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3D Printers: What to Know Before Buying

3D printers are no longer exclusively for enthusiasts or professional applications. As 3D printer technology develops, so does device availability and practicality. Many brands offer numerous 3D printers for beginners at an affordable price. Pro 3D printers, meanwhile, continue to reach new heights of power and innovative design.

We have assembled a wide selection of the best 3D printer deals that will please everybody — from hobbyists to families to professionals! To ensure that you find the 3D printer that fits your needs, however, there are a few aspects of the process to get familiar with before making your selection.

Types of 3D Printers

A major distinction between 3D printers is how the device functions. FDM or Fused Deposition Modeling printers work by extruding materials called filament through a heated extruder nozzle onto what is called a build plate or print bed. Layer after layer of filament is stacked on top of each other until the finished project is complete. In some FDM 3D printers, only the nozzle may move, but on more advanced machines, both the extruder and build plate will move to improve print times.

Filament is inexpensive to produce and readily available, making FDM devices excellent 3D printers for beginners. The wide range of available filament types also makes FDM printers relatively versatile. PLA filament is the most common, but other materials such as ABS plastic are also commonly used. Note that every 3D printer filament material has its own properties, so it is important to know if you are working with a material that requires (for example) good ventilation during the printing process, or storage away from heat and moisture.

Resin 3D printers function by using light to treat and cure liquid resin into the layers of an object. Compared to the work produced by FDM printers, the finished products of resin 3D printers are capable of much higher levels of detail and durability. Multiple types of resin printers are available, including LCD printers, DLP printers and SLA (stereolithography) printers. The three printing technologies have many similarities, but work differently and have their own advantages and considerations.

One thing to note with resin 3D printers is the technology used to create objects and their inherent high level of detail. Because of this, resin 3D printers can take quite some time to complete projects, and they often have smaller build volumes than FDM printers, meaning the size of finished products can be limited.

Some features can help improve your 3D printing experience on any type of printer. Auto leveling is a great example. Many of today’s top models in both resin and FDM printers now include bed leveling systems that automatically straighten and calibrate the height of the build surface, which is crucial for consistent excellence in your printing. It is also worthwhile to check which software each model of 3D printer is compatible with — some use proprietary software, while others are compatible with common open source 3D printing software options.

If you are looking to buy a 3D printer but are not sure which is right for you, check out our buying guide to get answers to all of your questions! We cover the differences in filament materials and printing technologies in detail so you can choose the 3D printer that offers everything you need.

3D Printing Pens and Other 3D Printing Accessories

3D printing pens take accessibility to new levels by being incredibly easy to use and cost efficient. These devices are excellent for younger users or anyone interested in getting into 3D printing without steep initial costs.

3D printing pens are also amazing supplemental devices because they can be used to touch up or connect larger 3D printed objects. Other 3D printer accessories include replacement parts, system enclosures and add ons that look to provide increased functionality to any 3D printing device. Specific print jobs can require specialized accessories to complete, and tools like the AMX3D printing utility tool can help make using a 3D printer as streamlined and efficient as possible. Larger 3D printer accessories like the Creality Ender 3 Pro Enclosure or the Inland Reusable Filament Spool help to organize printer workspaces and are a great, inexpensive way to improve workflow.

Whether you are just getting started with 3D printing or you are a professional in search of cutting edge tools, Micro Center’s selection of 3D printers and accessories has everything you need to print the designs of your dreams. Shop our whole lineup of 3D printers right here, or see our Help Center for expert answers and live chat with Micro Center employees.