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The hype around 3D printers has died down quite a bit in the mainstream tech world. It’s still a massively exciting technology that’s constantly evolving, but average tech fans have more or less forgotten about it. That’s a pity because right now it’s a great time to buy a 3D printer.
Don’t just take my word for it, though, there are good reasons to think that the time to buy a 3D printer is now. So let’s look at why you should consider taking the step.
Prices Are Lower Than Ever
OK, it should be obvious that 3D printers are now cheaper than they’ve ever been. It’s normal for technology to get less expensive over time, but 3D printers have gone from being expensive luxuries to affordable consumer devices.
These days you can pick up a pretty decent basic desktop 3D printer for two to three hundred dollars. I say “basic”, but these are fully competent machines that you would have paid at least triple the price for just a few years ago.
The price is also likely to keep dropping on higher-end models, so expect to buy a 3D printer from the used market at a bargain too. The high-end printer enthusiasts will be upgrading to newer machines too, putting their old advanced models in reach of regular Joes like us.
The next big reason it’s the right time to buy a 3D printer is simply that they are no longer garage-made junk. That may seem a little harsh, but early generation 3D printers really were rough around the edges.
Why? For the most part, they really were built in low-tech garages and rented workspaces. The companies that started this revolution were a lot like Apple in the early days, without all the money and fancy equipment to make consumer-grade products.
Today you’ll most likely get something more polished and less “steampunk” industrial. 3D printers now have proper shells, integrated components and parts that fit properly. In other words, when you buy a 3D printer today you get something that looks worth buying
No Assembly Required
Are you the type of person who likes to build things? What if your fridge or TV still needed some serious assembly out of the box? That’s a problem quite a few 3D printer products have had in the past.
If you went out to buy a 3D printer five years ago you’d have found something that needed more than “some” assembly when it arrived. Early consumer printers either required that you make your own casing, leave it naked or plug all the components together.
That’s hardly ever the case these days. Unboxing and setting up a 3D printer is now not much harder than setting up a paper printer. For the most part, it’s plug and play.
Easy as Pie
The ease of use when you buy a 3D printer doesn’t stop there either. It’s become just as easy to actually prepare and print 3D objects too. Although you can go into the highly-technical world of 3D modeling, you don’t have to.
There are amazing software applications that can help you easily create, modify or prepare 3D data to be printed. You don’t need to be a tech wizard to figure it out anymore. Companies like Makerbot have gone to great lengths so that 3D printing is as easy as possible.
Thanks to the existence of software such as Meshmixer by AutoDesk it’s also easy now to convert old 3D models or ones that just didn’t come out right. You can even use your phone camera to “scan” in 3D objects and then print them later.
If you bought a 3D printer a few years ago it would be an incredibly basic machine. Sometimes you literally just got a barebones platform and a printhead. You’d be lucky to have something with any sort of display indicator or other niceties.
When you buy a 3D printer today, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Not only will you at least get a friendly little screen to let you know what your printer is doing, but even more advanced abilities.
For example, some printers now have an app that can help you remotely manage your prints via a built-in webcam. There are even 3D printers that also have the ability to scan in objects with lasers, turning them into a sort of 3D photocopier. There’s certainly a lot more to them than just one generation ago!
The most you could do with older affordable consumer 3D printers was to create small toys or minimally useful things like toothbrush holders. Things have changed a lot and thanks to the ingenuity of designers you can not print some pretty useful things.
Not only that but print beds on consumer-grade printers are also getting quite sizable. Before you would have to fork out a fortune for something that could print models in usable sizes.
The rest of us had to make do with slicing the digital model and then gluing the whole thing together afterward. Unless you had very steady hands this doesn’t work too well.
Buy a 3D Printer, Be Cool
There’s still no denying just how fundamentally cool the technology is when it comes to 3D printing. The people for who cool is enough and money is no object already bought these machines ages ago. It’s only now that more middle-of-the-road technology fans will start to take the idea of buying a 3D printer seriously.
So let’s recap why exactly you may want to finally buy a 3D printer:
- They’re cheap(er)
- New printers are well-made
- You don’t need to be a tech expert
- They can make more than just toys now
These machines are bound to just get better and better as time goes by, but right now is the first time when I would actually be bold enough to say that it’s good to buy one for most people who are interested. If not, then perhaps making your own makeshift VR headset could be more appealing?
Lead Image by Makerbot Industries via Flickr
Second Image by Creative Tools via Flickr
Gear image is Public Domain via Pixabay