If we are to believe what we read in the media, 3D printing could be the biggest technical advance of the century. The ability to effectively create physical objects that we design on our computer or smartphone is certainly a concept that captures the imagination, conjuring images of Star Trek replicators in our homes.
While creating a cup of Earl Grey is still the stuff of science fiction, we are nevertheless at an important stage in the evolution of 3D printing technology. Until now, it has mostly found applications in high end manufacturing and scientific research. But at last, affordable 3D printers are available on the retail market meaning we can all take our first steps in exploring this exciting new world.
Early adopters get all of the fun, but also carry some of the risk when it comes to emerging technology. Here, we examine some of the most affordable 3D printers for your home.
The cost of emerging technology
Let’s cut to the chase, there is a distinction between affordable and cheap. Before we look at the numbers, bear in mind that when the first inkjets appeared on the market in the late 1980s, they cost about $1,000. By the early 90s, they had dropped to $350, and today you can buy a basic model for less than $30.
Bearing in mind that 3D printers are at a similar stage of evolution to inkjets in the early 1990s and that they are far more complex, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that you can buy one for less than $500. The real question is whether you should.
How much to spend
For the first time amateur user, it could be a false economy to go as cheap as possible. Models such as the M3D Micro have plenty going for them in terms of size and affordability, but can be slow and frustrating to use. Other options in the sub $500 bracket include the HICTOP Prussia and the Geeetech Delta Mini. While these pack a punch performance-wise, the low price is mostly due to the fact that they need a certain amount of DIY work and assembly to get them working, meaning they are better suited to those with some experience and expertise in the technology.
If you are dipping a first toe into the world of 3D printing, you will get along far better if you spend an extra $300 or so. This will bring you into the realm of printers such as the QIDI Tech One, or Dremel’s 3D20. There are pros and cons to each, but both are designed with the novice in mind and offer excellent customer service and support.
The future is here…. almost!
There is no doubt about it, 3D printing is a massively exciting branch of technology that will evolve in ways we can scarcely contemplate. It is great that we can all become a part of it, but remember, it is still at an early stage of evolution, so look closely at the different models and weigh up all the options available before you make your final choice.