AutoCAD vs Solidworks [2021]: Which is The Best?

When you take the plunge into 3D printing, it’s easy to get caught up in the machinery. It’s the most obvious aspect of the whole process, and there are almost as many choices as there are possible projects – but, choosing your hardware is not the ultimate destination of your 3D printing journey.

That distinction goes to finding the perfect software for your needs. Your hardware is only as useful as your software lets it be, so make sure, first of all, to be honest about your own starting skill levels, time and patience to learn something new.

We’ve given you a comprehensive guide on how to navigate the hundreds of different options out there, so now we’re going to focus on the merits of the two most popular: AutoCAD and Solidworks.

These are both programs with legacies of excellence in drafting and 3D modeling with plenty of support, both official and amateur, so at first, it may seem like you can pick whichever one is on sale, or whichever one your favorite YouTube 3D printer uses, and it won’t matter in the end.

However, there are plenty of distinctions between AutoCAD software and Solidworks for 3D modelling that you need to consider before choosing.  It’s like the options of an Apple or Windows computer – they’ll both get you to the same place, but the ways they get you there are different, and you should know the individual steps of each so you can use your smoothest path.

One thing to keep in mind – both of these programs are designed for users who already have some computer-aided drafting and computer-aided design experience.

That isn’t to say you need an engineering degree to get what you want from them, but just keep in mind that a basic familiarity with drafting concepts (or the willingness to spend extra time Googling them) will help you orient yourself within these systems no matter which one you pick.

Bottom Line Up Front Summary: Solidworks is fine for JUST 3D drafting, however I would recommend upgrading to AutoCAD here if you planning to operate a serious business with both 2D and 3D crossover needs, or may need reliable support. Autodesk IS the market leader for CAD and as such updates their products more frequently (free upgrades) and generally pioneers new features. AutoCAD also “plays better” with the other Autodesk software suites. 

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Main Difference Between Solidworks vs AutoCAD

These are the main differences between Solidworks vs AutoCAD:

  • AutoCAD is better for 2D drawings and non-parametric design, wh2ereas Solidworks is best for 3D Design and parametric design
  • AutoCAD is generally less expensive compared to Solidworks
  • AutoCAD is more flexible for both 2D and 3D CAD, whereas Solidworks is better for dedicated 3D rendering

Let’s get into the tool details:

AutoCAD Tool

AutoCAD Software Functionality Overview

AutoCAD is a computer-aided drafting software developed by AutoDesk in 1982. It came from a 1970s software called Interact CAD (computer aided design) and was the first drafting program developed for personal computers rather than the minicomputers that were common at the time.

It was an instant hit and revolutionized the drafting game with innovations such as the ability to work on multiple drawings at a time and object transparency. Since its introduction, it’s become the most-used software in the design world.

AutoCAD started as a way to model 2D geometry and evolved to include various 3D modeling options like solids, surfaces, and meshes. Many drafters still use it primarily for 2D drawings and 2D drafting (2D CAD), but its capabilities make it great for modeling your 3D printing projects.

You can turn your object in 3D space to look at it from any viewpoint, which makes it very useful for a full-object visualization functionality. AutoCAD also lets you attach notations to your drawings, attach and import data from PDFs, and extract object data to tables, so you can present your data and real-time analytics as separate from the shapes.

Most recent from AutoCAD

The latest version, AutoCAD 2020, was released in March of last year and supports 4k monitors, or ultra-high definition monitors that have four times the amount of pixels than traditional high-definition monitors. Translation – it looks great on computers that have the power you need for heavy-duty 3D modeling design work and CAD software applications.

The new edition also introduces an improved version of its DWG file format, a standardized binary file format used for drafting files across a host of different software, so if you’ve been using another program and are worried about losing your work, don’t be – it’ll translate perfectly over to AutoCAD. There are also plenty of ways to view DWG files without AutoCAD, and the software also supports Drawing Exchange File Formats, or DXF, which is the non-proprietary version of drafting files.

AutoCAD has grown into a group of programs customized by industry with different user interface tweaks. The AutoCAD Architecture, for example, has pre-loaded details  common to building product design like doors and windows; AutoCAD Electrical gives access to a library of commonly used electrical engineering symbols.

All AutoCAD variations have applications for 3D modeling, but if you’re specifically using it for 3D printing, you probably want to use AutoCAD Mechanical, which lets you create and modify mechanical designs, or AutoCAD MEP, which is the variation that lets you solid 3D model mechanical, electrical, and plumbing designs for construction in the CAD program.

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AutoCAD Pricing and Accessibility

A full license for AutoCAD will run you $195 per month, or $1,575 per year. The longer you subscribe, the less per month it will be, but your starting costs will go up exponentially, so unless you’re positive you’re going to use it on the regular for four years, don’t shell out the $4,252.50 that commitment will cost you.

If you’re a student or educator, you may be eligible for a free license. That doesn’t include access to all AutoCAD variations, but if you already know which one you’ll need to use, it’s definitely worth it, especially if you’re looking to start a multi-station 3D printing class.

Plus you’ll get access to AutoCAD’s cloud storage services, so you can share projects across whatever geographic differences you might have. Just remember it won’t be quite as robust per person as a full version, and you’re bound to using it only for educational purposes that aren’t for profit.

Your subscription gives you access to all the variants of AutoCAD we talked about above, so you can experiment across the different variations and figure out which one works best for your projects. This also gives you access to AutoCAD’s web and mobile apps so you can access your designs wherever you end up working.

AutoCAD is compatible with both Windows and Mac computers, and since your designs become standardized file types within the software, you’ll be able to share across all the operating systems you and/or your team prefer.

Pros for 3D Printing

  • Full-grade professional software with massive amounts of options and features
  • Pioneering innovator in computer-aided drafting that’s been the industry standard since its beginning
  • Specific 3D printing command (3DPRINT) since 2015
  • Wide translation across file storing and sharing across other software
  • No subscription fee if you qualify for the education license
  • Mobile app and cloud storage and sharing for a wide variety of accessibility

Cons for 3D Printing

  • Originally developed for 2D design, which some say is still its strong point
  • Annual subscription fee of more than $1,000 if you want to use it for profit-making ventures
  • Requires a steep learning curve; best for those who are already familiar with drafting principles and want to add a 3D printing component or 3D part

SolidWorks Tool

Functionality Overview

SolidWorks is a computer aided drafting software that was developed in 1995 by Jon Hischtick, founder of the SolidWorks Corporation. Dassault Systems acquired SolidWorks in 1997, and merged with its previous CAD system experience and user base. Its most recent iteration, SolidWorks 2018, was released in October 2017.

The name is a giveaway: it’s a software that models solid objects, and it does that based on engineering terms like bosses and holes rather than through geometric shapes like AutoCAD does. It also starting including simulation tools almost twenty years ago, so that users from 2001 forward have been able to test their designs in real-world situations before they actually commit to building anything.

CAD tools to simulate computational fluid dynamics, the ability to simulate fluid flow, heat transfer, and fluid forces, and life cycle assessment features let SolidWorks users see how their designs will preform under environmental pressures that they may find themselves under when they’re used for their intended purposes.

As a Solidworks user your subscription also includes a rendering process that lets its users see their objects in photorealistic finishes, project data management resources so you can make sure your drafts are as organized as you want them to be, and a SolidWorks electrical package so you can use it to add accurate schemas and circuit data while reducing the need for physical prototyping.

All of these features make it a favorite of engineers who depend on 3D modeling for their work. It’s used across a variety of industries like auto and aerospace engineering, construction, oil and gas, alternative energy, and robotics. Amtrak, BAE systems, and Daka are all both major users.

SolidWorks was developed in the opposite direction of AutoCAD; first created as a 3D modeling software (CAD software), it’s brought in 2D drawing components as well; your SolidWorks model will start as a 2D drawing as your first step. But its initial focus on 3D makes it a favorite of many 3D printers.

AutoCAD vs Solidworks: Price and Accessibility

One permanent license of SolidWorks Standard costs $3995, and you’ll pay an annual maintenance fee of $1,295. If you want to get the Professional version, it’s $7995 with a $1450 maintenance fee.

If you want to go all out, the Premium Package (CAD package) is a one-time fee of $7995 with an annual maintenance fee of $1995. The company does offer a student version for $150, but that is limited to one year’s use and puts an unremovable watermark on any work you create so you aren’t able to use it for commercial ventures.

Its 3DEXPERIENCE platform lets you share your designs and connects you with others as you want and need to for projects. It offers a marketplace where you can shop for designs from those who submitted them, and it all integrates into its PLM features for optimal project management.

One thing that may trip you up is SolidWorks’ incompatibility with Mac operating systems. You have to use it on Windows, so if you don’t have that hardware, you’ll need to find another program, and make sure all the people you want to collaborate know that as well before you choose for your whole team. However, it uses the standard drafting file extension of DWG (CAD files), so your designs will be readable across other drafting programs with no issues.

Pros for 3D Printing

  • Parametric feature-based modeling makes designing (and your design process) in 3D intuitive as you don’t have to be a geometry genius to get the features you want
  • You only have to pay for a licensing fee once
  • Discount for student edition
  • Range of simulation options let you test your design before you print it
  • Built on the premise of 3D modeling
  • Includes sheet metal design tools
  • 3DEXPERIENCE cloud storage and sharing capabilities
  • Used across a wide variety of engineering industries so is a recognized standard
  • Integrated CAM
  • Standardized file formats makes it compatible with other CAD programs
  • Latest version allows for freehand sketching on mobile devices
  • Latest version integrates CAM and topology study tools

Cons for 3D Printing

  • Only compatible with Windows operating systems
  • Maintenance fee required per year, which is about the same price as one AutoCAD annual subscription, on top of one-time license fee
  • Reduced 2D capabilities

Final Verdict: Solidworks or AutoCAD?

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So there you have it – the ins and outs of the two most popular 3D modeling systems on the market. And don’t forget how much support these two programs have. Because their extensive history stretches back beyond 3D printing to the beginning of computer-aided drafting as a concept, there are massive treasure troves of tutorials for both.

Whether you’re a read the 500-page manual before you touch it kind of person, or more of a YouTube it as you go dilettante, the internet has you covered through both official and unofficial channels.

Reading user reviews on tech review websites is also a good way to find out how to use the program for specific needs that may not be covered in the getting-started material; you can find out where to go for your own projects if they vary from the examples used for instruction.

Although we always advocate reading the whole process before you get started to make sure you don’t run into any surprises mid-print, if you’re confident enough in your basic skills, you can find a lot of niche advice and modifications for the base systems for whatever you need it to do.

AutoCad and Solidworks software are both comprehensive programs that will encompass all of your basic to unusual 3D printing needs.

Bottom Line Summary: Solidworks is fine for JUST 3D drafting, however I would recommend upgrading to AutoCAD here if you planning to operate a serious business with both 2D and 3D crossover needs, or may need reliable support. Autodesk IS the market leader for CAD and as such updates their products more frequently (free upgrades) and generally pioneers new features. AutoCAD also “plays better” with the other Autodesk software suites. 

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If you enjoyed this article you can check our guide on how to find the Best 3D Printing Cad Software.

Additional 3D Software Tools

Autocad vs Revit [2021]: Which Is The Right Choice?

Autodesk’s two powerhouse design programs, AutoCAD and Revit, are on their way to conquering the design world.

AutoCAD is the broadly applicable geometry-driven traditional drafting program that’s grown a lot since its 1982 beginnings; Revit is the powerhouse 3D modeler that gives you real-world information about your design before you build a stick of it. 

Bottom Line Up Front Summary: Overall, AutoCAD is the better program as it combines both the 2D and 3D functionality as well as the compatibility across various platforms that Revit doesn’t have. You can sign up for a free AutoCAD trial here.

But how do they compare to each other? 

Main Differences Between AutoCAD vs Revit

The Main Differences Between AutoCAD and Revit are:

  • AutoCAD has a geometric CAD approach, whereas Revit has a 3D modeling CAD approach.
  • AutoCAD covers a lot of industry functions, whereas Revit focuses on building design industries.
  • AutoCAD gives you data based on your design objects, whereas Revit gives you data on the construction of your models.
  • AutoCAD is considered best for 2D drawing, whereas Revit is better for modeling and getting cost estimates
  • AutoCAD is more flexible to use, whereas the Revit platform is more rigid.
  • Autocad is available on both Windows and Mac computers as well as mobile devices, whereas Revit is only available on Windows operating systems
  • AutoCAD is more difficult and time-consuming for modification of projects, whereas Rivet makes it easy.

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AutoCAD: The Basics

If you’ve done any education or professional industrial design work, chances are you’ve used AutoCAD. It was released in 1982 as the first computer-aided drafting tool available for home computers, which created a surge in accessibility for design software.

With a concentration on 2D drafting, its functionalities have grown with technology advances and user needs to add 3D components such as 3D capabilities, industry-specific modules, and ways to enhance teamwork. 

 

Type of CAD Geometry driven models
Type of Design 2D driven but also capable of 3D 
Computer Operating System Compatibility Windows, Mac
Price Subscription-based: $210 per month, $1,690 per year, or $4,565 per three years
File Extension .dwg, .dxf 
Industry Usage Architectural design, electrical engineering, civil planning, mechanical design, graphic design
Supports mobile? Yes

AutoCAD: The Advantages

  • Precise line work for 2D geometries. If you want a computer-aided drafting tool that gives you complete control over 2D drawing, Autodesk AutoCAD remains the first and best choice. Its extensive number of ways to manipulate geometries means you can use it to design anything you want, which makes it great for anyone that’s an architect (or anyone else) who is starting from the beginnings of an idea. This amount of detail users have is often pointed out as the feature that makes AutoCAD so intimidating to learn, but once you’ve got a solid grasp of it, you’ll be rewarded with all the tools you need and more. 
  • Flexibility for 3D objects. Although it started as a 2D program, AutoCAD has added a solid (pun intended) 3D component to its design features as well. And just like with its original use, AutoCAD puts a large amount of control into your hands when you’re designing in 3D. Its surface, mesh, and solid tools let you customize your 3D CAD models beyond strict confines of the parameters with which you started. That’s the beauty of AutoCAD’s reliance on geometries – because you use them as pure shapes, there are no preconceived usage limits, which means you can let your imagination go as wild as it wants while you design.   
  • Workspace customization. Users always complain that AutoCAD’s steep learning curve comes from its huge array of tools and features, and although they’re not wrong, much of that can be cleared up as soon as you figure out what you need for a job. To keep your workspace manageable without compromising its comprehensiveness, AutoCAD lets you create customized tool ribbons and work areas. You do need to have a working knowledge of what’s available as well as what your specific job entails, but once you’ve figured that out it’s super easy to jump right in.  
  • Integration of PDF files and cloud viewing for sharing. Taking a design all the way to the finish line often requires a team – sometimes of people working halfway across the world from each other, with different time zones and computer accessibilities. Fortunately, AutoCAD has a number of options to keep coworkers in sync. One of their big steps forward is AutoCAD’s ability to change PDF files into their proprietary .dwg file type, so that if original designs need to be tweaked or referenced, their PDF versions can be read and edited by AutoCAD users. This is great for accessing archives and keeping versions locked until they get to the right person to edit. AutoCAD also offers a cloud-based viewing feature, which lets more than one user view a CAD file at the same time. Although group same-time editing isn’t possible, being able to study and discuss a draft at the same time is a vital preparation step in making your design the same kind of flawless that everyone agrees on.  

