Our son was jonesing for a 3D printer. He originally picked the Cube 3 (by 3D Systems) and while it looked pretty decent the reviews didn’t favor it at all. It seemed you either loved the printer or you hated it. On the plus side though it was an awesome price at $189.99. I almost bought it figuring how bad could it be till I looked at the filament. The filament looked like it had to be bought in print cartridges that are proprietary to that machine and cost double what a reel of filament(non-proprietary) cost. That finished off the Cube 3 in my view. For the cost of their cartridges they could give the printer away and it still be a bad deal.

I started to delve into everything I could do to learn about 3D printing and printers. So after learning a good bit about printers here is what I can pass on. There are 2 main types of printers:

  1. SLA (Stereolithography)- now these are awesome
    • Pros
      • the resolution is awesome
      • looks less like a traditional print
      • parts look stronger (this is more opinion based on reviews)
      • diffrent resins can be used for diffrent results
    • Cons
      • Resin is a bit of a mess
      • one review I saw says resin has a short shelf life
      • more expensive
      • resin is light sensitive
      • Isopropyl Alcohol used to clean parts
      • High cost – cheapest I found was $2000
  2. FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) – not as awesome but so much cheaper
    • Pros
      • Cheap some models are less than $200
      • There seems to be a huge selection to choose from for materials to build from
      • Some machines can extrude more than one material
    • Cons
      • resolution is not as good as SLA printer…they may exist but I haven’t seen any that come close
      • depending on how you orient your part your results could be good or bad (I am sure this could be true for the SLA as well but I just didn’t see much about this for SLA)
      • Filament should be stored out of moist areas (in a humid areas people have had jams if the filament has picked up moisture out of the air

The 3D Printer we chose

The criteria I had for picking a printer while not very scientific was better than tossing a coin in the air. I chose the Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer for these reasons:

  • it was rated with 4 out of 5 stars with over 50% being 5 stars
  • many people that reviewed it on YouTube were happy with it
  • It was around my price point of $200 (it actually cost $220)
  • acceptable resolution for the price
  • had a heated table and could print different types of filament
  • no proprietary filament like the Cube 3D

We also bought 2 different brands of filament for the printer since the biggest critique against the printer was that if you actually got the free filament with the printer it was such a small amount as to be annoying.

I will have to do a new post to say which one we liked best and for that matter if the printer lives up to its hype.