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How to Find the Best 3D Printer Build Plate

Best 3D Printer Build Plate

With all of the features of 3D printers, you may overlook the bed as one of the most important. However, you might want to think again. It can be the most noteworthy feature on your print quality, and it can define how easy it is to remove your print when it’s done.

While print beds come in many different materials, with various thermal characteristics, and at other price points, the whole point of the built plate is to offer a flat surface where the bottom layer of your print can rest.

It also provides an adhesive surface to which your print can adhere. The plastic extruded from the print head should form a temporary bond with the build plate without sliding around. This ensures that the print is built precisely.

If the build plate itself does not have an adhesive layer, it should provide a surface to which an adhesive layer can be applied.

Luckily, there are a lot of different options for build plates. Each has its own unique properties. Some 3D printers come with really fantastic build plates, and sometimes you need to buy your own and install it on top of your stock build plate.

Why a Build Plate is Important

buildplate

The first layer of your print is the most important. As your first layer goes down on the build plate, it needs to adhere correctly. If the first layer moves, the additional layers won’t line up correctly, and your final project won’t look the way it’s supposed to look.

You’ll find plenty of resources online to tell you why the first layer is the most important and why your build plate is the most critical feature of your 3D printer. If your first layer fails, the rest of your print will fail as well. Your first layer is a good indicator of the quality of the rest of your print. So, you can probably tell that the build plate is essential.

You simply can’t build without a build plate and how well the first layer gets created depends entirely on the build plate’s characteristics.

These characteristics include thermal variations, flexible materials, and many different price points. But it’s also important to remember that there are other factors to successful printing, like printing temperature and extruder height, just to name a couple.

To get the best accuracy, you have to tweak multiple settings until you get it just right, and it will be different for every job.

It also doesn’t mean you need to buy the 3D printer that comes with the best build plate. While some 3D printers come with really fantastic build plates, you can also purchase aftermarket build plates or use other adhesive solutions that will make your build plate function better.

Best Build Plate Surfaces

There are a lot of really great choices for build plate surfaces. What you choose will depend on what you need. As 3D printing has evolved, there’s been a lot of research into the area of build plates and adhesion.

Here are some of the most popular choices and why they’re great.

Glass

Glass is one of the most popular building surfaces because it’s simple. A glass sheet is an easy solution for most printers. It’s stiff and flat, so it won’t warp over time, meaning it’s a great long term solution that will only cost you a one-time fee upfront.

It’s a great solid surface that’s dense with low thermal conductivity. It takes longer to heat up than other materials, but it will spread the heat more evenly across the entire surface. Varieties include borosilicate glass sheets and mirror tiles.

glass buildplate

Most people pair their glass sheets with the painter’s tape, hairspray, or a glue stick to get the adhesion they need for the bottom layer and avoid delamination during printing. If you use hairspray or a glue stick, your print will likely have an incredibly smooth finish on the bottom.

You can also use adhesive stickers like PEI sheets or BuildTak with glass, which we’ll get to in a minute.

The main downfall of using glass is that it’s incredibly fragile, which means you have to use care when removing your print from the bed. It’s not flexible, so manually separating your print from the bed must be done very carefully to avoid breaking either.

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Anycubic Ultrabase

The Anycubic Ultrabase is also made of glass, but it contains nanoparticles on its surface that give it a few extra features, making it easier to use. The print will cling to the build plate while it’s hot, but the plate will release the object once it cools.

Because the Ultrabase is made of glass, it retains all of the same great properties like conductivity, flatness, and stiffness. Unfortunately, the bottom of your prints won’t have the same smooth finish. They’ll be slightly porous, which is what helps them release so easily.

Anycubic Ultrabase

You also can’t use any additional adhesive solutions like hairspray, glue, or Buildtak because it could damage the nanoparticles. However, you wouldn’t want or need to use these solutions because the Ultrabase is already adhesive enough.

Damaging the nanoparticles would result in a typical piece of glass that could still be used as a build plate, but you’ve just paid a premium for a regular piece of glass.

One downside to the Ultrabase is that this built-in adhesive does wear out over time and can be damaged from improper use. You will eventually have to replace it, which becomes costly for those who print a lot.

For those who want the ease of adhesion without the need for additional tools like hairspray as well as easy removal without damage to the glass, this is definitely worth the investment.

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BuildTak FlexPlate

This build plate system originally came with the Prusa i3 MK3, but now you can add it to almost any 3D printer. The BuildTak FlexPlate is a unique system that allows you to snap your prints off the bed just by flexing the bed.

It’s made of magnets along with a removable spring plate that’s made of steel. All you do is remove the build plate surface, which is interchangeable, and flex the steel to pop your print off of the surface.

BuildTak FlexPlate

This allows for faster printing, assuming you have multiple print plates that you can put in its place. It’s common in production environments where many prints need to be made in succession.

The FlexPlate is made to be used with BuildTak adhesive stickers or with PEI, but you can also use other brands of adhesive stickers as well as painter’s tape. However, you probably shouldn’t risk using hairspray or a glue stick directly on the spring steel.

It’s also not recommended to print directly on the build plate surface, which may inconvenience some who just want to put the build plate in place and go.

The FlexPlate does need to be installed on a perfectly flat surface, like glass. If it’s not, your printer needs to have a mesh leveling system, and the surface needs to be flat. Without a flat surface, likely, your prints won’t stick well to the bed, which will cause warping.

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Easy-Peelzy

The Easy-Peelzy is another solution for those who want a removable, flexible build plate. It’s similar to the FlexPlate. It has a flexible magnetic sheet that you can peel off of the magnetic base. Once that’s done, you can peel it off of the bottom of your prints.

This system is very kid-friendly, so it’s a popular system among schools and 3D printers meant for kids. There are no tools involved with removing prints, and there are no sharp edges, spring steel, fragile build plates, or heavy objects.

Easy-Peelzy 3D Printer Build Plate

The built-in surface is similar to BuildTak in that it doesn’t require any additional adhesive help like hairspray or a glue stick. It’s also not advised that you use painter’s tape or anything else to avoid damage to the surface. It’s meant to be adhesive but easy to peel.

However, it’s also similar in that it must be installed on a completely flat surface, like a glass build plate, or it will cause warping. It also shares the same problem as the Anycubic Ultrabase in that it will wear out over time and can be damaged if it’s used incorrectly.

This can be costly over time, but it’s still the best solution by far for those who are just starting in the world of 3D printing or who want a safe and effective solution for children who will be using the 3D printer.

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Polypropylene

You can use polypropylene sheets, and it’s another common solution because they offer good adhesion for an affordable price. You don’t need to use additional adhesive solutions on top of these sheets either.

These sheets are durable with proper care, and they won’t wear out as quickly as things like the BuildTak or other stickers. They’re almost as smooth as glass, and you’ll get a very smooth finish on the bottom of your print.

Mamorubot Polypropylene Build Plate

It acts much like the Ultrabase, and your prints will stick well when it’s hot but release easily after it’s cool. You can also clean the surface quickly with water or alcohol, which means maintenance of polypropylene is a breeze.

You can use build surface stickers with polypropylene, and they’ll work reasonably well, but they’re not necessary. It almost seems as if there are no downsides to using this solution at all.

Unfortunately, there’s always something. Many people report that these sheets scratch very easily if they’re not cared for properly, and they warp over time, so they don’t stay as flat as glass for as long. They’ll need to be replaced. Luckily, you can afford to do so.

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Aluminum

This is the most common 3D printing surface after glass. It’s a conductive metal, which means your print bed will reach the appropriate level of heat and distribute it uniformly throughout.

However, it’s also susceptible to expansion under higher temperatures, which can cause warping or poor adhesion in your first layer.

Even still, aluminum is used so widely because it can withstand the rough removal of prints from the bed. It’s an affordable option and can take a lot of wear and tear before needing to be replaced.

It’s one of the best and most affordable options for distributing heat evenly, especially when it comes to uniform adhesion at the first layer, as long as it doesn’t get too hot.

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Heated vs Non-Heated Beds

Now that you have a better idea of which materials may be right for you, it’s time to look at whether or not you should be using a heated bed or a non-heated bed for all of your 3D printing.

Most 3D printers on the market today come with a heated bed. While a heated bed definitely gives you some distinct advantages, it’s not always necessary. And there’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all solution.

3d printer heated bed

Whether or not you need a heated bed depends on how you’re using the machine.

Advantages of a heated bed

The primary advantage of a heated bed is to prevent warping at the first layer. We all know that even adhesion at the first layer is critical to establishing a firm foundation for the rest of the print’s quality.

Without this first layer, the rest of the print would fail. It helps to maintain uniform heating of the material and eliminate uneven cooling problems when the job is finished.

The print bed’s temperature is based on the melting point of the material you are using, so it will vary from one filament to the next. This factor will help you determine what kind of bed you need.

Some beds can be heated to higher temperatures than others, so be aware of the filaments you’re using before you determine what kind of build plate to buy.

Disadvantages of a heated bed

The one drawback to a 3D printer with a heated bed is that it consumes a lot of power. If you don’t need a heated bed, you may reconsider getting one. It can cost a lot of money to power this machine.

You’ll pay extra in your monthly bills, plus you may have to install an enclosure to keep your components hot. It’s not worth the extra hassle if you don’t need it.

Filaments like PLA don’t need a heated bed at all, so if that’s all you plan to print with, you don’t need to worry about it. However, more complex materials like ABS do. If you plan to print with multiple materials in the long run, get the heated bed now, so you don’t end up spending more money later.

If you don’t get a heated bed, your creation will be limited, which may be acceptable in the near term, but you’ll regret it once you start expanding your horizons, and you’ll wish you would have gotten a 3D printer to grow with you.

Bed Additives

Not only do you need to decide on a build plate and whether you want to heat it or not, but you also need to consider whether or not you want to use any bed additives. You don’t always have to enhance your adhesion, but you can, and sometimes you may need to.

Easy-Peelzy 3D Printer Build Plate

Glue sticks

Hearkening back to the days of elementary school supply shopping, you may remember the cheap, washable glue sticks your mom bought. They didn’t exactly work well on paper, and your third-grade art project fell apart by the time you turned it in, but they work great here.

They’re a simple favorite when it comes to attaching the first layer of a print job to your build plate. They’re washable, so you can apply them directly to the print surface and then wipe them off later with water.

They’re affordable, so you will have to go through a lot of glue sticks before you ever pay for a fancy Anycubic Ultrabase.

Spread the glue evenly over a glass or aluminum build plate, and you’ll experience perfect adhesion at the first layer with little to no effort. Your finish will be just as smooth as glass.

Hairspray

Hairspray is virtually the same as a glue stick. It works with most of your standard materials and filaments. Spray it on in an even layer, and you’ll get great adhesion and a smooth finish. Aquanet isn’t just for your grandma anymore.

Unfortunately, it can get smelly, and it can also be a little bit harder to clean than a glue stick. It also doesn’t work well with polycarbonate or ABS. It makes those materials more susceptible to warping.

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Painter’s tape

Applying painter’s tape to a glass or aluminum build plate offers a rough surface for your first layer to grab onto. It’s like the tread on your tires providing traction. Your first layer will hold firmly to the bed, and it can help prevent warping.

One problem with painter’s tape is that you may find small amounts of curing at the corners, but you won’t be able to see them unless you look closely. The surface finish also won’t be as smooth as it will with a glue stick or hairspray.

PEI

PEI has a rougher surface than painter’s tape so that it can offer even more traction for your materials. There are more bumps for your filaments to hold onto. You can use it with materials that require a heated bed, the prints are easy to remove, and you’ll notice little to no warping.

Of course, as you can probably imagine, your surface finish will be very rough.

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FAQs

Question: What is the best surface to 3D Print on?

Answer: The most popular 3D Print bed material by far is glass. It’s simply the easiest solution for most people. Because it’s stiff, it won’t warp. It’s solid and flat, so your prints will always have a smooth surface.

It may be fragile, but as long as you treat your glass bed with care, you’ll get great life out of this solution and likely never have to replace it. For the best adhesion, use glue sticks or hairspray.

Question: Why is my 3D Print not sticking to the bed?

Answer: There could be a lot of reasons why your print isn’t sticking to the bed. Don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that you’re not using the right type of bed or the right type of adhesive.

