Your selection of the printer has to be based primarily on the use you want to put it to. A printer useful for one type of application may not be useful for another type. See if the printer you are considering is for one of the following applications.
Automotive. To build tooling, jigs and fixtures from high-performance engineering thermoplastics using FDM technology
Construction. Super-size printers use special concrete and composite mixture that is thicker than regular concrete
Space and Defence. To print spare parts for planes or satellites using FDM technology
Healthcare. For implants and prosthetics, surgical guides, hearing aids and tissue engineering, etc
Computers. To make cases for laptops and other computers
Apparel. For clothing, consumer-grade eyewear, etc.
Mass customisation. To customise 3D printed unique objects using simplified web based customisation software
Rapid manufacture. SLS and DMLS processes are enabling better rapid prototyping methods
Rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping for research purposes using powdered metals, casting media, plastics, paper or cartridges
Film & Animation. For visual mock-ups, photo/film shoots and master patterns for moulding; ready for chrome or copper plating, PU finish, investment casting, etc
Trophies. Complex trophies can be made quickly with a surface finish that requires little or no hand finishing
Gifts. You can 3D print your child a toy, yourself a smartphone case, or your loved ones jewellery or chocolate/candies
Medicines. To produce your own medicine or household chemicals
Not all 3D printers come assembled; some of these come in DIY kits form, like the Makeblock Constructor 3D printer. This often results in price savings as the manufacturer does not need to assemble, calibrate and test the machine.
Open source robots are being built using 3D printers. Double Robotics grants access to their technology (an open SDK). On the other hand, 3&DBot is an Arduino 3D printer-robot with wheels and ODOI is a 3D printed humanoid robot.
The main considerations in choosing a 3D printer are generally speed and cost. For the printed prototype, choice and cost of the materials, and colour capabilities are important.
Right now, the least expensive 3D printers are those using FDM technology. Entry-level printers cost ₹ 20,000 to ₹ 80,000. These use standard filament, can print onecolour/material at a time, and have small build size. Most FDM printers use only PLA and/or ABS material.
Better printers cost ₹ 60,000 onwards. Some of these can print two colours/materials at a time; they usually print at finer resolution to get smoother surfaces. Moreover, the build size is larger, so you can print larger objects.
If you are good with your hands and tools you may buy a printer kit and assemble the printer by yourself. Prices of kits start at ₹ 6000 and go up to a few thousands. Bobs CNC RP9v2 Deluxe, Reprap Guru Prusa I3, HICTOP Auto Leveling Desktop, OneUp v2, HICTOP Desktop 3D Printer are all under ₹ 30,000 3D printer kits.
More expensive printers use SLA (stereolithography) or SLS (selective laser sintering) technologies. SLA printers use a laser or digital projector and photosensitive resins.
Prices, of course, depend on materials’ cost, in-fill, size of the item to be printed and many other factors. Both proprietary and generic brand filaments are available in many different sizes and colours. If you wish to save money in the long run, a printer that accepts generic or cheap filament can help cut down long-term costs.
Frahan says, “3D printers today can be used to make everything from paper clips to jet engines. The same goes for market value because desktop FDM 3D printers are available under ₹ 100,000 while industrial ones can cost well over ₹ 100,000.”
“The major advancement happening with respect to FDM is scaling down of the cost of 3D printers using this technology,” informs Prudhvi Reddy, co-founder, Think3D.
Nitin Gandhi, co-founder, LBD Makers, says, “For printers within this price range, recent notable additions have been Wi-Fi connectivity, auto bed levelling, Bluetooth connectivity and dual nozzles.”
Sangani adds, “MaherSoft’s core competency is to build high-quality FDM 3D printers at an affordable cost, making it more accessible to the masses. MaherSoft will be launching a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo, where the Indie-Desktop 3D printer will be available for a pre-order price of approximately ₹ 30,000.”