There is a realm of affordable “getting started” 3D printers in the $300 to $400 range. There are a few cheaper machines but they are very small and probably of dubious long endurance quality. More like the curious toy. They print with PLA plastic only as they usually do not have the heated bed and larger power supplies.
The expensive $3K to $5K machines with full enclosures are available to those folks that can bear that kind of initial cost. I would also expect nothing but the best service and buy from only a local dealer who has a service center.
The decision should be based on expectations as well as initial investment. A toy printer may be just fine for a first taste.
My kit printer came to me at $280.00 which is under my qualifying range. There is a bit of price flexibility for someone who knows exactly what they are purchasing and there is a vendor with special pricing as in my case. It was and is a great price for a kitted machine with a heated bed.
I have spent nearly that much in purchasing various colors and types of filament. Yes, the printer must be fed to get anything out the other end. Ha!
If you want an opinion on anything you are considering purchasing, write to me. There is an email link in the upper right of this web site. I don’t know everything but I will probably have an opinion or two. There is a lot to know and I see a lot of folks with opinions who don’t know a lot. I may be one of them, but I consider myself a little bit smarter than the av-er-age bear. Right, Boo Boo? (Old Yogi the Bear line…)
The primary reason I jumped into this activity and bought the first printer was because I didn’t want to talk about or offer opinions about something in which I wasn’t involved. I am certainly involved now…
Currently, my original machine is functioning just fine although I did have to by-pass a faulty electrical connection plug to the printing bed. I continue putting many hours of operation on it every day.
I would like to experiment with a different and faster printer. I have mentioned that in other posts. The three-legged Delta style has me intrigued. I have one selected in my low-price range that is another kit assembly. Near the same cost as my Cartesian printer. It may end up a birthday/Christmas present for me. Yeah I was born in December, just before Christmas.
Then I will be able to talk out both sides of my 3D printed mouth.
Sometimes the decision of what to buy prevents getting started. When the lowest cost buy-in used to be in the $1K to $2K (or greater) range it was scary. I didn’t want “in” THAT bad. When I discovered what open competition and a lot of products from China has done to lower the entry purchase cost barrier, I figured the time was right. The Texas heat was also keeping me out of my unconditioned workshop a few months back. The printer went directly into my air-conditioned office!
One caveat stands out from any other with lower cost printers. The user/owner must possess a comfortable level of mechanical ability and technical troubleshooting understanding. It’s going to be you, who will fix whatever goes wrong with the printer. There are parts and manufacturer support communications available. Unless you live close to the store where you made the purchase, there are no local service people coming over and fix things for you.
I have no problem with that. But for folks who have more thumbs than fingers, 3D printer ownership may not be the road to take. There are a lot of businesses that do 3D printing for you. Dallas has at least 190. Many offer service over an internet connection and delivery by mail. They provide access to some very high level printing materials and systems. I am not going to name them as I have no experience with printing outsourcing. I do hold outsourcing as a viable consideration if I ever need to print something beyond my meager equipment’s ability.