Instead, make sure you have it set at the ideal temperature for your print material. If it’s not too cold, the material won’t adhere. If it’s too hot, the material will soften too much and peel right off.

You can also try switching up your adhesive technique. If you’re using hairspray, switch to a glue stick, or vice versa. Coat your build surface with a thin, even layer and try again.

If neither of those things works, try a thorough cleaning of your print bed surface. Water or rubbing alcohol can go a long way to ensuring that you have removed any dust you can’t see that could be interfering with your adhesion.

Question: What kind of tape is used for 3D Printing?

Answer: If you’ve decided to go the painter’s tape route for adhesion on your print bed, most users go with Gizmo Dorks blue painter’s tape. It’s affordable, and it works the best. Both PLA and ABS stick well to this type of tape. It offers strong adhesion and it’s easy to remove later on.

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Final Thoughts

Because the first layer is so important for successful printing overall, your build plate is one of the most essential features of your 3D printer. Ensuring you have a great print bed will set you up for achieving your 3D printing goals from the start.

It will ensure reliable adhesion, prevent warping, and can go farther in guaranteeing that your entire print will not have any deformities.

A heated print bed increases the number of filament types with which you can print, and a glass print bed will give you the most versatile and long-lasting solution. Although you may need to be prepared to use additional adhesives, it’s one of the most popular choices.

There are many other options out there for specific needs, so make sure you do your research before making your decision. You’ll get the best, most accurate results if you know your options and know what you need before you buy!

Best Stepper Motor Driver for 3D Printer

One way you can massively upgrade the performance of your 3D printer is to find the best stepper motor, driver.

This important component plays a vital role in how your 3D printer will perform. Not many 3D printer owners know what this driver does. It isn’t a common piece of 3D printing terminology. However, it is essential in the smooth running of your 3D printer and helps to create accurate and high-quality models.

The best stepper motor drivers for your 3D printer that we are going to show you, can really improve how it operates. We’ll also give you everything you need to know about this component. This includes how it works, the best brands, and things you should consider when buying one.

Best Stepper Motor Driver for your 3D Printer – Overview

As a quick snapshot, these are the top 5 stepper motor drivers that you can get for your 3D printer:

Best for saving money Hobbypower A4988 Stepper Motor Driver  Check latest price
Best for versatility SparkFun EasyDriver Stepper Motor Driver  Check latest price
Best for DIY 3D printers BHL DRV8825 Stepper Motor Driver Check latest price
Best for upgrading A4988 drivers BIQU A4988 Compatible StepStick Stepper Motor Driver Check latest price
Best for reducing 3D printer noise Trinamic TMC2130 Stepper Motor Driver Check latest price

What is a stepper motor driver for a 3D printer?

A stepper motor driver is a component that you will find in every 3D printer. This includes the more affordable models right through to the high-end machines. To understand how it works, we need to look at the actual printing process.

First of all, your 3D models are turned into three-dimensional coordinates that are known as G code. The code also contains information for things such as the speed of the fan and temperatures.

This is fed to the 3D printer microcontroller which is essentially a basic computer within your machine. It reads the code and determines which stepper motors need to be moved in order to create your 3D models.

Each stepper motor has a driver that allows it to move independently.

In order to do this, pulses of electrical current are sent between the microcontroller and stepper motor driver in order for the stepper motors to move correctly.

Types of stepper motor drivers for 3D printers

stepper motor driver

There are different types of stepper motor drivers that are designed for 3D printers.

Here are the three main versions that you will come across.

L/R Stepper Motor Driver

This type of stepper motor driver carried out rotations at a low to medium speed and this can result in fairly limited ranges of power output. They can still offer a full rotation but they don’t usually offer control in regards to variable current levels.

Many people would class the L/R stepper motor drivers as low performance or at least low to medium performance.

Chopper Stepper Motor Driver – Micro-step

A chopper stepper motor driver is also known as a PWM (pulse width modulation) or micro step driver. It works on a solitary supply of high voltage and has output transistors that have come on and off automatically.

These types of stepper motor drivers are able to use a micro step mode. This means that it runs smoother and more efficiently as the current rate is regulated at all speeds. This provides a boost in performance however it comes with a higher price tag and the design is generally more complex.

They are also known to produce RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) and can sometimes overheat too.

Bi-level Stepper Motor Driver

The third type of stepper motor driver is the bi-level and this can use both high and low-level voltages.

It works by powering up to a high rate of current and when it reaches the level that you need, the high voltage is turned off. The low voltage is then used to maintain this level of supply when it is in use.

These stepper motor drivers are usually more efficient than others and they generally come at a fairly low cost as well.

Benefits of upgrading your stepper motor driver

Upgrading this relatively simple component on your 3D printer can produce several benefits.

Let’s have a quick look at why upgrading your stepper motor driver can be advantageous.

They can cut down on the noise your 3D printer produces

3D printers – whether they are fairly affordable models or pricier multi-color machines – usually make some noise. Some will be a bit quieter than others however upgrading your stepper motor driver can help reduce the decibels your printer produces.

Some stepper motor drivers have a silent design and they use technology to cut down on noise. With the right model you may find that your 3D printer operates a lot quieter than it did before.

You can get more reliable prints

As the stepper motor driver is what controls the stepper motors, an upgrade version can help you to get more reliable prints.

Buying the best stepper motor driver can help the motors move more precisely with better positional accuracy.This in turn will ensure that all parts of the 3D printing process benefit. You’ll be able to print off higher quality and better objects simply by upgrading a fairly easy component.

Your 3D printer can save on power

Another benefit of upgrading your stepper motor driver is that it can have an impact on power consumption.

Some stepper motor drivers are smart in that they will reduce the current when not in use. This cuts down on the overall power consumption that your 3D printer uses. The various safety features on some stepper motor drivers can also help prevent damage if there is a surge in power or if it overheats.

Things to consider when buying a stepper motor driver

stepper motor driver

Buying the wrong model or a stepper motor driver that isn’t ideal for what you need can actually have a negative impact on the way your printer performs. These are some things to keep in mind before you purchase one.

Torque

The torque is related to the size of the stepper motor and it is related to how big the motor is. In a simple sense, the more torque the more power. You will need to take this into consideration with what printer you have.

Some 3D printers won’t be able to handle higher torque and some won’t perform correctly with lower torque.

Accuracy

Most stepper motor drivers that are an upgrade on your stock one will probably help create more accurate prints anyway. That being said, you need to consider how much accuracy you need.

This can and often does impact on the price as well. The accuracy is usually determined by either small steps or a convoluted gear train.

Cost

There are a ton of stepper motor drivers out there and many manufacturers have been producing them for years. They aren’t the priciest things you can buy for a 3D printer but even for a small component, you need to factor in the cost to your budget.

Remember that the more a stepper motor driver costs don’t necessarily equate to how well it will perform. Many manufacturers will offer discounts and less price per component the more you buy at once.

Compatibility

Even though the majority of stepper motor drivers are compatible with most 3D printers, you will come across some that are designed for certain models. Make sure you read into the types and makes of 3D printers that the stepper motor driver you want to buy is compatible with before you make a purchase.

Best Stepper Motor Driver Brands

Stepper motor drivers for 3D printers are made by different companies and manufacturers. These are some of the top brands you will come across.

Trinamic

Trinamic is a well-known manufacturer of stepper motor drivers for 3D printers. They have their HQ in Germany but they also have research labs in Estonia and operate across the world.

Trinamic tends to focus on larger orders from big companies but there are many of their stepper driver motors available for everyone to buy.

Pololu

Pololu is an American company that is based in Nevada. They have been around since 2000. They often focus their attention more on individual 3D printer owners, hobbyists, and enthusiasts although they do offer a large amount of stepper motor driver models.

BIQU

BIQU is a relative newcomer to the market and they were established in 2015. They are based in Shenzhen City, China and manufacture and sell stepper driver motors to a global market.

Sparkfun

Sparkfun is based in Colorado, United States. They produce a wide range of different electronic components and they were founded in 2003. Stepper motor drivers is just one area they produce hundreds of different open source kits and boards.

5 Best Stepper Motor Drivers for 3D printers

There are many stepper motor drivers on the market. They can be relatively simple components but they perform a powerful function when 3D printing. Let’s have a more detailed look at the top 5 stepper motor drivers that you can buy for your 3D printer.

Hobbypower A4988 Stepper Motor Driver

The Hobbypower A4988 Stepper Motor Driver is a cost-effective stepper motor driver which is ideal for DIY built 3D printers or even many other affordable models.

These drivers are capable of 1/16th micro-stepping and come with various features. They are also capable of five-step modes: full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, and 1/16.

powerday A4988 StepStick Stepper Motor Driver Module

Other features include automatic current decay mode detection, synchronous rectification for low power dissipation, and thermal shutdown.

If you want a stepper motor driver for your 3D printer without paying much money, then the A4988 is really the one to go for. Cheap, cheerful and essentially does what you need it to without a lot of fuss.

Pros

  • Cheap and affordable stepper motor driver
  • Will help the performance of your 3D printer
  • Five-step modes and capable of 1/16th microstepping

Cons

  • Is prone to accidentally burnouts

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SparkFun EasyDriver Stepper Motor Driver

The next stepper motor driver on our list is the SparkFun EasyDriver Stepper Motor Driver which is another fairly low-cost model.

This is a great component if you need some versatility in your driver as it works between 7V and 30V.

SparkFun EasyDriver Stepper Motor Driver

You can use this stepper motor driver with 4, 6, and 8 wire stepper motors as well which is great.

The fact that it can handle higher voltages means that you can get more torque and power with your 3D printer. This stepper motor driver is also easy to use and install and is ideal for beginners and experienced users alike.

Pros

  • Very versatile and works with a wide voltage range
  • Is compatible with 4, 6, and 8 wire stepper motors
  • Easy to install and use

Cons

  • May need some additional parts to install

BHL DRV8825 Stepper Motor Driver

The BHL DRV8825 Stepper Motor Driver is ideal for replacing a stock A4988 which can help to upgrade your 3D printer.

It is the go-to choice for DIY enthusiasts who build their own 3D printers.

5x StepStick DRV8825 Stepper Motor Driver

It comes with a variety of step options which include full-step, 1/2 step, 1/4 step, 1/8 step, 1/16 step as well as 1/32 step.

This is one of the easiest stepper motor drivers to use and that is why it is very popular with people who build their own 3D printers. It is also aimed at people who are upgrading a component for the first time.

It has an over-temperature thermal shutdown as well as over-current shutdown, and under-voltage lockout.

The adjustable current control lets you manually set the output while this is an affordable and cost effective component too.

Pros

  • Range of great features including adjustable current control
  • Easy to install and use for DIY 3D printers
  • Affordable and won’t cost much to buy

Cons

  • Some reports of being quite noisy

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BIQU A4988 Compatible StepStick Stepper Motor Driver

The BIQU A4988 Compatible StepStick Stepper Motor Driver offers five step modes – full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 and 1/16.

This component also comes with a variety of different features including an intelligent chopping control for the selection of the correct current decay mode.

BIQU A4988 Compatible StepStick Stepper Motor Diver Module

There is also a thermal shutdown circuitry and they are an affordable piece of kit for your 3D printer too.

While they aren’t silent and will produce a bit of noise, this isn’t a dealbreaker by any means. There are some issues with the potentiometers in that they are difficult to adjust and also aren’t the most durable.

That being said, these are good stepper motor drivers for 3D printers and would suit anyone who wants to upgrade a4988 drivers.

Pros

  • Very good choice for upgrading a4988 drivers
  • Have an intelligent chopping control
  • Five-step modes and thermal shutdown circuitry

Cons

  • Potentiometers difficult to adjust and not very sturdy

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Trinamic TMC2130 Stepper Motor Driver

The Trinamic TMC2130 Stepper Motor Driver is the best choice if you want a silent component to reduce the noise that your 3D printer makes.

It is an upgrade to the previous 2100 model. This stepper motor driver comes with a ton of features which isn’t always a necessarily good thing.

Trinamic TMC2130 Stepper Motor Driver

It can get a bit distracting especially if you are new. However, this is a very good stepper motor driver for the price.

It has a sensorless stall detection, noiseless current control mode as well as stall prevention and lower temperature operation.

A high functional and high performing stepper motor driver for your 3D printer but one that isn’t suited towards beginners.

