3-D printing isn’t as commonplace as it someday will be. Just like home offices once actually existed without the luxury of personal printers – leaving it to the masses to take their documents to third-party printing companies – most of today’s 3-D curious are forced to wait out the inevitable drop in price as the state of the art improves. But that doesn’t mean that 3-D printing is only for the wealthy and the privileged.
3-D Printing Services on the Rise
The reality is, anyone can create a 3-D printed object without having to plunk down a sizable portion of their bi-weekly paycheck to snatch up a sample of the latest and greatest desktop technology. There are a growing number of third-party tech companies like Shapeways, Sculpteo and Solid Concepts that rising to meet the demand. Most have online stores where you can either purchase 3-D printed objects or upload your own self-designed schematics for three-dimensional realization. Even UPS has gotten in on the act, offering 3-D printing services at an increasing number of locations throughout the U.S. To find out if there are any UPS 3-D printing locations near you, click here.
Getting Your Own Startup Kit
Leaving it in the hands of professionals is one option. But if you’re interested in wading in a bit deeper and getting your very own 3-D printer, you have your choice of several startup options. These give you the ability to spend some money on home 3-D printing technology without having to take out a second mortgage on the house. They’re not exactly cheap, but they’re also not out of the realm of possibility. Here are three notable “beginner” 3-D printers to check out.
Printrbot Simple. This is a line of affordable 3-D printers that come in three different sizes, each capable of printing items in layers up to 100 microns thin. The Simple Maker’s Kit costs about $350 and can print objects in dimensions up to 4 x 4 x 4 inches. The Simple Metal costs $600 and can handle dimensions up to 6 x 6 x 6 inches. The Metal Plus will set you back $1,000 and creates items in 10 x 10 x 10 inch dimensions. Bear in mind that while the Printrbot Simple line are among the more inexpensive 3-D printers available, they do not come with their own proprietary software programs. However, Cura and Repetier are two freely downloadable design programs that will work with your Printrtbot Simple printer.
- Ultimaker 2. Moving a few notches further up the expense ladder, you find the Ultimaker 2 family of 3-D printers. These come in three sizes. The entry-level device is the Ultimaker 2 Go, which costs around $1,300 and can print items up to 4.7 x 4.7 x 4.5 inches. The Ultimaker 2 is the mid-range device and starts at just over $2,000, with 8.75 x 8.75 x 8 inch size capacity. Ultimaker 2 Extended is the largest and costliest of the three, capable of creating designs 8.75 x 8.75 x 12 inches in size and costing $2,700. All three can print layers as thin as 20 microns and are known for increased speed of production.
- Formlabs Form 1+. On the higher end of the affordability scale is the Form 1+ by Formlabs. This 3-D printer retails in the neighborhood of $3,300. Not exactly chump change, but the Form 1+ is capable of performing high resolution 3-D printing, which essentially translates to a greater quality end product. It uses liquid photopolymer resin to print layers as fine as 25 microns and can produce items up to 4.9 x 4.9 x 6.5 inches in size. The PreForm Software is compatible with Windows or Mac computers.