 

AutoCAD: The Disadvantages 

Some of Autodesk AutoCAD’s advantages can be flipped around to become inconveniences depending on what you’re using the software for; however, there are a few flaws in the system that affect most of the design jobs you’ll be doing.

  • Steep learning curve. Yes, you can customize the tools and feature ribbons you see when you open AutoCAD; yes, that makes it less intimidating than the full scope of its offerings. But before you know which ones you need to curate, you’ll need to climb AutoCAD’s notoriously steep learning curve to find out how everything works to see what will suit you best. It’s not easy, and if you don’t have the right teacher or guiding material, it can get enormously frustrating. However, since this is a universal issue for AutoCAD users, there are a lot of self-pacing courses and training packages you can find around the internet, whether from Autodesk’s own training site, its AutoCAD user community, or an outside CAD educator. Connecting with someone who can show you around will make all the difference as you learn.
  • Unsynced layering. AutoCAD’s layer system is great for tending to every detail needed while designing new parts. Unfortunately, that layering feature does not automatically sync edits or changes to all of the design, requiring users to manually make sure it’s replicated everywhere it should be for the full effect. Teams especially have to be super vigilant and 100% updated across the board so one individual’s work on the wrong draft doesn’t cost the rest of the group time or money needed for painstaking corrections.
  • Manual entry of component information. The empty geometries you work within AutoCAD are blank slates, which means they could be anything you want them to be. Great for the imagination, terrible for consistent component information across your designs. You have to manually type in specifics for each part even if they represent aspects or measurements you work with on a regular basis. You can mitigate this somewhat by buying one of AutoCAD’s industry-specific modules, but even then, you won’t be completely covered, and if you’re not designing in one of their represented industries, you’re still out of luck. 

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Revit: The Basics

Revit is a different type of CAD software. It’s called a Building Information Modeling program, and that means it creates a 3D model of a building complete with details about the physical properties and how each component interacts with each other.

Because of the wealth of information it automatically generates, this type of CAD software is very popular in architecture, construction, and city planning industries – making it a fairly direct competitor to AutoCAD, even though Revit is also issued by Autodesk. 

 

Type of CAD Building information modeling (BIM)
Type of Design 3D modeling
Computer Operating System Compatibility Windows only
Price Subscription-based: $305 per month, $2,425 per year, or $6,550 per three years
File Extension RVT, RFA, RTE, RFT (Revit native); DGN, DWF, DWG, DXF, IFC, SAT, and SKP (CAD); BMP, PNG, JPG, JPEG, and TIF (image); ODBC, HTML, TXT, and gbXML (other)
Industry Usage Architecture, civil planning, construction
Supports mobile? No

Revit: The Advantages

Revit software represents a powerful new stage in CAD programs. It’s got a number of BIM features that make it a favorite of users who are involved in structure management. 

  • All model information integrated. Unlike AutoCAD, Revit does not require a user to work in separate layers for each component of a design. Revit lets you work on a 3D model while automatically generating multiple viewpoints, translating changes across all aspects, and allowing multiple users to work on the same design at once. These behind-the-scene tools let you concentrate on creating without worrying whether the rest of your design will catch up. It’s also a great teamwork feature since all the changes and information are contained in the live Revit model file rather than separate layers. 
  • Extensive automatic building information. Speaking of important information, Revit automatically generates information about your design as you’re making it that you can easily leverage into price estimates, material amounts you’ll need in the real world, and how those materials will hold up with each other. And if any of these get changed at any point in the design process, so will this information. It’s like you’re building a Revit model with real materials, which takes away a lot of the guesswork and the compensations for that guesswork when you move into the next phase. 
  • Simplifies maintenance and upgrades. Because of the dynamic way changes are automatically integrated across a design, plus its wealth of building info, Revit makes keeping up building and structures easy as well. As a user, you have access to its design archives feature, which means you can store plans in the cloud and grab them whenever they’re needed to update or reference. All that information will be right there waiting for you whenever you need it.
  • Performance analysis. Revit also gives users access to performance analyses of their designs in real-world conditions. In addition to testing how a model works as a general building – how it holds together under stress, how its materials age together, etc – you can use this information for testing the environmental friendliness of your design. Power efficiencies and other measurements can directly lead to construction that is better for both the builders and the earth, which lets everybody win. 
  • Easier to learn. According to users, Revit is easier to learn than AutoCAD because of its cleaner interface. Revit’s automated integration of processes that are separate in AutoCAD also makes it simpler to jump right into its processes.

 

Revit: The Disadvantages

Although Revit has been advertised as more powerful than AutoCAD, it does have its drawbacks. Here are the details on a few that you should know about before investing in Revit.

  • Operates on Windows only. Revit’s OS limitation makes it harder to share designs that are inherently going to need a lot of teamwork. If your coworkers, investors, or anyone working from your Revit designs use a Mac, they’re going to have to find a computer with Windows to view your plans. While that may not be a breaking point for you, it’s definitely worth knowing before you buy to make sure it won’t interfere with your workflow.
  • Higher price. Compared to AutoCAD, subscriptions to Revit are uniformly more expensive. Its three-year plan is still the best option, but it’s going to run you about $1,000 more than AutoCAD’s. Do the calculations to see if you can handle that kind of up-front cost before you make your final decision. 
  • Narrower industry focus. Revit’s biggest drawback is its narrow industry focus. Although it displays an amazing array of functions for architecture, city planning, and other construction-based design areas, it gives subpar if any coverage for industries that aren’t connected to those. It’s a very specialized software compared to AutoCAD, and as such it doesn’t have nearly the occupational reach. If you’re not sure what area of design you want to go in, it might suit you better to learn a more general program first. 

Exploring Autocad and Revit Features

 

Both Autocad and Revit have many similar features. If you are using either of these pieces of software to create models, designs, and concepts, these are the key functions that you will find.

Drawing and design

Creating drawings and models is the main purpose of using software such as Autocad and Revit. These models are then ultimately used as plans for real-life engineering and construction drawings and can also be used for things such as 3D printing as well.

Autocad is very similar to drawing on a piece of paper in that it is mainly used for 2D lines and you have a lot of freedom over the designs you draw. It allows for a number of methods in which you can manipulate geometrics and create accurate drawings.

So if you need a tool that allows for free form drawing Autocad is perfect. It also has 3D functionality. Even though this is not what it was originally intended for, Autocad has evolved over the years to incorporate the design of 3D models.

Revit is a bit different in that it doesn’t have the same freeform creativity as Autocad. Revit is more focused on what is known as building information modeling or BIM. This is where you use tools to create 3D models of buildings and other concepts which are mainly used in construction.

It doesn’t offer the same free form drawing and freedom as Autocad but it offers real-time information. For example, if modeling a building on Revit software you will get data on materials needed, how they interact with each other, and price estimates too.

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Workflow

The workflow and the way in which each design phase is linked is different with Autocad and Revit too. When working with a small or large team on a project, keeping the workflow open and collaboration easy is important.

Autocad’s setup means that you will need to draw each part of your design separate so the workflow is a bit more disjointed. It is a form of free drawing because each section isn’t linked to one another. Essentially you need to work in separate layers for your design with Autocad.

Revit has a different workflow. With Revit, each stage of the design that you make is automatically linked to the previous one to create a more consistent and joined-up approach to modeling and drawing. It relies less on ‘stages’ of the workflow process and more on creating a joined-up and connected design.

 

Modifications

Modifying designs, models and certain parts within a drawing is pretty common with these types of tools and both allow for modifications.

Modifications with Autocad can be pretty difficult or rather it is massively time-consuming. This is because each part has to be modified individually. There is also the issue that modifications to designs don’t update automatically across all views on Autocad. If one part of the model is changed then it generally has to be manually updated across different teams that are working on it.

Revit provides a much easier and straightforward way to make modifications. If something is changed on Revit it will update automatically across all existing views so there isn’t the need for manual updating. This is related to the workflow. As Revit considers the design as a ‘whole’ whereas Autocad has a more disjointed approach, anything that is modified in Revit will be reflected across the board.

Platforms

Companies and individuals that use this type of software are not just operating it on the one platform all the time. You may need to use modeling software on different operating systems or access it on the move.

The great thing about Autocad is that it can be used on several different platforms such as Windows and Mac devices. It also has a mobile app as well. This is one area where Autocad really excels and it is a lot more accessible across various platforms. You can get cloud storage available as well.

Revit platform is only available on Windows operating systems. It makes it a bit more restrictive in this sense as you don’t have as many options for using this on different OS or on a mobile device. However, you can also get cloud storage with Revit if you need to access designs at another location.

Comparing Autocad vs Revit Pricing

Both of these pieces of software offer 30-day free trial options which can help you get to grips with the software and they also offer monthly, yearly, or 3 yearly subscription options.

Autocad costs around $1690 for a yearly subscription per user license. You can also choose to buy a monthly license for $210 per month or get a license to use Autocad for 3 years which costs $4565 in total. When you purchase Autocad, you also get a range of other tools such as AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD Map 3D, AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD MEP, AutoCAD Plant 3D, and AutoCAD Raster Design. You can also use Autocad via their mobile app.

Revit is more expensive than Autocad and the cost of a yearly subscription is around $2425 for a standalone license. You can also take out a monthly subscription for Revit that costs $305 while there is the option of a 3 yearly license as well which costs $6550. Revit is only available on Windows operating systems so there isn’t a mobile app or Mac version.

If you are a student it is possible to get free access to both Autocad and Revit, however, commercial and professional organizations have to pay the license fee.

Autocad vs Revit ease of use

 

Neither Autocad or Revit is really ‘straight out the box’ pieces of software that someone with no experience in design, modeling, or drawing is going to pick up and be able to use straight away. However, for people who do have some experience with this field, there are differences in the usability between the two products.

Autocad can be a bit harder to use as the interface isn’t as straightforward and the fact that it is designed with separate processes means it is more difficult to get to grips with initially. You don’t necessarily need to have years of experience to grasp its functionality but it can appear very confusing at the start.

The one big advantage Autocad has is its Custom User Interface Editor. This means you can customize the workspace within Autocad so you have it the way you want which can make using the program much easier once you get to grips with the basics.

Revit is a much more data-intensive program which can make it harder for some people. That being said, the interface looks cleaner and because processes and the workflow aren’t separate like it is in Autocad, it is generally accepted that it is easier to use tools overall. You probably won’t have a steep learning curve with Revit as you will with Autocad.

 

Are there any alternatives?

Fusion 360

 

Fusion 360 is a well-known CAD product that is actually free for individuals and startups who make less than $100k per year. It also works solely off the cloud which means files aren’t locally stored.

This can have benefits in that you can access your files everywhere and drawbacks because you need constant internet access. It does let you dabble in modeling and drawing although highly complex objects do test its processing power.

Fusion 360 is a decent alternative if you are looking for a cost-effective solution to Autocad and Revit, but just in case, check the full comparison between Fusion 360 vs AutoCAD before reaching out a verdict.

Solidworks

 

Solidworks is another product that we have compared to Autocad in the past. It is a computer-aided drafting software that deals with 3D modeling and it also has 2D functionality as well. Solidworks is also more expensive than both Autocad and Revit however it is a one-off payment so it may work out cheaper in the long run.

Like Revit, you can only use it on Windows operating systems. However, it is another option to consider for computer-aided design software and it has a loyal following since it was released back in 1995.

AutoCAD vs Revit: Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use AuotCAD and Revit interchangeably? 

In some design situations, such as architecture, you can use either program for design. However, AutoCAD and Revit have different functions for the type of tasks for which you can use either, so depending on the type of documentation or workflow you need, you may not be able to use them interchangeably for the tasks that overlap.

Do AutoCAD and Revit have free trials I can use to test each one?

AutoCAD and Revit both have Autodesk’s option for a thirty-day free trial. We recommend taking advantage of these so you can test features out for yourself in your specific design situations.

Do AutoCAD and Revit have mobile apps?

AutoCAD has introduced a smartphone app you can use to carry your designs with you even where you don’t have access to a computer. Unfortunately, Revit does not have an app, which makes it a slightly less portable option. 

Are AutoCAD and Revit directly competing for software?

Since AutoCAD and Revit are both from Autodesk, they are not directly competing for products. Autodesk likes to refer to them as complementary to each other since they cover a lot of the same ground but enhance each other’s usefulness. 

Can I customize either of these programs?

Autocad is the most customizable out of the two. It features a Custom User Interface Editor which means you can have the interface the way you want it by displaying/hiding tools as you wish.

Can I use these programs for 3D printing?

Yes, both Autocad and Revit can export STL files which are used in 3D printing technology so they are ideal as 3D printing software.

What support is available?

Both Autocad and Rivet are Autodesk Software tools so you get the same level of support for both. There is a Learning Section that features guides, videos, and tutorials while you can visit the online forum. You can also contact Autodesk through their website if you need help.

Conclusion: Revit or AutoCAD?

Both Autocad and Revit are very powerful design tools that if used properly are highly effective in what they do.

They do have overlapping features that are often used with a different focus. For example, Revit is generally used within the construction industry. Autocad tends to be the software to use for more prices 2D drawings however it also brings in 3D functionality as well which is a bonus.

The big difference in how these programs work is through their modifications and workflow. Revit has a more joined-up approach to both with better workflow and modifications can be updated right away. Many users also comment that Revit is a bit easier to get the hang of over Autocad although Autocad has a lot more customizable options so you can make the interface the way you want it to be.

Which one should you use?

Autocad is better as a drawing and drafting program whereas Revit is more geared towards parametric object-based design.

Bottom Line Summary: Overall, AutoCAD is the better program as it combines both the 2D and 3D functionality as well as the compatibility across various platforms that Revit doesn’t have. You can sign up for a free AutoCAD trial here.

Not only that but even though both are available through Autodesk, Autocad has been an industry standard for decades and is one of the best design programs available.

Why Go With AutoCAD LT? | Autodesk

The Gold Standard for industrial CAD, AutoCAD LT can flexibly adapt to 2D or 3D projects, while using local network drives if connection speeds are limited. Most additive manufacturing speaks AutoCAD.

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Further Reading on Autodesk Product Software Packages:

Prusa i3 MK3 vs Ultimaker 3 [2021]: Which is Best?

Today we’re pitting two 3D printers against each other to see who really earns their spot on the top of “best of” lists.

Both the Prusa i3 MK3 and the Ultimaker 3 have earned accolades from trade publications (including this one!), both have already made waves with their new iterations in 2019, and both are touted as great mid-price options for those who are looking to upgrade from their beginner rigs.