Pros

  • Has a wide variety of great features
  • Noiseless and quiet operation
  • Upgrade to the 2100 model

Cons

  • Amount of features can be overwhelming

FAQs About Cold Air Intake Systems

Question: Does my 3D printer need a stepper motor driver?

Answer: Yes. Even if you don’t know it, your 3D printer will have a stepper motor driver. It provides a very valuable function in determining how the stepper motors move and operate.

Question: Can I install a stepper motor driver myself?

Answer: In most cases, yes. They aren’t particularly difficult to install and even if you are a beginner when it comes to 3D printers, you should be able to do this. Make sure and read the instructions properly and ensure that you are confident before taking this on.

Question: Will a new stepper motor driver improve my 3D printer?

Answer: It should do. If you upgrade from the stock version on your 3D printer and install a stepper motor driver with more features, you should notice a difference in printing. This includes better torque to produce more power and more reliable prints/.

Question: Are stepper motor drivers for 3D printers expensive?

Answer: No. They are a small component and one that is relatively cheap to buy. As they are so small, you will usually find that you will get better prices the more you buy. That being said, some sellers will offer good prices on low quantities too. The actual component itself is pretty cheap compared to other 3D printer parts.

Question: Will any stepper motor driver work on my 3D printer?

Answer: No. Most are fairly universal with the connections however you should always make sure that it is going to fit and be compatible with your 3D printer. Some will only work with certain brands and others should work with most 3D printer models.

Conclusion – what are the best stepper motor drivers for 3D printers

Upgrading your stepper motor driver on your 3D printer has a number of benefits. While they should all provide more torque which equates to more power and better accuracy with printing, the one you choose depends on what you need.

For example, if you want to reduce the noise with your 3D printer then the Trinamic TMC2130 Stepper Motor Driver is the best option. It comes with technology which produces low to no noise and you should notice a big difference when printing.

For any DIY 3D printing enthusiasts and those that have built their own printer, the BHL DRV8825 Stepper Motor Driver is the better choice. It is favored by many hobbyists for a number of reasons as it is very easy to use.

The SparkFun EasyDriver Stepper Motor Driver is highly versatile and it works with a variety of voltages and 3D printers too. It allows for more torque and power and many beginners like it too because the installation is easy and it is straightforward to use.

Finally, for the budget-conscious, the Hobbypower A4988 Stepper Motor Driver is the best model. It is cheap and does basically what you need it to without much fanfare. It is still a powerful stepper motor driver and one that won’t break the bank when purchasing.

Best Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus Upgrades to Consider in 2021

Finding the best Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus upgrades can turn this already very competent 3D printer into a great machine.

The Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus is a slightly differefnt model than the Wanhao i3 that we have reviewed before.

We’ll go over what the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus is, why adding upgrades can drastically improve its performance and finally, we’ll show you the best upgrades that you can buy.

What is the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus?

Manufactured by Wanhao which is a Chinese company, the Duplicator i3 Plus comes in at the budget end of the pricing scale. That being said, 3D printers have come away down in price in recent years so even though it is a cheaper printer, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has poor performance.

In fact, the Duplicator i3 Plus provides better print quality than many 3D printers that cost much more money.

The printer comes with a decent build volume of 200 X 200 X 180 mm so it is ideal for home use as well as small businesses. With an extruder temperature of 240°C to 260°C it can handle various types of filament and the print speed is good on this machine as well.

Overall the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus is a budget printer that offers a high quality experience. You can pay a lot more money for a 3D printer that won’t produce the same results however that isn’t to say that it can’t be improved upon.

Duplicator i3 Plus

Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus specifications

  • Build Volume: 200 x 200 x 180 mm
  • Connectivity: USB, SD Card
  • Filament Size: 1.75mm
  • Hotend Temperature: 240°C – 260°C
  • Print Speed: 10-100mm/s
  • Materials Supported: PLA, ABS, PVA, Stainless Steel, NinjaFlex, Nylon, HIPS, Woodfill, LayBrick, CopperFILL, BronzeFILL, MOLDLAY, Conductive, Carbon Fiber, Polyurethane

Why do you need to add upgrades?

It isn’t that the i3 Plus is a bad printer at all but some choice upgrades can really make the difference in how your prints turn out.

You can certainly use the Duplicator i3 Plus straight out of the box and you will be able to print off high quality objects. Many people don’t upgrade or modify this 3D printer and have never had any problems.

That being said, there are some reasons why it is a good idea to buy some additional parts or upgrade existing components on this printer.

Better 3D printing

As we said, the print quality on this 3D printer is very good but it can always be improved.

By adding in some small upgrades to the i3 plus you will be able to get better and higher quality prints. Some owners will happily keep the stock components on this printer and that’s completely fine however a few upgrades can really take this printer to the next level.

Extra features

Aside from simply improving on the existing parts of the i3 plus, some upgrades can actually add to the overall functionality. This includes adding in additional features to your printer.

For example, adding a camera to keep an eye on your prints or even upgrading the machine so that it is able to connect via WiFi. Out of the box the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus has USB and SD card connectivity so adding to this is a good idea.

Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus Features

Improved reliability

Getting reliable and consistent prints is important as a print coming out in high quality. The i3 Plus does a good job at printing reliably however it can be improved upon.

With upgrades to the bed leveling system and the glass bed which we will have a look at later one, the overall performance of your printer will be much better. It means not only will you have high quality prints but you will have these prints on a consistent basis.

What parts of the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus can you upgrade?

The vast majority of components in a 3D printer can be upgraded or modified and this includes the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus.

Some are easier than others. The upgrades we have listed below are all fairly straightforward even if you happen to be new to 3D printers. While there are perhaps more complicated upgrades out there, we want to show you the best ones to get you off to a good start with this printer.

These are the main parts of the i3 Plus that most people tend to upgrade to improve print reliability, quality, and overall performance.

Z Braces

Adding a Z brace to the i3 Plus will improve its stability and make the printer more rigid.

What this means is that you should get more reliable prints on a frequent basis. Because there are several moving parts on the 3D printer, a Z brace stabilizes everything to ensure better quality prints. While this isn’t such a big problem on more recent versions of the Di3, it will ensure better stability to your printer overall.

Print Surface

Adding a glass bed to the print surface is something that a lot of people do to their 3D printer and it isn’t just an upgrade that is limited to the i3+. Most 3D printer owners end up adding on a glass bed at some point if their printer doesn’t have one.

It has several benefits including providing a smooth finish to your prints and an easy removal process of your models from the printer. The advantage glass has over other surfaces such as plastic is that it can withstand high temperatures. This means that it won’t warp or peel so it will rarely need to be replaced. Glass is also easier to clean before and after printing too.

wanhao duplicator i3 plus review

On-board computer

Another common upgrade on the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus is the on-board computer.

There isn’t a ton wrong with what is provided with this 3D printer however adding something like a Raspberry Pi can improve its overall performance. It will also ensure that you get increased functionality as well with the 3D printer and can include things like WiFi and adding an on-board camera.

Belt Tension

The springs wirth the i3 Plus are known as having a few problems. This can cause issues with the print quality and a common upgrade is to increase the belt tension.

Doing this will mean that the X and Y belts are more secured which cuts down on movement and will mean better printed models and objects.

Cooling Fan

While there isn’t too much wrong with the stock fan provided, upgrading to a better one will improve this 3D printer overall.

With a better fan, you will notice improved bridges, overhangs, and needle points if you are printing with PLA and other materials. It is a fairly easy modification but one that will bring a lot of advantages.

Buying upgrades v printing upgrades

I’m going to show you the best upgrades you can get for the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus but before I do, I need to tell you about buying an upgraded part or printing an upgrading part.

The beauty of already having a 3D printer is that some parts you can actually print off yourself! While this isn’t true for everything – a new motherboard for example – some smaller parts can actually be made yourself.

On our list of best upgrades for the Duplicator i3+, there is a combination of parts that can be bought and parts that can also be printed.

Best upgrades for the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus

So, let’s find out the best upgrades you can get for your Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus.

#1 Z Braces

Adding Z braces to your Duplicator i3 Plus will improve its stability and add much-needed rigidity to the printer.

z braces i3 plus

This is actually one of the upgrades for the Duplicator i3 Plus that you can print off and attach yourself if you wish. In actual fact it is a fairly easy upgrade and you don’t need to drill any new holes although you do need to replace some short 3mm screws with 10mm screws.

#2 Wisamic Borosilicate Glass Plate Bed

Upgrading the print bed on the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus can make a world of difference to how your prints turn out. It can also make the whole process a bit easier as glass is a lot easier to clean prior to printing and also once your objects have been completed.

The Wisamic Borosilicate Glass Plate Bed is an ideal upgrade for your i3 Plus. It is made from 100% borosilicate glass which means it can cope with high temperatures that this 3D printer needs to reach its potential. You also won’t need to replace this anytime soon due to its durability while you’ll get a consistent heat across the build surface.

Getting your completed prints off the glass bed is a lot easier as well. Given its inexpensive cost and the advantages it brings to your Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus, this upgrade really is a no brainer.

#3 Belt Tensioners

This is another upgrade that you can print off yourself and it can have a positive impact on how your prints turn out.

The springs on the i3 Plus are known for not being particularly stable but some belt tensioners for the X Belt and the Y Belt will mean that everything is a bit more secure.

It is quite a simple fix for a problem that can plague this 3D printer. Even if you are a beginner with 3D printers, printing and installing belt tensioners is fairly straightforward and all the instructions are there to make sure you get it right.

#4 Raspberry Pi with Octoprint

Enhancing the power of your 3D printer while also adding in additional functionality is something that can be achieved with a Raspberry Pi upgrade. Especially when it comes to fairly budget 3D printers, upgrading its processing power and on-board computer can really allow it to reach its potential

By installing this onto your 3D printer and also using Octoprint which creates a web interface for your printer, you will find the i3 Plus easier to use too. With these additions, you can add WiFi functionality and control your 3D printer from another computer as well.

It is another modification that isn’t massively difficult either but will make a ton of difference to how your 3D printer functions.

#5 Raspberry Pi Camera Module

Adding in a camera will let you keep an eye on your prints as they are progressing and the Raspberry Pi Camera Module is a very useful addition.

Raspberry Pi Camera Module

This is another fairly inexpensive upgrade but something that will really add a big functionality boost to your 3D printer. You can also get a mounting arm for the camera as well which you are able to print off yourself.

Combined with the Raspberry Pi with Octoprint, this will greatly extend how your Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus operates and make things a lot easier when printing high quality objects,

#6 DC Brushless Sleeve-Bearing Cooling Blower Fan

The fan with the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus certainly isn’t the worst on the market but there are issues around the noise it makes. The stock fan shroud doesn’t work too well either so it is certainly worth looking into a new part.

This is why the DC Brushless Sleeve-Bearing Cooling Blower Fan is a recommended upgrade to provide better noise control and it will also help with improving bridges, overhangs, and needle points. You can also get a cooler mod for the i3 Plus which can make a huge difference too.

Installing a new fan onto this 3D printer isn’t a difficult job so you should be able to do this with ease.

#7 Filament Guide

The last upgrade that you should get for your Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus is a filament guide.

This will help with feeding the filament into the 3D printer and should help towards higher quality and more consistent prints. This is an upgrade that you will be able to print off yourself too which is a bonus. Quite a small modification to your i3 Plus 3D printer but it is one that can make a world of difference to print quality and reliability.

Frequently Asked Questions and Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus Upgrades

Should I upgrade my Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus?

It is something you should seriously think about. The i3 Plus is a perfectly good printer out of the box and you will be able to print off good quality models. However, with the upgrades that we have listed here, you can take this 3D printer from being a good one to a great machine with new possibilities and potential.

Will upgrading my Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus improve print quality?

It should do. Even though the print quality is pretty good as standard you can increase the quality and reliability with these upgrades. For example, the Z braces, glass plate and filament guide will all help with more reliable outputs.

Is Wanhao a good 3D printer manufacturer?

This Chinese based company is known for producing good quality 3D printers for an affordable price. We have reviewed several of Wanhao’s 3D printers recently including the i3 and the D7.

Can I install these upgrades on my own?

Yes, you should be able to. None of these upgrades are particularly hard to install. Some will take a bit more work than others and if you are new to 3D printers it might take more time. However, you should be able to put these modifications onto your 3D printer on your own.

Do I need to spend a lot of money to upgrade my Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus?

