Which 3D Printer is best for me?

Which 3D printer is best for you, is a lot down to what you use it for, and what types of things you plan to print. What you print generally dictates what kind of filament (the "ink" for 3D printers) you will use. PLA (PolyLactic Acid) is a biodegradable plastic, and is the most common type of filament used for home and hobby printers. As it is made from plants, its considered to be more ecologically friendly than other filament types, and smells less when printing. Virtually all 3D printers can use PLA filament, but it is more brittle, has a higher surface hardness and it is more prone to break when bent. The next most common type of filament is ABS. ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene Styrene) is an oil-based plastic. It is a tough material that can be used to create robust plastic objects for everyday use, but smells slightly when printing. ABS requires a higher print temperature, and a heated print bed (the platform the printer prints on to), so if you think you will be printing objects that need to be more robust, you need to look for a printer that can print up to 230-250C and has a heated print bed.

One thing to bear in mind if children are going to be using the 3D printer, is that printers with heated beds can get very hot, so one without a heated bed is recommended for young users. An other thing to consider is the the size of the objects you plan to print, the print bed size dictates how big an object you can print. Most home and hobby users tend to print smaller objects so a print bed size of 120-150mm square should be suffice.

The other obvious consideration is cost, most home and hobby users don't need the precision provided by some of the high cost printers, and a low cost printer is perfectly suffice for most users. All enclosed printers tend to be more expensive, if you need one or not tends to be down to the environment in which you will place your printer (e.g. they can help to contain the slight smell when printing), whether you will be using higher temperature filament like ABS and personal preference. One way of keeping the cost down, if you're up to the challenge, is a kit that you build yourself. These can be a very cost effective way of getting into 3D printing, but are not recommended for the technically challenged. Some printers also have "extras" usch as laser engravers, these can be very useful for the hobbyist and can justify the slight extra cost.

One other question we often get asked by new purchasers is "Do you need to be a techy to operate a 3D printer ?" well yes and no. There is an element of "fiddling" with 3D printers to get the best out of them, but it should be more than within the grasp of the average person. At one time 3D printing was a bit of a black art, but is becoming more and more accessible and easier for the home and hobby user. There are no limits with 3D printing, just your imagination.