Sam Westin has been in the media printing space for over 5 years and is an early adopter of 3d printing technology. He is excited to be a mere peon among the 21st century printing revolution! When not thinking up new things to print in multiple dimensions, Sam shares his thoughts on the industry here.
3D printing is amazingly versatile. It’s not just a novelty process for toys or collectibles – it can actually help save lives and keep people healthy while making both of those easier and less expensive. Dental 3D printing is a great example of this. It’s a niche process born from refining the details of general 3D printing so that they fit the needs of dental professionals, so that does mean there are specific characteristics of equipment and process that you’ll have to consider if you’re looking to get into this area yourself. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you take your first taste of this industry!
How does dental 3D printing work?
Dental 3D printing needs the highest level of exactness possible, and that is achieved by using stereolithography (SLA) or digital light processing (DLP). These methods are closely related, and both use a light on the UV end of the spectrum to basically carve out shapes from liquid resin. First, you design your object on a computer-aided drafting program, like you do for any other 3D printing project. Then, your project file goes to the printer’s UV light, which is focused onto specific areas of the liquid resin based on your pattern.
Anything the UV light hits will harden, and anything it avoids will stay liquid, so once all the parts of your pattern have been exposed, you can pull them out of the rest of the resin. We’re pretty sure that’s how they made the Terminator, but it’s also great for when you need a tooth capped.
What is dental 3D printing used for?
3D dental printing is a great way to ease the expense and effort of a few mouth and tooth molding and replacement processes that are necessary for dental health. The industry is new but expanding rapidly, so this list is growing all the time.
Night guards and aligners
Anyone who has gone through the pure torture of wire and banded braces can understand how big of a deal aligners are. They are plastic trays that you wear in your mouth fitted over your teeth – the aligner doesn’t fit your current teeth exactly, but is in a stage of the shape you want your teeth to become so that it gently and gradually guides your teeth into their new places. They’re replacing the obvious tugs of traditional braces with invisible straightening, so they present a great leap forward in personal orthodontics. And since you go through several aligners in stages to get to your final teeth settings, 3D dental printing cuts down on the time and cost it takes to get those done.
Plus, with 3D dental printing, you can now get an industrial grade nightguard that will last you a much longer time than plastic ones you can buy at the drugstore. Getting a nightguard 3D printed from your dentist will also ensure a much more personal fit, since it will be molded to your own teeth and not a generic set of sizes that may or may not account for your mouth’s true shape. They may be more expensive, but the custom fit and shape will cut back on how much you grind your teeth in so much more comfort, you won’t even notice it’s happening.
Another dental process that is traditionally burdensome but also a mainstream necessity is getting a crown, or having part or all of a tooth replace when it’s broken. Instead of having to send out for a molding that could take several weeks, dentists can now equip themselves with a 3D printer that scans the broken tooth, adds in part needed to make the tooth whole, and print it themselves, all in less than an hour. No external parts or labor necessary.
And depending on your coverage, this will cost either you or your dental insurance company a lot less. Either way, if you’re putting off getting any part of your tooth fixed because you don’t have the cash, see if your dentist offers 3D dental printing for their services – you’ll be surprised what they can do with that.
Dentistry is one area where you don’t want to skimp on precision, and 3D printing is a huge asset to this area of need. One way it helps dentist professionals is by giving them the means to print exacting guides for oral surgeries. This is when a dentist scans a patient’s mouth to us computer drafting to add holes for the areas where they’ll be performing fixes. Then they 3D print the surgery guide like an aligner, so it goes right over the person’s teeth, and use the gaps as their work areas without the fear of drilling or extracting the wrong thing. It’s a great way to help eliminate spatial errors and make sure everything’s ship-shape during delicate procedures.
You don’t want your dentist to be trying something out for the first time on your mouth without plenty of practice first, and that’s where 3D printed dental models come in. If your dental professional can print an exact replica of your teeth, they can have a perfect place for the trial and error that will ultimately prepare them for any and all details – both expected and not – that come up during the procedure. Any quirks that your teeth may be hiding, any unexpected hitches in equipment, any possibilities that things won’t exactly match your dentist’s expectations can be worked out in a harmless resin model that guides the surgeons to perfection by the time they touch you. Plus, since these models aren’t meant to go into your mouth themselves, they don’t require special material, and the dentist can alter them as much as they want to experiment with technique and results. 3D dental printing is a great teaching tool.
3D Dental Printing Pros and Cons Pros
Flexible applications. As you can tell, 3D printing serves a lot of dental needs. Because this is an industry that is heavily dependant on material that can be extremely precise for the infinite variations of the human mouth, 3D printing is a perfect fit for many dental operations. Small, one-chair practices can benefit from this technology just as much as multi-office groups, and that brings a lot of dentists onto a more level playing field, especially if they are the only ones around in an area bereft of traditional resources. When you can print your own materials instead of waiting weeks to have them shipped back to you, you make the whole process easier on yourself and your patients.
Easy corrections. Even dentists are human, and all humans make mistakes. But luckily, 3D dental printing makes correcting those mistakes so much faster and easier than traditional dental methods that you won’t even notice they had to be done. And they can usually be done in office instead of outsourced to a lab that would add even more time to correcting it, so 3D printing is a win all around.
Constantly evolving. By the time you read this article, at least one new 3D dental printing innovation will have been approved for human usage – the industry is expanding that quickly. Besides the points mentioned above, 3D dental printing is moving into areas as diverse as developing anti-bacterial material specifically for all the gross stuff found in the human mouth, to making flossing easier by developing a machine that can floss all your teeth at once. We’re not quite sure how that last will end up working, but we’re excited for the future of 3D dental printing.
The need for extreme precision. Because of the tiny spaces in which dental procedures are done, they have little to no room for error. That’s necessary for their 3D printing as well, even for 3D prints that don’t actually go into your mouth. If you can’t get a 3D printer to the level of detail you need for the real thing, it’s going to lose all its usefulness as a teaching tool and as a real-world appliance. Luckily, 3D printing has gotten to the precision point needed in the dental world, but it’s by no means the default, so you still have to be careful to make sure you’re getting what you need.
Startup and maintenance prices. Although you can find DLP and SLA 3D printers for less than $1,000, those are mostly aimed at hobbyists, jewelry makers, and others that don’t use their rigs for medical purposes. The general cost for a 3D dental-grade resin printer is going to average out to around $3,000. This doesn’t include materials, but the good news is those parts of your 3D dental printing experience are going to cost relatively little, way more in line with those used for desktop machines. However, one more thing to keep in mind is how fast 3D dental printing is evolving. This might entail investing either constant money or constant time for you to make sure you’re keeping up as much as you need to. You don’t have to jump onto every new trend you see, but you do have to be ready to give your patients the most up to date services that you can, and that may cost more than you originally expected.
New training needed. Dentists have to go to more school than most non-medical students will ever want to think about, so they’re not all psyched to have yet another combination of computer skills to learn. They have to keep up with the non-3D printing science and trends in their field as well, which is a lot even before you consider it’s not likely to be in their sphere of expertise. However, you could spin this as a positive since dentists are used to continuous learning. But don’t assume that all will want to pile more onto their plates.
What do you need to look for in a 3D dental printer? Precision, precision, precision
We can’t state emphatically enough how important tiny detail accuracy is in a good 3D dental printer. DLP and SLA printers harness the power of lasers to make sure this happens for you. Make sure you’re aware of the exact specifications of layer size you need for the specific work you’ll be doing.
Ability to accommodate add-ons
If the 3D dental printer you’re looking at isn’t capable of evolving with your own growing knowledge and practice, don’t buy it. Move on to one that has a greater capacity than you think you need right now, because you’ll find out new processes and new applications that you want to try, but if you can’t, it will stunt both your own interest and your dental capacities.
Compatible with your favored design software
This is another area that’s going to help you expand your 3D dental printing horizons. Just because DLP and SLA machines work differently on the mechanical side doesn’t mean you have to totally relearn any computer-aided drafting work you’ve already got under your belt – you’ll be able to find a pretty decent selection of 3D dental printers to go with your software of choice, especially if you’re comfortable with market leaders like AutoCAD.
It is approved to work with biocompatible resins
If your machine isn’t able to work with materials that are safe for people to have in their mouths 24/7, then you will miss out on the majority of the 3D dental printing game. Technically, you could still make mouth and tooth models, which do have respected places in dental technology, but you will get your best worth out of a 3D printer that can let you give your patients a direct fix. Most printers rated for 3D dental printing will cover this, but make sure you aren’t getting one that is specifically and only for models unless that’s all you’re planning on building.
What are good 3D dental printing products?
To show you what our list of tips looks like in product form, we’ve rounded up a few of the internet’s (and our) favorite 3D dental printers.
Formlabs. Their reputation precedes them, and they’ve taken their general excellence into a dental direction with their resin DLP and SLA machines.
Stratasys. These guys go industrial, and while they may not be the cheapest options around, they are definitely the hardest. We recommend these printers for a single office that houses several dentists so the cost is shared and the machine gets to flex to its maximum capacity.
EnvisionTec. Want to get in on the latest 3D dental printer research as well as the tech to handle it? EnvisionTec has both, and you’ll be all the way out on the cutting edge with their products and services.
There you have it – all you need to know about successfully using 3D printing for dental needs. Use our advice to find what you need, and you’ll be smiling in no time.
3D printing is not always a stand-alone process – sometimes it’s only the first step in a manufactured part’s journey. When paired with mass fabrication processes like injection molding, the advantages and disadvantages of both processes come into sharp relief against each other. Though they can both participate in the same ultimate goal of creating parts for a whole, 3D printing and injection molding each have their distinct strengths and weaknesses that describe what they should be used for and what they should leave to the other.
Injection molding is a way for a large number of parts to be made at one time. Basically, a tray with molds of the parts carved in is created, and liquid material such as polycarbonate, metal, nylon, or anything that works for the object’s finish is poured into the molds and cooled to create the part dozens or hundreds of times over. It’s typically used in mass manufacturing where a part has to be repeated with strict fidelity for a large number of finished items.
If you’ve ever used a hand tool, you’ve seen an example of something that was built using injection molding. The handle of your screwdriver is exactly like the handle of every other screwdriver of that same brand and model, with the same bumps and dips for grip in the same places and the same flare at the collar to keep your fingers safe while you’re working. The company used injection molding to make sure all of those design quirks translated over; however many screwdrivers were sold to stores.
Repeatability. Injection molding is hands down the most efficient process to produce large numbers of the same thing. The parts you create are going to be virtually identical no matter how many you produce or how many times you repeat the process. That’s a great advantage for anyone who needs branding consistency or even just reassurance that everything will fit together as planned over a long and continuous manufacturing process.
Finish. The finish of products that have been injection molded is going to be smoother than those that have been 3D printing since injection molding does not build up the material in layers but instead creates one smooth outer layer all at once through its pouring method. If you have parts that would suffer from the small ridges of 3D printer layers grinding together while working as a whole, injection molding solves that problem. Of course, the higher quality your 3D printer and filament is the less of a chance of the layers being an issue, so that may not be of concern depending on your equipment.
Mass production. Injection molding was invented for producing lots of clones of the same object, which is invaluable when you’re manufacturing on a large scale. And if you have the up-front costs, the price to make each object goes down exponentially once you start producing. If you’re looking for this kind of efficiency, injection molding will make your life easier.