Not necessarily. Most of these upgraded parts are all very inexpensive and some you can even print off yourself. Because the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus is a reasonably inexpensive 3D printer you can buy some of these upgraded parts and it will still be cheaper than many other models on the market for the same quality.

Can I print some of these upgrades myself?

Yes. Some of the upgrades we have listed can be printed on your 3D printer and then installed. There are also guides as well as printing and installation instructions which will help you to get started.

Conclusion

For the most part, you should be able to print off high-quality objects on your Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus. If you are totally new to 3D printing or just a beginner, it can take a while to learn the basics and get consistently good prints.

The Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus is a very good printer as it is and for the price, it really isn’t that expensive when you consider the quality you get. However, extending its functionality and ensuring that you get reliable prints on a consistent basis will actually save you time and money.

This is why these upgrades are important. They not only provide better-printed objects and models but they also improve the features of your printer as well.

The best upgrades for the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus are:

These upgrades for the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Plus Upgrades can turn your already well functioning printer into a powerful one without the huge cost.

How to Find the Best Resin 3D Printer For Your Needs

You have decided to give 3D printing a try, and you’re interested in using resins to create your works of art. How do you choose the best resin 3D printer?

While there are many features, specifications, and characteristics that you should consider, choosing a resin 3D printer should focus on three things: price, speed, and build quality.

But it’s really not as straightforward at that because there are things that you should decide on first. Read on and find out how you can find the best resin 3D printer out there, and what makes them the best for you.

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DLP or SLA? Which One Should You Choose?

There are two main types of 3D printers based on the light source. There’s digital light processing printers and stereolithography printers.

Stereolithography

SLA is the oldest printing techniques used today. SLA printers use lasers to do its work.

The laser light is guided by a pair of galvanometers that directs these beams of light to the right coordinates. As the laser beam travels over the liquid polymer, the material hardens.

Digital Light Processing

DLP printers use photopolymers to create the model you want. It uses a traditional light source such as an arc lamp.

These printers have a vat for the polymer, which is exposed to ultraviolet light in layers. The first layer of the polymer will harden and then the printer will print the next slice until the model is finished.

Unlike SLA printers, the light is not concentrated in a single spot. Instead, DLP printers form the whole layer at once.

DLP and SLA: What’s the Same?

No matter what you choose, you will need a photodegradable initiator substance or resins that can interact with light to form carbene-like compounds, cations, or free radicals. These compounds are necessary for polymerization to take place, and to create your printed object.

DLP and SLA: What’s Different?

As you can guess, the main difference between these two technologies is the light source. DLP printers use UV light with SLA uses a laser.

The UV light in DLP printers remains in place as it produces your print layer by layer. In stereolithography, the beam moves around point by point.

Benefits of SLA Printers

These mechanisms affect how accurate the printed model will be. SLA printers are more accurate because the lasers go to where the point of curing is.

As such, SLA printers produce better quality prints.

Benefits of DLP Printers

However, DLP printers work faster than SLA printers. So if you do not need finely detailed prints, you might be able to save time with a DLP printer.

If you need to change the light source, UV lights are generally more affordable than laser lights.

DLP printers allow you to adjust the intensity of its UV lights, so you can have different effects on the resin. With the lasers in SLA printers, you cannot get the same variance in effects unless you change the laser light with the right beam intensity.

DLP printers are typically easier to maintain. SLA printers require calibration, which is typically done by a professional. What’s more, an SLA printer has a much more complex architecture, so if something goes wrong, you will need a professional to come in and take a look.

DLP vs. SLA: Which One Should You Choose

Which technology should you be using? Here’s a simple guide

Choose an SLA printer if:

  • You require a high level of accuracy and resolutions for your prints.
  • You don’t like dealing with subtle remnants or jaggedness in the edges of your prints.
  • You need to print several intricate and smaller parts at the same time.

Choose a DLP printer if:

  • You want faster prints.
  • You don’t want to do too much post-curing.
  • Your prints are not that detailed.
  • You want a more reliable printer because DLP has fewer moving parts.
  • You want DIY maintenance that is also affordable.
  • You want to save money.

LCD Printers: Some Things You Should Know

Another less common 3D printing technology is LCD. It’s very much like DLP printing, but instead of using a projector, LCD uses an array of LED lights for its UV light source. The LCD acts like a mask, so it reveals only the pixels that are needed to create that particular later.

Unlike both DLP and SLA printers, LCD printers do not have a mechanism that directs lights towards particular parts of the resin.

What’s more, DLP is more of a professional’s 3D printer. Compared to desktop LCD printers, DLP devices are more expensive.

Build Volume Should Be Your First Consideration

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Once you have decided on an SLA, DLP, or LCD 3D printer, it’s time to narrow down your choices.

Build volume will determine how big a model you can print on your 3D printer. A big build volume will allow you to print a large model in one piece. You don’t have to spend time to assemble smaller pieces to get your 3D model. Plus, if you’re forced to print on a smaller scale, you lose some important details on the model.

If the printer you use allows you to print different models in one go, a bigger build volume will also allow you to produce more products in the same batch. And even if you don’t need it now, you may need a printer with a large printing capacity in the future.

However, printers with large build volumes often have hefty price tags. If you’re not into professional 3D printing, you might want to consider a 3D printer that will accommodate most of your printing needs. For instance, if you’re printing miniatures for a diorama you’re working on, then you can probably forego having to pay extra for a larger 3D printer.

What’s more, large build volumes equate to bigger printer dimensions. If you only have a small space, there is no way you can fit a big 3D printer in there.

A Word About Build Volumes

You should know that there are printers that oversell their products’ build volumes. A ZDNet article showed that actual widths and depths can differ from those stated by the manufacturer. The typical printer will print anywhere from 0.1 to 0.4 percent smaller models than what is written in the manual.

For instance, the biggest differences in their tests were found in the Dreammaker Overlord Pro Plus with a claimed build volume of 4.9 by 4.9 by 11.0 inches (125 by 125 by 280 millimeters), but can only print objects of up to 3.1 by 3.1 by 10.0 inches (79 by 79 by 255 millimeters).

What 3D Printers Should You Consider?

What are the best 3D printers with sizable build volumes? Look for:

  • Uniz Slash+
  • Formlabs Form 2
  • Flashforge Hunter
  • Peopoly Moai

Uniz Slash+

Uniz Slash+ offers you a build area of 7.5 by 4.7 by 7.9 inches (190.5 by 121.9 by 198.1 millimeters). Plus, with all that capacity, it prints with impressive speed. It’s also designed to be precise and accurate.

This 3D printer has a resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels at 75 micrometers. It works with several resins and is very reliable.

However, this is one very expensive SLA printer, costing close to $2,900.

Formlabs Form 2

Formlabs Form 2 gives you excellent quality prints, easy to use software, and powerful features that make it t a shoo-in for those who are serious about 3D printing.

It works with third-party materials and the setup is pretty simple. The prints come out with sharp and clean edges, with a lot of intricate details. It also prints out very fast.

However, this is not the printer for those looking for bigger build volumes. It costs around $3,500 and the consumables start at $150 or more.

Flashforge Hunter

Flashforge Hunter comes from a company with a reputation for affordable yet high-quality 3D printers. And the Hunter does not disappoint.

It’s an excellent plug and play 3D printer and has shorter print times than most other SLA printers. It gives you a bigger build area as well at 5.7 by 5.7 by 6.9 inches (145 x 145 x 175 millimeters).

This DLP printer is also very quiet. You will love just how easy it is to use. However, like other 3D printers we have here, it’s also very expensive, costing around $4,000.

Peopoly Moai

We know that you are hating how 3D printers with big build areas also cost a lot. The Peopoly Moai is one excellent and huge 3D printer that doesn’t cost as much. It sells for $1,200.

Peopoly positions the Moai as an affordable yet powerful 3D printer. It has a build volume of 5.1 by 5.1 by 7.1 inches (130 by 130 by 180 millimeters).

What’s more, the Peopoly Moai has an open design that makes it different from the rest. And unlike most other SLA printers, you can adjust the intensity and exposure of the lasers on this printer.

However, this printer needs some assembly, and you might end up getting frustrated trying to put it together even before you start printing.

Further, you will also need to replace the print tray frequently, and preparing your prints needs a lot of tweaking.

A Bigger Print Area Means a Higher Price Tag

If you need a 3D printer that is able to handle big prints, then you should save up and save for a long time. These 3D printers will cost you a lot.

A side-by-side comparison of our recommendations follows:

  Features Build volume (mm) Resolution (μm)

Speed (mm/hr)

Uniz Slash+
  • High-resolution 3D prints
  • Very fast printing speed
  • Works with a wide variety of resins
  • Consistent and reliable
  • Accurate

192 × 120 × 200

75

200

Formlabs Form 2
  • Compact size
  • Modern and sleek design
  • Easy to use
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Excellent customer service

145 x 145 x 175

25

30

Flashforge Hunter
  • Works quietly and fast
  • Optimized DLP projector
  • Models print out in high-resolution
  • Works with third-party materials and resins
  • Easy to use and intuitive user interface.

145 x 145 x 175

62.5

10

Peopoly Moai
  • Very affordable
  • Over the top printer resolution
  • Speedy prints
  • Stellar customer service
  • Models look like they were done by a professional
  • Perfect for big and complex structures
  • Works with a variety of resins

130 x 130 x 180

70

85

Cost: Should You Buy Really Expensive Printers?

Perhaps the biggest consideration most people have when they are choosing a resin 3D printer is how much it’s going to cost them. Some people may think that the more expensive printers are better: they have bigger build volumes, higher resolutions, and are more accurate.

For the most part, these may be true, but there are exceptions to the rule. For example, if you are looking for budget-friendly options, you can take a look at:

Monoprice Mini Deluxe

The Monoprice Mini Deluxe costs around $500. But even at that price, the LCD printer delivers excellent prints with resolutions of up to 20 micrometers.

It measures 7.8 by 7.8 by 16.0 inches (198 by 198 by 406 millimeters). It’s compact and small, making it very easy to move around where you want it.

But it does come with some tradeoffs. For instance, some users might find it difficult to configure.

The compact dimensions of this printer also mean one thing: a small build area measuring 4.7 by 2.8 by 7.8 inches (120 by 70 by 200 millimeters).

Moreover, you might find yourself maintaining this printer more often than what you’d like. You will need to change the base of the vat after every 10 to 20 prints. To do that, you will need to remove 18 different screws and then put back the whole thing after you’re done.

Monoprice Mini Deluxe

Even with a very accessible price, the Monoprice Mini Deluxe printer delivers excellent prints with resolutions of up to 20 micrometers, needing very little space.

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Anycubic Photon

Anycubic sells the Photon printer for around $170.

It’s going to be difficult to top this printer at this very low price. This LCD printer gives you 2K resolution at 47 micrometers. It also comes assembled right out of the box.

Photon is the 3D printer that others have copied or improved on. It’s still on several best-of lists because of its price, decent printing capabilities, powerful LEDs, and its firmware. It also has a decent build volume of 4.5 by 2.6 by 6.1 inches (115 by 65 by 155 millimeters).

Photon also has a vibrant user community that has ensured that you can get help when you run into trouble, gives you tips and tricks, as well as suggest how to improve your printing with this printer.

However, this device can only print 20 millimeters per hour. See how Photon compares to its upgraded version, Photon S here.

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SparkMaker

With a price tag that hovers around $260, you will be surprised at the set of features that this LCD 3D printer gives you. It comes with a full high-definition 1080-pixel LCD that allows for precise printing.

With a 57-micrometer XY resolution and 42 UV LED light sources, you can have some of the best quality prints from this machine. You don’t have to worry about assembling it; too, making it ready to go once you get it out of the box. The manufacturer delivers it to you with everything in place and the leveling done.

It does have a smaller build volume at 3.9 by 2.2 by 4.9 inches (98 by 55 by 125 millimeters), but that is to be expected because of its compact size. This printer measures only 6.7 by 6.7 by 10.8 inches (170 by 170 by 275 millimeters).

SparkMaker

You will be surprised at the set of features that this LCD 3D printer gives you. It comes with a full high-definition 1080-pixel LCD that allows for precise printing.

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Affordable But Slow

These three 3D printers are going to be some of the most affordable options you have right now. They don’t sacrifice on resolution and features, but they tend to be on the lower end as far as 3D printers go.