Their constructions and features vary but are similar enough to compete for the same builder dollars, so let’s get into the details to see who will come out on top.

What is the Prusa i3 MK3?

Prusa Research is 3D printing company started by Josef Prusa in 2009 when he spun his own printing business off from the RepRap project. The company based in the Czech Republic, which means all their models meet European Union standards, and they ship their products around the world.

In 2018, they developed the Prusa i3 MK3. They wanted to be able to offer a 3D printer that is more accessible through a lower price point and simplified build from their higher end models but still exhibits the superior quality of both the printer and the printed objects.

One way to do this is to make a 3D printer kit, so the user does not absorb the cost of professional assembly; Prusa took the i3 MK3 in that direction to catch the attention of more beginning and hobbyist level 3D printer users without sacrificing the quality of their higher end machines.

What are the tech specs of the Prusa i3 MK3?

Price

$749 unassembled, $999 assembled (Check out the latest rates here)

Build volume

25 cm x 21 cm x 20 cm

Filament size

1.75 mm

Max extruder temperature

300 degrees Celsius

Max bed temperature

120 degrees Celsius

Connectivity

SD card, wifi

Operating systems supported

Mac, Windows, Linux

Software

GNU GPLv3 (open source)

What are the advantages of the Prusa i3 MK3?

  • You have a choice to buy a kit or fully assembled. Our personal experiences with 3D printer kits vary all across the range of quality, ease, and printing output, with a lot of our judgment resting on how many times the assembly process makes us want to throw our wrenches across the workshop. Prusa can get you past this with the i3 MK3 – if you’re willing to spend another $150 or so.
  • Easy assembly process. If you’re on the fence about whether to get the kit to save money or the fully assembled machine to save time, know that building the i3 MK3 is one of the smoothest 3D printer assembly processes you can find. It’s not perfect, but it’s darn near close: the parts are fully organized and packaged in stages, you can find the instructions either online or in a physical book from the box, and actually putting everything together takes way less time than you are probably assuming based on your experience with other kits. This kit is next level, so don’t let a reluctance to build stop you from trying this one.
  • Great support and documentation. Even if you choose to buy the fully assembled i3 MK3, you’re going to have questions, and you’re going to need help. That’s where Prusa’s ultra thorough documentation comes in handy. It’s all there and clearly laid out, so you can follow the instructions from beginning to end or choose which steps you need help with and go directly there without having to wade through previous steps for context. There’s also a thriving online community that’s always willing to add their two cents – that’s why we personally like using the electronic instructions better because you can see notes other users have made on that one.
  • Stiff frame. Prusa doesn’t let its i3 MK3 fall into the common kit trap of sending cheap, flimsy materials to save money. Whether you assemble it yourself or buy it pre-fabricated, the i3 MK3’s frame is sturdy, pure steel that minimizes any wiggle motion that extruder movement may cause. And it keeps everything steady while keeping the frame open for X and Y axis movements that may go outside the build zone.
  • Crash detection. 3D printing is a painstaking process that requires everything going exactly as it’s supposed to the whole way through. Realistically, we know that’s not possible all of the time, but with the i3 MK3’s crash detection, you can pretend it is. If your computer crashes, if the power blinks out, if a velociraptor chases your dog and you have to go rescue it – basically, if you have to stop printing for any reason, the i3 MK3 will have your back and pick up right where you left off.
  • Power failure backup. This goes with crash detection like peanut butter and jelly. A steady power supply is at the mercy of both Mother Nature and human hands, and Prusa understands that. If you’re in the middle of a print and your lights go out, the i3 MK3 will keep printing using its backup power source so you don’t have to throw away hours of work because of something you couldn’t control.
  • Removable magnetic printing bed. 3D printer beds are vital to your print quality. Pursa has made its i3 MK3’s bed easy to attach and easy to remove with one neat quality – magnets. This makes adjustments a breeze, as well as cleanup.
  • Autocalibration. No need to fiddle with axes controls for a couple of hours before printing, only to find out afterward that your calculations came out wrong so that your Rubik’s cube is now a Rubik’s quadrangle. The i3 MK3 auto calibrates its printer bed and extruders, so you don’t have to after every print or accidental jostling.
  • Open source software. Prusa uses their own 3D printing software under a GNU GPLv3 usage license, which means it’s free to modify for yourself and share with others in its original form. That has built a thriving fanbase of users who love sharing their hacks online with anyone else who wants to know. If you have an issue you’re trying to puzzle out; there’s a great chance someone has posted the solution – or would love to see yours once you finish it.

 What are the disadvantages of the Prusa i3 MK3?

  • Printed parts needed for assembly. With all the hype about the i3 MK3’s easy assembly, we don’t want to give the impression that it’s absolutely flawless. One thing that makes it not quite uniformly awesome across the board is that if you do get the kit to assemble yourself, be prepared to print a lot of parts. The instructions are detailed, and the fits are excellent, but you will need to be aware of the tasks ahead of you before you get to the building part.
  • It is getting the frame squared. Another small issue in the assembly process is getting the frame squared as the foundation of the rest of the machine. It’s another instance of good documentation for something that maybe should have been solved before it got to you.
  • Price. Many 3D printer users look to kits for a way to save money. For the i3 MK3, this will only be true in relation to its own pre-assembled sibling; $749 is one of the most expensive 3D printing kits you will find, and $999 is not a steal for a ready-made machine, either. Those prices will, unfortunately, steer away a lot of people who just can’t fit that into their budget, no matter how good the quality of the final result.  

What is the Ultimaker 3?

Ultimaker is a 3D printing company that’s been around for about ten years. It’s got offices in the United States, the Netherlands, and Singapore, so they ship around the world just like Prusa. They made their first Ultimaker prototype in 2010, and since then, they’ve made continuous improvements on the model for those who are looking for the upper level of desktop 3D printing.

The Ultimaker 3 is a pre-assembled dual-extruder first introduced in 2017, and its 2019 upgrade has already been celebrated as one of the best of the year. It’s meant to give a bigger, more complex 3D printing experience while keeping the machinery compact and simple enough for desktop use.

What are the tech specs of the Ultimaker 3?

Price

$3,495 (Check out the latest rates here)

Build volume

21.5 cm x 21.5 cm x 20 cm single extruder, 19.7 cm x 21.5 cm x 20 cm dual extruder

Filament size

2.85 mm

Max extruder temperature

280 degrees Celsius

Max bed temperature

100 degrees Celsius

Connectivity

WiFi, Lan, USB

Operating systems supported

Mac, Windows, Linux

Software

Ultimaker Cura

What are the advantages of the Ultimaker 3?

  • Dual extruders. If you’re wondering why dual extruders are special enough to warrant a shout out in a list of a 3D printer’s best parts, it’s all about the quality. The Ultimaker retains the same excellent print quality whether you’re using either or both of its print nozzles, and the only way dual extruder use will be obvious in a finished product is if you use different colors in each. Ultimaker has figured out the perfect waltz to get the most out of both without any of the literal bumps that often come from using two.
  • Hot-swappable print cores. This is the practice of swapping out the core printer components without shutting down or rebooting the machine. You may recognize this as a thing that most tech people will tell you to avoid like the plague so nothing gets erased or fried in the process. But the Ultimaker 3 has you covered on this, and it’s not playing around when it comes to customizability. Their print cores are ways for you to swap out printing properties and material details without re-calibrating your entire setup. It’s a great innovation that lets you take originality to the next level. Additionally, this is a well-thought out and smooth process, not just an idea someone had to tack on at the last minute, so you’ll be able to use this feature without the usual hitches of many first-time features.
  • Tougher filament possibilities. Because of the varying temperature ranges possible from the different printer cores, the Ultimaker 3 gives you a wider variety of materials to work with. Filaments that need higher extrusion temperatures usually require a different machine than those that require lower ones, but not anymore – you can stick with your basic PLA or go crazy with the nylon, metal, or other exotic mixtures without the need of another printer.
  • Print quality. Not to be outshined by all the bells and whistles around it, the overall print quality of the Ultimaker 3 is definitely a feature worth mentioning. It’s so unassumingly good that it might get lost amongst the more flashy features done well here, but keep in mind none of the extra stuff would work if the basics weren’t flawless.

What are the disadvantages of the Ultimaker 3?

  • Price. We understand that 3D printing technology is hugely intricate and involves a lot of top-notch innovation; we also understand that none of that comes cheap. And don’t misunderstand, the Ultimaker 3 is great quality and gives you a lot for you money. At the same time, once again we’ve found an excellent machine that isn’t going to be easy for people on a budget to use. Good quality 3D printing can be had for less, sometimes much less – take a look at our other reviews and roundups for ideas – and it’s just the tiniest bit disappointing that doesn’t apply here.
  • Print speed. All of the Ultimaker 3’s perfection in its print quality comes at the cost of printing speed. This machine will not get in a hurry – and that’s something we don’t blame it for, considering the intricacies of dual extruder printing and how easy that is to misalign. But be prepared to wait for up to four times longer than other 3D printers for your creation to be complete.
  • Placement of spool holder. This is a design detail that seems insignificant until you experience a problem that drags it front and center. Which is exactly where the filament holder should be on the Ultimaker 3 in a perfect world, but instead it’s hidden around back and difficult to reach unless you have unfettered access to all sides of your printer at all times.

What’s the verdict between the Prusa i3 MK3 and the Ultimaker 3?

Bottom Line: The Ultimaker 3 comes out ahead in this comparison for the sheer amount of shininess it brings to the table – plus the fact that said shininess holds up to practical testing and actually enhances usage instead of clogging up the machine with gimicks.

This isn’t to say the Prusa i3 MK3 is bad, though; it also deserves all its hype, and with its lower price points even for the fully assembled version, it may be a better bet for you.

However, we can’t resist a smooth dual extruder print, and we’re ready to see what both Prusa and Ultimaker have in store for the future.

Further Reads

Autocad vs Inventor [2021] Which Software is The Best?

In the world of computer-aided drafting, Autodesk looms large. And for a good reason; its AutoCAD program was the first commercially available CAD software for home computers that were just starting to take off in the 1980s. This combination made CAD accessible for more price and skill points, paving the way for its current range of uses. 

AutoCAD originally offered only 2D drafting (2D drawing) capabilities – basically, it started as a computerized version of an engineer’s desk, pencil, and measuring tools. While AutoCAD still uses 2D as its basis, recent versions in the last five years have added 3D capabilities meant to give its users a full spectrum of design possibilities.

AutoCAD has also started offering modules that pertain to specific industries that depend on drafting as their base process, such as engineers who build electrical systems. The program has continued to branch out as design needs to evolve in the real world. 

But Autodesk has not sat on its original laurels since AutoCAD’s release. As a software company, it’s expanded beyond AutoCAD with other programs that tackle other aspects of the different industries that depend on design. That’s where Inventor comes in.

Autodesk released Inventor in 1999 to integrate 2D and 3D design data into a single environment. The program is an application made for 3D mechanical design, simulation, visualization, and documentation.

It focuses on 3D modeling and the user’s ability to test those models before creating prototypes – a valuable addition to manufacturing processes that don’t have the time or money to waste on bringing to life models that don’t actually work. 

While Inventor does not seem like it would directly compete with AutoCAD, both are computer-aided drafting programs that are advertised as making the user’s design process easier in overlapping ways.

While Inventor targets a somewhat smaller, more niche market, AutoCAD has started to specialize as well, and although they each take a different approach, both programs can be utilized for complete drafting processes. 

Read on for the details about each CAD program, including their basic technology specifications, what they each do best and what users have trouble with, and which one comes out on top as the overall better software. 

Main Differences Between AutoCAD vs Inventor

The main differences between AutoCAD vs Inventor are:

  • AutoCAD uses Geometric modelling which is good if you depend on manipulating geometries with algorithms to get the designs you need, whereas Inventor uses parametric modelling which will help you if you need a way to change overall design aspects easily and instantly integrated.
  • AutoCAD has a wide coverage of industry standards, whereas Inventor has deep coverage of industry standards.
  • AutoCAD has more industry-specific tools to help your designs, whereas Inventor has a smaller selection but it goes deeper.
  • AutoCAD helps you design within the specific parameters of architecture or electrical engineering and a dozen others, whereas Inventor takes you all the way through the manufacturing part of mechanical design.
  • AutoCAD emphasizes design, whereas Inventor emphasizes manufacturing.
  • AutoCAD is geared towards getting your design exactly as you want it before moving on to the next step, whereas Inventor helps you get to your end goal with more ease but less precision.

Our Pick
Why go with Autodesk Inventor?

Easier to use, easier to collobarate with others (and teams), better built-in documentation, and better design testing framework makes Autodesk Inventor my pick here.

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AutoCAD: The Basics

AutoCAD is the founding computer-aided drafting software program of Autodesk. It was first released in 1982, and its latest release, version 2021, came out March 25 of this year. Many of its technical details have become standard starting points for CAD programs that came after it. 

Geometry-driven models

AutoCAD bases its design system on geometry-driven models, which means it uses basic shapes that you mathematically manipulate to create your own designs. This type of computer-aided drafting helps you harness the power of algorithms to adjust measurements to your specifications, and it’s become the mathematical base coding for the vast majority of 2D drafting software programs.

Standardized file extensions

Another feature that AutoCAD made standard in the computer-aided design industry is its patented .dwg file extension. This type of file extension keeps all the design information in one place while letting AutoCAD separate each aspect on the graphical interface.

.DWG has become the industry standard for 2D and 3D metadata, and although it’s technically proprietary to Autodesk, it’s widely compatible with other programs (including, of course, Inventor). 

Vertical integration

Although AutoCAD is not the first program to take advantage of integrating other modules onto its basic program and certainly won’t be the last, its expansive use of such keeps it relevant both as more industries explore their use of CAD and as traditional design industries take on greater shares of the process. 

Type of CAD Geometry driven models
Type of Design 2D driven but also capable of 3D 
Computer Operating System Compatibility Windows, Mac
Price Subscription-based: $210 per month, $1,690 per year, or $4,565 per three years
File Extension .dwg, .dxf 
Industry Usage Architecture, electrical engineering, civil planning, mechanical design, graphic design
Supports mobile? Yes

Why Go With AutoCAD LT? | Autodesk

The Gold Standard for industrial CAD, AutoCAD LT can flexibly adapt to 2D or 3D projects, while using local network drives if connection speeds are limited. Most additive manufacturing speaks AutoCAD.

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AutoCAD: The Advantages

As the industry-defining computer-aided drafting program for designers, AutoCAD has a lot to recommend it, especially as it’s kept pace with developments in CAD-based fields. Here are our favorite aspects of AutoCAD and how they make your life as a CAD user easier. 

