Affordable 3D Printers

As a recent graduate from a team I recently received a job offer from a team sponsor. The job is a great one working at a solutions engineering firm, we do everything from firearms to child safety devices.

In working we’ve come to the conclusion that a 3D printer could greatly benefit the team and the shop. We have some budget constraints obviously but there are a few key items we’d love to have.

  1. Affordability i.e. $300-600. Total cost excluding extrusion/printing material

  2. Durability. These parts will be used in everything from robot wheels to paintball guns. Breaking and excessive wear is a deal breaker (pardon the wording)

  3. Work space. We’d like a minimum of a 6"x6" printable area. The larger the better.

  4. Precision. We’d like the capability to objects with a tolerance of +.001", as well as decent regularity in circular and irregular parts.

If you know of a printer that fits any or all of these criteria, or have any suggestions, please join the discussion and post info and links! Hopefully this can help quite a few teams!

I think your requirements are mutually exclusive. Either that, or you left a zero off of the price tag. Looking at a basic rep-rap type at, for a .008" print head, 12"x12" base, $1900 fully assembled (though I think you can work on getting that down if you’re willing to do some assembly yourself, and they are looking to sell smaller heads at some point). Looking at the MakerBot machines, it’s about the same price or somewhat less but you’ll have to cut down on size a little bit.

You could also try a Dimension, but those I think are much higher in terms of both cost and precision. If I’m right and you did miss a zero in your price, I’d look at those first.

As far as durability, that is something that YOU can control at least as well as the machine. Material, print head size, internal structure of the parts, thickness of shells… There are a number of factors that go into durability, many if not all of which you can control.

You will not meet your requirements with your budget listed, no matter how much work you do yourself. I own a maker bot, and they are nice, however, if your company is serious about this, it will cost you on the order of $25000 for a good base machine and support equipment. A maker bot or other diy machine will require more babysitting and tending than they will be willing to provide, whereas a professional machine designed for such use will be an asset. To my knowledge you can not buy any RP machine that will give you .001" accuracy, not even the 200k machine I worked with could do that. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I think you should call a few company and see what there is on the commercial side of things. $300 will not even buy the electronics to run one of these machines.