These will be perfect for you if you’re just starting out and trying to decide whether 3D printing is something that you really want.

A side-by-side comparison of these three printers will help you choose the best affordable resin 3D printer:

Printers Features Build Volume (mm) Resolution
(μm)
Speed (mm/hr)
Monoprice Mini Deluxe
  • Affordable
  • High resolution
  • Fast printing
  • LCD touchscreen
  • Compatible with third-party resins
  • No problems sourcing inexpensive spare parts

120 x 70 x 200

20

30

Anycubic Photon
  • Has its own slicer
  • Easy to set up and use
  • High resolution
  • Excellent quality prints
  • Easy to follow instructions for assembly and cleaning

115 x 65 x 155

47

20

SparkMaker
  • Affordable and compact resin printer.
    Very quiet.
    You can use third-party resins.
    Easy to use and comes with a dedicated slicer software

98 x 55 x 125

57

25

Managing the Trade-Off

As you can see, there is a trade-off when it comes to price, build size, and speed of 3D printers. The bigger the build size, the more expensive a 3D printer gets. The faster a printer finishes the job, it gets more costly.

The best resin 3D printer would be somewhere along the middle. If you’re not particularly looking to print huge pieces in one go, but would like something that’s faster than most 3D printers without the very high price, then you can consider the following:

  Features Build Volume (mm) Resolution
(μm)
Speed (mm/h) Price Range
Wanhao Duplicator 7
  • Sturdy and durable
  • Easy to use
  • Works with low-cost resins
  • Vibrant and supportive community
  • Excellent quality prints

120 x 68 x 180

25 35

$400 – $500

Micromake L2
  • Affordable
  • Very precise
  • Has a post-curing hood
  • Multi-language user interface
  • Built-in 6 gigabytes of storage
  • Printing is speedy
  • Simple to use
  • 4.3-inch high-definition LCD touchscreen

108 x 65 x 200

57 20

$500 – $600

Best Resin 3D Printers: Other Characteristics You Should Consider

Aside from the price, speed, and build volume of the resin 3D printer, you should also look at the following characteristics in order to choose the best one for your needs:

Accuracy – A 3D printer’s accuracy will determine whether or not the printed model will look like the digital design you created in your slicer or CAD program.

Durability – A 3D printer can cost anywhere from less than $200 to thousands of dollars. If anything, it will be a bummer if your printer breaks down or needs a lot of maintenance. Aside from the interruption of your work, all the troubleshooting and maintenance will add costs to your printing.

Materials – Some 3D printers work only with resins from the same manufacturer. Others will not work with certain kinds of resins. To get the most out of your 3D printers, it should be compatible with different kinds of resins, to ensure that you have the flexibility to create all the 3D models you can think of.

Customer service – A 3D printer may be very complex. It’s a technology that most people, especially beginners, will not be familiar with. Having excellent customer service can get you out of any potential problems you might have with your printer.

Best Resin 3D Printers: Frequently Asked Questions

We try to answer some of the questions that are related to resin 3D printers.

1. Why should you care about resin 3D prints?

Resin printers often have better quality prints than comparable fused deposition modeling printers. This is because lasers or projectors can easily render fine details on resin. As such, they produce more accurate models.
Further, printers using filaments may have more accidents as upper layers may not fuse with the bottom layers as solidly as you would want to.
So, if you’re going for models that have intricate designs, consider resin 3D prints.

2. Is cheaper necessarily better?

In the case of resin 3D printers, you should decide against printers that are cheaper but have lower print quality. Spend a bit more for a more precise 3D printer because it may spell the difference between coming up with a great model, or tons of frustration.

3. What are some resins that you should know of?

There are a lot of materials that are used for resins. Thermoset polymers make it easy to have attractive 3D models with its smooth finish, high level of detail, and sturdiness.
Standard resin produces sturdy and high-resolution models. These are usually used to print prototypes.
Clear resin is like standard resin, but you can see what’s inside because it’s almost transparent.
Tough resins are for those models that need to be stronger, more elastic, and can withstand a tremendous amount of pressure.
Aluminum resin is resistant to wear. It’s the perfect material for those parts that need low friction and flexibility. Aluminum resin often results in a 3D model that has a smooth surface.
There are also specific types of resins for engineers, doctors, dentists, and other professionals. Plus, there are heat resistant resins, as well.
Rubber resins are perfect for parts that will be compressed or bent.
Ceramic-filled resin produces stiff models with a very smooth finish. This resin has pieces of ceramics or glass in it.

Follow This Guide and Buy the Best Resin 3D Printer Today

Our Pick
We love the AnyCubic Photon [New Year Deal]

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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The best 3D printer for you is the one that will meet your printing requirements. It should have a large build area, prints quickly, and is budget-friendly.

You may not be able to do the models you want to create if your 3D printer doesn’t have enough space to build it. Conversely, a 3D printer that takes a long time to complete your model might not be a good idea. And lastly, you may find the best resin 3D printer with a huge build area and fast speeds, but it may not be budget-friendly.

As such, you should strike a balance between the prices, speed, and build capacity.

Best 3D Printers for Medical Masks: Which One Should You Choose?

These days, it’s no surprise that people are looking for medical masks just about everywhere. While bandanas and cloth masks are fine, many are more interested in something that they can put a filter in, cover up with more thoroughly, and filter out more particles.

They’re hard to come by, and many retailers selling these items are reserving their inventory for medical professionals only. If you’re an average citizen without a true medical need for a medical-grade mask, you may be out of luck.

However, if you’re adept at 3D printing already or you simply don’t know where else to turn and are thinking about printing your own medical masks, you can invest in a 3D printer. You can make your own, and the bonus here is that you can also sell them to others to recuperate some of the cost.

Why Go With the Ultimaker 3?

I'll be honest, the Ultimaker 3 is one of my FAVORITE 3D Printers of all time. Not trying to hype it, but it's still the go-to for reliable performance and durability over time. It actually gets BETTER the MORE you use it... Weird!

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Should You Print Your Own Masks?

face shield

There’s a lot of debate going on about whether or not you should be printing your own masks at home or not. One of the primary reasons for this is that even with the same template, multiple printers can produce a product with a huge range of resulting quality.

Some may be great while others may not. Not only that, but you can’t verify these masks were produced in sanitary environments.

However, you shouldn’t throw in the towel just yet. That doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t make your own masks at home using a 3D printer you already have or one that you’ve been longing to buy anyway.

What it does mean is that you likely can’t market your masks to local healthcare workers. Healthcare facilities contract with licensed producers of medical equipment to purchase their masks. It’s the only way they can ensure they’re getting the quality disease prevention they need.

But if you decide to print your own masks at home, you can make a huge impact selling them to family, friends, neighbors, and your community. Every little bit helps, and for the average wearer who is already being cautious and practicing social distancing, it can provide them with a piece of much-needed protection in a non-sterile environment.

What to Look For in a 3D Printer

3D PRINTER

If you’re shopping around for the best 3D printer for medical masks, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here’s what you should be looking for.

Review FDA guidelines

In times like these, access to critical medical supplies may be in short supply. Before you buy a 3D printer, review the FDA guidelines for critical medical supplies to make sure you’re making the right kind of masks to protect you and your family.

Find 3D printer companies offering downloads

Many 3D printer companies are printing masks, face shields, and other supplies themselves. You can count on these devices working to print PPE because the company themselves is doing it.

Many of these companies are also offering free downloads so you can get the templates you need straight from the source. This is a helpful way to ensure that the file you’re using to print is compatible with your device.

Do some research on who is currently printing masks and who is offering free templates to their users. These may be the best printers to buy because it’s easy to source the files you need.

Speed

If speed is important to you, you may want to consider a 3D printer that can accelerate the printing process so you’ll have masks available to use right away. More and more cities are requiring masks to be worn in all public spaces, so if you don’t have one, you’ll likely need one very soon.

Many 3D printers give users the ability to speed up the printing process, but be careful of going too fast, because you may sacrifice quality, which isn’t something you want to do when you’re dealing with your health and safety.

Quality

Sometimes price and quality go hand in hand, but not always. There are a lot of resin printers out there that offer a great quality print for a fraction of the price of 3D printers that use filament.

An excellent quality printer will give you the results you want more consistently than one that isn’t built well.

Size

Depending on the type of equipment you’re printing, you’ll have to make sure you get a 3D printer with a build volume big enough. While face shields are easy to print, they’re larger than masks and will require more space.

Masks are intricate and can be more difficult to print, but even the largest masks are quite small and don’t require as much room.

Price

If you’re purchasing a 3D printer for the sole purpose of printing masks, you may not want to spend a ton of money. You’re likely not going to recoup your costs very quickly, if at all. If the good citizen in you doesn’t care, then that’s fantastic. Well done!

However, if you’re concerned about the money you might spend, consider buying a cheaper 3D printer for printing the masks you need.

Here are some of the best options on the market, meeting this criterion, and enabling you to print your own medical masks at home.

Monoprice Voxel

monoprice voxel

Monoprice isn’t new to the 3D printer game, but this model is perhaps one of the best options for most people. It makes it really easy to get started, and the excellent print quality leaves even experienced users satisfied.

It won’t cost you a ton, either, so it’s a great option for beginners who want to buy one just for printing their own masks or for those who have done 3D printing before and want a machine they can use for other projects after they’re done with masks.

This model has a heated print bed so when using materials like ABS, which is recommended for printing masks, you get a more reliable print. It’s also easy to remove your finished products by sliding out the bed and bending it slightly.

It’s ideal for those who want the extra safety of enclosed print space, making it great for homes with kids or beginners who aren’t experienced yet. You’ll also enjoy a speed that’s normally found on more expensive machines. Coupled with the print quality, this is a great feature to have for producing masks. The Voxel can recreate intricate details and capture smooth curves, too.

As with anything, it’s not perfect. There are some minor annoyances when it comes to set up, but when you get it up and running, it’s relatively easy to use.

Features:

  • Great print quality
  • Heated print bed
  • Fast print speeds

Monoprice Voxel 3D Printer
$399.99

The Monoprice Voxel 3D Printer makes it really easy to get started, and the excellent print quality leaves every experienced users satisfied.

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04/08/2021 06:09 pm GMT

Formlabs Form 3

formlabs form 3

These days, resin 3D printers are all the rage. Resin printers don’t use heat, so they’re quite a bit safer than printers that use filament. They feature many of the same benefits as a filament 3D printer but can offer increased reliability, which is definitely a plus when printing masks.

It features a large print area, which can be used for larger PPE items like face shields, or you can keep it and use it for other large projects when you’re done.

The Form 3 is the third in this series from Formlabs, and it features a redesigned optics engine. The optics are sealed in their own package, increasing this printer’s reliability. It keeps dust out of the way of the laser, which can interfere with its ability to cure your final projects.

While every now and again, a print will fail, with this 3D printer, that happens even less, if at all. It also uses Low Force Stereolithography, meaning it works less to create more. It doesn’t need a lot of force to create many hardened layers of your most detailed print.

This thing isn’t cheap, so you’ll want to be sure you need a workhorse like this before purchasing, but it is one of the best resin 3D printers on the market. It’s geared more toward designs and other professionals who need a dependable device.

Features:

  • Reliable and dependable
  • Enhanced optics
  • Excellent print quality

Polaroid PlaySmart

polaroid 3d printer

If you live life in the fast lane, the Polaroid PlaySmart printer can offer you the speed you need to get masks done. For those looking to print a lot of masks in very little time, this is the best option. It’s not surprising that something so fast would come from the company that made instant photos a reality.

It’s a friendly device for beginners but can print your projects faster than most other machines. The quality is good, but not perfect, which is to be expected when printing more quickly.

Other models in this price range aren’t quite as fast, and you’ll still experience smooth, clean output with few problems. It can also support a lot of different materials, meaning you can move from masks to other projects using the same printer.

The print area is a bit smaller, which means it’s great for masks and other small projects, but not for anything large. However, if you’re ready to get the job done quickly, this is definitely one of the safest bets. (Here also check the Polaroid Nano Review before making the final choice!)

Features:

  • Fast print speed
  • Good results
  • Supports many different materials

Ultimaker 3

utimaker 3

You’re going to have to think of the Ultimaker 3 as more of an investment than a toy. It’s pretty expensive, but it’s a fantastic option for 3D printing enthusiasts. If you’ve been looking for an upgrade to your current model, and you’re considering printing some masks along the way, too, get this beast.