  • Comprehensiveness. AutoCAD has made its reputation by catering to designers who want an all-in-one software. Its vast array of tools, including regular major upgrades like the addition of 3D modeling, makes its standard package appealing to those who want to learn the full extent of computer-aided drafting without having to choose specialized areas before they know the basics. This generalized thoroughness is ideal for those who are starting their CAD journeys.
  • Industry specialization. In addition to covering all and then some of your general design processes, AutoCAD has also developed a number of industry options that help you create within standardized parameters. For example, if you use AutoCAD to design houses, the architecture module gives you preformed, universal geometries and standards such as doorframes, so you don’t have to create them from scratch – you can save all your creativity for the unique parts of your designs while making sure they stay up to code. 
  • Extensive control of the design. The result of AutoCAD’s extensive tools and options is complete control over your designs. Whether you’re creating a new form of something that already exists, or coming up with something completely new, you’ll be able to make sure each detail is exactly to your liking. That’s not only important creatively, but practically as well, especially if you’re designing for a real-world space that needs considerations you’ve never had to work with before. 
  • 2D and 3D capabilities. When AutoCAD added 3D modeling capabilities to its program, they were left separate from their 2D sources. This doesn’t mean that AutoCAD’s 2D and 3D processes don’t work together when you need them to, but it does mean that you can work on either on their own. This is another feature that makes AutoCAD good for generalist users; you have both 2D and 3D as you need them without having to go to another software for either.
  • Works on multiple operating systems. If you need to shell out thousands of dollars per year for a software program, you don’t want it to be incompatible with the OS system you already have. Fortunately, AutoCAD realizes this, and part of its ubiquitousness can be attributed to its availability on both Windows and Mac OSes. This also fosters better teamwork, since you don’t have to worry about system compatibility with a partner, coworkers, or others in the workflow who may not even be in the same country as you are.  
  • Student and light industrial versions available. Autodesk has several ways you can avoid paying full price for AutoCAD if you know you won’t need its full suite of tools and features. If you’re a student, you can get a scaled-down version of AutoCAD free for three years, and if you’re a professional who can get by on a similarly lighter program, Autodesk offers AutoCAD LT for a reduced price. These are great ways to introduce yourself to AutoCAD without committing more than you want for a tryout. 

AutoCAD: The Disadvantages

Just because AutoCAD is so well-known doesn’t mean it’s perfect. We’ve found some legitimate issues with the software that may make it more trouble than it’s worth for certain users. 

  • Difficult learning curve. AutoCAD’s most notorious feature is how hard it is to learn as a software program. A lot of that comes from the perks we mentioned above – because it covers so much design ground, it’s got an intimidating amount of features, tools, and commands to learn for beginners. Autodesk does have an array of official training material for all of its programs, but AutoCAD’s best teaching is done through hands-on experience, which may be painful until you reach a certain level of comfort with it. 
  • Unsynced layering. When you design in AutoCAD, you do it layer by layer, with each layer in your design as its own, separate document. That’s great for attention to detail and complete control over the nuance of your design, but when you zoom out for the big picture, it can be cumbersome to piece together. This also makes collaboration more difficult since everyone working on the design has to make sure they are exactly in sync with the current working layers. 
  • No motion testing abilities. Although it added a 3D design dimension, AutoCAD does not have the ability to test your AutoCAD drawings in motion. That takes away a critical aspect of designing manufacturing parts, especially on a large scale. Testing a design within your CAD software gives you an idea of what you need to tweak before you move on to physical prototyping; the more you have settled by then, the cheaper and easier your manufacturing process is going to be. Unfortunately, AutoCAD doesn’t give you the support for that on its own. 

Inventor: The Basics

Inventor was created as Autodesk’s go-to 3D modeling CAD program (great for 3D printing). It’s meant to take users through the manufacturing stage with a smooth transition between design and production – this and its younger age gives it a lower profile than AutoCAD, but it’s also becoming an industry stalwart, just in a smaller, more focused user group.

Dimension based

Autodesk advertises Inventor as “object-oriented.” In the case of CAD, that means you draw your basic form, then fine-tune it as a 3D model (as opposed to AutoCAD, which requires you to perfect your design via the initial 2D geometries before it transitions into 3D). This helps you build your 3D model like a sculpture, which is incredibly time-saving if your final goal is a mass-produced real-world object. 

Range of file extensions

Inventor works with several different types of CAD files, and that means you can have flexibility when it comes to sharing your files across programs.

This expansion beyond the standard .dwg or .dxf file types is meant to take your designs directly to the manufacturing machines needed for production after your designs are completed. 

Narrow user focus

When compared to AutoCAD, Inventor theoretically has a smaller group of CAD users it targets. Inventor’s processes and tools focus on getting your design into production, so the software is geared towards manufacturers. However, if you’re looking for a 3D modeling system for any reason, Inventor is worth a look.

Type of CAD Parametric and design-driven
Type of Design 3D modeling
Computer Operating System Compatibility Windows only
Price Subscription-based: $260 per month, $2,085 per year, or $5,630 per three years
File Extension .dwg, .ipt, .iam, .idw, .ipj I
Industry Usage Manufacturing, mechanical design, some electrical design
Supports mobile? Yes

Our Pick
Why go with Autodesk Inventor?

Easier to use, easier to collobarate with others (and teams), better built-in documentation, and better design testing framework makes Autodesk Inventor my pick here.

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Inventor: The Advantages

Autodesk created Inventor as part of its expansive Inventor LT suite of design programs. It’s got a lot of user fans for a few specific reasons.

  • Easy to use GUI. Inventor has a reputation for being easy to use, and it’s earned with the program’s simple GUI layout. Unlike AutoCAD, many users feel comfortable jumping right into Inventor and working without extensive practice first. And as always, with Autodesk, there are some great formal learning tools on the company’s website. 
  • Collaboration tools. Manufacturing is definitely a team process, and Inventor keeps that front and center. Its lack of layers lets everybody edit on the same project-level while keeping the changes in harmony with each other. Plus, you can store your designs in a virtual vault, which is great for shared storage that stays organized for the next time you need a specific project or file. 
  • Design data and analytics. The more details you know about your design, the easier it will be to take it from drawing to production, and Inventor gives you plenty of information to create, replicate, and communicate changes without having to dig to make sure you’re looking at the right specs. Of course, this is great for shared work, but it gives you a solo advantage as well, especially if you’re responsible for your entire production line. 
  • Simulation abilities. Inventor’s biggest gain over AutoCAD is its ability to simulate your designs in a number of conditions that it will encounter once you build it and put it to its intended purpose. Using Inventor’s simulation tools, you can put parts or all of your designs through tests of stress, motion, pressure, and acceleration, guaranteeing you’ll have the physics exactly right by the time your design gets used in the real world. 

Inventor: The Disadvantages

Inventor doesn’t have everything that AutoCAD – or other geometric-based CAD programs – does, and sometimes that means it comes up short for users. Here are a few flaws that Inventor users want to fix.

  • It only works on Windows. Despite all of its functionalities that make Inventor great for collaborative manufacturing design work, there’s one thing that stands in the way – Inventor doesn’t run on Mac operating systems. That’s not the end of the world, but it is an unfortunate oversight that should be noted before you invest in the software. 
  • Higher price than AutoCAD. Inventor also comes at a higher price point than its sibling program, at about an extra $50 – $1,000 to your payment, depending on which type of subscription you choose. But both Inventor and AutoCAD have 30 day free trials, so there’s still a way to see if you like either before you buy.
  • It doesn’t give you precise control. Because of its design-focused utility, Inventor doesn’t let you change every single parameter of your design. Most users appreciate this big-picture modeling, but if you need such precise control, Inventor will not be your best bet.

AutoCAD vs Inventor: Frequently Asked Questions

Do AutoCAD and Inventor come from the same company?

Yes, both AutoCAD and Inventor are software offered from Autodesk.

Is there any way to try AutoCAD and/or Inventor before you commit to buying it?

Yes, both AutoCAD and Inventor offer a thirty-day free trial you can utilize to see if you like the programs before you pay for a subscription.

Do AutoCAD and Inventor cover the same kind of work?

No. Although there is some overlap, AutoCAD’s functions are much more focused on drafting, while Inventor is primarily for modeling mechanical systems.

What are the user experiences with AutoCAD and Inventor?

Users have expressed that AutoCAD has a much steeper learning curve than Inventor. Inventor’s graphical user interface is praised as being less confusing and easier to navigate than AutoCAD’s.

AutoCAD vs Inventor: The Final Verdict

Our final decision between Autodesk’s AutoCAD and Inventor CAD software programs goes to (drumroll, please!) Inventor here. It’s easier to learn, easier to collaborate, easier to document your work, and easier to test before you take your designs into production between the two Autodesk product offerings.

We like it better for all those reasons giving it a solid edge, and also because they’re simple to apply to other design processes beyond manufacturing even if that’s Inventor’s most famous use.

However, if you need the exacting design control of geometric modeling, a more general but thorough introduction to CAD, or pre-packaged industry-specific modules for your design work to be its best, AutoCAD may work better for you. 

Our Pick
Why go with Autodesk Inventor?

Easier to use, easier to collobarate with others (and teams), better built-in documentation, and better design testing framework makes Autodesk Inventor my pick here.

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Happy designing!

Further Reading on 3D Software, Design Automation, and Autodesk Software:

Best Wax 3D Printer and Wax Filament [2021]

Wax seems like the opposite of a good 3D printing material. Its defining property is how changeable it is, never quite hardening to settle into a definite shape, always moldable at the slightest push of a finger.

But, when we learned that you could, in fact, get great 3D printed objects from wax material and filament, we were very pleasantly surprised, even more so when we saw how easy it is if you have the right additive manufacturing equipment. We’re passing that knowledge on to you for your own personal enjoyment and use.

While most 3D printers CAN be modified for wax printing, some are better suited than others. To cut right to the chase, these are the best wax 3D printing options to produce optimal results…

Our Pick
We love the Anycubic Photon | Amazon

Dead simple to set-up, comes pre-assembled, intuitive touch-screen and exceptional level of detail. This machine empowers CREATORS, without expecting you to be a mechanic. The small - but precise - print bed is perfect for miniatures.

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Use the PrintDry System with Flexible Filaments

Quickly drying resin based filament is key to maintaining structural integrity. Particularly for wax-style filaments, we use this system to prevent ambient moisture from corrupting the filament.

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Best Wax 3D Printers

These are the best 3D printers for wax:

  1. Anycubic Photon: This is more of a budget friendly option. Very capable, great value for the money. Especially for this printer, we recommend investing in the PrintDry kit to rapidly dry to maintain structural integrity post printing. ALSO: some users report issues with the material not sticking to the smooth surface build plate. In this case, use 80 grit sandpaper to coarsen the build plate and smear a layer of resin (not WaxCast) onto the build platform as a surface finish, then expose it to the sun for 5+ minutes. Recommended Wax Filament: MakerJuice WaxCast resin.   
    Our Pick
    We love the Anycubic Photon | Amazon

    Dead simple to set-up, comes pre-assembled, intuitive touch-screen and exceptional level of detail. This machine empowers CREATORS, without expecting you to be a mechanic. The small - but precise - print bed is perfect for miniatures.

    Buy at Amazon.com
    We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
  2. Peopoly Phenom MSLA 3D Printer: This is certainly a higher end unit (one of our favorites), but if you can swing the price, it’s the best option. As a resin-based 3D printer, it’s particularly adept with wax-like printing filaments. Recommended Wax Filament: MOLDLAY filament available here.   
    ELEGOO Mars UV Photocuring LCD 3D Printer | Amazon
    $199.99

    Mars 2 comes with a 6.08-inch HD 2K resolution monochrome LCD screen and it only takes 2 seconds per exposure layer to cure the resin, which could significantly improve printing efficiency. 

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    07/27/2021 02:53 pm GMT

Best Wax 3D Printer Filament

So, you have a printer in mind, now what? These are the best wax filaments for 3D printing:

  • MOLDLAY Filament: This is definitely THE best solution we’ve tested. It’s the most similar to pure wax, while optimally balanced for resin-based 3D printers.   
  • MakerJuice WaxCast: For high quality resin wax-like printing, MakerJuice is another great option for casting with minimal residual ash.   
  • Carbide Wax Block: This is more suitable specifically for machining, although you can melt and infuse with different printing and cutting applications.   

What is Wax Material?

In chemistry, the wax is defined as a simple lipid made from long-chain alcohols and fatty acids combining together. There is a variety of specific types of waxes found in nature, the most common being the type that bees secrete. 3D printing uses the castable resin form of wax, which means the extra material in the wax cures it to make it harden after being manipulated into its final shape.

Waxes can be naturally occurring or synthetic, but because additive manufacturing is necessary to guide waxes’ behavior for fabrication purposes, 3D printing with wax tends to use the man-made stuff. So you won’t be 3D printing with pure wax, but your finished objects will have very similar properties to it once you’re done.3

How do you 3D print with wax?

3D printing with wax can be slightly more involved than working with traditional filaments like ABS or PLA. There is also more than one way to 3D print with wax; we’ll discuss each in detail so you can decide which will work better for your needs.

  • Inkjet 3D printing with wax. First up is a 3D printing process that you will recognize as the most common type – the kind that uses filaments added onto themselves from an extruder from a programmed pattern to complete a finished object. This is the basis of additive 3D printing, and the concept for printing with wax is the same. However, the process of getting to that same end is different. Because wax is not firm enough to be spooled into the threadlike filaments you see with standard thermoplastics, it has to be heated and melted within the printer and then dripped onto the printer bed instead of fed through.
  • The most common sub-process of inkjet 3D printing with wax is called drop on demand manufacturing. During this process, the material – in this case, wax – is deposited in tiny dots instead of a continuous line. DoD printers often have two extruder heads to supply the main printing material with dissolvable support material so that the final product can hold patterns with gaps and holes until the final object is hardened.
  • Lost-wax casting 3D printing with wax. Another way to 3D print with wax involves using the wax as a mold – but not as an injection mold. Although that’s possible, that’s a very different process, and here we’re talking about the ability to make a wax mold that is printed in the exact shape of the object. This process is called lost-wax casting, and your first step is to create a 3D model of your object in your drafting software of choice. Then, you 3D print a wax model of the object. You cast a mold around the 3D wax model, and you melt the wax so that only the mold remains. Finally, you pour whatever surface finish material you want to use into the mold, let it harden, and dissolve the mold. A lot of fine jewelry makers in the jewelry industry use this process because it allows for one of the best levels of detail possible in 3D printing, and if any adjustments need to be made to the molds before the final step, it’s much easier to adjust on the computer and 3D print again than to manipulate the metal itself without damaging it.

Because its physical properties can shift more easily than materials rooted in firmer molecule bonds, you have to consider several general factors no matter which process you choose as your wax 3D printing preference.

So here are a few pros and cons to consider whether you’re looking to mold delicate metal shapes or just want to try wax as new material.

What are the pros of 3D printing with wax?

The finest layer of mold detail

Wax is most commonly used to create molds because of its stellar layer resolution of 0.025 mm. This is, frankly, the most amazing level of detail we’ve seen in 3D printing, especially in the area of molds and supportive materials. And when used as molds for intricate yet delicate products like printed jewelry, the metal that fills the mold takes all that detail with it to the final product, something you could never achieve with the lower layer resolution of pretty much every other 3D printing material.