Bigger parts than 3D printing. Although injection molding has its limits for the size of each individual piece that can be created, this process can produce a much bigger piece than 3D printing. Because of the industrial scale of its tools, injection molding works on a bigger scale, which is a big advantage even if you still have to print separate parts to put together later. Bigger pieces mean fewer connections, fewer seams, and fewer weak points, which is a major plus for objects that will see heavy mechanical or manual use.
Scrap rates. Although injection molding produces much less scrap than other mass manufacturing processes, it still produces more scrap than 3D printing. This is due to its use of a mold, which is a material negation process; whenever a shape is carved out of a larger piece of material, no matter how economically, there is going to be at least some scrap material left over because ultimately you are taking material away from the starting area to make your final shape. If you’re using certain types of thermoplastics for your material, you’re able to gather the scrap pieces and melt them down to recycle into future molds. But you’ll always have something left over from the mold because of the need to build in guide areas for the injection equipment to follow when going between parts that are meant to be separated when they are completed. These guide areas will be broken off and discarded in the final product, so at least some scrap is expected after each batch, but these pieces of reused material may result in lower-quality prints, especially if they’re repeatedly recycled.
Up front costs. Buying injection molding tools will set you back a lot of money right at the start of your project. Their individual costs vary depending on what you need them to do, but they are all industrial machines meant for large batch working, so the cash you need to set them up reflects that. Plus, your costs don’t stop at the machines themselves; you also have to make sure you have enough material for the molds and for injecting into the molds. Those have to be right the first time, or else you’ll lose what you’ve invested and have to start over.
Up front time. The expense of injection molding machines is vast but a one-time thing. However, you will always be in danger of wasting materials (and money) if you don’t invest a lot of time into your design before you even think about molding it. Before you can start injecting, you have to design a prototype (sometimes via 3D printing), which means not only drawing a concept in a computer-aided drafting program but also rendering that design in a 3D model so you can use that model to create a mold that can replicate the prototype in volume. Both of these steps sound simple on paper, but in practice, they require extensive testing, breaking, and refining until you come up with a mold that will work under injection molding situations and get you exactly what you need. This level of perfection that you have to reach before you can try out your mold requires time and money that can’t be determined ahead of time – be prepared for unexpected snags to hold you up in areas you thought you had on lock. And then be prepared to start at the beginning again.
Difficulty making changes. The reason the prototype and testing steps are so extensive in injection molding is that once you’ve started using your molds and tools for injections, it’s difficult to impossible to change anything about your design. Injection molding uses heavy metals for its tooling and molds because they are in direct contact with the heated material that is poured into them. So they need to be materials that won’t warp under high temperatures – but this also means they are almost impossible to add or subtract anything from. If you want to change anything about your molds after you’ve built them, it’s easier to shave down metal than to add pieces to it. But when you’re dealing with differences of millimeters, nothing is easy to get perfect when you are freehanding. A mistake that would be insignificant on a larger scale design is going to compromise the integrity of an injection mold, putting all of the sections of the mold at risk of collapsing into each other during the injection process. No pressure or anything!
Uniform wall thickness. Injection molding needs a very specific range of wall thickness to keep out inconsistencies in the cooling process and to prevent gaps while filling the mold tool. You’ll need to make sure your design has a wall thickness of between 2 and 4 mm, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for variation if you had something else in mind.
Three-dimensional printing is the process of building an object through printing thin layers of the filament on top of one another to form a sculpted object. The layers are printed by a machine with a nozzle that heats up the filament as it moves along the X, Y, and Z axes according to the design it’s programmed to follow. 3D printing has gained exponential popularity in the last decade, growing from a manufacturing and prototype niche to a way for many educators, artists, and just those who are curious to experiment with how it can fit into their lives. It comes from the same family of processes like injection molding and can be a valuable step in the beginnings of that as well as its own stand-alone way to build something.
A range of accessibility. Although you do need specialized equipment for 3D printing, it’s very easy to fit into whatever situation you plan on using it for. You can get a 3D printer that fits next to your home computer for $300 or less – about half that if you’re willing to buy a kit and put the printer together yourself. You can get all types of filaments, standard and unique, on Amazon, and there are several free and open access design programs you can use straight off the internet, not to mention pre-designed patterns and thousands of message boards dedicated to tips, tricks, and questions about 3D printing. If you’re an educator or an artist, you can make a good argument for bringing 3D printing into your profession as a way to teach or create. 3D printing is easy to bring on as an interactive addition to any sort of maker hobby in your life. And it’s just as easy to go pro once you’re comfortable – you’ll find professional range 3D printers right alongside the smaller ones, and as long as you’ve done your research on brands and models, you can make that jump whenever you feel ready.
Individual adjustments. 3D printing is great for experimenting with your designs. As long as you have the patience (and filament) to fiddle with designs, printing temperatures, and finishing techniques, you can perfect your object until it’s exactly what you want during the actual printing process. A lot of 3D printers even let you stop in the middle of printing, make an adjustment, and start printing again in the same spot you left off. It’s a versatile way to learn your way around design.
Price. Even at its most expensive, the upfront costs for 3D printing are going to come in at way lower prices than those for industrial-scale manufacturing. Plus, your replacement and material costs are going to be relatively cheap as well; filaments go for as little as $15 a spool for PLA, the most commonly used type.
A range of materials. You can 3D print with filaments that incorporate everything from thermoplastics to pieces of glass, in any color you can think of (and several you haven’t heard of yet). Your object can glow in the dark, smell like wood, or hold water without spilling a drop. The possibilities are endless, and all you have to do is choose your filament.
Size. 3D printers are limited to what they can print size-wise to the printer’s physical dimensions, which are typically much smaller than industrial manufacturing machines. You can, in theory, use a 3D printer to print parts that go together for a bigger whole, but that would add many hours that you may or may not have.
Scalability. Related to the size limitations of 3D printers, their ability to create more than one object at a time is severely limited. 3D printers are additive, which means they build their objects layer by layer instead of all the layers being poured at once like in a mold. That takes hours to create one completed object, and if you need to mass produce in a hurry, you’re out of luck.
Injection molding and 3D printing have advantages for different steps in your building process. If you’re looking to produce a lot of the same thing in a relatively short amount of time and you already have an airtight design, injection molding is the way to go so you can take advantage of its mass production traits – if you also have the startup cash and prototype testing time it takes. 3D printing will be more your speed if you need low barriers to beginning your build and a way to experiment with your designs without ruining your whole batch – if you’re okay with individualized printings and the time that takes. Either way, you’ll find a great way to bring your creations to life.
So, you’ve heard so many wonderful things about 3D printers and how you can use them. There are a variety of machines on the market that can help you create stunning 3D printing marvels. The Creality CR 10 vs. Prusa i3 guide will provide answers to the most pressing question – which 3D printer is better?
Prusa i3 and Creality CR 10 are top-selling printers right now, especially for those who’re looking for 3D printers under $1,000. Our experts tested both printers and found them really good. They’ve been doing a lot of digging lately, and both Prusa i3 and Creality CR 10 emerged as top performers. Not only this, but both products have a huge customer following behind them. In the Creality CR 10 vs. Prusa i3 comparison guide, we’ll discuss both products in detail. By the end of the comparison, we’re hoping you’ll be able to make an informed choice.
5 Things You Should Consider While Buying a 3D printer
Before we move on to the detailed Creality CR 10 vs. Prusa i3 comparison, hold your horses. There are a few important things you need to consider before you buy a 3D printer.
Size of the print bed
If you want to print bigger 3D prints, pick a 3D printer with a large print bed.
A bigger bed also implies that you can increase the printing quantity. Since setting up a 3D printer is a time-consuming process, the more you’re able to print in one go, the better.
Some 3D printers would require you to calibrate the bed, i.e., place a piece of paper on the print bed and use the software to slowly move the print bed near the nozzle until it touches it. The process calibration process usually takes 10 minutes.
Automatic calibration can be found on several machines, and it’s definitely worth some extra dollars.
Type of filaments and their cost
Most 3D printers print on PLA and ABS plastic.
ABS contains oil and is more lethal than PLA which contains corn starch. So, if your 3D printing room does not have a fan, choose PLA.
Make sure you’re aware of the costs associated with filaments – $35-$70/kg for ABS and PLA. Some branded 3D printers only work with their filament which can increase the price. In such cases, avoid using non-genuine filaments which can have a negative impact on your 3D printer’s efficiency.
Is the software easy to configure? Is the software easy to use and powerful?
Unless you enough technical knowledge, we would recommend you choose an “easy to use” software over a powerful software.
Understand that 3D printers are designed for DIYers and hobbyists who love to explore when it comes to software and hardware. Therefore, they are “open-source.”
Air filters and enclosures
A 3D printer with enclosure is safer. Open 3D printers are more prone to a collection of dust and debris which can lead to issues during printing.
If you’re planning to place your 3D printer in a room which is not properly ventilated, consider 3D printers with built-in HEPA filters.
Creality CR 10 General specifications
23.6 x 19.3 x 24.2 inches (599.44 x 490.22 x 614.6 mm)
22.7 lbs. (10296.5 g)
11 x 11 x 15 inches (279.4 x 279.4 x 381 mm)
Normal – 80 mm/s, Max – 200 mm/s
PROE, 3D Max, Solid-Works, UG, Rhino, etc.
Linux, OSX, Windows
When it comes to best 3D printers under $500, Creality CR 10 is a top pick. It is indeed one of the most affordable 3D printers on the market today. It’s a huge Cartesian style 3D printer with go-faster stripes, separate control box, and a large printing area measuring 300 x 300 x 400 mm. You can even buy larger versions with larger printing areas (400 mm and 500 mm cubed).
The Creality CR 10 3D printer has been designed and developed by the Chinese company Shenzhen Creality 3D technology which was founded in 2014. The printer was launched in 2016, following the progress of Creality CR-7 and its development into the CR-8.
Overall, Creality CR 10 is very aesthetically appealing. It’s elegant with spotless aluminum rails coated in black all around the body. The 300 x 300 mm print bed is made of glass and the control box with a mounted filament holder is placed on one side of the machine. Creality CR 10 is a narrow machine which prints big and looks beautiful with mustard go-faster stripes.
An important thing to note here is that even though Creality CR 10 has a slender body, it is a big 3D printer. No, we’re talking about the big prints here. The machine occupies a lot of space in the printing room. The control box and filament holder are located so high that you’ll have to place them at a specific distance from the 3D printer’s machine for the filament to feed unrestricted into the extruder.
The 3D printer’s frame itself is large, and the control box sitting even higher provides the machine with an altogether tall look. Had the filament holder been separated from the control box, the height of the machine would’ve reduced.
The back and forth motion of the print head is curtailed to the X-axis only. A rail placed on the frame is held by a single lead screw on one side and attached to the frame by a pulley secured in track and fixed V wheels on the other side. All the lifting is done from one side. Therefore, you may notice the other side sagging because of its own weight. Nevertheless, it does not impact the quality of the prints.
The most striking feature of Creality CR 10 is its enormous print bed. The 3D printer is available in 3 variants, the smallest print area being 300 x 300 x 400 mm. We tested the standard size for the review as the only difference between the variants is the size of the print bed. Since Creality CR 10 comes with a 0.4 mm nozzle, the maximum resolution is about 100 microns.
You can use this 3D printer for 200 hours of continuous operation (as claimed by the manufacturer since we could only test the 3D printer for about 85 hours). Our experts played with different print settings, sizes, and volumes, and were satisfied with the results.