Design professionals will enjoy all of the advanced features of this machine and the print quality is by far some of the most excellent you’ll experience. Even draft mode is better than most other printers. It supports a huge variety of materials, but you can’t expect speed. If you’re printing masks and you want them done right, you can count on the Ultimaker 3 to print the most accurate final job you’ve seen.

However, you’ll wait a while for the completed product because it definitely takes its time to get it right. It also has a huge build area, making it the ideal choice for more than just a mask or two. The software is easy to manage and it features a redesigned print head that gives it more flexibility for intricate detail. (Here check our Formlabs Form 2 vs Ultimaker 3 Comparison [2020] and Prusa i3 MK3 vs Ultimaker 3 [2020])

Features:

  • Fantastic print quality
  • Great software
  • Supports a wide range of materials

Why Go With the Ultimaker 3?

I'll be honest, the Ultimaker 3 is one of my FAVORITE 3D Printers of all time. Not trying to hype it, but it's still the go-to for reliable performance and durability over time. It actually gets BETTER the MORE you use it... Weird!

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Peopoly Phenom

peopoly

This one definitely makes the list for its affordability. Not only is it capable, but it costs less than comparable devices. Many other SLA printers are pricey, while this one offers a large print volume at a more accessible price point. It is compatible with many different resins without sacrificing print quality or speed. While you likely need to have some experience with 3D printing to understand how it works, you’ll enjoy a lot of features.

It has a few quirks when it comes to setting up and customizing, and it may require a bit of patience, but Wi-Fi connectivity makes it a bit easier. It also tends to be a noisier printer, so make sure you can handle the sound or put it in its own dedicated space.

It’s a large printer, but well worth it for the expanded build area. You can create a lot more than just masks with this one.

Features:

  • Supports many different resins
  • Huge print area
  • Affordable

FAQs

Do 3D-printed masks protect against the coronavirus disease as well as N95 respirators?

The short answer is no. N95 respirators are designed for contaminated environments. They filter the air in, but they do not filter the air you breathe out. They protect the wearer from contaminants, but they do not protect others.

Masks made from a 3D printer may look similar to other PPE, but it all depends on how they’re made and how you wear it. Some 3D printed masks have places where you can insert a filter, meaning you can choose how well it filters the air based on what type of filter you use.

It also depends a lot on the design. Everyone’s face is a different shape, and some 3D printed mask designs may fit your face well, while others do not. If the mask doesn’t fit your face as it should, it won’t protect you, no matter what type of filter you put in it.

When 3D printing masks, you have to be very careful about which design you use, and it’s up to you to remain safe by choosing the one that will work best for you.

What type of face mask is best during the coronavirus disease pandemic?

This is another answer that will vary from person to person. Different masks are used for different purposes. N95 respirators are designed for contaminated environments while surgical masks are designed for sterile environments. They work in different ways.

When adding cloth masks and 3D printed masks to the mix, it can get confusing. The most important thing to remember is that no mask will work the way it should if it’s not covering both your nose and your mouth. You can wear any type of mask you choose, as long as you’re careful to wear it correctly and then clean or dispose of it properly. Disposable masks should be switched out after every use while cloth masks should be washed daily.

Depending on the material, 3D printed masks can be sanitized effectively, but if you’re inserting a filter into your mask, you also need to make sure you switch it out frequently as well.

Does CDC recommend people to use surgical masks or N95 respirators?

If you already have some of these supplies at home, you can use them. However, if you’re looking to buy some, you won’t find them anywhere. These items are being reserved for essential healthcare workers.

Rather than look for surgical masks or N95 respirators, you can make your own masks at home. Many people are using bandanas or other fabrics to cover their faces, but you can also 3D print your own if you’d like.

How can I best protect myself during the coronavirus disease pandemic?

Along with washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, practicing social distancing, and staying home when you are sick, you can wear a mask when you go out to help protect yourself. While surgical masks and N95 respirators are being reserved for medical personnel, you can always wear a cloth mask or a mask you 3D printed at home.

The Verdict

Why Go With the Ultimaker 3?

I'll be honest, the Ultimaker 3 is one of my FAVORITE 3D Printers of all time. Not trying to hype it, but it's still the go-to for reliable performance and durability over time. It actually gets BETTER the MORE you use it... Weird!

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

If you’re thinking about 3D printing masks at home for yourself, family, friends, neighbors, or your community, you can certainly contribute to the cause. Evaluate the most important features of a 3D printer and make sure you get one that will fit your needs.

Don’t expect to make your money back on the project though. Doing it out of the kindness of your heart will ensure that you feel fulfilled by your good deeds while staying safe.

As an added bonus, you can continue to use your 3D printer for other fun projects when you’re done printing masks.

Best Thingiverse Alternatives: Which is Right for You?

Even though 3D printing is just starting to become more of a mainstream technology, it has been around for a while now. Users can print many different items, pieces, and parts, ranging from medical supplies to personal collectables. There really is no limit to what this technology is capable of doing.

If you’re already in the 3D printing game, then you have a decent idea of what you want to print and how to go about printing it. But what if you need some new, fresh ideas? That’s where platforms like Thingiverse come into play.

What is Thingiverse?

Thingiverse Review

For those not familiar with Thingiverse, it’s a platform that provides various 3D printing designs to its users. These are designed by other 3D printing users and shared on Thingiverse. The site launched in 2008, however at that time it was a companion app to the MakerBot website.

Those who like to use their 3D printer need clean and professional layouts. With Thingiverse, they not only have printables with these requirements met, but they also receive helpful information while learning more about their craft.

The problem nowadays is that Thingiverse is a victim of its own success. Due to its popularity, users on the platform wind up waiting for a while, even if all they want to do is check out a few models or printables. Unfortunately, this leaves the user with a poor experience.

But don’t worry! Thankfully, you’ll find a wide range of alternatives to Thingiverse. These options offer high-quality designs along with a wide collection of choices. We’re here to break these down for you, so you know exactly what to expect from each one.

So, let’s get started. Here’s our list of the best Thingiverse alternatives.

3Dagogo – Best for Beginners

3dagogo Best Thingiverse Alternatives

To be completely honest, I put this one first because I think the name is fun. But don’t let the name fool you, it’s an excellent platform that provides prints in a wide variety of categories. Whether you want to pay for the designs or need free ones, you’ll find great choices with 3Dagogo.

The designs available on the platform range from artistic pieces to aesthetic designs, so you’re sure to find something appealing. Also, with 3Dagogo, if you find and pay for a printable that isn’t compatible with your printer, you can request a refund as long as it’s been less than 14 days.

3Dagogo works together with Astroprint to provide creative 3D printables, which can be downloaded from any device that has internet connectivity. Or, if you prefer, you can download them to the cloud for safekeeping until you’re ready to print.

Chances are good that you’ll like using 3Dagogo. It’s easy to use, even if you’re new to 3D printing. The platform is categorized, so you can quickly find what you’re looking for and there are plenty of designs so you’re sure to discover something that you like.

MyMiniFactory – Best for Those Who Like Community Engagement

MyMiniFactory

Next up on our list of Thingiverse alternatives is MyMiniFactory. Started in 2013, this site has grown from the ground up into the platform it is today. It started as a testing ground for selecting and shared 3D designs.

Eventually, the site became so popular that it began collaborating and working with 3D designers, giving them a way to share their designs with others. Users can find roughly 60,000 prints throughout the site that are either free or ask for a small fee.

However, where MyMiniFactory sets itself apart is through its vetting process. The platform says that all files must pass a software verification check that is also verified by the community before published. This helps in reducing errors in printing and ensuring all files are valid.

In an effort to gain more traction, the site opened an e-shop in 2018. This platform offered members of the MyMiniFactory community the ability to earn money from their designs. The site also has competitions, allowing users to enter their designs to win prizes.

This type of interaction with its users means the community stays engaged with both the platform and with one another. Plus, MyMiniFactory has an easy to use interface that makes navigation simple and engaging.

Pinshape – Best for Those Who Like to Have Fun

Pinshape thingiverse alternatives

It might be a little unorthodox to put it under the category of “Those Who Like to Have Fun,” but Pinshape has the word in its mission statement. It wants to make 3D printing fun and simple for everyone.

Pinshape touts itself as a marketplace for designers who want to be connected with those who want to use their 3D printing designs. With this platform, designers can showcase their work in an engaging environment, interacting directly with those interested in what they have to offer.

Along with a wide range and variety of designs from which users can select, Pinshape also offers a feature that sorts projects by various filters, such as popularity, maximum price, and free designs. There are also categories users can sort by to browse by sections relevant to their search.

Further features include a very impressive hub that focuses on education for users. This area provides information related to hardware and software projects, tutorials provided by experts, and additional data that addresses post-processing techniques and processes.

Users will find extensive detail within the education section, which provides a lot of value. Also, part of the Pinshape platform is the review section. In this section, users can find reviews and information on various 3D printers.

Within the review section, users will get an idea of what to expect from certain 3D printers, how to select the right model for their needs, along with advice for which brands are more reputable and reliable.

3DExport – Best for Educational Tutorials

3DExport educational tutorials

3DExport is arguably one of the longest established options on our list of Best Thingiverse Alternatives. The platform originated in 2004, and since that time has grown to support more than 200,000 different designs and over half a million members.

One nice feature that 3DExport offers is its educational projects. This area offers quality tools that provide in-depth looks into 3D printing subjects and how they relate to areas such as physics, engineering, biology, math, and many other fields.

Users can select from a drop-down menu that allows them to sort by free or paid designs to find one that works for them. Additionally, 3DExport provides a step-by-step guide that will walk users through various 3D printing processes.

With this feature, users on the 3DExport platform can replicate exactly what they need to do when printing their design. Along the way, they can stop, pause, and rewatch anything they aren’t sure about until they’ve mastered the project.

3DExport also offers a great incentive to designers for using their platform. They’ll retain nearly 85% of all their sales, which is competitive when compared with other sites offering the same services.

Plus, users are free to sell their designs on other platforms, should they want to. For other users who are having difficulty finding the design or file type they need, 3DExport provides a method to convert files.

The site also extends a full refund on all purchases made on the site, given that it is requested within 24-hours of the initial purchase. Overall, 3DExport is a simple and easy to use site that’s great for anyone who wants to learn more about 3D printing.

CGTrader – Great for 3D Printing Hobbyists

CGTrader

The CGTrader platform was established in 2011 with the intention of providing an online market for those who wanted to sell their 3D print designs. On the platform, 3D designs were sold and purchased, providing instant value for the designer.

One cool feature available with the CGTrader platform is the ability to take 2D designs and turn them into 3D content. With this feature, users can create designs that pertain to many different areas which can in-turn make them more appealing to buyers.

CGTrader also has a very high number of high-quality designs available on its platform. Users can select from over 950,000 free and paid designs, which means there’s essentially something for anyone who pays a visit to the site.

The site also offers a cool feature it refers to as its “Trader Loyalty Discount.” Users can put this discount toward designs that are marked with an icon in the shape of a piggy bank. The intention behind this type of program is to reward users who purchase multiple designs over time.

CGTrader is an easy to use platform that tries to make itself project-oriented. There are plenty of designs from which users can choose, and the site tries to make navigation as simple and straightforward as possible.

For example, there are various subheadings beneath each drop-down menu that will allow users to find exactly what they want. Although, fair warning, you may end up hours browsing in an area that sounded interesting and completely forgot what you were looking for in the first place.

Users will also find plenty of community interaction, as CGTrader offers different challenges they can participate in. There are plenty of opportunities for both novice and experienced printers, so finding one that fits your needs shouldn’t be an issue.

YouMagine – Best for Creating 3D Designs

YouMagine

If you’re the type of person that likes to create 3D files, then YouMagine is the platform for you. This site focuses on providing its users with a way to take existing designs and ideas and turn them into 3D printing designs.

However, something to bear in mind is that the site takes its content seriously and protects original content. So, if you have something on the YouMagine platform, you can rest assured that the site will investigate anyone who tries to copy your designs.

While there are only around 16,000 designs from which users can choose, YouMagine does provide a spectrum of genres that make it a solid contender as an alternative to Thingiverse. On the platform, users can filter by certain categories such as featured, recent, popular, and trending.