No need for different supportive material

3D printers that can use wax can print two wax types at the same time to produce supportive bracing as well as the 3D printed object itself. They do this by printing the wax at two different temperatures; the wax that melts at the higher temperature, about 70 degrees Celsius, is used for the object itself, and the wax that melts at a lower temperature creates the supportive material that bridges gaps in the wax patterns until the initial wax hardens. Then the supportive wax is melted off.

Variations of color and properties

Wax is thought of as a uniform range of beiges, yellows, and browns, but you can find 3D printable waxes in all sorts of colors, including those you can’t find in nature like neons. You can also find variations on wax’s general properties in different viscosities and different mixes of resin within the material to better suit the type of object or mold you want to create.

Easy melting points

Wax generally has a lower melting point than most other 3D printing materials. This makes it easier to use as a mold and supporting material, of course, since you can melt them off whatever they are upholding without worrying about melting the actual molded object itself. But it also means that wax 3D printers run cooler than other 3D printers, so you’re able to operate with a larger safety margin than polymers or thermoplastics that require extrusion temperatures over 100 degrees Celsius.

Insoluble in water

In nature, the wax is often excreted by leaves and other parts of plants to keep them from absorbing too much water in rainy areas of the world. Wax acts as a water protector for your 3D printing objects as well; it’s yet another reason why the material makes such a good mold. It doesn’t dissolve in water, so if you need to use a water cooling process for molded metals before they’re ready to come out, the wax is the perfect way to hold the metal’s shape during that last step before breaking off of it easily to reveal the final product.  

What are the cons of 3D printing with wax?

The inherent instability of material

The biggest drawback of working with wax to make any sort of solid final object is that you will not be able to use untreated wax on its own without putting your object in major danger of destruction. Since pure wax is so malleable and has such a low melting point, it’s crucial to know how to work with resins, UV light vulcanization, or other firming techniques to make it stiffer. Look for 3D printers with built-in UV lights and potentially invest in a resin / machinable wax filament drying unit like the PrintDry system.

Temperature sensitive

Even with the assistance of finishing details such as these, the wax is difficult to use as material for a final product. It’s melting point is above room temperature by about 50 degrees Celsius, which sounds like a lot but can put your wax figures in more danger of warping if you aren’t able to control the temperature of the environment where you store them.

Can’t be extruded like spooled filaments

We’ve run across this trait in several other 3D printing materials, most notably chocolate and silicone, so wax is not the only thing that has to be melted into a liquid instead of threaded through an extruder. But this is worth mentioning as an extra burden on whoever is looking to 3D print with it. Inkjet 3D printing is just as developed and discussed as traditional extruding, but it’s not a great place for the first time 3D printing enthusiast to start. Although it doesn’t mean learning a completely foreign skill, it does require a mastery of another branch of the process, so be prepared for that if you ever want to work with wax in a 3D printer.

Special equipment

This comes from the inkjet drop on demand process printing technology that best serves wax’s properties when 3D printing. We’ll discuss the specifics of what to look for to facilitate this below, but keep in mind this is a subsection of an already specialty process with the 3D printing world, so your ability to adjust to new things is crucial if you want to 3D print with wax.

If you aren’t willing to invest in more equipment explicitly made for a drop on demand or at least inkjet 3D printing, you won’t be able to get your wax to behave as it should. 3D printing with wax is an investment of both more time and money.

What do I need to look for in a 3D printer that can work with wax?

Now that we’ve gone over the details of 3D printing with wax, let’s list what you need to look for in a printer that can handle this process.

An inkjet or drop on demand 3D printing process.

Wax needs an additive process that will deposit it onto the printing bed, and both inkjet and drop on demand equipment can do that for you. They’re similar but not identical, so check the details on the specific printers you’re eyeing to see which one will work better for your needs.

An internal material heater is able to handle two temperatures at one time.

In its role as both a top-notch mold material and a support filament, wax can’t be both at the same temperature. Therefore you need to make sure the 3D printer you’re looking at can warm up your main object/mold wax at a higher temperature than your support system wax; it’s totally possible to find equipment that will do this, and when you do, you’ll be rewarded by a superhuman ability to create details without a trace of all the background props needed for that level of work.

UV vulcanizing chamber and light.

Is this absolutely necessary to process 3D printing with wax? No. Is this a good way to ensure any finished products you want to 3D print in wax stiffen so they aren’t as prone to damage? Yes. Is this the part of the 3D printing process that is most likely to turn into a science fiction movie starring Tom Cruise? You bet!

Additional materials to use in your 3D printed wax molds.

Although you can 3D print wax objects to be their own thing, 3D printing with wax goes to the next level when you use it to create molds for other materials. We strongly recommend trying this method if you work with small to medium objects in materials that are difficult to detail on their own, like precious metals. You will be blown away by the results, and you’ll even be able to go pro if that’s something you’ve wanted to do but haven’t had the capacity to reach for until now.

Use the PrintDry System with Flexible Filaments

Quickly drying resin based filament is key to maintaining structural integrity. Particularly for wax-style filaments, we use this system to prevent ambient moisture from corrupting the filament.

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Best Wax 3D Printing Services?

  • Solidscape has a great variety of choices for you, no matter what kind of 3D printing process with wax you ultimately decide on.
  • Sculpteo print on demand services are an excellent alternative if you don’t want to jump all in with your own 3D wax printing equipment. We understand – that can get expensive if you’re adding it to your current wares – and so does Sculpteo, so they’ll give you a taste on their own machines for less than setup costs for a new printer.
  • EnvisionTec is all business with its line of printers designed to help you print multiple molds for custom designed jewelry or dental work at once. Their machines get a bit pricey for hobbyists, but they can’t be beaten for professionalism.

Finding a 3D wax printer shouldn’t be a major hassle no matter what you want to use it for. Use these details to find your best fit!

Our Pick
We love the Anycubic Photon | Amazon

Dead simple to set-up, comes pre-assembled, intuitive touch-screen and exceptional level of detail. This machine empowers CREATORS, without expecting you to be a mechanic. The small - but precise - print bed is perfect for miniatures.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Further Reading on Printing Materials and Applications

How to Find the Best Silicone 3D Printer [2021]

When you think of silicone and 3D printing, you’re more likely to consider it as a helping hand, rather than a star player.

Silicone is commonly used as a mold material into which other material is poured to make a 3D object. But that’s limiting this versatile compound and your imagination to go along with it – you can now 3D print with silicone as if it were any other type of printing filament.

It takes extra care and consideration to make sure you’ve got the right knowledge and equipment, so read on to find out what to look for and what to avoid when buying a 3D printer for silicone.

Find The Best 3D Printer for Your Digital Fabrication | Matter Hackers

What is the best 3D printer in 2021? That entirely depends on what your application, or what you want to make, is. Whether you're looking for a reliable 3D printer for your business for rapid prototyping, or an educator looking to advance the way your students learn, MatterHackers can find the best 3D printer to fit your needs. 

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What is silicone?

Silicone is the name given to a group of chemical polymers that are based on chains of alternation silicon and oxygen atoms. Organic groups are attached the to silicon atoms, and the resulting materials are generally resistant to chemical attack and not temperature sensitive.

These characteristics make silicone great for manufacturing and in particular for medical objects since those are exposed to all kinds of fluctuating conditions and environments.

How is silicone used in 3D printing?

Traditionally, silicone is used in a type of 3D manufacturing process called mold injection. That uses a mold to shape liquid into the objects desired, and silicone is great for that because of its tough yet flexible physical properties.

However, mold injection modeling has a very high upfront cost and does not have the ability to create small details as additive 3D printing does, so in 2016, Wacker Chemie made positive waves when it announced it had figured out a way to 3D print with silicone like you can with thermoplastics and metal compounds.

Soon after that, Envisiontec, Carbon 3D, and Fripp Design all jump in with their own contributions to equipment and material especially constructed to work with silicone.

Right now, the majority of usage for 3D printed silicone is still in the medical area, but the same advantages that make it great in that sector can easily translate to others, and if you’re jonesing to try it yourself, you totally can. We have the additive manufacturing technology!

What is the process of 3D printing with silicone?

3D printing with silicone is a lot like printing with chocolate, and other materials that need to stay liquid during the printing process. Instead of a solid, threadlike filament feeding through an extruder, the silicone is melted and forced through the extruder in tiny drops, which are layered on top of each other (layer by layer) just like any other filament.

The printing process is still based on whatever you tell your computer to tell it – there’s no difference in your design process for additive manufacturing. So the extruder takes your design and maps out where to place the droplets and how close to put them together; it completes your creation through a 3D version of pointillism.

Then, there’s one last extra step you have to do for silicone to make it solidify and hold its shape in its firm yet flexible signature style. You have to vulcanize it.

Sounds terrifying, right? Don’t worry – this is just a fancy label for when silicone 3D printers make the silicone firm. It’s done with the sweep of a UV light in the printing area, which forms cross-links between sections of the polymer chain.

This hardens the silicone enough to keep its shape, and increases its durability in the face of structural stress. It’s a neat, no-fuss flourish to make sure your silicone 3D printed object stays unyielding in the important areas of its molecules.

What are the advantages of printing with silicone?

Silicone has a lot of great properties that you can take advantage of now that we’ve harnessed the power of it for 3D printing.

Strength and flexibility

Because of the science, we go into above; silicone is a super unique combination of strong and flexible. It will bend quite easily without breaking, which not only makes it able to withstand more pressure than something with more rigid connections but also makes it more portable, able to fold in on itself without any disassembling necessary.

This all comes through in your final 3D printed object without you having to do any extra or complicated step; silicone is just naturally awesome like that.

Bio-compatibility

One of the most famous uses for silicone is bodily implants, and there’s a great reason for that – silicone is not rejected by human tissue, so it’s perfect for reconstructing body parts that share its properties. It’s also great for objects that are not necessarily inside someone’s body but are in constant contact with skin or other vulnerable areas, like hearing aids, nose pads on the bridge of glasses, and respiration masks.

Temperature and radiation stability

Silicone can hold a temperature steady, so the area inside of a silicone shielded object does not feel the effects nearly as fast as under a non-temperature stable material such as glass. This same property makes silicone a good shield for radiation as well. The auto industry uses it a lot for engine parts that are exposed to massive temperature spikes as cars are turned on and used, such as hoses and plugs.

Transparency

Silicone’s see-through properties make it great for applications where vision is needed, but glass may be too fragile, such as the lenses in optical equipment. Whereas glass lenses are prone to scratches that are very difficult, if not impossible, to get out without changing the curated view of the lens, silicone lenses are less rigid and thus tend to not get as many scratches in the first place. If you’ve ever struggled to see out of an old pair of eyeglasses or tried to use a scratched touchscreen, you’ll appreciate the ability of silicone to stay smooth.

Electrical properties

Silicone can be both conductive and insulating, and that unique combination makes it great assistance for processes that need both, like securing fluids in hydraulic applications.

What are the disadvantages of printing with silicone?

Can’t return to its liquid state

One thing that is counter-intuitive but important to remember about silicone is that once it’s hardened into a solid, it can’t be melted down again without causing significant structural damage to its chemical makeup.

This is a feature that makes it great for final products, but if you make a mistake, there’s no chance to reshape or reuse the material, so be sure you either get it right on the first try, or you have more silicone available than is necessary for your project so you can try again if need be.

Special 3D printing equipment needed

As mentioned above, 3D printing with silicone is not like working with more traditional 3D printing material. With silicone, you have to have a special extruder that pulls the liquid silicone through the machine with a pump and extracts it like an inkjet printer onto the build surface.

There are a few other materials that need the same kind of treatment, so it’s not hard to find the right equipment, but if you have a rig meant for spooled filaments, you will need to buy an additional machine to print silicone.

Longer finishing process

Because objects that are 3D printed with silicone have a special hardening process, it takes longer to complete a project from start to finish, not ideal for rapid prototyping. The vulcanization process is fairly easy, requiring only a sweep of a UV light to stiffen the connections between the silicone molecules you’re working with, but be aware this may take more than one pass to complete.

If you’re used to working with materials that need cool down time after your object itself is printed, this would be roughly equivalent to that wait time, depending on the size of your silicone object. However, if you’re in an extreme hurry, you may need to choose a material that can go right off the printer bed.

Small production run

Silicone can help you manufacture a palette of cloned objects all at once – unfortunately, it can’t when you 3D print with it. As with all 3D printers, those that print with silicone are designed to produce one object at a time, which is what gives each object such a great capacity for details within the additive manufacturing process.

However, if you’re looking to 3D print with silicone to manufacture additive printed parts or objects on a large production scale, we recommend checking out the injection mold process instead (silicone mold).

Further Read: Injection Molding vs 3D Printing.

Not much documentation

New printing technology is always exciting, but it’s also prone to unexpected errors and quirks that haven’t had a chance to work themselves out yet. Since 3D printing with silicone materials is so recently developed, there is not a large body of documentation to study for print parameters before you start.

The information that is out there is from the companies who manufacture the printers capable of 3D printing with silicone; this is very useful, of course, but if you’re uncertain about 3D printing with silicone now, you may want to wait until it’s been around long enough to garner reviews and instruction documents from independent sources (like us!).

What do I need to look out for when buying equipment to 3D print with silicone?

If you are shopping for 3D printers to use with silicone, buy one with all of the following features:

  • Inkjet extruder. This is how the silicone gets from your machine onto the print bed and into the shape of your object. A regular feeder extruder system is not going to work, so make sure you are aware of how the printer you’re eyeing works with the printing material you give it.
  • Internal warmer and pump. Since silicone has to be liquid to be 3D printed, look for a machine that features both a warmer and a pump in its extruder workings. This will keep the silicone at a workable consistency while proactively moving it through the printer’s system at an even pace, so you don’t get clumps or nothing going through your nozzle.
  • Short, straight pipeways from material to extruder. Once the silicone is heated and liquid enough for the extruder to work with, it’s going to need to travel the least amount of distance that is practical for it in the machine’s interior. Reducing the length and turns in its path means it will flow better and more evenly without needing external help to go through the system.
  • Glass-enclosed printer bed. This can be a feature on 3D printers that don’t use silicone, but there, it’s usually a luxury. With silicone, it’s a necessity because of that extra final step of vulcanization that silicone requires before being ready to use as a 3D printed object. The glass chamber contains the UV lights that run over the silicone to harden it, so it’s a crucial feature for all of your 3D silicone printing needs

What are some recommended products for 3D printing with silicone?

Now that we’ve walked you through the process of 3D printing with silicone and explained what to look for when you’re ready to start, here are a few of our favorite products that help you ace working with this material.

Current Commercial 3D Printing Players

Note: Right now, most of what you get are printing services and 3d party manufacturing vs affordable desktop silicone printers.