Creality CR 10 comprises a heated bed that spreads heat across the large glass print surface. Our experts did not come across any issues as far as heat propagation is concerned. USB connectivity and SD card usage help in print management, and the control box, control wheel, and LCD screen help in print preparation and fine-tuning of the calibration.
You’ll find a switch on the control box’s side using which you can switch between 110 and 220 volts, making the 3D printer versatile for international use.
Creality CR 10 printer kit is delivered in a cardboard box, and we couldn’t find any picture of the actual machine on the packaging.
If you’re completely new to the world of 3D printing, we recommend you check the setup instructions online. Nevertheless, even if you have a vague understanding of the machine’s parts, you’ll be able to do a fairly good job when it comes to installation.
The neatest part of Creality CR 10’s installation are the organized control box cables. The male-female connectors are fastened together using screws. However, as you continue to set up the product, you’ll have a tough time plugging the basic connectors into their respective end stops and stepper motors.
We noticed some loose connector pins on the Y-axis, a slight sign of poor quality control. However, we were easily able to pop them back inside.
Creality CR 10’s filament in robust. It feeds in and out without any hassle. However, the position and layout of the filament in somewhat confusing.
Instead of being a comprehensive 3D printing solution, Creality CR 10 is a blunt tool. You can use any software of your choice, and many existing users consider this as one of the greatest strengths of this machine for the affordable cost. Our experts used Cura 2.6.2 and were delighted to see the Present Profiles work like magic.
Unfortunately, you have no option but to manually calibrate the 3D printer before each printing job. In case you forget to do so, the print head may end up ripping off the print bed. Some of the initial prints demonstrated noticeable skipping of layers; however, this is common for a semi-assembled 3D printer kit and not a major issue. As you continue to print, you’ll witness flawless 3D prints.
From beautiful lampshades to vases, you can 3D print a plethora of interesting items using Creality CR 10. Based on the experience of our experts, we found that printing ABS with Creality CR 10 is difficult. It was almost impossible for the print bed to hold the ABS, even though the print bed was rated at 100 degree Celsius. We tried printing a large Eiffel Tower with two different types of PLAs (purple and transparent), and the 3D printer impeccably completed both the jobs enduring overhangs and bridging across almost 65 hours of printing time collectively.
Pros and cons
Awkward placement of extruder
The filament is prone to tangling
The machine is easy to troubleshoot
Preparing the printer can be a tedious process
Suitable for larger prints
It takes a considerable amount of time to heat the bed
Great for fine detailing
Doesn’t work well with ABS
Easily removable glass print bed
Pocket-friendly 3D printer
Intuitive control box
Prusa i3 MK3
19.6 × 21.6 × 15.7 inches (497.84 x 548.64 x 398.78 mm)
15.43 lbs. (7000 g)
9.84 x 8.3 x 8.3 inches (249.93 x 210.82 x 210.82 mm)
Normal – 80 mm/s, Max – 200 mm/s
PROE, 3D Max, Solid-Works, UG, Rhino, etc.
Linux, OSX, Windows
Prusa i3 MK3 is a creatively designed and development open-source 3D printer that can sense problems before they reflect in the print outputs. Whether it’s a power outage or someone stopping the printing process mid-way, Prusa i3 will overcome these issues in no time. Not only this, but interesting features such as a removable print bed, flexibility, and nine auto calibration points make it even more attractive.
The basic frame structure and motion layout are similar to MK2. But, you’ll notice find the threaded rod frame anymore. In fact, you’ll notice a simple structure that arrives pre-cut, and you just need to screw it together. At the bottom, you’ll find push-in rubber feet, which are soft and nice. However, every time we tried moving the printer, they fell out.
The print surface is separated from the heater PCB, and both parts are coupled magnetically. The print surfaces are steel sheets with springs, powder-coated with PEI. As the sheet continues to cool down, you simply pop-off parts by bending the sheet inward.
The Y-axis is upgraded with enhanced frame rigidity, and an additional 10 mm build volume on the Z-axis. You’ll also notice a Bondtech drive gear extruder which firmly holds the filament from either side to improve the filament’s push force and reliability.
Prusa i3 MK3 is packed with innovative technologies and refined features. On the one hand, the previous versions provided remarkable print quality for the affordable price, and on the other hand, Prusa i3 MK3 is all set to make the FFF discipline easier than before and more intuitive with a variety of sensors to alert users about approaching issues and prevent low-quality or failed prints.
Here’s a quick summary of the features:
Power Panic (recover a print session after a power failure)
Filament Sensor (optical encoder to detect the movement and presence of a filament, stuck filament)
RPM sensing fans
EINSY RAMBo motherboard (most advanced 3D printing motherboard on the market)
Ready for OctoPrint
Noctua quieter cooling
P.I.N.D.A 2 with thermistor
Interactive Auto Calibration
Whether you’re purchased Prusa i3 MK3 as a kit or in assembled form, the 3D printing handbook will come to your rescue as and when you need. You’ll find all the information about installation, calibration, materials, FAQs, and more, in this handy manual.
Our experts used the PLA filament provided with the 3D printer. There was no label on the spool, and we could not find any details regarding the manufacturer of the filament. Overall, the print results were promising, and no issues with print quality were observed.
When it comes to slicing the objects for printing, you have a plethora of options when it comes to the software. The most straightforward option is PrusaControl. It is a simple, stripped back interface for coating your models. All you need to do is choose a filament from the preset list, play a little with the orientation, scale, infill, and line-height, and then create your Gcode.
It’s an effective solution and convenient to use. Nevertheless, if your requirements are somewhat complicated, you may have to use other software. For more complex printing, our 3D printing experts used Prusa3D Slic3r MK3. This software has over a hundred modes and maybe a little cumbersome for beginners. You can also use software such as 3D Max and Simplify 3D.
It’s very easy to print the 3D models preloaded (a small boat, puppy, etc.) on the SD card. They are optimized for printing with Prusa i3. However, our experts felt that it’s better to slice our own models for printing and then assessing Prusa i3 MK3’s honest printing capability.
When it comes to printing simple objects such as a Chromatic vase and a measuring cube, the print quality was brilliant at 150 microns, and during the printing process, the 3D printer did not make any annoying noises. The features and details of both the objects were sharp and clear.
When it comes to printing complex items such as a hand clamp containing screws, there were multiple failures, and the printing required a lot of time. We fed separate bits into the build plate but did not succeed. So, our experts printed different elements and assembled them to produce the final outcome.
Pros and cons
Redesigned, sturdier frame
Complex print bed adhesion
Crash detection feature
Low-quality 3D prints in the case of complex objects or objects containing multiple components
Power loss backup
Requires frequent updates
Complicated for beginners
9-point auto calibration
Removable print bed
Can be upgraded with OctoPrint
The verdict: Creality CR 10 vs. Prusa i3 – Which is better?
If you’re looking for a 3D printer that can reduce the inherent annoyance of 3D printing, consider Prusa i3.
If you’re on a shoestring budget, go with Creality CR 10.
If you’re looking for a big, sturdy machine, go with Creality CR 10.
If you want the 3D printer to print well each time whether it is a simple or complex 3D print job, go with Prusa i3.
If you’re new to the world of 3D printing, go with Creality CR 10. Even though Prusa i3 is a fantastic choice for all kinds of 3D printing jobs, the experience can be a bit overwhelming for a 3D printing beginner.
We hope you found the Creality CR 10 vs. Prusa i3 comparison guide useful. If you have any questions about either of the products, please post them in the comment section below, and our 3 printing experts will provide you with the relevant answers. Also, if you’d like us to compare or review any other 3D printing related products, kindly write to us, and let us know.
When you think of silicone and 3D printing, you’re more likely to consider it as a helping hand, rather than a star player. Silicone is commonly used as a mold material into which other material is poured to make a 3D object. But that’s limiting this versatile compound and your imagination to go along with it – you can now 3D print with silicone as if it were any other type of filament. It takes extra care and consideration to make sure you’ve got the right knowledge and equipment, so read on to find out what to look for and what to avoid when buying a 3D printer for silicone.
What is silicone?
Silicone is the name given to a group of chemical polymers that are based on chains of alternation silicon and oxygen atoms. Organic groups are attached the to silicon atoms, and the resulting materials are generally resistant to chemical attack and not temperature sensitive. These characteristics make silicone great for manufacturing and in particular for medical objects since those are exposed to all kinds of fluctuating conditions and environments.
How is silicone used in 3D printing?
Traditionally, silicone is used in a type of 3D manufacturing process called mold injection. That uses a mold to shape liquid into the objects desired, and silicone is great for that because of its tough yet flexible physical properties. However, mold injection modeling has a very high upfront cost and does not have the ability to create small details as additive 3D printing does, so in 2016, Wacker Chemie made positive waves when it announced it had figured out a way to 3D print with silicone like you can with thermoplastics and metal compounds. Soon after that, Envisiontec, Carbon 3D, and Fripp Design all jump in with their own contributions to equipment and material especially constructed to work with silicone.
Right now, the majority of usage for 3D printed silicone is still in the medical area, but the same advantages that make it great in that sector can easily translate to others, and if you’re jonesing to try it yourself, you totally can. We have the technology!
What is the process of 3D printing with silicone?
3D printing with silicone is a lot like printing with chocolate, and other materials that need to stay liquid during the printing process. Instead of a solid, threadlike filament feeding through an extruder, the silicone is melted and forced through the extruder in tiny drops, which are layered on top of each other just like any other filament. They’re still based on whatever you tell your computer to tell it – there’s no difference in your design process. So the extruder takes your design and maps out where to place the droplets and how close to put them together; it completes your creation through a 3D version of pointillism.
Then, there’s one last extra step you have to do for silicone to make it solidify and hold its shape in its firm yet flexible signature style. You have to vulcanize it. Sounds terrifying, right? Don’t worry – this is just a fancy label for when silicone 3D printers make the silicone firm. It’s done with the sweep of a UV light in the printing area, which forms cross-links between sections of the polymer chain. This hardens the silicone enough to keep its shape, and increases its durability in the face of structural stress. It’s a neat, no-fuss flourish to make sure your silicone 3D printed object stays unyielding in the important areas of its molecules.
What are the advantages of printing with silicone?
Silicone has a lot of great properties that you can take advantage of now that we’ve harnessed the power of it for 3D printing.
Strength and flexibility
Because of the science, we go into above; silicone is a super unique combination of strong and flexible. It will bend quite easily without breaking, which not only makes it able to withstand more pressure than something with more rigid connections but also makes it more portable, able to fold in on itself without any disassembling necessary. This all comes through in your final 3D printed object without you having to do any extra or complicated step; silicone is just naturally awesome like that.
One of the most famous uses for silicone is bodily implants, and there’s a great reason for that – silicone is not rejected by human tissue, so it’s perfect for reconstructing body parts that share its properties. It’s also great for objects that are not necessarily inside someone’s body but are in constant contact with skin or other vulnerable areas, like hearing aids, nose pads on the bridge of glasses, and respiration masks.
Temperature and radiation stability
Silicone can hold a temperature steady, so the area inside of a silicone shielded object does not feel the effects nearly as fast as under a non-temperature stable material such as glass. This same property makes silicone a good shield for radiation as well. The auto industry uses it a lot for engine parts that are exposed to massive temperature spikes as cars are turned on and used, such as hoses and plugs.
