What would be your "perfect" entry level printer?

#1

Looking for opinions on what people consider musts for an entry level printer. Just an average Joe or some kid that might be getting started in design and building things, someone who is new to 3d printing.

One big one is obviously cost. For a lot of people even a couple of hundred bucks for a cheap kit is a lot of money. What would you consider low cost enough? This includes people with not much disposable income, people who aren’t sure they want to get into 3d printing (and so don’t want to invest too much into it) or kids who need to convince their parents to buy it for them. Does it need to be sub $100? sub $200?

Another is features. Do things like automatic bed leveling need to be there for an entry level kit or is a couple of leveling screws good enough? LCDs? SD card readers? Heated beds? I personally think LCDs and SD cards are not nessecary (but definitely nice) since my first printer didn’t have those features, and you only really miss them once you’ve used them and have to go back to the hassle of doing things without them. Bed leveling is cheap enough to implement and saves a lot of time, headache and failure. A basic bed probe can be built into the effector using the microswitch you’re gonna need for your z axis anyway. I think heated beds shouldn’t be on entry level kits (again, entry level meaning people with no experience whatsoever or kids just getting into this sort of hobby), they add another hazard to the printer and the power and wiring for them isn’t really something someone at that level should or will want to deal with.

Well, that’s my two cents, I’d love to hear some other people’s opinions. I’m hoping to design an entry level printer soon so I’m looking at features people would like to see in it. I’m aiming to do what the 101HERO tried (and failed?) to do, and trying to learn from its mistakes.

#2

If this is a first printer to learn stuff and see if it please you, there is no need for a large printer. A small printer have a lot less mechanical problems, use less space and if well designed, can be faster than a large one (low moving mass allow higher speed and acceleration). No heat bed allow an external power brick which is a plus for safety, but a power switch shall be added. Low area lower the cost of ‘buildtak’ like surface which shall be considered as consumable.

In theory, Delta could be the cheapest to manufacture, but an autolevelling with mapping is unavoidable for a beginner. I got many troubles with my Fisher delta because the bed was not flat. As for Board and firmware, it was the best you can get for a cheap printer (That was the Duet 0.6). Nothing equivalent is available today. Printed parts and laser cut acrylic were fragile. It also had an all metal hotend, slow but quite reliable.

A design I like a lot and find very clever for beginners is the TinyBoy 2. The first version had a very small usable volume (80x80x80) and was extremely slow (15 mm/sec). The version 2 is much improved and have a larger volume (100x100x100) for nearly the same external size. Unfortunately, the project stalled, but the design may be used by others.

[edit]
In short, I think a pre-built Tinyboy 2 with a Duet 0.6 as board and the all-metal Fisher hotend will be a near perfect FDM printer for a beginner. Provided they increase the hotend fin size to lower the outrageous fan noise.

#3

I bought my first printer a couple months ago after doing a lot of research, here are some of my lessons learned

  • Cheap printer = lot of tinkering getting good print results, more expensive printer = less tinkering, works better out of the box
  • 3d Printer is not the same as a 2d printer regarding getting the perfect result for each print
  • The more expensive brand have printers that have a higher reliability
  • What are the changes you will be buying a better printer after buying a cheap one first?
  • What will you be using the printer for, is it more about tinkering or good results, to which does the scale tip?
  • what is a cheap printer? 300 dollar? is that cheap or should you be calling a 600 dollar reliable 3d printer cheap? Compared to a 10,000 industry printer
  • well known brands have longer support, when using good components, you know you can always replace things
#4

Agreed that you can skip a heated bed and auto bed leveling, but I do think SD card and LCD support are important (and pretty cheap to implement.

That said, having looked into making something compact and nice myself as a desktop alternative to my bulky diy printer, it’s really hard to compete with some of the nicer starter printers out there for size and price. Something like an Anet A8 takes a lot of work to customize and get ready, but a Monoprice Mini only needs a couple mods to work really well out of the gate, and it takes up about as much desk space as a toaster :lol:.

#5

Like I said in the OP, I’m talking under a couple of hundred dollars being cheap, my mark is sub $200 for “cheap”, ideally sub $150.

As for the SD card and display, yeah they are relatively cheap at $5-10 for a basic one. I’m not saying it’s expensive on it’s own but adding this, that and other small features eventually racks up. I was meaning to say though that bed leveling should be included. For a new comer it will save so much effort and troubleshooting, and can be implemented with the hardware you’d be using anyway (move the z endstop to the effector and done). I particularly like the way the atom delta tom reviewed did bed leveling. The contacts on the effector could easily be replaced with a microswitch.