  • Wacker Chemie AG 3D printers for silicone. These guys literally invented this process, so their hardware is the standard by which all future 3D silicone printers will be judged. They’ve got customer 3D printing services as well, so if you’re not looking to buy a whole new printer for silicone, you can order silicone parts in a single quantity or a dozen from their offices and get the object without having to deal with your own machinery.
  • Wacker Chemie AG silicones. To go with their printers, Wacker has developed a line of inorganic silicones that have more consistent chemical properties than organic silicones, so try some out for great quality prints.
  • EnvisionTech 3D Bioplotter. This line of printers is made with medical application especially in mind. Its build environment is calibrated for the perfect UV light curing process, which is essential in finishing material meant for contact with delicate areas, like what medical implants tend to touch.
  • Carbon 3D SIL 30 silicone. Carbon 3D has developed a type of silicone that is specifically designed to give your 3D prints all the pluses of silicone with a minimal amount of drawbacks. It can expand 330% before it even thinks about tearing, so it’s got top-notch flexibility and strength.

What’s the verdict for 3D printing with silicone?

Although you need a specific type of printer for 3D printing with silicone, it’s well worth the extra equipment.

Once you get your printer set up, the silicone will give your 3D printed objects all the strength, flexibility, transparency, electricity manipulation, and biocompatibility you could imagine, so we highly recommend trying this material for its awesome perks. And once you find a printer that can handle it, you’ll be good to go for life.

Find The Best 3D Printer for Your Digital Fabrication | Matter Hackers

What is the best 3D printer in 2021? That entirely depends on what your application, or what you want to make, is. Whether you're looking for a reliable 3D printer for your business for rapid prototyping, or an educator looking to advance the way your students learn, MatterHackers can find the best 3D printer to fit your needs. 

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Recommended Reads

Ender 3 vs Prusa i3 MK3 [2021]: Which is Best?

Ender 3 vs Prusa i3 MK3

 3D printer assembly kits are easy to screw up. They’re designed to keep their costs down, which means corners might be cut and details that you desperately need may be lost.

But once in a while, a company knows how to transcend the limitations of the genre, and delivers an excellent quality that you can build yourself.

And we’ve found two of them.

The Ender 3 and the Prusa i3 MK3 are both great choices if you’re looking for an affordable way to get into 3D printing and you’re not afraid to build some stuff to get there. They both give you immense value for your money, they both have a fairly painless assembly process, and they both print 3D objects you can be proud of.

So which one is right for you?

Bottom Line Up Front: So if you want to see what the 3D printing fuss is all about, the Ender 3 is the perfect place to start. If you’re looking for a kit that ups the game and lets you try out a bunch of new features, the original Prusa i3 MK3 is worth its price here, if you’ve got the money. You really can’t go wrong either way.

Creality Ender 3 3D Printer | Matter Hackers

The Creality 3D printer line is completely open-source, allowing for add-ons and upgrades of almost every component on the machine. This 3D printer gives you an awesome foundation for experimentation.

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Main Differences Between the Ender 3 vs Prusa i3 MK3

The main differences between teh Ender 3 and Prusa i3 MK3 are:

  • The Prusa i3 MK3 print bed is slightly larger than the Ender 3
  • The Prusa i3 MK3 prints faster than than the Ender 3 because it has a rigid bed
  • The Ender 3 is generally less expensive compared to the Prusa i3 MK3

About the Ender 3

First up is Creality’s Ender 3, a desktop setup that is excellent for beginner users who don’t want to overstep their budget. Creality’s whole deal is making 3D printer kits accessible, and the China-based company has been improving on their models since their beginning in 2014.

Their Ender series is designed for the hobbyist user, but don’t let that make you think of bad quality – they’ve perfected the under $200 print until you can’t distinguish it from prints that came off rigs that cost two or three times as much.

Their Ender series is designed to get you involved in every step of the 3D printing process, from seeing how your machine is put together to watching the finished project materialize. Here are all the details you need to find out if Ender 3 is your best bet.

Creality Ender 3 3D Printer | Matter Hackers

The Creality 3D printer line is completely open-source, allowing for add-ons and upgrades of almost every component on the machine. This 3D printer gives you an awesome foundation for experimentation.

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NOTE: Here are some of the best Ender 3 upgrades in 2020.

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Ender 3 Specifications

Printing technology

FDM

Print area (build volume)

220 mm x 220 mm x 250 mm

Printer size

440 mm x 410 mm x 465 mm

Printer weight

8.6 kg

Filament type

1.75 mm PLA, ABS, or TPU

Extruder Nozzle diameter

0.4 mm

Maximum print speed

200 mm/sec

Maximum layer resolution

0.1 mm

Print precision

+/- 0.1mm

Heated bed

Yes

Connectivity

SD card, USB

LCD screen

Yes

Pros of the Ender 3

Ender 3 Price

The Ender 3 is one of the most affordable desktop 3D printers you will see out there, period.

You can find it for under $200 through all the vendors you associate with 3D printers, including Amazon, Gearbeast, and Creality itself. It’s not only affordable, but it’s also accessible, and you’ll have a lot of outlets to shop around to ensure you’re getting the best of the best deal.

Check out the latest prices on the Ender 3 here on Amazon.

Ender 3 Assembly

You may still be wary after hearing the Ender 3 is a kit and not a fully assembled printer. So many 3D printers can pass themselves off as good deals because you’re doing all the work to get them going. But with the Ender 3, the assembly process is virtually painless. This good start to your experience gives you a boost to enjoy the rest of your printing sooner and with more understanding of how things work.

Ender 3 Size

Although the Ender 3 is by no means the largest – or smallest, if you’re into that – desktop 3D printer out there, its balance of print area and compactness makes it the golden ideal in its class. [size of printing area] is big enough for a large size range of personal projects, and you can always print pieces to assemble together into a larger finished object.

And for the Ender 3, compactness is translated into putting a lot of great stuff into a package that doesn’t waste space. Desktop printing is always going to be a cramped market, so Ender 3 gives you plenty of room to do your thing without getting in the way of the rest of your life.

Ender 3 Print quality

It might take a little adjusting after your first few runs, but the Ender 3 gets what you want to do and helps that happen well. One of the ways it makes a great finished product is with its tight filament path – with fewer twists and turns for the filament to go through when it’s getting to the extruder, the smoother the print is going to be, especially when you’re working with flexible filaments like nylon.

Open source software

The Ender 3’s upgrade system is the best we’ve seen in a kit printer. You’re not left alone to fumble with a system that’s going to be incompatible with everything else you want to use, and you’ll be able to take advantage of any (or all!) of Creality’s available updates.

Those are growing by the day, as are the creative additions Creality users post for others to find and freely use on the internet. If you’re one to tinker around with code and put together something awesome, you can add your own ideas to the mix and get them out there for everyone to use.

Cons of the Creality Ender 3

Uneven base

The Creality 3 is not perfect, and the most obvious way it shows its flaws is through its printer base. It doesn’t lie flat, which of course causes issues if you don’t correct it. The motion of the printing arm and extruder makes the base wobble unless you stick a corrective wedge under the uneven part.

Happily, the fix is just as easy as that. You don’t have to use any special piece of equipment or print any extension, you just have to make sure the base’s footing is evened out. But even if it is a snap to correct, you have to remember to do so to keep your prints from turning into disasters, and this also makes keeping the printer bed level difficult.

Manual calibration

Related to your quest to even up the printer base is the need to manually calibrate your heater bed on a consistent basis. This means to get the absolute best prints you can, you’ll have to manually calibrate it before every print you do. This is hands down the most annoying aspect of using the Ender 3 – but relatively speaking, it’s not such a terrible payoff for the amazing performance you get elsewhere in the printing process.

Bed adhesion

The first layer of any 3D print steers the direction of the rest of the print, either into perfection or disaster.

The Ender 3’s BuildTak-ish grip finish on its heater bed occasionally needs a little assistance towards greatness in this area; using an outside adhesion material is all you need, though, something like a permanent glue stick from Elmer’s. That’s all it takes to fix this little quirk, so whether you’re just starting out or a 3D printing veteran, you’ll be able to do it yourself no problem.

About the Prusa i3 MK3

As another top-of-the-line 3D printer kit, the Prusa i3 MK3 is impressive for a 3D printer, period. It boasts innovations that make it a contender beyond its perceived weight class, and its desktop status puts these in the hands of anyone who wants to experience it. It’s also something you have to put together, but it’s worth it. Trust us.

Original Prusa i3 3D Printer Kit | Amazon

This provides a great print setup with the printer so you don't have to dive into complex new programs by the time construction is done. You can start printing right away! Of course, you can dive into the repaired.

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Prusa i3 MK3 Specifications

Printing technology

FFF, FDM

Print area

250 mm x 210 mm x 200 mm

Printer size

419 mm x 381 mm x 419 mm

Printer weight

6.35 kg

Filament type

1.75 mm, PLA, HIPS

Extruder Nozzle diameter

0.4 mm

Maximum print speed

50 mm/s

Maximum layer resolution

Not listed

Print precision

0.05 mm

Heated bed

no

Connectivity

SD, USB

LCD screen

yes

Pros of the Prusa MK3

Frame strength

The Prusa i3 MK3 holds up to a lot. Its rigidness is a major upside and a great example of how build kits don’t necessarily have to suffer stereotypical pitfalls of weak points where they fit together. A more rigid frame is going to give you a much steadier print, which will give you prints that reflect your design with perfect accuracy. And of course, frame rigidity is great for counteracting any rough environment hazards you may encounter.

Crash detection

3D printing can be such a nerve-racking process. Hours of painstaking planning can be wiped out with a single unplugging, and even just needing to pause in the middle of a project can make the rest of the project go wonky. The Prusa i3 MK3 has eliminated all that. It detects crashes with plenty of time for you to deal with the potential issues, so if you are less than certain about your set up, you’ll know where to double and triple check as you’re going along.

Power failure backup

No electrical grid is immune to going down, especially in the face of Mother Nature or other people who share your workspace. The Prusa i3 MK3 understands that, and it’s prepared for whatever disaster you throw at it. Its smooth transition from full speed to powering down is incremental enough to keep your place as a true pause.

You don’t have to worry about getting back to a specific point; it does that for you. You don’t have to worry about losing any information; it won’t. You don’t have to worry about remembering to save at regular intervals (although that’s still a great idea!); it pretty much does that for you. You get the idea.

Excellent documentation

If you are intimidated or overwhelmed by 3D printing in general, know that the Prusa i3 MK3 has support out the wazoo. Whether you’ve decided to buy one to start your 3D printing journey, whether you are curious about building your own machine, whether you’re looking to add to your collection without breaking the bank – the Prusa i3 MK3 has your back.

Its thorough support manual and thriving, active online community can help you clear up any questions or problems you might come across. Plus you’ll meet some great people who share your passion for 3D printing.

Removable magnetic print bed

This is an unassuming feature that makes such a difference for the better that you’ll be wondering how you ever 3D printed without it. Since the print bed is flexible, it’s easy to adjust as you need, and the fact that it’s attached with magnets make it even easier to remove, clean, and put back in place without needing any tools or real manufacturing know-how.

Autocalibration

This printer has nine points of automatic calibration, which keeps everything amazingly safe from errors while printing. It will adjust as it goes along so your print details and finish will stay true in line.

OctoPrint upgrades

Prusa teams ups with the OctoPrint for one of the most consistent printing software upgrade services out there. You can get the full usage of OctoPrint whenever you use the Prusa i3 MK3, and there are tons of places online you can download it for your use. And it’s a totally free software with a lot of fans out there who will help you figure out what you need and what version is best.

Cons of the Prusa MK3

Prusa i3 MK3 Price

You get a lot of cool features that make your 3D printing a premium experience with the Prusa i3 M3 – but you’ll pay full price for it. At $900, this is not a buy to take lightly without seriously considering your budget. It’s not for the light of wallet, and if you’re not absolutely certain you’ll get $900 worth of use out of 3D printing as a hobby or business, look elsewhere for a better deal.

Filament detection system

This is a great addition to any 3D printer, and the Prusa i3 MK3 doesn’t stint on the fancy extras that make your printing easier. However, this one can be fooled by a clear filament.

If you’re using any kind of filament without color, the filament detection system in here won’t see it, and unfortunately, this isn’t a quirk you can fix. In our experience, it’s not enough of an issue to deter from the great aspects of this printer, but if you lean heavily on clear filament for your output, you’ll have to either find another printer or monitor this one very closely to make sure you don’t run out in the middle of your projects.

Quality of printer parts

A few of the parts for the printer are 3D printed themselves, like the frame for the LCD control screen, and while the parts easy to add into the smooth build experience, they are not at the same visual quality of the non-3D printed parts. There are surface discrepancies that, although few and far between and don’t interfere with functionality, are noticeable. If you know this will bug you, you can always print your own replacements.

Frequent updates

Because this printer has so many components and features that are new to the field in general, the Prusa i3 MK3’s firmware will be updating constantly. It will level out as these features become more widespread, but as anyone who is a frequent tech trailblazer knows, the kinks will have to work themselves out as they’re being used. You won’t be a beta tester, but you will be reaping the immediate benefits of those who were.

Final Verdict: Creality Ender 3 vs Prusa MK3?

This is a really tough choice. Both the Creality and Prusa printers produce excellent quality 3D objects, and they both give you a wonderfully supported building experience. We highly recommend both of these kits for a 3D printing enthusiast.

We would say the real decision comes down to what design quirks you are willing to work with, but all of these have easy fixes, and the real difference is the price.

Bottom Line: So if you want to see what the 3D printing fuss is all about, the Ender 3 is the perfect place to start. If you’re looking for a kit that ups the game and lets you try out a bunch of new features, the Prusa i3 MK3 is worth its price here, if you’ve got the money. You really can’t go wrong either way.

Creality Ender 3 3D Printer | Matter Hackers

The Creality 3D printer line is completely open-source, allowing for add-ons and upgrades of almost every component on the machine. This 3D printer gives you an awesome foundation for experimentation.

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Further Reading on 3D Printer Model Options

How to Find the Best Nylon 3D Printer in 2021

Best Nylon 3D Printer

Nylon is designed to give you a next-level experience with 3D printing. As a printing material, it’s just as versatile as more common filaments like PLS or ABS, but it has the added advantages of flexibility, tensile strength, and extraordinarily high layer resolution.

Its low friction coefficient and high melting temperature (and melting point) make it great for parts that have to move against each other without breaking like gears; other types of filaments are too brittle for the kind of wear and tear inner workings often exhibit.

Nylon is also called Polyamide, which means it’s a synthetic polymer that is made by linking an amino group of one molecule with the carboxylic molecule of another. That makes nylon plastic with super long, heavy molecules built from short but endlessly repeating sections of atoms. Think of chains made out of lots of individual links to get the idea.

Nylon’s structure is what gives its strength to any 3D filament made from it, and it also gives nylon filament material the stretchability that makes it so easy to spin into a filament in the first place. It’s got a lot of usage beyond industrial parts, too – anything you need to print with strong flexibility is a great choice for nylon 3D filaments.

