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Affordable 3D Printers for Personal Use

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3D printers are devices that create three-dimensional models of objects based on digital artwork. They can thus transform a 3D object modelled in a computer program into a real physical object. 

The way they work resembles classical printers to a certain extent. Only instead of paper they use a worktable (inside the printer), and ink or laser toner are substituted for a range of different materials - for desktop printers, it is mostly plastic (commonly sold in the form of printing filaments). Generally speaking, the following two approaches are the core of 3D printing:

  • FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) - molten material is extruded through the nozzle and gradually applied in thin layers
  • SLA (Stereolithography) - material (polymer resin) gradually hardens on contact with laser light; it is more accurate compared with FDM and allows the use of supporting structures, but it is also more expensive.

3D printers - present and future

3D printing is most commonly used in medicine, the manufacturing industry, and various kinds of research and development. You can already find printed bone replacements, dentures, and custom-made splints. 3D printer products are also used in automobiles and cargo aircraft.

Desktop 3D printers are gradually becoming a normal part of people’s households. The rich 3D printing options already offer a lot to DIY enthusiasts who are willing to invest some time in learning how 3D modelling programs work. Aside from electronic parts and highly specific and precise mechanical parts, you can create almost anything you can think of, from children’s toys to various boxes, cases, holders, frames, stands, and much more. 3D printers are a working tool for hobbyist modellers as well – just imagine printing your own RC parts or rails for your railway model.

červený hrad vytisknutý ve 3D tiskárně 3D Factories EasyMaker

The main disadvantage of 3D printers is that complex work with most of them is still almost impossible for anyone who is not a professional or an enthusiast well versed in 3D modelling. This issue is somewhat alleviated by web portals, such as Thingiverse.com or Youmagine.com, that let you download and print thousands of already modelled objects. Some printer manufacturers are also starting to offer simplified apps for 3D modelling, which can be operated even by beginners.

3D printers have great potential. The rapid pace of technological development almost guarantees that in the next few years 3D printing will become much more advanced and user-friendly. In the future, we can expect that an ordinary desktop model will routinely print car components, spare parts for household appliances, utensils, and other household items.

For now, let's take a look at some interesting 3D printers available today.

Prusa i3 Plus LCD - assemble it yourself

Let's start with our home country. The Prusa i3 Plus LCD was designed by the Czech developer Josef Průša. It falls under the RepRap project and all its components are Open Source. The printer, with 8000 cm3 of workspace, is sold as a kit with all the necessary equipment, tools, materials, and detailed instructions. Assembling the whole thing takes about one workday.

Prusa i3 Plus LCD - 3D tiskárna

The biggest advantage of the Prusa i3 Plus LCD is that it can replicate itself. Except for a few components, one device can thus produce its own copy or simply some spare parts to repair the existing printer. The Prusa i3 Plus LCD is very precise and can do 3D printing without being connected to a PC. Objects can be printed from an SD card, with the whole operation being controlled via the LCD display.

XYZprinting da Vinci 1.0 AiO - scan, change, print

The third model of interest is the XYZprinting da Vinci 1.0 AiO. Its biggest advantage is undoubtedly its copier/scanner function. In addition to classic printing, you can also scan an object and then duplicate it or edit it in XYZscan. The scanner uses a modern laser sensor that can scan an object in high resolution in a matter of minutes. The XYZprinting da Vinci 1.0 AiO therefore allows you to easily create original copies of already existing objects.

XYZprinting da Vinci 1.0 AiO - 3D tiskárna

3D pens - start with the basics

Affordable (at least compared to 3D printers) 3D printing pens are also available. The 3Doodler 2.0 and 3Dsimo work by extruding heated material. Combining a 3D pen and your own imagination is the fastest way to produce original jewelry, accessories, or models of almost anything. These little devices serve as a great introduction to the world of 3D printing. 3D pens are also a great tool for developing imagination, patience, and motor skills.

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