Silicone’s see-through properties make it great for applications where vision is needed, but glass may be too fragile, such as the lenses in optical equipment. Whereas glass lenses are prone to scratches that are very difficult, if not impossible, to get out without changing the curated view of the lens, silicone lenses are less rigid and thus tend to not get as many scratches in the first place. If you’ve ever struggled to see out of an old pair of eyeglasses or tried to use a scratched touchscreen, you’ll appreciate the ability of silicone to stay smooth.
Silicone can be both conductive and insulating, and that unique combination makes it great assistance for processes that need both, like securing fluids in hydraulic applications.
What are the disadvantages of printing with silicone? Can’t return to its liquid state
One thing that is counter-intuitive but important to remember about silicone is that once it’s hardened into a solid, it can’t be melted down again without causing significant structural damage to its chemical makeup. This is a feature that makes it great for final products, but if you make a mistake, there’s no chance to reshape or reuse the material, so be sure you either get it right on the first try, or you have more silicone available than is necessary for your project so you can try again if need be.
Special 3D printing equipment needed
As mentioned above, 3D printing with silicone is not like working with more traditional 3D printing material. With silicone, you have to have a special extruder that pulls the liquid silicone through the machine with a pump and extracts it like an inkjet printer onto the build surface. There are a few other materials that need the same kind of treatment, so it’s not hard to find the right equipment, but if you have a rig meant for spooled filaments, you will need to buy an additional machine to print silicone.
Longer finishing process
Because objects that are 3D printed with silicone have a special hardening process, it takes longer to complete a project from start to finish. The vulcanization process is fairly easy, requiring only a sweep of a UV light to stiffen the connections between the silicone molecules you’re working with, but be aware this may take more than one pass to complete. If you’re used to working with materials that need cool down time after your object itself is printed, this would be roughly equivalent to that wait time, depending on the size of your silicone object. However, if you’re in an extreme hurry, you may need to choose a material that can go right off the printer bed.
Small production run
Silicone can help you manufacture a palette of cloned objects all at once – unfortunately, it can’t when you 3D print with it. As with all 3D printers, those that print with silicone are designed to produce one object at a time, which is what gives each object such a great capacity for details. However, if you’re looking to 3D print with silicone to manufacture parts or objects on a large production scale, we recommend checking out the injection mold process instead.
Not much documentation
New technology is always exciting, but it’s also prone to unexpected errors and quirks that haven’t had a chance to work themselves out yet. Since 3D printing with silicone is so recently developed, there is not a large body of documentation to study before you start. The information that is out there is from the companies who manufacture the printers capable of 3D printing with silicone; this is very useful, of course, but if you’re uncertain about 3D printing with silicone now, you may want to wait until it’s been around long enough to garner reviews and instruction documents from independent sources (like us!).
What do I need to look out for when buying equipment to 3D print with silicone?
If you are shopping for 3D printers to use with silicone, buy one with all of the following features:
Inkjet extruder. This is how the silicone gets from your machine onto the print bed and into the shape of your object. A regular feeder extruder system is not going to work, so make sure you are aware of how the printer you’re eyeing works with the printing material you give it.
Internal warmer and pump. Since silicone has to be liquid to be 3D printed, look for a machine that features both a warmer and a pump in its extruder workings. This will keep the silicone at a workable consistency while proactively moving it through the printer’s system at an even pace, so you don’t get clumps or nothing going through your nozzle.
Short, straight pipeways from material to extruder. Once the silicone is heated and liquid enough for the extruder to work with, it’s going to need to travel the least amount of distance that is practical for it in the machine’s interior. Reducing the length and turns in its path means it will flow better and more evenly without needing external help to go through the system.
Glass-enclosed printer bed. This can be a feature on 3D printers that don’t use silicone, but there, it’s usually a luxury. With silicone, it’s a necessity because of that extra final step of vulcanization that silicone requires before being ready to use as a 3D printed object. The glass chamber contains the UV lights that run over the silicone to harden it, so it’s a crucial feature for all of your 3D silicone printing needs
What are some recommended products for 3D printing with silicone?
Now that we’ve walked you through the process of 3D printing with silicone and explained what to look for when you’re ready to start, here are a few of our favorite products that help you ace working with this material.
Wacker Chemie AG 3D printers for silicone. These guys literally invented this process, so their hardware is the standard by which all future 3D silicone printers will be judged. They’ve got customer 3D printing services as well, so if you’re not looking to buy a whole new printer for silicone, you can order a part or a dozen from their offices and get the object without having to deal with your own machinery.
Wacker Chemie AG silicones. To go with their printers, Wacker has developed a line of inorganic silicones that have more consistent chemical properties than organic silicones, so try some out for great quality prints.
EnvisionTech 3D Bioplotter. This line of printers is made with medical application especially in mind. Its build environment is calibrated for the perfect UV light curing process, which is essential in finishing material meant for contact with delicate areas, like what medical implants tend to touch.
Carbon 3D SIL 30 silicone. Carbon 3D has developed a type of silicone that is specifically designed to give your 3D prints all the pluses of silicone with a minimal amount of drawbacks. It can expand 330% before it even thinks about tearing, so it’s got top-notch flexibility and strength.
What’s the verdict for 3D printing with silicone?
Although you need a specific type of printer for 3D printing with silicone, it’s well worth the extra equipment. Once you get your printer set up, the silicone will give your 3D printed objects all the strength, flexibility, transparency, electricity manipulation, and biocompatibility you could imagine, so we highly recommend trying this material for its awesome perks. And once you find a printer that can handle it, you’ll be good to go for life.
Wax seems like the opposite of a good 3D printing material. Its defining property is how changeable it is, never quite hardening to settle into a definite shape, always moldable at the slightest push of a finger. But, when we learned that you could, in fact, get great 3D printed objects from wax material and filament, we were very pleasantly surprised, even more so when we saw how easy it is if you have the right equipment. We’re passing that knowledge on to you for your own personal enjoyment and use.
What is wax?
In chemistry, the wax is defined as a simple lipid made from long-chain alcohols and fatty acids combining together. There is a variety of specific types of waxes found in nature, the most common being the type that bees secrete. 3D printing uses the resin form of wax, which means the extra material in the wax cures it to make it harden after being manipulated into its final shape.
Waxes can be naturally occurring or synthetic, but because additives are necessary to guide waxes’ behavior for fabrication purposes, 3D printing with wax tends to use the man-made stuff. So you won’t be 3D printing with pure wax, but your finished objects will have very similar properties to it once you’re done.3
How do you 3D print with wax?
3D printing with wax can be slightly more involved than working with traditional filaments like ABS or PLA. There is also more than one way to 3D print with wax; we’ll discuss each in detail so you can decide which will work better for your needs.
Inkjet 3D printing with wax. First up is a 3D printing process that you will recognize as the most common type – the kind that uses filaments added onto themselves from an extruder from a programmed pattern to complete a finished object. This is the basis of additive 3D printing, and the concept for printing with wax is the same. However, the process of getting to that same end is different. Because wax is not firm enough to be spooled into the threadlike filaments you see with standard thermoplastics, it has to be heated and melted within the printer and then dripped onto the printer bed instead of fed through.
The most common sub-process of inkjet 3D printing with wax is called drop on demand. During this process, the material – in this case, wax – is deposited in tiny dots instead of a continuous line. DoD printers often have two extruder heads to supply the main printing material with dissolvable support material so that the final product can hold patterns with gaps and holes until the final object is hardened.
Lost-wax casting 3D printing with wax. Another way to 3D print with wax involves using the wax as a mold – but not as an injection mold. Although that’s possible, that’s a very different process, and here we’re talking about the ability to make a wax mold that is printed in the exact shape of the object. This process is called lost-wax casting, and your first step is to create a 3D model of your object in your drafting software of choice. Then, you 3D print a wax model of the object. You cast a mold around the 3D wax model, and you melt the wax so that only the mold remains. Finally, you pour whatever finishing material you want to use into the mold, let it harden, and dissolve the mold. A lot of fine jewelry makers use this process because it allows for one of the best levels of detail possible in 3D printing, and if any adjustments need to be made to the molds before the final step, it’s much easier to adjust on the computer and 3D print again than to manipulate the metal itself without damaging it.
Because its physical properties can shift more easily than materials rooted in firmer molecule bonds, you have to consider several general factors no matter which process you choose as your wax 3D printing preference. So here are a few pros and cons to consider whether you’re looking to mold delicate metal shapes or just want to try wax as new material.
What are the pros of 3D printing with wax?
The finest layer of detail
Wax is most commonly used to create molds because of its stellar layer resolution of 0.025 mm. This is, frankly, the most amazing level of detail we’ve seen in 3D printing, especially in the area of molds and supportive materials. And when used as molds for intricate yet delicate products like jewelry, the metal that fills the mold takes all that detail with it to the final product, something you could never achieve with the lower layer resolution of pretty much every other 3D printing material.
No need for different supportive material
3D printers that can use wax can print two wax types at the same time to produce supportive bracing as well as the 3D printed object itself. They do this by printing the wax at two different temperatures; the wax that melts at the higher temperature, about 70 degrees Celsius, is used for the object itself, and the wax that melts at a lower temperature creates the supportive material that bridges gaps in the pattern until the initial wax hardens. Then the supportive wax is melted off.
Variations of color and properties
Wax is thought of as a uniform range of beiges, yellows, and browns, but you can find 3D printable waxes in all sorts of colors, including those you can’t find in nature like neons. You can also find variations on wax’s general properties in different viscosities and different mixes of resin within the material to better suit the type of object or mold you want to create.
Easy melting points
Wax generally has a lower melting point than most other 3D printing materials. This makes it easier to use as a mold and supporting material, of course, since you can melt them off whatever they are upholding without worrying about melting the actual molded object itself. But it also means that wax 3D printers run cooler than other 3D printers, so you’re able to operate with a larger safety margin than polymers or thermoplastics that require extrusion temperatures over 100 degrees Celsius.
Insoluble in water
In nature, the wax is often excreted by leaves and other parts of plants to keep them from absorbing too much water in rainy areas of the world. Wax acts as a water protector for your 3D printing objects as well; it’s yet another reason why the material makes such a good mold. It doesn’t dissolve in water, so if you need to use a water cooling process for molded metals before they’re ready to come out, the wax is the perfect way to hold the metal’s shape during that last step before breaking off of it easily to reveal the final product.
What are the cons of 3D printing with wax? The inherent instability of material
The biggest drawback of working with wax to make any sort of solid final object is that you will not be able to use untreated wax on its own without putting your object in major danger of destruction. Since pure wax is so malleable and has such a low melting point, it’s crucial to know how to work with resins, UV light vulcanization, or other firming techniques to make it stiffer.
Even with the assistance of finishing details such as these, the wax is difficult to use as material for a final product. It’s melting point is above room temperature by about 50 degrees Celsius, which sounds like a lot but can put your wax figures in more danger of warping if you aren’t able to control the temperature of the environment where you store them.
Can’t be extruded like spooled filaments
We’ve run across this trait in several other 3D printing materials, most notably chocolate and silicone, so wax is not the only thing that has to be melted into a liquid instead of threaded through an extruder. But this is worth mentioning as an extra burden on whoever is looking to 3D print with it. Inkjet 3D printing is just as developed and discussed as traditional extruding, but it’s not a great place for the first time 3D printing enthusiast to start. Although it doesn’t mean learning a completely foreign skill, it does require a mastery of another branch of the process, so be prepared for that if you ever want to work with wax in a 3D printer.