Unfortunately, you can’t just switch out your current filament with nylon material and start printing without a few key considerations. But after you read these recommendations, you’ll be ready to either adjust your own flexible 3D printing rig or find a whole new one that’s more than up to the task.

What Are Some Good Nylon 3D Printers?

These are the best nylon 3D printers we’ve tested:

Nylon 3D Printer Pros and Cons

Pros of Working with Nylon

Strength and Flexibility

These are the traits you will hear touted over and over again when you work with nylon, and there are plenty of good reasons for this. Most notably, you’ll get around the inherent brittleness found in a lot of other common thermoplastics that stop them from being truly useful replacements for machine parts that experience a lot of grinding. Parts printed with nylon filaments don’t have that issue.

The thinner nylon is stretched, the better it can show off its strength, which it exhibits so easily from the fact that its molecular structure lets it bend under pressure. These traits let you experiment with animating 3D printing objects that you may have previously used only for show.

High Layer Resolution

Most people think of layer resolution as the amount of material used for each layer and how detailed that can make your final object. But that aspect of resolution is only half the story. It’s important to look at all the axes – X, Y, and Z – to calculate the true level of detail you’ll be able to get, and nylon is a star on all sides.

Its flexibility lends its the ability to produce thinner layers of print, which lets you get extremely detailed, and depending on your nozzle size, its precise melting temperature makes it stick to itself like Spiderman’s web holding a bus together. Plus, it won’t shrink down as much as more brittle materials like the more common PLA or ABS.

Resistance to Impact

Nylon’s strength is truly in its flexibility. Since the material has given, it rolls with the punches, which for 3D printed objects translates to not shattering into a million pieces you spent hours putting together in the first place when it’s dropped. And this is great for more than an insurance against clumsy hands and shaky shelves. If you’re looking to print an object that you want to put through the wringer, nylon’s the perfect material.

One fun project to test this is to print an egg cradle, like old school physics classes used to show the impact of gravity. If you’re into pitting things against each other, print one from PLA, one from ABS, and one from nylon, and see which one keeps the egg nice and cozy. (Hint: it’ll be the nylon!)

No Unpleasant Odor

Most thermoplastic filaments give off a distinctive and, let’s be honest, gross smell when they’re being used in a 3D printer. Not that we blame them; plastic is going to stink however you decide to melt it. But if you’re resigned to it as just an unfortunate quirk of the 3D printing process, you need to try printing with nylon. At its optimal bed temperature, it doesn’t give off any odor.

If this sounds like a trivial issue to you, try it once, and see how much more pleasant your experience is. And this is key to working well in either an enclosed area where you don’t have ventilation technology or a shared area where more than one person will be 3D printing or where multiple machines will be in constant use (like a fabrication shop).

Resistance to Continuous Abrasion (Abrasion Resistance)

Of course, this is good news for more than your eggs. Nylon’s refusal to get chipped or worn down from repeated beatings makes it a favorite for internal industrial machine work like gears.

Its resilience and print quality makes it perfect for parts that you can’t afford to replace regularly, especially if that’s because the parts are going to be grinding against each other or another abrasive surface for hours at a time multiple times a week.

Thanks to nylon’s affordable availability, this applies just as much to the desktop operation of your favorite movable action figures as it does to your pro level machine shop, so it’s a great material to invest in for your rugged 3D printing needs.

Availability and Cost

With all these specialized perks, nylon sounds like it’d be an expensive, difficult printer filament to find. But it’s not – it’s just a few bucks more per spool than more popular material, and your favorite source for PLA or ABS more than likely stocks nylon, too. It’s plentiful enough to experiment with and get to know, which is something you’ll be glad you did.

NOTE: You can check out the selection of nylon printer filament here on Amazon, or the specialty options here on MatterHackers.

Cons of Working with Nylon

Attracts Water Very Easily

Nylon attracts and absorbs moisture at a rate far greater than other 3D printing filaments. It can absorb up to 10% of its own weight in less than 24 hours; nylon is a polar structure, which means within its molecules, positive and negative charges are arranged asymmetrically.

This makes it easy for water molecules to latch onto them and absorb into the nylon’s structure, zapping it of its strength and making it unravel. This means that you have to do more than make sure you don’t use nylon to print flower vases or coffee mugs – you need a special storage system to make sure your unused printer filament doesn’t absorb any moisture from the air when you’re not using it, and you have to monitor the humidity of your work environment to make sure it stays optimal for working with this material.

If you print with nylon filament that isn’t dry, the water it retains explodes within the printer filament, causing air bubbles that will ruin the layer adhesion and surface finish. You can make sure your nylon filament is dry by heating your oven to 160 – 180 degrees Fahrenheit (70 – 82 degrees Celsius) and “baking” the nylon for 6 – 8 hours.

Otherwise, you need to keep it in an air-tight container and make sure it stays in a dry storage environment. The desiccant is another handy tool you can use. It’s those packets of small beads labeled “do not eat” you find in new purses, shoes, or other goods that don’t need to attract moisture, and you can buy them with a simple internet search.

NOTE: We picked up some premium air-tight containers to maintain our print quality at this listing with MatterHackers.

Warping

Because of nylon’s flexibility, its structure is more prone to warping than filaments with less give. You need to keep a close eye out on the adhesion your filament makes with your heated bed, especially if you are not working with a specialized gripper surface.

Applying a PVA-based adhesive to your printing surface makes a world of difference, and if you’re worried that sounds too fancy for your budget or skill set, don’t be – it’s those same Elmer’s glue sticks you used all through school.

Laying down a solid base for the first layer’s adhesion builds a good foundation for the rest of the object. Plus, don’t use that parts cooling fan you rely on to speed up your object’s completion. If you use that on nylon, it will weaken the material’s bond and encourage warping in the overall shape.

Needs a Higher Head Temperature Than Most Built-In Nozzles Can Deliver

Nylon’s trickier manipulation quirks mean it needs a specific temperature range that standard 3D printers are not built to handle straight out of their boxes. Generally, it needs an extruder temperature of 240 – 260 degrees Celsius, depending on the specifics of the flexible filament brand.

Standard heater heads are made of PEEK (polyether ether ketone / polylactic acid) and PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), both of which start to break down and emit noxious fumes at the low end of the temperature range you need to print with nylon. Find yourself an all-metal extruder nozzle, and you should be good to go since those are able to heat up to high temperatures without any structural issues.

NOTE: Determining the right hot end is key here. We’ve had luck with retrofitting all kinds of 3D printers with the E3D V6 hot ends from MatterHackers here.

Needs to Fully Cool at Its Own Speed

As tempting as its ability to cut your finish time in half may be, don’t use that parts cooling fan you rely on to speed up your object’s completion. If you use that on nylon, it will force water and air bubbles into the layers of your print, and as we mentioned above, that will turn your filament into a mess of un-sticky noodles.

So let your nylon print cool away from any winds or drafts, intentionally made or otherwise, and you’ll preserve that buttery surface finish for which nylon is so coveted as a filament.

What to Look For in Your Gear

Don’t let nylon’s quirks keep you from enjoying its perks. If you’re worried about working with a tricky material, you can rest easy knowing that just a few simple, accessible adjustments can make your 3D printer work great with nylon.

  • If you’re looking for the best and quickest adjustment, get a detachable all-metal extruder nozzle. They’re sold separately and cheaply, and after you’re done printing with nylon, you can go right back to your printer’s original head without more trouble than changing a light bulb. And heck, if you want to set up a nylon-exclusive printer, there are plenty out there that come with permanent metal-only extruders, so you don’t have to even think about your heater head’s temperature.
  • Another easy fix that will make dramatic improvements to your nylon builds is making sure your heated bed is covered in the right surface. If you are using a glass print bed, make sure it can be heated. That is vital for the stability of your nylon print. Alternatively, you can use Garolite for your heated bed. It’s a linen-based phenolic sheet made by impregnating glass cloth with an epoxy resin under pressure and heat. You will need a build plate that can transfer heat to the Garolite build surface, but it’s worth it for the print bed adhesion you will get.
  • You should also look for airtight containers that can store your nylon – some 3D printers have compartments built into the printer body itself, but check the seals before you decide those are enough. Those that aren’t specifically made for nylon may have air leakage issues, but airtight storage is good for several other types of durable filament material as well, so they are more common than you might think.

There are also 3D printers available built exclusively to print with nylon filament types. If you’re done testing the material and are ready to use nylon on an industrial scale for durable additive manufacturing, it may be worth investing in one of these bad boys, so you have all the settings and parts already adjusted as needed.

Conclusion: Top Nylon 3D Printers

Nylon is a great durable filament to work with. It’s got strength and flexibility beyond what you can find in the more popular PLAs and ABSs, and in spite of its tricky reputation, it’s not that much more difficult than working with either of those introductory materials.

You’ll fall in love with its layer resolution as well, which brings exquisite detail to your finished prints. You do have to keep several things in mind before you work with it, but once you’ve gotten those easy couple of pointers down, you’ll be ready to print with nylon in no time.

Recommended Reads

Best Dental 3D Printer for Dental Models [2021]: Dental 3D Printers

Best Dental 3D Printer

3D printing is amazingly versatile. It’s not just a novelty process for toys or collectibles – it can actually help save lives and keep people healthy while making both of those easier and less expensive.

Dental 3D printing is a great example of this. It’s a niche process born from refining the details of general 3D printing so that they fit the needs of dental professionals and dental technicians, so that does mean there are specific characteristics of equipment and process that you’ll have to consider if you’re looking to get into this area yourself.

Our Pick
Ultimaker S5 3D Printer
$6,355.00

These versatile 3D printer is ideal for higher volume printers, looking for capacity, reliability, and dental customization.

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07/27/2021 02:45 pm GMT

But don’t worry, we’re here to help you take your first taste of this unique application for the dental industry!

What are the Best Dental 3D Printers?

To show you what our list of tips looks like in product form, we’ve rounded up a few of the internet’s (and our) favorite 3D dental printers.

1. Ultimaker S5 3D Printer: Best Overall Dental 3D Printer

Our Pick
Ultimaker S5 3D Printer
$6,355.00

These versatile 3D printer is ideal for higher volume printers, looking for capacity, reliability, and dental customization.

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07/27/2021 02:45 pm GMT

2. MoonRay S Printer: Best Small Desktop 3D Dental Printer

Compact Pick
SprintRay MoonRay S | Matter Hackers

Best Compact Dental Printer. Short on space? This desktop 3D printer excels with precise details like dental prints.

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3. Peoply Moai SLA Printer: Best Small Desktop 3D Dental Printer

Further Read: Peoply Moai Review

How does dental 3D printing work?

Dental 3D printing needs the highest level of exactness possible, and that is achieved by using stereolithography (SLA) or digital light processing (DLP). These methods are closely related, and both use a light on the UV end of the spectrum to basically carve out shapes from liquid resin.

First, you design your object on a computer-aided drafting (CAD) program, like you do for any other 3D printing project. Then, your project file goes to the printer’s UV light, which is focused onto specific areas of the liquid resin based on your pattern (resin 3D printer).

Anything the UV light hits will harden, and anything it avoids will stay liquid, so once all the parts of your pattern have been exposed, you can pull them out of the rest of the resin. We’re pretty sure that’s how they made the Terminator, but it’s also great for when you need a tooth capped.

What is dental 3D printing used for?

3D dental printing is a great way to ease the expense and effort of a few mouth and tooth molding, a denture set, and replacement processes that are necessary for dental health. The industry is new but expanding rapidly, so this list is growing all the time.

3D Printed Night guards and Orthodontic Aligners

Anyone who has gone through the pure torture of wire and banded braces can understand how big of a deal aligners are.

They are plastic smooth surface trays that you wear in your mouth fitted over your teeth – the aligner doesn’t fit your current teeth exactly, but is in a stage of the shape you want your teeth to become so that it gently and gradually guides your teeth into their new places.

They’re replacing the obvious tugs of traditional braces with invisible straightening, so they present a great leap forward in personal orthodontics. And since you go through several aligners in stages to get to your final teeth settings, 3D dental printing cuts down on the time and cost it takes to get those done.

Plus, with 3D dental printing and additive manufacturing, you can now get an industrial grade manufacturing nightguard that will last you a much longer time than plastic ones you can buy at the drugstore.

Getting a nightguard 3D printed from your dentist will also ensure a much more personal fit, since it will be molded to your own teeth and not a generic set of sizes that may or may not account for your mouth’s true shape. They may be more expensive, but the custom fit and shape will cut back on how much you grind your teeth in so much more comfort, you won’t even notice it’s happening.

3D Printed Dental Crowns

Another orthodontic dental process that is traditionally burdensome but also a mainstream necessity is getting crowns and bridges, or having part or all of a tooth replace when it’s broken.

Instead of having to send out for a molding that could take several weeks, dentists can now equip themselves with a 3D printer that scans the broken tooth, adds in part needed to make the tooth whole, and 3D print it themselves, all in less than an hour. No external parts or labor necessary.

And depending on your coverage, this will cost either you or your dental insurance company a lot less. Either way, if you’re putting off getting any part of your tooth fixed because you don’t have the cash, see if your dentist offers 3D dental printing for their services – you’ll be surprised what they can do with that.

Surgical guides

Dentistry is one area where you don’t want to skimp on precision, and additive manufacturing with 3D printing is a huge asset to this area of need. One way it helps dentist professionals is by giving them the means to 3D print exacting guides for oral surgeries.

This is when a dentist scans a patient’s mouth to us computer drafting to add holes for the areas where they’ll be performing fixes.

Then they 3D print the surgery guide like an aligner, so it goes right over the person’s teeth, and use the gaps as their work areas without the fear of drilling or extracting the wrong thing. It’s a great way to help eliminate spatial errors and make sure everything’s ship-shape during delicate procedures.

3D Dental Models / Orthodontic Models

You don’t want your dentist to be trying something out for the first time on your mouth without plenty of practice first, and that’s where 3D printed dental models come in.

If your dental professional can print an exact replica of your teeth, they can have a perfect place for the trial and error that will ultimately prepare them for any and all details – both expected and not – that come up during procedure for dental implants

Any quirks that your teeth may be hiding, any unexpected hitches in equipment, any possibilities that things won’t exactly match your dentist’s expectations can be worked out in a harmless resin model that guides the surgeons to perfection by the time they touch you.

Plus, since these models aren’t meant to go into your mouth themselves, they don’t require special material, and the dentist can alter them as much as they want to experiment with technique and results. 3D dental printing is a great teaching tool.

3D Dental Printing Pros and Cons

Additive Printing for Dental Pros

Flexible applications

As you can tell, 3D printing technology serves a lot of dental needs. Because this is an industry that is heavily dependant on material that can be extremely precise for the infinite variations of the human mouth, 3D printing is a perfect fit for many dental operations.

Small, one-chair practices can benefit from this technology just as much as multi-office groups, and that brings a lot of dentists onto a more level playing field, especially if they are the only ones around in an area bereft of traditional resources. When you can print your own materials instead of waiting weeks to have them shipped back to you, you make the whole process easier on yourself and your patients.

