If you’re thinking about starting a 3D printing business and are overwhelmed by all the options available, you’re not alone. The 3D printing market is becoming increasingly saturated, and there are more choices than ever when choosing a 3D printer.
The type of printer you need is dependent on the needs of your business, so whether you’re just getting into 3D printing, or if you’re 3D printing carbon fiber replacement parts on a daily basis, there’s a machine for you. One of the most common misconceptions is that commercial 3D printers have to cost to tens of thousands of dollars. The fact is, that there’s a 3D printer for any budget, and you don’t have to break the bank to produce the prints you need for your business.
New 3D Printing Businesses
If you’re just starting out in the 3D printing business, an entry-level or hobbyist printer is likely your best bet. If you don’t have any prior experience with the medium, experiment with additive manufacturing with an inexpensive, smaller machine. That way, if it breaks or you decide 3D printing isn’t for you, you haven’t locked up a significant amount of working capital. Without a specific application in mind, an inexpensive 3D printer is almost always the best starting point for someone hoping to get into the 3D printing business.
We’ve already covered how much 3D printers cost in another post, but an entry-level printer can be as cheap as $200. These printers have a small build area, often around 4-5 inches cubed, and they print slowly, but if you’re willing to tinker with them, are a good way to print small objects like gifts for family and friends. They’ll require a fair amount of maintenance, and are truly an investment in time more than money.
If you don’t mind spending a little more, you can get an enthusiast printer that will still require maintenance and do a little bit better job at printing consistently than the entry-level 3D printers. These 3D printers are great for printing school projects, gaming models, or light commission work. One of the fastest-growing areas in the 3D printing business is commissioned prints for people in need of figurines, jewelry, or other custom-made trinkets. If you find yourself enjoying the 3D printing business, find yourself successful, or just need to print more objects, larger objects, and in less time, you’ll need to invest in a professional 3D printer.
Small to Medium Sized Businesses
For a small to midsize business that already does some prototyping, or has a frequent need for replacement parts that are hard-to-find elsewhere, a professional 3D printer is your best bet. These durable printers are designed to print constantly without need of maintenance. They also print faster, and on a wider variety of filament types. Professional 3D printers typically cost in the $3,500 to $6,000 range. Their print quality, or resolution, should be better than most entry-level printers, but it’s important to see actual parts printed by the printer, rather than simply relying on the manufacturer’s stated specifications. One of the most common places you’ll find professional 3D printers are libraries or educational institutions.
3D printers for education have to withstand serious use and abuse, so they’re also well suited for commercial purposes. The upside to that durability and reliability is that you spend less time fixing the printer, or waiting for a tech from the manufacturer to fix it, and more time printing. In fact, the professional 3D printer is suitable for most large businesses as well. The only time you really need an industrial 3D printer that costs more than $20,000 is if you require very exact tolerances or have parts with internal voids requiring dissolvable support material.
Large Manufacturing or Specialized 3D Printing Businesses
More and more, the professional category of 3D printers will meet even the largest company’s needs and be the most cost-effective solution. However, some companies have unique requirements that can only be filled by an industrial 3D printer. The types of 3D printers in this category are highly specialized, such as resin-based or full-color printers. These 3D printers have an initial cost from $20,000 to $100,000 and are not an investment to be taken lightly. Industrial 3D printers often have huge build volumes and high resolution, but you’re locked into proprietary filament (you can only use filament produced by the manufacturer of the printer), and you are committed to a maintenance contract.
The investment required to own and operate a $100,000 printer limits their practicality to all but the largest of companies. Some innovative companies even have 3D printers big enough to produce homes via additive manufacturing, using concrete in place of a plastic filament. The cost of 3D printing and additive manufacturing is decreasing as more players enter the market, and 3D printing is now accessible to almost anyone who could want it. Libraries and universities are now able to offer 3D printing services thanks to this lowered cost, allowing more and more people to realize their creative and engineering visions in real time. Fusion3 Design is your gateway to professional 3D printing- explore our site to learn more!
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