Ive worked with a few different hobby level 3D printers. I’ll give my feedback on a few of them.
Form 1+: Great for Visual Models ($3,300)
Very Good resolution. We used it to print out watch cases at Fossil. Would pick up tiny details on crowns and dials.
Looks great in the office.
Pretty quiet to operate.
Software is great and super easy to use right off the bat.
Very accurate build time estimation
Few Materials. Limited in color. Clear, Black, Grey, White, Wax, Flexible.
Build time is reasonable.
Parts have to be completely solid or allow drain hole for resin to escape.
If you have a super long print you can leave it over night. Nothing will happen if the print fails other than a resin tank mess.
Have to be there when the part is done. When the part is finished its suspended over the resin tank. If its there for a long time it has a chance to potentially fall back into the resin tank. If this happen the part willl melt back into the tank and make a huge mess than you have to clean.
Machine is a bit fragile. Cant get any dust/resin into the optics. So it cant be in a dirty shop.
Very Messy in Post Process. Resin isn’t totally cured when parts done. Need to give them a bath in IPA. You’ll need a dirty room, or dedicated table for this. You also have to bake them under a UV lamp or place in the sun to fully cure the part.
Cost - Resin is $150 bucks a liter. Trays are also $60. Trays can only be used with one type of resin. So can’t use the same tray for black and white. Trays have to be replaced after 2-3 liters.
Support structure means one surface is always poor. The way the part has to be suspended always means youll have these little bumps where the support attached to the model.
Side Note: Fossil eventually moved on a super pro level printer. The Formlabs was just used to make super quick models if someone needed to see something and couldn’t wait for the turnaround time of the other machine.
Lulzbot Taz: Great for Functional Models ($2,200)
Huge Build Area. About a 12" Cube
Wide variety of materials: ABS, PLA, Nylon, Flexible, Glow in the Dark, Brass Fill, Wood Fill, Carbon Fill, Every color under the rainbow etc.
Material is Cheap. $20-$30 a Kilogram.
Pre calibrated from Factory.
Open Source - Made in Colorado
Can produce strong structural parts.
Lots of online support for problems/issues.
Can set up a dual extruder if you want to print with dissolvable support.
Fairly quick. Can be much faster if you modify/upgrade it a bit.
Large ABS parts require an enclosure to print without warping.
Bit finicky to set up. Once you get over the learning curve of an FDM style machine the repeatability is pretty great.
Bit louder than a SLA machince
Resolution is good, but not high fidelity. If your wanting to check out what a controller feels like. Or if a bracket will bolt on. Perfect.
Trying to evaluate a watch crown. No way.
You’ll have to trouble shoot a lot of things at first.
Learning curve to really dial in settings on the machine.
Things like leveling a bed, un clogging a nozzle, replacing bed surface tape. All part of normal maintenance.
Side note: My personal printer at home for my side projects. Current job uses Makerbots for general size study and some quick prototypes before sending out for more high fidelity protos.
3D Systems CubePro Duo: ($2,800)
Stay Away. Do not recommend one bit.
Pros: Decent looking.
Large Print Area.
Comes well calibrated
Wifi Enabled by default
Decent build size 10" Cube
No heated bed means only PLA.
They say they support ABS, but without the heated bed your just asking for bad time on larger prints.
Proprietary cartridges ($100 bucks for 0.5kilo) Vs $10 for 0.5 kilo elsewhere
Proprietary Software (terrible, terrible, terrible) (can get around, but at that point your better of just getting another machine if you hacking the firmware)
It’s expensive to run and have little control over certain things.
Enclosed build means if something goes wrong its very hard to access things to replace. (Filament broke in our feed tube. Never were able to get it out. So we were down to only 1 extruder.
PolyPrinter 229 ($2,400)
We had 3 of these at our local Makerspace. Made by a local company.
Pros: Very Fast. Fasting FDM style printer I’ve ever used. Easily hit 250mm/s
Very Reliable. Dallas Makerspace had 3 of these and they ran about 12 hours a day nonstop and they help up fine. They are also mainly used at local libraries. So very easy to set up/use.
Heated Enclosure means large ABS parts not a problems
Also means it can be in a dirty shop and be ok.
Texas Based company who business model is based on supporting the printers locally. (hence the libraries being a main customer)
Not sure how well support is outside of Texas. Example Heads clogged, they’ll come out and fix it if your local.
Otherwise it’s like every other printer, you’ll have to learn to do maintenance yourself.
Pretty Ugly Not a problem is if its in a shop, but for a design office might be different.