Easy corrections

Even dentists are human, and all humans make mistakes. But luckily, 3D dental printing makes correcting those mistakes so much faster and easier than traditional dental methods that you won’t even notice they had to be done. And they can usually be done in-office instead of outsourced to a lab that would add even more time to correcting it, so 3D printing is a win all around.

Constantly evolving

By the time you read this article, at least one new 3D dental printing innovation will have been approved for human usage – the industry is expanding that quickly.

Besides the points mentioned above, 3D dental printing is moving into areas as diverse as developing anti-bacterial material specifically for all the gross stuff found in the human mouth, to making flossing easier by developing a machine that can floss all your teeth at once. We’re not quite sure how that last will end up working, but we’re excited for the future of 3D dental printing.

Cons

The need for extreme precision

Because of the tiny spaces in which dental procedures are done, they have little to no room for error. That’s necessary for their 3D printing as well, even for 3D prints that don’t actually go into your mouth.

If you can’t get a 3D printer to the level of detail you need for the real thing, it’s going to lose all its usefulness as a teaching tool and as a real-world appliance. Luckily, 3D printing has gotten to the precision point needed in the dental world, but it’s by no means the default, so you still have to be careful to make sure you’re getting what you need.

Startup and maintenance prices

Although you can find a DLP 3D printer (dental appliance) and SLA 3D printer for less than $1,000, those are mostly aimed at hobbyists, jewelry makers, and others that don’t use their rigs for medical purposes. The general cost for a 3D dental-grade resin printer is going to average out to around $3,000.

This doesn’t include materials, but the good news is those parts of your 3D dental printing experience are going to cost relatively little, way more in line with those used for desktop machines. However, one more thing to keep in mind is how fast 3D dental printing is evolving.

This might entail investing either constant money or constant time for you to make sure you’re keeping up as much as you need to. You don’t have to jump onto every new trend you see, but you do have to be ready to give your patients the most up to date services that you can, and that may cost more than you originally expected.

New training needed

Dentists have to go to more school than most non-medical students will ever want to think about, so they’re not all psyched to have yet another combination of computer skills to learn.

They have to keep up with the non-3D printing science and trends in their field as well, which is a lot even before you consider it’s not likely to be in their sphere of expertise. However, you could spin this as a positive since dentists are used to continuous learning. But don’t assume that all will want to pile more onto their plates.

What do you need to look for in a 3D dental printer?

Precision, precision, precision

We can’t state emphatically enough how important tiny detail accuracy is in a good 3D dental printer. DLP and SLA technology printers harness the power of lasers to make sure this happens for you. Make sure you’re aware of the exact specifications of the layer size you need for the specific work you’ll be doing.

Ability to accommodate add-ons

If the 3D dental printer you’re looking at isn’t capable of evolving with your own growing knowledge and practice, don’t buy it. Move on to one that has a greater capacity than you think you need right now, because you’ll find out new processes and new applications that you want to try, but if you can’t, it will stunt both your own interest and your dental capacities.

Compatible with your favored design software

This is another area that’s going to help you expand your 3D dental printing horizons. Just because DLP and SLA machines work differently on the mechanical side doesn’t mean you have to totally relearn any computer-aided drafting work you’ve already got under your belt – you’ll be able to find a pretty decent selection of 3D dental printers to go with your software of choice, especially if you’re comfortable with market leaders like AutoCAD.

It is approved to work with biocompatible resins

If your machine isn’t able to work with materials that are safe for people to have in their mouths 24/7, then you will miss out on the majority of the 3D dental printing game.

Technically, you could still make mouth and tooth models (dental model), which do have respected places in dental technology, but you will get your best worth out of a 3D printer that can let you give your patients a direct fix. Most printers rated for 3D dental printing will cover this, but make sure you aren’t getting one that is specifically and only for models unless that’s all you’re planning on building.

Which 3D Printing Brands Cover Industrial Dental Manufacturing?

  • Formlabs. Their reputation precedes them, and they’ve taken their general excellence into a dental direction with their resin DLP and SLA machines.
  • Formlabs Form 2: This isn’t exclusively a dental printer, but it is very capable in the dental arena.
  • Stratasys. These guys go industrial, and while they may not be the cheapest options around, they are definitely the hardest. We recommend these printers for a single office that houses several dentists so the cost is shared and the machine gets to flex to its maximum capacity.
  • EnvisionTec. Want to get in on the latest 3D dental printer research for a dental lab setting as well as the tech to handle it? EnvisionTec has both, and you’ll be all the way out on the cutting edge with their products and services.

There you have it – all you need to know about successfully using 3D printing for dental industry needs. Use our advice to find what you need, and you’ll be smiling in no time.

Our Pick
Ultimaker S5 3D Printer
$6,355.00

These versatile 3D printer is ideal for higher volume printers, looking for capacity, reliability, and dental customization.

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07/27/2021 02:45 pm GMT

Further Reading on 3D Printer Applications

3D Printing vs Injection Molding: Know The Difference

3D Printing vs. Injection Molding

3D printing is not always a stand-alone process – sometimes it’s only the first step in a manufactured part’s journey. When paired with mass fabrication processes like injection molding, the advantages and disadvantages of both processes come into sharp relief against each other.

Though they can both participate in the same ultimate goal of creating parts for a whole, 3D printing and injection molding each have their distinct strengths and weaknesses that describe what they should be used for and what they should leave to the other.

Main Differences Between 3D Printing vs Injection Molding

The main differences between 3D printing vs Injection Molding are:

  • 3D printing is more expensive, whereas injection molding is a cheaper variant for bigger produce.
  • 3D printing is smaller, whereas injection molding machines are quieter and faster.
  • 3D printing allows you to make changes at any stage of the production process, whereas with injection molding you can’t make changes during the producing process.

Injection Molding

Injection Molding

Overview

Injection molding is a way for a large number of parts to be made at one time. Basically, a tray with printed molds of the parts carved in is created, and liquid material such as polycarbonate, metal, nylon, or anything that works for the object’s finish is poured into the molds and cooled to create the part dozens or hundreds of times over. It’s typically used in mass manufacturing where a part has to be repeated with strict fidelity for a large number of finished items.

If you’ve ever used a hand tool, you’ve seen an example of something that was built using injection molding. The handle of your screwdriver is exactly like the handle of every other screwdriver of that same brand and model, with the same bumps and dips for grip in the same places and the same flare at the collar to keep your fingers safe while you’re working.

The company used injection molding to make sure all of those design quirks translated over; however many screwdrivers were sold to stores.

Pros

Repeatability:

The injection molding process is hands down the most efficient process to produce large numbers of the same thing. The plastic parts you create are going to be virtually identical no matter how many you produce or how many times you repeat the injection molding process.

That’s a great advantage for anyone who needs branding consistency or even just reassurance that everything will fit together as planned over a long and continuous manufacturing process.

Finish:

The finish of products that have been injection molded is going to be smoother than those that have been 3D printing since injection molding does not build up the material in layers but instead creates one smooth outer layer all at once through its pouring method.

If you have parts that would suffer from the small ridges of 3D printer layers grinding together while working as a whole, injection molding solves that problem.

Of course, the higher quality your 3D printer and filament is the less of a chance of the layers being an issue, so that may not be of concern depending on your equipment.

Mass production:

Injection molding was invented for producing lots of clones of the same object, which is invaluable when you’re manufacturing on a large scale.

And if you have the up-front costs, the price to make each object goes down exponentially once you start producing. If you’re looking for this kind of efficiency, injection molding will make your life easier.

Bigger parts than 3D printing:

Although injection molding has its limits for the size of each individual piece that can be created, this process can produce a much bigger piece than 3D printing technology.

Because of the industrial scale of its tools, injection molding works on a bigger scale, which is a big advantage even if you still have to print separate parts to put together later.

Bigger pieces mean fewer connections, fewer seams, and fewer weak points, which is a major plus for objects that will see heavy mechanical or manual use.

Injection Molding Multiple Prints

Cons

Scrap rates:

Although injection molding produces much less scrap than other mass manufacturing processes, it still produces more scrap than 3D printing.

This is due to its use of a mold, which is a material negation process; whenever a shape is carved out of a larger piece of material, no matter how economically, there is going to be at least some scrap material left over because ultimately you are taking material away from the starting area to make your final shape.

If you’re using certain types of thermoplastics for your material, you’re able to gather the scrap pieces and melt them down to recycle into future printed molds.

But you’ll always have something left over from the mold because of the need to build in guide areas for the injection equipment to follow when going between parts that are meant to be separated when they are completed.

These guide areas will be broken off and discarded in the final product, so at least some scrap is expected after each batch, but these pieces of reused material may result in lower-quality prints, especially if they’re repeatedly recycled.

Up front costs:

Buying injection molding tools will set you back a lot of money right at the start of your project. Their individual costs vary depending on what you need them to do, but they are all industrial machines meant for large batch working, so the cash you need to set them up reflects that.

Plus, your costs don’t stop at the machines themselves; you also have to make sure you have enough material for the molds and for injecting into the molds. Those have to be right the first time, or else you’ll lose what you’ve invested and have to start over.

Up front time:

The expense of injection molding machines is vast but a one-time thing. However, you will always be in danger of wasting materials (and money) if you don’t invest a lot of time into your design before you even think about molding it.

Before you can start injecting, you have to design a prototype (sometimes via 3D printing), which means not only drawing a concept in a computer-aided drafting program but also rendering that design in a 3D model so you can use that model to create a mold that can replicate the prototype in volume.

Both of these steps sound simple on paper, but in practice, they require extensive testing, breaking, and refining until you come up with a mold that will work under injection molding situations and get you exactly what you need.

This level of perfection that you have to reach before you can try out your mold requires time and money that can’t be determined ahead of time – be prepared for unexpected snags to hold you up in areas you thought you had on lock. And then be prepared to start at the beginning again.

Difficulty making changes:

The reason the prototype and testing steps are so extensive in injection molding is that once you’ve started using your molds and tools for injections, it’s difficult to impossible to make design changes.

Injection molding uses heavy metals for its tooling and molds because they are in direct contact with the heated material that is poured into them. So they need to be materials that won’t warp under high temperatures – but this also means they are almost impossible to add or subtract anything from.

If you want to change anything about your molds after you’ve built them, it’s easier to shave down metal than to add pieces to it. But when you’re dealing with differences of millimeters, nothing is easy to get perfect when you are freehanding.

A mistake that would be insignificant on a larger scale design is going to compromise the integrity of an injection mold, putting all of the sections of the mold at risk of collapsing into each other during the injection process. No pressure or anything!

Uniform wall thickness:

Injection molding needs a very specific range of wall thickness to keep out inconsistencies in the cooling process and to prevent gaps while filling the mold tool.

You’ll need to make sure your design has a wall thickness of between 2 and 4 mm, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for variation if you had something else in mind.

3D Printing

3D Printing Process

Overview

Three-dimensional printing is the process of building an object through printing thin layers of the filament on top of one another to form a sculpted object.

The layers are printed by a machine with a nozzle that heats up the filament as it moves along the X, Y, and Z axes according to the design it’s programmed to follow.

3D printing technology has gained exponential popularity in the last decade, growing from a manufacturing and prototype niche to a way for many educators, artists, and just those who are curious to experiment with how it can fit into their lives.

It comes from the same family of processes like injection molding and can be a valuable step in the beginnings of that as well as its own stand-alone way to build something.

Pros

A range of accessibility:

Although you do need specialized equipment for 3D printing, it’s very easy to fit into whatever situation you plan on using it for. You can get a 3D printer that fits next to your home computer for $300 or less – about half that if you’re willing to buy a kit and put the printer together yourself.

You can get all types of filaments, standard and unique, on Amazon, and there are several free and open access design programs you can use straight off the internet, not to mention pre-designed patterns and thousands of message boards dedicated to tips, tricks, and questions about 3D printing.

If you’re an educator or an artist, you can make a good argument for bringing 3D printing into your profession as a way to teach or create. 3D printing is easy to bring on as an interactive addition to any sort of maker hobby in your life.

And it’s just as easy to go pro once you’re comfortable – you’ll find professional range 3D printers right alongside the smaller ones, and as long as you’ve done your research on brands and models, you can make that jump whenever you feel ready.

Individual adjustments:

3D printing is great for experimenting with your designs. As long as you have the patience (and filament) to fiddle with designs, printing temperatures, and finishing techniques, you can perfect your object until it’s exactly what you want during the actual 3D printing process.

A lot of 3D printers even let you stop in the middle of printing, make an adjustment, and start printing again in the same spot you left off. It’s a versatile way to learn your way around design.

Price:

Even at its most expensive, the upfront costs for 3D printing are going to come in at way lower prices than those for industrial-scale manufacturing.

Plus, your replacement and material costs are going to be relatively cheap as well; filaments go for as little as $15 a spool for PLA, the most commonly used type.

A range of materials:

You can 3D print with filaments that incorporate everything from thermoplastics to pieces of glass, in any color you can think of (and several you haven’t heard of yet).

Your object can glow in the dark, smell like wood, or hold water without spilling a drop. The possibilities are endless, and all you have to do is choose your filament.

3D Printing Print

Cons

Size:

3D printers are limited to what they can print size-wise to the printer’s physical dimensions, which are typically much smaller than industrial manufacturing machines.

You can, in theory, use a 3D Printer parts that go together for a bigger whole, but that would add many hours that you may or may not have.

Scalability:

Related to the size limitations of 3D printers, their ability to create more than one object at a time is severely limited. 3D printers use additive technology, which means they build their objects layer by layer instead of all the layers being poured at once like in a mold. That takes hours to create one completed object, and if you need to mass produce in a hurry, you’re out of luck.

FAQs About 3D Printing and Injection Molding

How much does it cost to do 3d printing?

This depends on whether you are going to use it for personal use or professional use. For personal use, the costs can be around $1000 if you decide on cheaper printer and materials, whereas for professional use, the costs can go up to $10,000, this of course meaning the printer will be around $5000.

Can I make money with 3D printing?

Yes, of course. You can list your printer for use and people can use it for creating their own objects and you get a share of the total cost, and you can also use it for a personal business and create items that you’re going to sell.

How much does a injection mold cost?

Injection molding can cost around thousand dollars, however, large production of items can cause up to $100,000 even, depending on how large the produce is, of course.

Why are injection molds so expensive?

Since the plastic injection molding molds are used more frequently, they need to be made of very durable materials in order to sustain the thousands of pounds of pressure every cycle. The most common materials used for molds is steel, thus the high costs of the metal injection molding molds.

Conclusion

Injection molding and 3D printing have advantages for different steps in your building process. If you’re looking to produce a lot of the same thing in a relatively short amount of time and you already have an airtight design, injection molding is the way to go so you can take advantage of its mass production traits – if you also have the startup cash and prototype testing time it takes.

3D printing will be more your speed if you need low barriers to beginning your build and a way to experiment with your designs without ruining your whole batch – if you’re okay with individualized printings and the time that takes. Either way, you’ll find a great way to bring your creations to life.