How to choose a printer. So many choices!!

  • Hello All. I'm here because I'm new to 3D printing and am impressed with the community. I'm also overwhelmed by the number of available 3D printers. I want to purchase asap, but I'm concerned I'm missing some printers that might be more appropriate for me at the right price. I really just want to get on with the actual printing rather than continue to research printers! Not sure if anyone can help, but here are my criteria for finding a printer:

    • Large print volume - one dimension at least 11.5" - hopefully more
    • lower cost filament - this doesn't mean cheap. just means I'll be using a lot of material
    • dual extrusion is preferred. I realize some machines can be upgraded later with a dual head, however after considering input from others I think my best bet might be to get two printers: One mono-extrusion for larger dimensions and another for dual-extrustion for smaller dimensions. I'm hoping to hear others' thoughts on this strategy.
    • a large array of filament choices especially flexible and elastic plastics as well as nylon
    • build quality does *not* have to be excellent. I want good builds of course, but I don't want my $$ to go into the most precise printers right now. If I have projects requiring such a thing in the future I'll fork out more for a different printer later.
    • good warranty
    • excellent reliability - regardless of reality I can hope can't I?
    • good value (I'd like to stay under $1800 for each printer - ideally under $1000 for the mono-printer if I go in that direction)

    Although not a dual extruder, I currently see Rostock Max as being an excellent choice for me to get started with - I welcome the 30+ hours of setup as it will help to understand how it all works and the limitations. I also see the Witbox 2 is affordable and worth more consideration. Any opinions on these two?

  • I think that, aside from the price, you just perfectly described a Lulzbot TAZ 6.

    • Its build volume is 280 mm x 280 mm x 250 mm (11.02 in x 11.02 in x 9.8 in), which is very large. This gives you 395 mm (15.5 in) diagonally.
    • It can print the widest range of materials. The hot end can go up to 300 °C, which allows it to print basically any filament we sell. In addition, you can install the Flexystruder, which is our preferred method of printing flexible filaments.
    • The TAZ is a workhorse. We use ours every day, and it keeps chugging along. I just have one tip. Keep the nozzle clean. The auto-leveling has trouble if you don't.

    I don't recommend getting a dual extrusion machine to start off with. Get some experience with a single extruder machine first. Dual just adds another layer of complexity. Also many people assume that they will need dual extrusion (for dissolveable support material), when in fact it is usually not necessary. Once you have worked with single extrusion for a while, you will know for sure whether you really want a dual. If you really want to go down the dual extrusion path then there is a $500 dual head upgrade for the TAZ. I think this would be more economical then buying another printer entirely.

    All that being said, I think you would also be happy with the Rostock MAX, which fits your price range much better than the TAZ ($1000 vs $2500). The new v3 can print almost as many materials as the TAZ (just not flexibles). I always encourage people to assemble a printer from a kit if they are willing, since it is such a good educational experience. If you really need dual extrusion later on, you could install an E3D Chimera hot end (which would take some significant engineering on your part), or get another machine like the MakeIt Pro or BCN Sigma.

    A couple other thoughts:

    • The filament will cost the same no matter what printer you get. None of these machines lock you into buying a certain brand of filament.
    • MatterHackers prides our self in our technical support service, which you will receive no matter what printer you buy.
    • Both the TAZ and the Rostock have large thriving communities of users who are modifying and upgrading these machines.

  • awesome reply! but you're scaring me off the Rostock by mentioning "just not flexibles". I definitely need a machine that can print elastic and flexible materials like Gel-Lay or Lay-Fomm. Can't do this with the Rostock?

  • In the past, it did not work well on the Rostock v2. They seem to have made some improvements to the extruder on the v3, but we have not had a chance to test it yet. In any case, you could upgrade it with a Bondtech QR extruder, which is designed for printing flexibles.

  • I went with a refurbed Taz 5 and will probably purchase a Flexystruder soon. Thanks!!

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