This comes from the inkjet drop on demand process that best serves wax’s properties when 3D printing. We’ll discuss the specifics of what to look for to facilitate this below, but keep in mind this is a subsection of an already specialty process with the 3D printing world, so your ability to adjust to new things is crucial if you want to 3D print with wax. If you aren’t willing to invest in more equipment explicitly made for a drop on demand or at least inkjet 3D printing, you won’t be able to get your wax to behave as it should. 3D printing with wax is an investment of both more time and money.
What do I need to look for in a 3D printer that can work with wax?
Now that we’ve gone over the details of 3D printing with wax, let’s list what you need to look for in a printer that can handle this process.
An inkjet or drop on demand 3D printing process.
Wax needs an additive process that will deposit it onto the printing bed, and both inkjet and drop on demand equipment can do that for you. They’re similar but not identical, so check the details on the specific printers you’re eyeing to see which one will work better for your needs.
An internal material heater is able to handle two temperatures at one time.
In its role as both a top-notch mold material and a support filament, wax can’t be both at the same temperature. Therefore you need to make sure the 3D printer you’re looking at can warm up your main object/mold wax at a higher temperature than your support system wax; it’s totally possible to find equipment that will do this, and when you do, you’ll be rewarded by a superhuman ability to create details without a trace of all the background props needed for that level of work.
UV vulcanizing chamber and light.
Is this absolutely necessary to process 3D printing with wax? No. Is this a good way to ensure any finished products you want to 3D print in wax stiffen so they aren’t as prone to damage? Yes. Is this the part of the 3D printing process that is most likely to turn into a science fiction movie starring Tom Cruise? You bet!
Additional materials to use in your 3D printed wax molds.
Although you can 3D print wax objects to be their own thing, 3D printing with wax goes to the next level when you use it to create molds for other materials. We strongly recommend trying this method if you work with small to medium objects in materials that are difficult to detail on their own, like precious metals. You will be blown away by the results, and you’ll even be able to go pro if that’s something you’ve wanted to do but haven’t had the capacity to reach for until now.
What are some good 3D wax printers?
Solidscape has a great variety of choices for you, no matter what kind of 3D printing process with wax you ultimately decide on.
Sculpteo print on demand services are an excellent alternative if you don’t want to jump all in with your own 3D wax printing equipment. We understand – that can get expensive if you’re adding it to your current wares – and so does Sculpteo, so they’ll give you a taste on their own machines for less than setup costs for a new printer.
EnvisionTec is all business with its line of printers designed to help you print multiple molds for custom designed jewelry or dental work at once. Their machines get a bit pricey for hobbyists, but they can’t be beaten for professionalism.
Finding a 3D wax printer shouldn’t be a major hassle no matter what you want to use it for. Use these details to find your best fit!
Surprised to see a camera company jump into the 3D printing arena? So were we, but it does make a certain kind of sense, especially for Polaroid. The company started all the way back in 1943 when the company’s founder, Edwin Land, first invented instant photography. They got famous for the prints that came out of their cameras and developed on their own within a matter of minutes. Now they’ve rolled out their first 3D printers in 2016 as they transitioned from their world-famous portable instant cameras and film to printers designed to plug into your computer and go. Their pivot to a growing market from one that’s been dying ever since the first iPhone came out has proven to be a smart move, and Polaroid isn’t letting its second wind go to waste.
As pioneers in instant photography, the company has deep roots in front-facing technology.
They partnered with Environmental Business Products to bring their printers to life, premiering four new models under their Nano range at the International Consumer Electronics Show in January 2018: the Polaroid Nano Mini, the Polaroid Nano Plus, the Polaroid Nano Glide, and the Polaroid Nano Duo. All are currently available on Polaroid’s website directly, or through third-party sellers like Amazon, so we’ll be talking about the specific features on each one and guiding you through the process of whether each model is worth its price. Spoiler alert: get your money ready now. These are all excellent.
The Nano range of Polaroid 3D printers debuted in January 2018 at Polaroid’s CES booth. They’re all the same squared-off shape with thick frame borders that evoke both the signature style of its white-margined photos and its lined rainbow logo. You can get each in a small range of colors, but good luck trying to find the more popular ones like green. A little shopping around might help you find what you want.
Nano Series Pros and Cons Pros
It may seem superficial to focus on the decorative parts of something whose function is essentially dependent on what’s inside, but that’s part of the fun with these printers. Since Polaroid’s distinct aesthetics permeate throughout the whole range of its products, you’ll feel like you’re in 1975 even when you’re working with the most modern technology the company has to offer. And we count that as a good thing. It’s also an indicator of Polaroid’s attention to detail and quality that holds over the entire line.
Each of the Nano 3D printers have more than one way to connect to whatever device you’re using for your print designs, which makes them a breeze to transfer to different work stations, share with other users, and print multiple types of projects from the same printer (although not at the same time; sadly, the technology isn’t there yet).
The motors in all of these printers are also super quiet while staying powerful enough to not skip out on you. We can’t stress enough how exciting this is for use in shared spaces. If you’re looking for a 3D printer to use in a classroom or other shared space where it may have to be left to its own devices to finish a print while you or someone else moves onto another lesson or topic, these Nano series printers are amazing. You’ll be able to set it and forget it until you’re ready to scrape your object off that bad boy’s printer bed.
And the print quality gives you more reason to trust these Nanos on their own. Although their print areas may be small, the finish they produce makes for virtually seamless layers. These all use the most common filaments for 3D printing, most notably ABS and PLA. Note that your finish quality may fluctuate slightly depending on whether you are using one of these filaments, as recommended by the company, or if you’re using different types. Emphasis on “slight,” though, as all four of these printers have consistency on lock.
Beyond their sleek looks, the frames on these bad boys serve a great practical purpose, too. Yes, the open cube with arms at each corner gives you more room to show off that color, but they also make for incredible stability. With smaller printers, the amount of back and forth movement generated by 3D printing has less space to stretch out in, so the whole frame may shake more than a larger printer that can absorb the motion better. However, Polaroid has solved this with the sturdiness of its Nano frames, so feel free to print as intricately as you want without worrying about the printer yanking itself out of place.
It’s easy to forget that these printers aren’t the solution to absolutely all of your 3D printing needs. But whenever you forget that just look at their name – these Nanos are indeed small and have the restricted printer space that comes with the territory. You won’t be able to print a life-size Batman helmet with any of these. But Polaroid does have other options if you want to go bigger.
Polaroid’s quality comes with a literal price. The single-nozzle Nanos stay within the midrange of larger printers (about $350 – $400; see our specs table below for details per model), but if you want a dual extruder, prepare to pay almost two grand. Just remember that these are fully built printers and not kits, which means you’re paying for the professional construction job as well.
These printers aren’t hard to buy, but it is difficult to find thorough reviews on them. (That’s where we come in!) If you want to read more than our opinion on their performance, you’ll have to do a deep dive into 3D printing nerd forums, which you may already be familiar with as part of your routine buying decision anyway.
Before we get into the pros and cons of each model, here’s a table that lists their attributes so you can compare them all in one place.
This is the smallest of Polaroid’s 3D printers, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s got no power. Its light weight makes it perfect for individual, personal use, and its unobtrusive size makes it great for using and storing in places you might not have thought could hold a 3D printer. Aimed at beginner users, the Nano has a one-button control on the printer itself, which keeps things extra simple: use the SD card provided to transfer your design from your computer to the printer, then press the button. Boom, you’re printing.
It doesn’t come with any frills, which makes it easy to understand, and its smoothed frame doesn’t make it inviting for many add-ons, so remember this if you’re looking for a printer that can handle a more complex workload. But the finished quality is excellent, and this makes a great first-time printer for all age ranges that are old enough to work with 3D printing equipment in general. It won’t frustrate those who are learning about the process, keeping them engaged and producing something worthwhile for their efforts to encourage them to up their skills. Check out the latest prices on Amazon.
Its larger build area makes the Glide a good step up from the Mini while staying in the compact size range. It’s also got more bells and whistles, meant to take your 3D printing to another level without adding any confusion. Its sliding print bed allows for nuanced adjustments to your printing surface, as well as a way to remove your finished object from the printer without overreliance on scraping tools that might damage surfaces. The two most useful upgrades from the Mini both let you worry less about leaving the printer to do its thing while it prints and you have to attend to other things.
First, its filament sensor alerts you when your material is getting low. That’s such an intuitive piece to a major problem that we’re not sure why they’re not standard in all 3D printers yet. The Glide’s is worth a special mention because it works, and it works well, bringing the printing to a stop until you’re able to heed its warning and refeed filament. That means it’s smart enough to not waste power or lose its place when filament runs out. Great for printer management.
Also, the Glide has child safety doors, which are basically extra gates that go around the open parts of the printer so that no one can stick their hand into the printing area while the printer is heated or moving. It’s a crucial element if you’re looking for a 3D printer to use in educational settings, or places where unsupervised kids might come across it.
The + has all the features of the Glide, and ups it on tech. With an LCD screen, the + gives you more options and control once you’ve gotten off the computer. It’s also got wifi connectivity and a smartphone app you can use for remote control, which makes it perfect for people who don’t have time to sit around and stare at their 3D printers all day (so, everybody!). Combine this with the quality that’s standard in these Polaroid printers, and the + gives you the perfect mobile setup.
So all this sounds great, but the printing areas are just a little too small and … singular for your taste? Enter the Polaroid Nano Duo, the line’s biggest and extruder-iest option. You’ll pay twice as much for this one as for any of the others, but you’ll get twice the nozzles for double the material possibilities. The printing area is bigger as well, so don’t worry about trying to fit two extruders’ worth of filament into project space for one. All this extra room is on top of the great technology from the Mini, Glider, and +, so you get the crowning collective glory of Polaroid’s 3D printing game in the Duo. And you’ll still be able to fit it in between all your other gear, lift it with one hand, and feel safe leaving it printing for however long it takes your projects to complete.
In conclusion, Polaroid took their new job very seriously and passed that attention to detail on to the users. You’ll be able to use any one of these printers in the Nano line whether you’re just getting started or have been 3D printing for a decade. They’re all truly small enough for personal use, which is something a lot of printers like to claim but few can actually back up. And fewer still can also boast a robustness that makes them excellent for repeated, continuous use, but Polaroid definitely puts its money – or yours – where its mouth is. If you’re looking for a stylish way to save lots of space, noise, and trouble in your 3D printing operations, Polaroid is a great place to go.
MakerBot has started 2019 with a 3D printer that is dressed to impress. Its Method model became available just this year, and it’s designed to eliminate the gap between desktop and performance 3D printing. They wanted to make a printer that would combine industrial speed and precision with desktop accessibility, and while the Method’s pricing doesn’t lend this model quite as much broad appeal as MakerBot is aiming for, the printer itself is an impressive piece of technology. It’s technically not immediately available, but if you like what you see, you can put a preorder in with MakerBot and be one of the first to experience its majesty in person later this year.
MakerBot was started in 2009 on a philosophy of open source and has been on the cutting edge of new 3D technology since their beginning; they were the first comp any to present a 3D printer at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2010, and the first to introduce a 3D printer with wifi printing capabilities in 2014. Stratasys acquired the company in 2013.
MakerBot has thrown everything you know about 3D printer design out the window to make the Method. It looks like a science testing chamber from a movie set in the near future – instead of a horizontal-based open plan like the majority of desktop 3D printers, this one is longer than it is wide with a closed printing chamber in the middle. It’s all sleek corners and smooth surfaces straight from science fiction, but the printer bed is instantly recognizable and fun to watch as well. This is all meant to give individual designers and engineers a 3D printer that is compact enough for personal use but fully capable of delivering a standard industrial performance.
