you take a second to ponder when you soon realize the dreadful truth that you are stuck.

Suddenly, a question shot through your mind, “I am a busy student, so how do I prototype my idea with flexibility, so I can generate a prototype on-demand?”. The question caused you to panic that you find yourself frantically firing up your favourite browser researching, and diving into the world of prototyping and 3D printing. So with what you found next, calmed you down. With 3D printing, you can prototype at your heart’s content – with affordable materials and whenever you want. Great! So time to buy yourself your first 3D printer, right? But then, when you went back to researching 3D printing, you realize how complicated 3D printing is.

Put on your thinking cap

3D Printing in a Nutshell

3D printing has gone through many iterations throughout its history. While there are many types of 3D printers to choose, from the simple yet effective Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), chemical inducing Stereolithography (SLA), the mesmerizing Digital Light Processing (DLP), to the powdery Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) printer, the most popular type of 3D-printer is the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) type of 3D printer for its simple yet easy design that can fit on your desk and does not involve any complex processing of powder or resin – just a roll of pure plastic filament. Yes, that is right. Since FDM patents expired in 2009, you are in luck. Due to the mass production capabilities of China, it’s now available to the masses for a very affordable price.

Fused Deposition modelling

What is Fused Deposition Modelling? By not going into too many technical terms, FDM functions like giving a hot glue gun to a robot. How does that work?

Place the hot glue gun with its nozzle pointed downwards onto a flat surface – referred to as a build plate. Attach the glue gun to stepping motors enabling a computer to control the location of the nozzle within the build space, thus granting the ability to move the glue gun in 3-dimensional space, X – left and right, Y – forward and back and Z – up and down. By controlling all of these axes, the ability to control the trigger of the hot glue gun – known as extrusion and following a procedure generated by computer code, the machine can draw onto the build plate using the plastic layer by layer over time. This will result in a 3-dimensional object of your desire. Instead of extruding hot glue sticks, you would be able to print using a variety of different plastic spindles of filament such as PLA – Polylactic Acid, TPU – Polyurethane, ABS – Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and PETG – Polyethylene terephthalate. Keep in mind that each plastic has its properties and as a beginner, printing with Polylactic Acid (PLA) filament and is the easiest.

FDM 3D Printer

Purchasing Your First 3D Printer

So you want to get your first 3D printer? Well, you are in luck as Fused Deposition Modeling 3D printers abbreviated FDM for short is the most affordable, providing the easiest to learn platform with printers’ prices ranging from $229 USD and up. The other types of printers are for the more advanced creators whereas FDM would be a great starting point. Regardless, the best part of these printers is that they come in a variety of sizes that can easily fit on your desk. When you purchase your first printer, consider the following properties:

  • Budget – How much can you afford to spend?
  • Size – Does it fit in the location you intend to place it?
  • Build space – How large do you plan to print?
  • Noise – Will the printer wake up your family or neighbours while it is printing?
  • Material – What type of materials would you like to print?
  • Features and ease of use – Does it have all the features that you need?

3 Beginner 3D printers worth considering

In 2020, there are tons of 3D printers out there. Many of them likely good. But here are a few FDM printers that are great beginner printers you should consider as they’ve been tested thoroughly by the 3D printer community for a very long time:

AnyCubic Mega S

The Anycubic Mega S 3D printer has been well-tested and praised by the 3D printing community for consistent prints for 3 years now. While it is expensive, it could be found cheaper with large discounts.

Budget: ~$289 USD

Build Space: 210x210x205mm

  • High quality prints out of the box
  • Reliable printer
  • No setup necessary
  • Decent support from manufacture
  • A bit noisy out of the box but there is a community to mod it into silence
  • Manual bed leveling may be tricky

You could potentially pick an i3 Mega S for quite a hefty discount in 2020 as it is an older printer and you will not be disappointed if you can stand the noise it makes. The print quality is amazing and is known as a highly reliable piece of hardware by the 3D maker space community.

Creality Ender 3

While the Creality Ender 3 requires assembly, its a 3D printer praised for printing high quality prints. The build space is a bit larger than the Anycubic i3 Mega S which is why it is considered great value by many.

Budget: ~$239.99 USD

Build Space: 220x220x250mm

  • High quality prints
  • Less expensive than the AnyCubic Mega-S
  • Larger Build space
  • A bit noisy at stock configuration
  • Requires assembly
  • Not the best choice for those that just want a reliable printer

Since the Ender 3 has been out for a while and in it’s prime, it has been a strong performer, its not a bad printer. Compared to the i3 mega, since the Ender 3 has a higher build space, but requires a bit of assembly, it would make sense on paper to go for the Ender 3. However, the i3 Mega is still a reliable choice.

Creality Ender 5 Pro

If you have a bit more of a budget, or if you need a quiet machine and do not want to modify the two other 3D printers, then this printer would be the best choice. Coming in around $499 USD, it is quiet and prints well. This printer is newer than the first two

Budget: ~$529.00 USD

Build Space: 220x220x300mm

  • Prints quieter than the 2 other printers
  • Slightly larger Z build space
  • Decent quality prints
  • More expensive than the other two printers
  • Requires assembly
  • Not the best Value per dollar spent
  • Manual bed leveling is required at this price point

Since the Ender 3 and i3 Mega S get pretty loud when printing, the Ender 5 Pro would be more quiet and save your ears from damage. If you are printing to sell online, you’ll want a quiet printer, enabling you to print at anytime. So that is why the Ender 5 Pro might be the 3D printer for you.

If you are planning to purchase one of these printers, please consider supporting me by purchasing through the links below (You pay nothing.) :

Also, please consider donating at the top of this page, the link on the menu. I am planning to release more content in the future exploring the exquisite world of technology and how you can make the most out of it. Discover technology with me, leave a comment below, tell me what you think and revisit this website frequently as we embark on an adventure to discover the wild world of technology in 2020.

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