The site also provides manuals for various 3D printers. These manuals include helpful maintenance tips, along with some tutorials that will help newer users get started. The manual section is technical, which is ideal for users who want to bring their 3D printing game to the next level.

YouMagine offers support to educational partners and developers as well. The platform is dedicated to helping students learn more about 3D printing and wants developers to feel welcome in an effort to encourage them to use YouMagine as often as possible.

You’ll also find a blog on the site, which is helpful if you’re looking for the most recent information about 3D printers. This will include things like new designs that have recently been added, 3D printer reviews, and a wide range of articles.

Overall, YouMagine is a solid alternative to Thingiverse, even if it doesn’t have any many designs for users to choose from. It’s easy to navigate and provides help to those who are new to the world of 3D printing.

Cults – Best for Those Who Want a One-Stop Shop

Cults

Last on our list of the Best Thingiverse Alternatives is Cults. This independent 3D printing marketplace is a great place for anyone who likes promotions. More on that in a bit.

First, you should know that there are over 80,000 members on the site who have shared more than 85,000 different designs. Those are pretty impressive numbers for a site started in 2014 and managed by a small team.

Aside from the number of members and designs available, there are also a few neat features that make Cults a little different than other Thingiverse alternatives. For starters, Cults offers discounts on 3D printer accessories like filament, blue tape, and more.

Plus, more often than not, the site is running a discount or promotion on these accessories. You might also stumble across some discounts on 3D printers if you’re lucky. This is perfect for anyone who likes to have everything they need located in one central location.

Additionally, Cults hosts many different competitions throughout the year so users can challenge one another in various types of skillsets. Prizes are offered on a regular basis, so if you join this platform, be sure to keep your eyes peeled.

Lastly, the site is clean and streamlined so users will have no trouble navigating the platform. It’s a pleasant user experience for anyone looking to further their knowledge about 3D printers while finding anything they want.

FAQs

Here are a few of the more often questions asked about alternatives to the Thingiverse platform.

How strong is PLA plastic?

While PLA is a biodegradable material, it is still remarkably durable and strong. PLA is harder than other materials you’ll find in the 3D printing market, such as ABS. But, since it has a lower tensile strength, ABS is usually more the more brittle of the two.

What are some fun things to print with a 3D printer?

There are all sorts of exciting objects you can print with a 3D printer. The sites mentioned here will give you a good idea of just how many designs there are out there. Some fun items include a carabiner, keyholder, and bowls, and much, much more.

What type of files are 3D printing files?

The industry standard file type for printing 3D files is STL, or Standard Triangle Language. Nearly all modern Computer Aided Design (CAD) software allows you to create an STL file and export it. This file type is then translated into machine code through slicing, which makes your 3D model ready for printing.

Wrapping Up

No matter what you need for your 3D printing design needs, it’s fair to say that there is more than likely a platform that will work for you. Whether you’re a novice or a professional, there is no shortage of options available.

I really like Pinshape, if for no other reason than the site promotes fun, which is something I believe 3D printing should be. Sure, there are serious reasons to use 3D printing, with serious printing needs, but sometimes it’s nice to just kick back and have a little fun.

The platform also offers educational resources for those that want to broaden their knowledge base, so it’s more than just a playground for 3D printers.

It’s tough to go wrong with any of our choices, so find one that works for you and happy printing!

 

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…

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.
  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.
  3. ELEGOO Mars UV 3D Printer: This closed-end system is specially built for resin filament materials, including wax based filaments. The built-in UV photocuring means more stable finished products (without moisture to compromise the build process). Recommended Wax Filament: MakerJuice WaxCast resin.

Our Pick
We love the AnyCubic Photon [New Year Deal]

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.

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

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.
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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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?

wax printing

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?

wax printer

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?

3d wax printer

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 printers

  • 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 [New Year Deal]

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.

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.

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!

Silicone 3D Printing

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.

3D Printing Silicone

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

Aceo 3D Printing Silicones

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.

Recommended Reads

The Best 3D Printer Hot Ends [Sep 2021]

We often see lists of the best 3D printers or the best slicers. But rarely do we see a lot of the smaller components which make up the 3D printer. Often, these smaller parts have some of the greatest impacts on the overall print quality, performance, and material we can use.

For example, there is the printer extruder (3D printer extruder), nozzle, and filament diameter, which all are major influences on the final product. As well, we could dive into heated bed surfaces, bed temperatures, and displays, which again have a big say in how the final printed object will look and feel.

For the purposes of this article though, I will take you through what I consider to be the best hot ends available.

After the nozzle, printer extruder and print bed, printer hotend is one of the main culprits for print quality issues.

The hot end is one of the most important parts of a 3D printer. This is the part that actually melts the filament and extruders it onto the print bed. It controls the maximum print temperature, the nozzle size and the cooling of the filament to ensure your prints come out perfect every time.

There are two main groups of hot ends you can consider, all metal and PEEK-based. I prefer the all-metal designs as they allow you to print with more filament types, print at higher temperatures, and are easier to maintain as they are less likely to jam. However, you must decide which type is best for your printer and your printing needs.

Now let’s get this list started.

All Metal Hot Ends

MatterHackers also has a GREAT selection of ALL METAL CleanTip hot ends worth checking out. All metal hot ends are easier to MAINTAIN and yield CLEANER prints (higher quality).

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

These are the best 3D printer hot ends:

1. E3D V6

The E3D V6 is the hot end that all other hot ends wish they could be. This hot end has raised the bar and set the standard for the all-metal hot end market. It’s a durable, quality, and precise hot end that everyone loves once they have tried it.

One thing I really like about this hot end is its versatility. The E3D V6 can be used on just about any 3D printer. All you need is to find the mount for your printer and maybe watch a video if it’s your first time changing hot ends. In no time though, you will have one of the best hot ends on your 3D printer. Most mounts can be found on Thingiverse.

Besides its versatility, you can completely customize the E3D V6 on the E3D website. Anything from nozzle size, to blocks, and temperature ranges. A large variety of upgrades and options allow you to take your printing to the next level.

The E3D V6 can get temperatures as high as 300 – 400 C. You can easily print just about any type of filament with temperatures that high. Also, its built to handle flexible and soft filaments without jamming.

This is a compact and easy to use the hot end that will surely change your 3D printer and print head extrusion system (extruder assembly) for the better. It is easily my favorite hot end on the market and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to upgrade or make a change.

You can get the E3D V6 to handle either 1.75 mm or 3.0 mm filament.

Where to Buy the E3D V6? Amazon is the first place I would check at this listing, however ALSO be sure to check MatterHackers here for their deals.

Genuine E3D V6 Hotend
$54.94
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04/09/2021 01:10 am GMT

2. Slice Engineering Mosquito Hotend

The Mosquito is a relatively NEW player to the hotend market, but it IS a game changer.

The main engineering improvemnt here is that the Mosquito builds on a durable metal frame instead of a heat sink / heater block combination.

Our Pick
Why Go with the Mosquito Hotend?

If budget isn't your main concern, the Slice Engineering Mosquito IS objectively the best hotend upgrade. No heat sink, means better quality prints, fewer clogs, and a MUCH lower maintenance cost (replacement cost) for parts down the road.

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This provides many improvements over your typical 3D printer hotend. Namely:

  • With no heatsink required, you can use a maximially efficient copper heat sink that does NOT need to bear heavy weight (mechanical load)
  • No heating inconsistencies which are notorious for causing jams and poor print quality
  • With fewer moving parts (direct extruder), mounting (installation) of the hotend is MUCH easier
  • With fewer 3D printer part components, the long term durablity is increased and replacement costs are far lower

Other benefits include full compatibility with E3D’s 3D printer extruder parts and nozzles, plug and play functionality, and a wide list of supported 3D printers (virtually every FDM printer type).

Where to Buy the Mosquite Hotend? This one is exclusively available via this MatterHackers listing here.

3. Micro Swiss All Metal

Micro Swiss All Metal Hotend Kit
$63.50
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04/09/2021 12:09 am GMT

Another great all metal hot end is the MK10 conversion from Micro Swiss. Really all of the all metal hot end conversions from Micro Swiss are great hot ends, you just need to find the one for your machine.

This Micro Swiss hotend conversion kit can be used on single or dual extruder setups (dual hotend). If you have dual extruders you can change out just one hot end to allow for a good mix of PLA and high temperature filaments printing together.

This conversion kit is to replace the stock MK10 PTFE lined hot end. The nice thing about this kit is it requires zero modification to your 3D printer. You are simply removing the original thermal tube and PTFE line and putting the all-metal parts in its place.

You can find easy to follow instructions on the Micro Swiss website. As well as a complete list of the 3D printers this conversion kit will fit on. If it doesn’t fit the printer you have, just do some research to find the kit that works for you.

The MK10 hot end conversion kit will fit some Flashforge 3D printers, Idea Builder 3D printers, Wanhao 3D printers, and Qiditech or other replica 3D printers of the brands just mentioned.

Where to Buy Micro Swiss All Metal? Check out Amazon here AND check MatterHackers here.

Micro Swiss All Metal Hotend Kit
$63.50
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04/09/2021 12:09 am GMT

4. LulzBot Hexagon

Another all metal hotend upgrade for the list (are you starting to see a trend?) this one is the v2 Hexagon hot end. This time it comes from my favorite 3D printing company, LulzBot. They have created two of the best 3D printers on the market, and you can expect the same quality from their all metal hot end.

The v2 Hexagon is a bit pricier than some of the other hot ends available. But this is consistent with the rest of LulzBots offerings. They believe their high quality, warranty-backed products are more than worth the price tag.

While the v2 Hexagon works with all LulzBot’s 3D printers, it is not just a drop and print hot end for these machines. This is due to wiring differences and requires a few extra steps to use this hot end on a LulzBot 3D printer. However, it is designed as a drop and print replacement on all RepRap and DIY/Kit 3D printers.

The lengthened heater block (heater cartridge) of this hot end means you have a bigger melting zone. This enables you to print faster and more consistently with the evenly melted filament. As well, it can reach up to 300 C in temperature.

The v2 Hexagon hot end is designed for 3.0 mm filament and nozzles of 0.35 mm, 0.5 mm, and 0.6 mm nozzles.

5. DisTech Prometheus V2

The next printer hotend on my list is the closest to the E3D V6, this time we have the Distech Prometheus V2. This hot end is machined from a single piece of stainless steel, which eliminates all internal melt-zone areas and allows for smoother 3D printing.

The Prometheus V2 is actively cooled, which allows for very consistent filament melt. The all stainless steel design lasts longer than traditional brass parts. As well, its strength is almost unmatched. You no longer need to worry about it bumping into the print beds or other objects while you are tinkering around with your machine.

This hot end is designed to be used as a drop and print hot end. The compact dimensions make it easy to mount to your 3D printer. As well, it is compatible with most 3D printers available.

The Prometheus V2 is built for 1.75 mm filament size and can come with nozzles of 0.3 mm, 0.4 mm, 0.6 mm, and 1.0 mm.

6. Diamond Hotend (Diamond Triple)

Next on my list is the Diamond printer extruder hotend. You’ll notice this hot end is pretty different from the others on the list with its overall design. The Diamond lets you mix and match filaments and colors more easily than ever. And you only need one nozzle to do so.

The Diamond hot end combines three different filaments paths, and extruders them through one nozzle. This enables you to 3D print with multiple filaments or colors and effortlessly switch between them during the printing process.

This is another all metal hot end with heat sinks and breaks that are based on E3D designs. The stock mounting bracket is fairly limited in the number of printers it can fit. However, as its popularity has grown, more brackets have been designed by the 3D printing community.

The Diamond hot end is made for 1.75 mm filament and has a 0.4 mm nozzle.

Bonus: All Other E3D Hot Ends

E3D turned itself into the standard for 3D printer hot ends, nozzles, and extruders. They have built an entire ecosystem of top of the line 3D printer parts and printer extruder customization. All the parts are interchangeable, which makes all their products fully customizable. You can choose from a wide range of different heat blocks and nozzles specifically for your hot end.

The E3D ecosystem has hot ends such as the Titan Aqua, which is a water cooled hot end. This enables you to reach even higher temperatures.

They also have multi extrusion hot ends. Pick fro the dual filament, dual extrusions or dual filament single extrusions. No matter what you’re looking for, E3D will have the hot end you need and one of the best hot ends you can find.