43.7 cm x 41.3 cm x 64.9 cm
Maximum print size
Single extrusion: 19 cm x 19 cm x 19.6 cm
Double extrusion: 15.2 cm x 19 cm x 19.6 cm
+/- 0.2 mm
20 – 400 microns
Spring steel build plate with grip surface
PLA, PVA, PETG, etc.
WiFi, Ethernet, USB
100 – 240V/4A, 50 – 60 Hz/400 W max
MakerBot Method Pros and Cons ProsPrint quality
The Method 3D printer is truly impressive. MakerBot promised a lot with this one, and it looks like it has delivered. First on the “awesome” side is the print quality, which is the crowning achievement of this machine. MakerBot designed this to bridge the gap between professional and personal 3D printing, and anybody who makes prototypes as part of their business process will be able to use these products in whatever capacity they need. It boasts a dimensional accuracy more precise than most of the other 3D printers out there period, much less any of the other desktops available. Its layer resolution is also top notch, thin enough to create a surface invisible of any gradient to the naked eye thanks to the vertical layer uniformity and cylindricity. This type of print finish is what you need for industrial pieces and prototypes, where friction between parts means an eventual breakdown of the whole machine; or if you just really want to impress the people who will be dealing with your end products, especially when they’re paying customers.
The Method may not have the physical space to print dozens of copies of a prototype at a time, but its repeatability makes it great for duplicating precisely what made your design great in the first place. You can save any combination of commands, methods, or settings you create in the brain of the printer itself, which means you can go back to that best-selling design and print another whenever you want, you can save different preferences for different projects – the possibilities get close to endless.
If you don’t have the space to print multiple copies at once, one way to make up for that is how long it takes to print each object. MakerBot boasts the Method prints at twice the speed of other printers, which individual professionals can definitely use to their advantage. The Method can print so fast because it’s got dual performance extruders. These are powered by a dual-gear system with a 19:1 gear ratio and that magic number means three times the push force of a standard 3D fused deposit method printer. Also, the thermal core is up to fifty percent longer than a typical nozzle, which makes its extrusion both quicker and smoother than typical hotends. The listed print speed of 1 +/- 0.2 or 0.02 mm per mm traveled does indeed make it about twice as fast as your typical desk model.
With all this speed and power, you might expect a lot of self-made movement from the Method. Fortunately, MakerBot has already thought of this and planned accordingly. The ultra-rigid metal frame runs the full length of the printer, which absorbs any wiggle the printing movement might produce. That’s how the Method can print so fast with such great accuracy.
MakerBot gives you the power to finetune almost everything about your printing experience with the Method.
First, there’s a heated circulating chamber that lets you control the temperature of every stage of your print. MakerBot calls this full active heat immersion, and it helps parts cool at a controlled rate for higher dimensional accuracy, better layer adhesion, and stronger parts.
Next up is the spring steel build plate, which is situated inside the build chamber. It detaches from the printer with an easy pop-out motion, allowing you to retrieve your finished project in the open air without worrying about banging your elbows on supports. And it goes right back in whenever you’re ready to print next, so you’ve got portability AND instant readiness on your side every time.
Yet another point where you can make the Method do exactly as you want is the 5 in (12.7 cm) touchscreen control mounted to the top of the printer frame. It’s about the size of a smartphone, and it acts much in the same way as well. You navigate through a variety of settings with your finger, or stylus if you’re fancy, and as we briefly mentioned above, you can save your preferences to your heart’s content. The UI is amazingly intuitive, and it shows you status updates on print jobs while guiding you through all the choices.
In addition to its general sleek profile and intuitive controls, the Method also hosts a few clever details that you never knew you needed until you had them.
Like the dry-sealed material bays that hold your filament as you print. This is basically a drawer situated underneath the build chamber that encloses the filament into its own humidity-controlled environment. The printer lets you monitor the environment in there without having to open it to physically check (and also potentially messing up any balance you may have wanted to keep), which is crucial for water-solvent materials that depend on specific moisture control levels to stay stable enough to print with.
There’s also the Smart Spool, where you mount your filament. It shares information via RFID chip so you can see the filament type and color and how much is left on the spool without having to open the section.
And to top it all off, the Method has a built-in camera that connects to MakerBot’s Print program and mobile app so you can monitor your print from anywhere.
The Method is essentially a printer you can plug in and use immediately; this massively streamlines the process of designing to prototyping. It automates everything from setup to maintenance, so even if you have little to no experience setting up 3D printers, this one will be a breeze for you to start. It adds the user-friendliness of a much more basic printer to its industrial prototyping quality, making it perfect for the market of individual professionals who want their own printing station for their work. That’s who MakerBot had in mind, so if you’re in that market, you’re getting the best of both 3D printing worlds.
Bonus pro: improved printer software. MakerBot has kept working at its Print software so it’s now compatible with 25 of the most popular computer-aided drafting programs, which means you can design in any of those programs you want and print directly from them without a hitch. More CAD options mean more personal control and variation, so choose what you want and go to it! MakerBot’s Cloud Management platform also lets you share your designs and collaborate with anyone who has access to the program.
At $6,499, this is not the machine for beginners, or anyone needing to 3D print on a budget. If you are looking to make the plunge into 3D printing by yourself for a hobby that won’t regenerate revenue to make up operations costs, go in a different direction. However, if you’re looking for a printer with industrial capabilities in the footprint of a desktop; if you’re a company dependent on individual prototyping; if you’re an engineer or designer who depends on high-quality prototyping and can swing the startup cash; this point may not matter. Also, MakerBot has a payment plan that may help you convince any funders who are on the fence (including yourself!).
At over sixty pounds, this printer does not leave much room for physical adjustment once you get it in place. 3D printers aren’t equipment you want to be constantly moving around in general, but if you’re searching for something portable to bring with you to multiple demonstrations, or if you’re going to be printing in one area and storing in another, think about getting something lighter. On the other hand, a heft to it means this printer will stay grounded and exhibit less wiggle than those with more open designs, so you’ll have to figure out what kind of trade-off you want to make.
Don’t get us wrong, MakerBot is not trying to chain you to their products by making them incompatible with any third parties – you can use whatever you prefer for your filament brand. But one downside of the Method is that it does work best with MakerBot filaments. That’s certainly not the end of the world, as MakerBot makes a lot of quality stuff, but it does limit you to their product line if you want to ensure 100% of its promised quality. A big part of that is because of the Method’s unique market area. The first machine to jump into a niche is by design going to need materials that aren’t widely available yet; and fortunately, the Method is not so specialized that using your favorite PLA or ABS spools is going to turn into a complete disaster. But until someone else jumps on their bandwagon of desktop 3D printers that can handle professional-grade jobs, going full MakerBot will be your best bet.
If you’re in any sort of need of a personal 3D printer that makes professional-level prints on an individual level, the Method is perfectly tailored to your process. It’s way up there in price if you compare it to all the other desktop 3D printers out there. However, when you consider that buying a Method means you won’t have to wait to use a communal industrial printer, when it means you won’t have to readjust your CAD measurements from a 3D printer meant for other dimensions, when it means you’ll have complete control over the entire printing process of your professional prototypes – the Method is for sure worth it.
MakerBot says they spent over 220,000 hours testing this printer out for reliability, subsystem, and quality, and you can tell with every aspect of the experience. They’re calling the Method a performance printer, and its dedication to the market gap of professional desktop 3D printers has earned its keep with its plethora of unique features. And oh boy, that printing quality – if that doesn’t convince you that MakerBot has dreamed up something special, truly nothing will.
With the increasing popularity of 3D printing, it’s no surprise that there are conferences all over the world, boasting a variety of exhibitions, professionals, and tools in the 3D printing market. 3D printing is innovative, and the evolution of the techniques has grown considerably and continues to do so.
If you’re looking for a 3D printing conference to add to your calendar, chances are you’ll find one on this list that’s close to home. You can pursue a variety of topics in additive manufacturing and 3D printing including the mathematics involved in the design process, the technology used, and the industries involved.
March 10-12, 2019
The Asiamold 3D printing conference is held annually in Guangzhou, China and is an important marketing and trading venue for players in the mold and die industry. It gets a lot of attention from experts all around the world and is an influential exhibition intended to highlight modern solutions in the ever-evolving manufacturing market in China.
Guangzhou is easily accessible from within China and overseas. Once in Guangzhou, you can reach the Asiamold facility via public transportation and enjoy a variety of accommodations with Asiamold travel partners. Because the event is so large, there is always someone on staff to help you with your travel arrangements.
AMForum19 March 14-15, 2019
The 3rd Additive Manufacturing Forum 2019 is in Berlin, Germany. It’s Europe’s leading conference and exhibition for additive manufacturing, growing in a number of participants year after year. This cross-industry program is user-oriented and supported by a number of prominent groups including Airbus Group, Deutsche Bahn, 3yourmind, and Stratasys.
This year’s conference includes over 700 participants from the aviation, railway, automotive, medical, engineering, mechanical, and science industries. More than 60 exhibitors will be featured in the innovation exhibition with 26 keynote speeches, 4 open discussions, and 2 panels. Enjoy pre-networking events and a champagne reception.
Additive Manufacturing Users Group Conference
March 31-April 4, 2019
Held in Chicago, the AMUG Conference brings the global community together to accelerate advancements and education in additive manufacturing and 3D printing. Engineers, managers, designers, and educators come together to share best practices, expertise, challenges, and relevant application and developments in the industry.
The five-day conference is packed with workshops, presentations, competitions, and food. Enjoy keynote speeches, technical sessions, hands-on training, and showcases. When booked in advance, you can also purchase all of your meals, evening activities, and the awards banquet as part of your ticket.
3D Printing Event 2019 April 16-17, 2019
This year, the Netherlands will be hosting a 3D printing event with five dedicated conferences and an exhibition that all focus on 3D printing and manufacturing. Learn all about 3D printing from initial design to end product.
While it is certainly important in the continued development of 3D printer technology, the focus of this 3D printing event is the Value Chain. The design, engineering, material choice, and the post-processing phase are important as well. There is also an entire section of the conference dedicated to the future of 3D printing.
April 30-May 1, 2019
The Ceramics Expo in Cleveland, Ohio is meant for engineers who are decision-makers in the automotive, medical, aerospace, electronics, energy, industrial, and communication industries. It’s a free event, often highlighting speakers from prominent players in these industries like Lockheed Martin, Corning, Ford, Kyocera, and more.
You can learn more about technology development and implementation solutions, cost reduction, and manufacturing. You may also learn how to improve your own processes or gain insights into the ceramic materials market. Discover the latest innovations in R&D and look into the future of performance, application, and efficiency.
Rapid + TCT May 21-23, 2019
If you’re looking for an event that highlights the discovery and innovation of 3D manufacturing, Rapid + TCT in Detroit is the place to be. This 3D printing trade show is the best place to learn the effective use of 3D technology to improve efficiency, produce stronger parts, create more complex geometries, and reduce waste.
This conference allows attendees to consult with industry experts, network with the most influential people in the industry, and discover what they need to know about the latest applications, processes, research, and materials.
SIAM Conference on Computational Geometric Design June 17-19, 2019
People interested in the geometry and mathematics behind 3D printing designs will enjoy this conference in Vancouver, Canada. If you enjoy 3D printing but would like to know more about applying mathematical methods to your projects, the SIAM Conference covers applications in geosciences, medicine, architecture, biology, and art.
Topics of discussion may include curve and surface design, CAX, reverse engineering, geometric algorithms, solid modeling, graphics and computer vision, robotics, and scientific visualization. It helps facilitate communication between government and industrial users, developers, and academics.
June 23-25, 2019
Phoenix, Arizona is home to two different 3D printing seminars, the first of which is AMPM2019. This conference focuses on metal additive manufacturing and features experts presenting the latest technology and developments in the metallurgy field. The second conference, called POWDERMET2019, is very similar.
The three-day conference has six events presenting the best networking opportunities and more than 100 exhibitors with equipment, powder suppliers, and processing suppliers. The cutting-edge R&D presented at the AMPM2019 conference provides one of the world’s leading forums for metal additive manufacturing.
3D Food Printing Conference
June 27, 2019
This 3D printing conference in the Netherlands is all about the food. It’s a two-day event dedicated to learning about smart farming, healthy nutrition, and vertical farming. Because 3D printing technology is making its way into the food industry, it will be a critical part of how people interact with food.
There’s still a lot of required research to make these ideas mainstream, but this conference aims to take big steps in the right direction by putting on seminars about food industries and components that will be influenced by 3D food printing technology.
Faraday Discussion July 3-5, 2019
This Faraday Discussion in London covers Understanding and Reconstructing Biointerfaces with 3D Soft Nanolithography. Mechanics and biology are both driven by interfacial dynamics, yet the industries rarely talk to one another. The idea of this Faraday Discussion is to bring these industries together for conversations surrounding how they can work together to tackle challenges in the industry.
Advances in 3D nanolithography, organic and macromolecular chemistry, and surface characterization will require cooperation from experts in many fields. By providing a forum where they can facilitate discussions for the betterment of these ideas, they can make progress in the field.
September 11-13, 2019
The Second International Conference on Simulation for Additive Manufacturing is in Pavia, Italy. As additive manufacturing evolves, this conference aims to bring to light some of the benefits of 3D printing and manufacturing for those who have interest.
The main topics of the conference include CAD to part chain, material modeling, innovative application, multi-physics, and multi-scale simulation, simulation for different additive manufacturing technologies, shape and topology optimization, and validation and verification. You can attend lectures, general sessions, invited sessions, industrial workshops, and round tables.
AMM 2019 September 18-19, 2019
Poland is home to the 3rd Edition of Additive Manufacturing Meeting covering 3D printing in both industrial and medical applications. This international event addresses individuals and institutions involved in the development and implementation of additive manufacturing technologies. They intend to build a common platform for the exchange of experience and knowledge in both fields.
In the past, this conference has involved 145 participants, 12 partners, 24 talks, 3 workshops, and a networking session. It is a two-day conference conducted in English with the main focus of the panels being 3D printing implementation in medicine, industry, and R&D. There will also be a young scientists’ poster session.
October 11-12, 2019
This additive manufacturing conference in Istanbul, Turkey focuses on the importance of digitalization, Industry 4.0, and IoT processes as the next generation of manufacturing technologies. As additive manufacturing replaces traditional manufacturing methods, there are several industries affected.
For transformation in these industries to take place, scientific research and R&D studies are critical, and experts from these industries need to come together. The goal of the first Additive Manufacturing Conference (AMC 2019) will be to do all of these things and more.
Symposium on Graphene and 3D Printing Technology October 30-31, 2019
The Symposium on Graphene and 3D Printing Technology provide a platform for the sharing and exchange of ideas, knowledge, experiences, and research in the arena of graphene and 3D printing. Because technological innovation is an enabler of development in lower or middle-income countries, this conference held in Tokyo, Japan reaches some of those demographics.
The theme of the 2019 event is “a novel approach to atomic assembly and emerging technologies.” Members from around the world will learn about 3D printing, graphene, advanced materials, energy technology, and two-dimensional materials. They will enjoy presentations, a wealth of information, and networking opportunities with world-renowned speakers, diving into the most recent developments and techniques.
These aren’t the only conferences involving 3D printing and other related subjects. There are plenty of opportunities worldwide to learn and share experiences in an environment that fosters the correct conversations and a desire to further the development of these technologies.
If you want to attend a 3D printing conference, this year is a perfect time. There are hundreds of them spanning the globe, bridging many industries, and focusing on a variety of topics that may be of interest to experts, professionals, and hobbyists alike.
3D printer assembly kits are easy to screw up. They’re designed to keep their costs down, which means corners might be cut and details that you desperately need may be lost. But once in a while, a company knows how to transcend the limitations of the genre, and delivers an excellent quality that you can build yourself.
And we’ve found two of them.
The Ender 3 and the Prusa i3 MK3 are both great choices if you’re looking for an affordable way to get into 3D printing and you’re not afraid to build some stuff to get there. They both give you immense value for your money, they both have a fairly painless assembly process, and they both print 3D objects you can be proud of. So which one is right for you?
First up is Creality’s Ender 3, a desktop setup that is excellent for beginner users who don’t want to overstep their budget. Creality’s whole deal is making 3D printer kits accessible, and the China-based company has been improving on their models since their beginning in 2014.
Their Ender series is designed for the hobbyist user, but don’t let that make you think of bad quality – they’ve perfected the under $200 print until you can’t distinguish it from prints that came off rigs that cost two or three times as much. Their Ender series is designed to get you involved in every step of the 3D printing process, from seeing how your machine is put together to watching the finished project materialize. Here are all the details you need to find out if Ender 3 is your best bet.
220 mm x 220 mm x 250 mm
440 mm x 410 mm x 465 mm
1.75 mm PLA, ABS, or TPU
Maximum print speed
Maximum layer resolution
SD card, USB
The Ender 3 is one of the most affordable desktop 3D printers you will see out there, period. You can find it for under $200 through all the vendors you associate with 3D printers, including Amazon, Gearbeast, and Creality itself. It’s not only affordable, but it’s also accessible, and you’ll have a lot of outlets to shop around to ensure you’re getting the best of the best deal.
You may still be wary after hearing the Ender 3 is a kit and not a fully assembled printer. So many 3D printers can pass themselves off as good deals because you’re doing all the work to get them going. But with the Ender 3, the assembly process is virtually painless. This good start to your experience gives you a boost to enjoy the rest of your printing sooner and with more understanding of how things work.
Although the Ender 3 is by no means the largest – or smallest, if you’re into that – desktop 3D printer out there, its balance of print area and compactness makes it the golden ideal in its class. [size of printing area] is big enough for a large size range of personal projects, and you can always print pieces to assemble together into a larger finished object. And for the Ender 3, compactness is translated into putting a lot of great stuff into a package that doesn’t waste space. Desktop printing is always going to be a cramped market, so Ender 3 gives you plenty of room to do your thing without getting in the way of the rest of your life.
It might take a little adjusting after your first few runs, but the Ender 3 gets what you want to do and helps that happen well. One of the ways it makes a great finished product is with its tight filament path – with fewer twists and turns for the filament to go through when it’s getting to the extruder, the smoother the print is going to be, especially when you’re working with flexible filaments like nylon.
Open source software
The Ender 3’s upgrade system is the best we’ve seen in a kit printer. You’re not left alone to fumble with a system that’s going to be incompatible with everything else you want to use, and you’ll be able to take advantage of any (or all!) of Creality’s available updates. Those are growing by the day, as are the creative additions Creality users post for others to find and freely use on the internet. If you’re one to tinker around with code and put together something awesome, you can add your own ideas to the mix and get them out there for everyone to use.
The Creality 3 is not perfect, and the most obvious way it shows its flaws is through its printer base. It doesn’t lie flat, which of course causes issues if you don’t correct it. The motion of the printing arm and extruder makes the base wobble unless you stick a corrective wedge under the uneven part. Happily, the fix is just as easy as that. You don’t have to use any special piece of equipment or print any extension, you just have to make sure the base’s footing is evened out. But even if it is a snap to correct, you have to remember to do so to keep your prints from turning into disasters, and this also makes keeping the printer bed level difficult.
Related to your quest to even up the printer base is the need to manually calibrate your heater bed on a consistent basis. This means to get the absolute best prints you can, you’ll have to manually calibrate it before every print you do. This is hands down the most annoying aspect of using the Ender 3 – but relatively speaking, it’s not such a terrible payoff for the amazing performance you get elsewhere in the printing process.
The first layer of any 3D print steers the direction of the rest of the print, either into perfection or disaster. The Ender 3’s BuildTak-ish grip finish on its heater bed occasionally needs a little assistance towards greatness in this area; using an outside adhesion material is all you need, though, something like a permanent glue stick from Elmer’s. That’s all it takes to fix this little quirk, so whether you’re just starting out or a 3D printing veteran, you’ll be able to do it yourself no problem.
Prusa i3 MK3
As another top-of-the-line 3D printer kit, the Prusa i3 MK3 is impressive for a 3D printer, period. It boasts innovations that make it a contender beyond its perceived weight class, and its desktop status puts these in the hands of anyone who wants to experience it. It’s also something you have to put together, but it’s worth it. Trust us.
250 mm x 210 mm x 200 mm
419 mm x 381 mm x 419 mm
1.75 mm, PLA, HIPS
Maximum print speed
Maximum layer resolution
The Prusa i3 MK3 holds up to a lot. Its rigidness is a major upside and a great example of how build kits don’t necessarily have to suffer stereotypical pitfalls of weak points where they fit together. A more rigid frame is going to give you a much steadier print, which will give you prints that reflect your design with perfect accuracy. And of course, frame rigidity is great for counteracting any rough environment hazards you may encounter.
3D printing can be such a nerve-racking process. Hours of painstaking planning can be wiped out with a single unplugging, and even just needing to pause in the middle of a project can make the rest of the project go wonky. The Prusa i3 MK3 has eliminated all that. It detects crashes with plenty of time for you to deal with the potential issues, so if you are less than certain about your set up, you’ll know where to double and triple check as you’re going along.
Power failure backup
No electrical grid is immune to going down, especially in the face of Mother Nature or other people who share your workspace. The Prusa i3 MK3 understands that, and it’s prepared for whatever disaster you throw at it. Its smooth transition from full speed to powering down is incremental enough to keep your place as a true pause. You don’t have to worry about getting back to a specific point; it does that for you. You don’t have to worry about losing any information; it won’t. You don’t have to worry about remembering to save at regular intervals (although that’s still a great idea!); it pretty much does that for you. You get the idea.
If you are intimidated or overwhelmed by 3D printing in general, know that the Prusa i3 MK3 has support out the wazoo. Whether you’ve decided to buy one to start your 3D printing journey, whether you are curious about building your own machine, whether you’re looking to add to your collection without breaking the bank – the Prusa i3 MK3 has your back. Its thorough support manual and thriving, active online community can help you clear up any questions or problems you might come across. Plus you’ll meet some great people who share your passion for 3D printing.
Removable magnetic print bed
This is an unassuming feature that makes such a difference for the better that you’ll be wondering how you ever 3D printed without it. Since the print bed is flexible, it’s easy to adjust as you need, and the fact that it’s attached with magnets make it even easier to remove, clean, and put back in place without needing any tools or real manufacturing know-how.
This printer has nine points of automatic calibration, which keeps everything amazingly safe from errors while printing. It will adjust as it goes along so your print details and finish will stay true in line.