That concludes the list of the best hot ends on the market. I am a firm believer that the all-metal design is the way to go. It allows for more filament materials, temperatures, and more functionality.

Make sure you research some more hot ends so you can decide which is the best for your 3D printer and the objects you will be printing.

I know there are many other hot ends out there, but these are the ones I have found to be the best for personal use and recommendations/testers. Let us know which ones we missed in the comments below.

All Metal Hot Ends

MatterHackers also has a GREAT selection of ALL METAL CleanTip hot ends worth checking out. All metal hot ends are easier to MAINTAIN and yield CLEANER prints (higher quality).

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Further Reading 3D Printing

Best Anet A8 Upgrades and Mods [2021]

When it comes to technology some people like to use their devices just as they’re supposed to. Then, three are those who have to see exactly what they can get their tech to do. These are the over-clockers and people who find innovative and creative uses for their gadgets.

One of the more common devices that people like to upgrade is their 3D printers and the Anet A8 3D printer is no exception. This budget-friendly printer is great for beginners who want to get into the 3D printing niche without spending an arm and a leg.

anet a8

When it comes to the Anet A8, upgrading the machine can make it more stable while providing additional functionality and features. Of course, upgrades on a 3D printer involves more than just changing out a few pieces. It can be much more complicated than that.

Don’t worry though. Even though it sounds a little daunting, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. For starters, you can print most of the mods for your A8 right on the device itself. That’ll help keep your overall expenses down as you go about upgrading your 3D printer. With that said, here’s our list of the best Anet A8 upgrades.

Safety Must-Haves

The Anet A8 upgrade options in this category are the ones we consider to be some of the most important for this machine. They make it more stable and protect your device from failure.

MOSFET

mosfet

This add-on is one you simply must get. The default print bed is heated, so it draws a lot of power. Unfortunately, the manufacturer didn’t make the mainboard durable enough to handle that amount of power.

If you often print materials that require the bed to sustain heat for a long time, the mainboard may get overloaded, meaning catching fire to your A8. The MOSFET adds an extra layer of protection to your printer. It prevents the mainboard from getting overwhelmed with the amount of power needed to keep the print bed heated and is a necessary safeguard against burning the whole house down.

The extruder on the A8 also has a heating element, so installing a second MOSFET could be extra precautionary, but not absolutely necessary. While the A8 mainboard can handle the power that the extruder needs, they’re only $20 each, so it’s a worthwhile investment.

Marlin Firmware

The default firmware on the A8 comes with the thermal runaway protection disabled, making it unsafe. It could be another reason why your equipment catches fire. At the very least, it can cause hardware failure.

Upgrading the firmware is essential for a safer and more stable experience. Marlin offers the best compatible firmware for the A8, but Repetier is another great option.

Power Supply Unit

mean well LRS

The Anet A8 printer is like a lot of other cheaper DIY 3D printer kits. It’s limited to 3D print PLA filament out of the box and it comes with a PSU that’s simply not powerful enough to handle high-temperature prints. If you want to print with high-temperature materials, you need to upgrade the PSU first.

There are several options out there. The Mean Well LRS-350-12 is less than $50. Even if you don’t plan to print with high-temperature materials like PETG, Nylon, or ABS, upgrading your PSU to handle more power consumption is a good investment in the long term.

Performance Must-Haves

These don’t make your machine safer, but they enhance performance, making it easier to use and more versatile. These upgrades increase your print quality, giving you increased functionality that you will quickly learn you can’t live without.

Bowden Feeder System

The direct feeder system on the Anet A8 printer puts more weight on the print head, slowing the print speed. You can boost your print speed by switching to a Bowden feeder system instead.

Take a look at Thingiverse for several different Bowden mounts. The modular Bowden mount by TNS is one of the most popular. It’s important to remember that the Bowden setup does have some disadvantages, so take a look at the pros and cons before making a decision. The primary benefit of the Bowden system is increased print speed.

Belt Tensioners

anet a8 belt tensioner

Providing enough tension on the X and Y axis ensures that your belts stay tight. This can improve both print speed and quality. If you mount belt tensioners on your A8, you can adjust the tightness of your belts as needed.

If you do plan to install belt tensioners, make sure you also install a brace to give your Y-axis more stability. Belt tensioners can add strain to the frame. You should also replace the stock belts when you add tensioners because the stock belts stretch faster as you increase tension.

1pcs AM8
$30.89
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04/09/2021 01:10 am GMT

E3D Extruder and Hotend Upgrade

e3d all metal

We already know that out of the box, the A8 can really only handle PLA. Once you perform upgrades to handle more advanced materials, your stock extruder may not be equipped to handle it.

It’s hard to print with exotic filaments such as Nylon, ABS, TPU, or PETG with that stock extruder unless you replace it with an E3D Titan extruder and an E3D v6 hotend.

Combining these upgrades allows you to print with a wider array of materials and your extruder is less prone to clogging. While the upgrade will cost more than $100, it’s well worth it if you decide to branch out on materials.

Center Nozzle Fan

You can also improve your overall print quality with a centre nozzle fan. It improves the cooling system by acting as an extension of the existing extruder cooling fan. You can get a full circle cooling fan or a half-circle version.

Filament Guide

Poor cable management plagues the A8 because of the small profile of the machine. There’s no filament guide at all on the stock machine. You can’t expect the filament flow to be organized without one.

You can address the issue with a dedicated filament guide. Mount it on the frame for a smoother filament flow. It increases performance and can also improve your print quality.

Fiberglass Reinforced Belt

GT2 belt

The A8 comes with stock belts that stretch quickly and easily. If you’ve already done the belt tensioner mod, you should have already replaced the belts. If you haven’t done that yet, fibreglass-reinforced belts are a great option.

You can get 5-meter fibreglass-reinforced belts for less than $10 each, so it won’t cost you a lot. It will run smoother and quieter, and these belts will last for a lot longer than the stock belts.

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04/09/2021 01:10 am GMT

Linear Bearing Upgrade

3D Solid polymer bearing

The A8 makes a lot of noise, which you should probably expect for something in its price point and with such an open design. However, it’s easy to fix with an upgrade. Swap the stock bearings with Igus bearings. A seven-pack will cost less than $10.

These bearings are self-lubricating and made of solid polymer. They offer smoother performance and much quieter operation.

Frame Braces

The unstable frame on your A8 can cause poor quality print jobs, but you can make it more stable by purchasing braces for the front and the back, as well as a T-corner brace for your Z-axis.

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04/08/2021 03:09 pm GMT

Print Bed Upgrade

glass bed anet a8

Switching to a glass print bed offers a platform that’s easy to clean and a flatter surface for increased print job quality. They’ll cost you less than $30, but it does have a few downsides. Glass has slow heat distribution and you may also want to add extra wires to your bed connector.

Best Anet A8 Upgrades: Nice to Haves

While you don’t have to perform the following upgrades, they do enhance your user experience. It makes your A8 easier to use, but you’ll have to evaluate our budget first. Some are pricey.

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04/09/2021 01:10 am GMT

Bed Thumbwheel Upgrade

Anet heated bed

Levelling your bed manually can be hard. Thumbwheels are hard to turn if you can even get a good grip on them at all. The entire process is a huge hassle. Replacing the thumbwheels with a brand new set of those you 3D printed yourself could make your bed calibration more tolerable.

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Auto-Level Sensor

Skip manual bed levelling altogether with auto-levelling technology. While the A8 comes with a manual system that often can take an hour to complete. Installing your own auto-level sensor makes the whole process easier, but make sure it’s compatible with your print bed first.

Extruder Button

Sometimes it’s the little things that improve your experience the most. Upgrading your extruder button with a mod you print yourself can make your filament changing easier and much more comfortable on your fingers.

Raspberry Pi Camera and Bed Mount

You can already control and monitor your A8 remotely with OctoPrint, which is a nice feature given how loud the machine is. If you upgrade your Raspberry Pi camera to v2, you can also watch the print progress. The downside here is that there’s no mount for the camera module on the A8, so you have to build your own.

Alternative: You can sub an Arduino kit instead.

Power Switch

Out of the box, the A8 doesn’t even have a power switch. If you want to turn it off, you have to unplug it. It’s a crude design feature, but it helps keep the price down. It’s pretty easy to install your own power switch, and it costs practically nothing.

Pretty Upgrades

These upgrades make your printer much nicer to look at. Let’s be honest. It’s not the most attractive 3D printer on the market. These upgrades are by no means necessary for increased performance, but it might make you feel like your machine is more premium than it is.

Not only that, but it definitely helps to make your A8 look more organized, which is a big deal for people who like a neat and clean look.

Cooling Fan Cover

This mod doesn’t need an explanation. Cover up your cooling fan with a printable piece you can make yourself. Covering up parts like fans that are normally covered on other machines makes it look more sophisticated.

Cable Chains

Your A8 already has poor cable management. Using cable chains can keep all of your messy cables organized. Your frame will look more organized, too. Instead of wrapping them with electrical tape, look into using cable chains to keep them in check.

Electronics Case

Exposed electronics aren’t attractive, but they’re not safe either. You can get electronics cases everywhere, but c_wolsey designed one that includes an OctoPrint Raspberry Pi camera mount. Best of all, it’s on Thingiverse.

MOSFET Holder

Mount your MOSFET upgrade using a MOSFET holder. You can mount it on the frame either horizontally or vertically, whichever you like best.

M8 Nut Cap

bolt cap

Cover your exposed nuts and bolts with the M8 Nut Cap. You can pick a color that matches your printer or you can choose a contrasting color to spice it up.

Power Supply Cover

Cover your power supply with an upgrade made by the same designer of the M8 Nut Cap and the cooling fan cover we mentioned above. It covers your power supply and has an opening for your power switch upgrade, too.

Not For the Faint of Heart Upgrades

These advanced upgrades should be performed after you have a better understanding of how your A8 works. They require time and money, so you’re going to need to be committed. However, they will make your machine feel brand new, so they offer a lot of long-term value.

Controller Board Upgrade

control board anet a8

The stock controller board on the A8 isn’t built for long-term use or durability. It’ll last for a few months, but you’ll eventually want to upgrade to something that is more capable. The UltiMachine Rambo is one of the most popular boards, but it’s more than $150, which is as much as a brand new A8.

Aluminum Frame Upgrade

aluminum frame 3d printer

The A8 frame is acrylic, so it’s not super durable or attractive. You can improve stability and durability at high temperatures. Switching out the frame isn’t easy. You have to make sure your measurements are precise or the parts won’t fit.

However, this upgrade is not nearly as expensive as the controller board upgrade, and it’s still just as functional.

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FAQs About the Best Anet A8 Upgrades

How do I improve my Anet A8 print quality?

There are several upgrades that help to improve print quality. Because of a lack of stability and cable management, the upgrades that do the most to improve print quality are those that stabilize the frame, organize the cables, and control the filament.

How do I make my Anet A8 safe?

Lack of safety in the A8 stems from how much power the heated bed draws. Installing things like MOSFETs to help control the power and protect your machine from malfunctioning or catching fire.

Upgrading firmware and the power supply can also help keep your machine safer.

How do I update firmware on Anet A8?

The stock firmware is based on Marlin, and there are several Marlin firmware upgrades available. Here’s how to upgrade your firmware with ease:

  1. Choose which firmware you want to use.
  2. Download the firmware.
  3. Configure the A8 configuration board.
  4. Overwrite the current Marlin code.
  5. Connect your printer to your computer via USB.
  6. Upload the code to your printer.

How do I use Anet A8?

The Anet A8 reads gcode files. Here are the steps for printing from a gcode file:

  1. Make sure the gcode file is on the root of your SD card.
  2. Put your SD card in the Anet A8 printer.
  3. Press the centre button to get to the main menu and select SD Card>Mount.
  4. Go to the Print File access.
  5. Select the gcode file you want to print.

The A8 will respond accordingly and begin printing.

The Verdict on Anet A8 Upgrades

The Anet A8 is a popular 3D printer because of its accessibility. It’s affordable, and it’s a great choice for a lot of beginners. However, there are a lot of needed upgrades. Some should be done immediately for safety while others can be done as you get more familiar with your machine and want to increase its functionality.

No matter how you’re using your Anet A8, these upgrades are well worth the time and money rather than buying a new machine.

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