Prusa teams ups with the OctoPrint for one of the most consistent printing software upgrade services out there. You can get the full usage of OctoPrint whenever you use the Prusa i3 MK3, and there are tons of places online you can download it for your use. And it’s a totally free software with a lot of fans out there who will help you figure out what you need and what version is best.
You get a lot of cool features that make your 3D printing a premium experience with the Prusa i3 M3 – but you’ll pay full price for it. At $900, this is not a buy to take lightly without seriously considering your budget. It’s not for the light of wallet, and if you’re not absolutely certain you’ll get $900 worth of use out of 3D printing as a hobby or business, look elsewhere for a better deal.
Filament detection system
This is a great addition to any 3D printer, and the Prusa i3 MK3 doesn’t stint on the fancy extras that make your printing easier. However, this one can be fooled by a clear filament. If you’re using any kind of filament without color, the filament detection system in here won’t see it, and unfortunately, this isn’t a quirk you can fix. In our experience, it’s not enough of an issue to deter from the great aspects of this printer, but if you lean heavily on clear filament for your output, you’ll have to either find another printer or monitor this one very closely to make sure you don’t run out in the middle of your projects.
Quality of printer parts
A few of the parts for the printer are 3D printed themselves, like the frame for the LCD control screen, and while the parts easy to add into the smooth build experience, they are not at the same visual quality of the non-3D printed parts. There are surface discrepancies that, although few and far between and don’t interfere with functionality, are noticeable. If you know this will bug you, you can always print your own replacements.
Because this printer has so many components and features that are new to the field in general, the Prusa i3 MK3’s firmware will be updating constantly. It will level out as these features become more widespread, but as anyone who is a frequent tech trailblazer knows, the kinks will have to work themselves out as they’re being used. You won’t be a beta tester, but you will be reaping the immediate benefits of those who were.
This is a really tough choice. Both of these printers produce excellent quality 3D objects, and they both give you a wonderfully supported building experience. We highly recommend both of these kits. We would say the real decision comes down to what design quirks you are willing to work with, but all of these have easy fixes, and the real difference is the price. So if you want to see what the 3D printing fuss is all about, the Ender 3 is the perfect place to start. If you’re looking for a kit that ups the game and lets you try out a bunch of new features, the Prusa i3 MK3 is worth its price if you’ve got the money. You really can’t go wrong either way.
If you’ve gotten bored with thermoplastics and are looking for a new way to experiment with your 3D printer, wood filaments are a great direction to take. These are filaments that mix wood pieces together with a more conventional filament such as PLA so the wood can be manipulated like more flexible filaments despite its inherent rigidity. The mix is usually about 70% polymer to 30% wood fibers, and you can buy spools of it just like any other filament on the market. They’ve been around since 2012, beginning with polymers mixed with sawdust, but those resulted in products that looked more like cardboard, so the filaments quickly evolved.
Wood filaments give your finished object the look, feel, and even smell of a wood carving, complete with the grain and color fluctuations you see in the hearts of trees. They take on the properties of whatever wood you use as well, such as the extra sturdiness you may be looking for beyond plastic. One type of wood filament contains a piece of coconut mixed in with the wood, which gives the finished product a distinct look that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
If you don’t like the finish you end up with, it’s just as easy to stain your 3D project with whatever wood varnish you want as it is to stain your coffee table, bookshelf, or any other object made of pure wood. You can also sand down rough edges or printing mistakes or carve finishing details with a knife or wood burning kit; the possibilities are vast and don’t end once you turn off your printer.
How to Work with Wood Filaments
However, wood filaments are not for those who are new to 3D printing. Wood filaments are finicky to work with and require much more manipulation and monitoring than entry-level thermoplastics. Wood filaments will reward you with beautiful, unique objects, but first, you have to learn how to treat them:
Use a larger extruder nozzle. The recommended size is 0.3 mm or larger, which helps the dark chunks in the wood filament flow through without clogging up. This may result in larger layers than you want, but you can sand down the product until its finish is as smooth as you want, so don’t let that keep you from heeding this advice.
Remove the filament from the printer when you’re not using it. The wood filament can burn if left unattended in a printer nozzle that hasn’t cooled down yet, or stopped for some reason, and this will result in a nozzle clogged with blackened, hardened wood. If you’ve already learned this lesson the hard way, run a cleaning filament through your extruder. They’re easy to find and inexpensive, a must have if you’re going to work with wood. Just in case.
Find the right temperature. A lot of 3D printing enthusiasts manipulate the finish of their wood filaments by using a higher temperature than recommended for printing. The higher the temperature, the darker the wood, but that’s because the higher temperature is essentially burning the wood as it goes through the extruder. There’s a very fine line between a different finish and a burnt filament, so only attempt this if you have the time, patience, and knowledge to do it safely. And if you’re worried, print at the recommended temperature, then paint the finished object with whatever color stain you want. No fire hazard necessary.
Use fast printer speed and high layer heights. Yes, these steps will result in more wobble on the Z axis and chunkier layers than you might want, but they’ll keep your wood filament moving through the extruder. Less time in the extruder means less of a chance for the wood to ignite, and less of a chance you’ll have to clean up that mess. Just make sure your printer is secured for as little frame movement as possible, and sand down any layers that don’t meet your standards.
Use higher retraction. Wood filaments are runnier than PLA when they are flowing through the heated nozzle. This will lead to material drag if you don’t adjust how fast the material comes out of the extruder, so make sure you adjust to the recommended retraction setting rather than leaving it as it was from working with the previous material. Retraction speed and distance will both make a difference.
Types of Wood Filaments
Now that you know what to look for, let’s talk about the varieties of wood filament that are out there. There are three general varieties available:
Regular woodfill is the basic variety that is polymer blended with pieces of traditional varieties of wood such as oak, maple, or birch. It has the scent and visual properties of the dominant wood variety blended into it, and although it does smell burnt when you print with it if you’ve got your temperature settings correct it will be a stable material throughout the printing process.
Bamboofill. This is a polymer blended with bamboo, which is more sensitive to temperature and extruder clog than standard woodfill. This means you’ll have to make sure you clean your nozzle thoroughly before and after every print with bamboofill, and you won’t get as wide a color variety as with regular woodfill, but you’ll be rewarded with a smooth print endowed with the flexibility of its blended wood.
Corkfill is slightly porous and a much darker color than bamboofill or regular woodfill. It has the finicky properties of bamboofill while letting you print something more lightweight and rigid at the same time.
Wood Filament Companies
Finally, it’s time to choose where you want to buy your woodfill. There are a number of companies that put out quality wood filament for 3D printing. Here are our favorites:
ColorFabb. This company based in the Netherlands offers standard woodfill, bamboofill, and corkfill; ColorFab’s strength is its variety on offer. One spool of woodfill from them costs $49.99, but the quality you’ll get makes it worth it. However, keep in mind that ColorFab’s woodfill filaments are not for beginners. Their high quality and relative expense mean you want to be sure you know how to deal with the unique problems of woodfill before you buy any.
MG Chemicals. These guys use poplar for the wood particles in their wood filaments, about 25% mixed with PLA. Poplar wood particles are larger than other wood filaments, so make sure you have a nozzle that can open to 0.4 mm to prevent any clogging. If you burn up any filament in the extruder, it will be harder than usual to scrape out because of the size of the popular pieces. This is a great woodfill to start with. It’s as sturdy as any other standard wood filament while being as much of a bargain as its thermoplastic cousins ($31.45 per spool), and MG Chemical gives you free shipping if you buy a few spools at once. So stock up on whatever filament you need, and throw in a wood filament spool for fun to see how it works for you. Check out the latest prices on Amazon.
HatchBox. This company has quality control on lock. That means their wood filaments are less likely to clog your extruder because they have gotten the tolerance down to +/- 0.01 mm from the expected diameter; so the filament you buy will all be within a hundredth of a millimeter of the advertised diameter. This is crazy good compared to the standard +/- 0.05 mm tolerance. So if you’re looking for a material that can be more forgiving of your mistakes because they don’t tolerate their own, try out Hatchbox. Their wood filaments go for $34.99 per spool.
Laywoo Filaments. The OG of woodfill, literally – this German company’s founder Kai Parthy invented wood filament for 3D printing in 2013. Lay Filaments sells a light cherry type, which means you can experiment with temperatures to create different colored finishes. It also sells a flexible wood filament that’s one of a kind and super useful for those who are just starting out with wood filaments since there’s more give to work with. You can find these filaments on Amazon or other third-party sellers for around $34, but realize that they’re sold in bundles that are less than standardized full spools. You’ll get about 100 grams from most sellers, so do some math to figure out if that will really be the best bet for you.
Timberfill. These woodfill 3D printing filaments are made of 100% biodegradable sources, which means you’re doing something good for the planet while leveling up your hobby. Timberfill also gives you a relatively large selection of wood colors. You can pick from cinnamon, light wood tone, rosewood, and champagne, all of which display natural variations that you can mix and match to your content. This filament is more expensive than most of the others you can find at $51.45 per spool, but its variations and environmental friendliness makes it worth it.
EasyWood. This company has even more options, in willow, pine, olive, ebony, cedar, birch, and even coconut. These boast a 40% wood particle content, and if you can’t decide which one you want to start with, there’s a sample pack you can buy for $18.01. Full spools of EasyWood varieties are $31.13, making them a good bargain for any projects you want to experiment with.
AFINA. These guys offer a major bargain wood filament. It costs $15.99 per spool, and it’s available at the Home Depot, so if you’re looking to get started with wood 3D printing right away, you totally can. It may not have the array of variations some of these other brands do, but it does have great customer reviews, and it comes in 200 g spools, so we’re naming this one best value.
Hestay. This company only has one finish of wood filament, but it comes in three different diameters: 1.75 mm, 2,85 mm, or 3.0 mm. While 1.75 mm is the recommended diameter for beginners, if you’re brave and/ or know exactly what you’re doing, experimenting with larger filament diameters can give you some unique results. Just make sure you have an extruder that can handle the larger ones if that’s what you get. These spools are $42.29 and come from the Netherlands.
Torwell 3D. Want to save the planet while 3D printing? Torwell uses recycled wood as 35% of its blended filaments. The other 65% is high-grade PLA, and that ratio results in an easy, smooth 3D printing process. You can choose either 1.75 mm or 3.00 mm with the confidence that both will act the same for you. This company is based in Australia, so if you don’t live near that part of the world you may have to wait out a slightly longer than average shipping time, but according to their customer reviews, Torwell works hard to make sure that doesn’t become a major issue. Just remember they can’t make the clocks go any slower, order in plenty of time for your project needs, and enjoy their great customer service if you need anything from them.
RS Pro. These folks sell a filament in “tropical wood” color. What does this mean? A small but noticeable spectrum of variation speckles that translate from the spool to your finished object without detracting from the overall shade. If you can’t picture that, think of how tree bark is almost never all one uniform color; this woodfill reflects that beautifully. It’s $20.75 per spool and acts like your standard other wood blend filaments, so check out this variety for subtle depth to your finished color.
There you have it – all about 3D printing with woodfill blends. Although this is a tricky filament to get right, it’s well worth it to master. You’ll be rewarded with finished projects that look like you spent years learning how to carve wood; and when it’s finished, the wood filament is actually very forgiving, since you can sand it and paint it with whatever kind of varnish you like. So get to know your printer temperatures and try out this unexpected yet easy blended filament.