In February this year, the long-awaited ZMorph VX 3D printer came to our office. For us, it is not only a gadget but above all a tool for implementing internal ideas and interesting projects. For several months of use, we have learned that printing in 3D is not as easy as it seems - the whole process from the idea to the creation of the concept, model execution, and printing requires a lot of patience and time.
How much does a 3D printer cost?
Prices of 3D printers start from about 200 USD, for the cheapest equipment, and reach even several hundred thousand USD. Where does this discrepancy come from? The price depends on offered printing opportunities or type of construction, quality of workmanship, size, reliability, and ease of use.
The cheapest form of spatial printing is FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), it is about melting the plastic in the head and applying it in layers on the working platform. Recently, FDM has been strongly popularized due to the systematically dropping price.
Does the price always go hand in hand with quality?
On the market, we can find quite decent FDM equipment for the amount of about 400 USD, or from a slightly higher shelf for 800 USD. The prices are very different, mainly due to the capabilities of the device ("out of the box"), user needs, and what scope of freedom of work it allows.
Cheap printers print in a pretty decent quality and they require a lot of own contribution and control from the user. Poor quality of the materials from which the printer is built can not only reduce the print quality but even in extreme cases, cause a fire.
What to look for when buying a 3D printer?
First, ask yourself: do we need such a printer? Remember that in almost every larger city, we find companies that deal with professional 3D printing services.
If we want to have more freedom, we like to experiment and gain new experiences, we have plenty of options to buy a printer.
After determining the budget, we should additionally estimate our technical and time capabilities and match them to the printer model. It is also worth to:
- get to know the detailed specification of individual models,
- read about the design of the printer,
- read the information provided by the manufacturer, eg the size of the surface on which you can print, the materials used in the construction of the printer, the temperature range to which the head can be heated up, working platform, etc.
We can also view/read a review of a given model (currently there are so many users that we will not have any problems with finding tests). You should also pay attention to the user base of the given model because it is very easy to get help with technical issues on the forum or groups on Facebook. The community is quite active and thanks to it many printers have been updated with mods and improvements that can completely change the quality of printouts.
3D printer at TEONITE
At TEONITE we decided to purchase ZMorph VX. When choosing the equipment, we mainly focused on quality, good price-to-component ratio, and printer capabilities. ZMorph VX provides advanced material printing and perfectly fits our requirements. It features:
- selective printing,
- color mixing function,
- image mapping function on 3D models,
- replaceable heads (CNC, laser, double nozzle, etc.),
- print with a washable VPA material,
- glass working surface,
- automated calibration,
- and many more.
ZMorph VX is one of the most advanced personal 3D printers on the market. Thanks to interchangeable heads, it is possible to machine CNC machining, laser engraving, and thick mass printing. This solution makes ZMorph VX a small factory that fits on your desk and is an ideal tool for low-cost production and the creation of functional prototypes. ZMorph VX can create multi-material advanced projects, such as a working drone or a wireless speaker. Especially for all ZMorph users, we have provided a free educational platform ZMorph Academy, where you can learn both the basics of 3D printing, but also such complicated operations as PCB creation.
-Jakub Spiryn, Content Marketing Specialist, ZMorph.
This gives a lot of possibilities in terms of implementing our internal ideas. When it comes to the quality of performance, compared to other printers, ZMorph VX wins in terms of solid components and ... weight (it is said that it is like a tank). Weight is a big plus, especially if we take into account that the device must be very stable in printing.
Here you can see our ZMorph VX unboxing:
3D printing, step by step
With the help of a 3D printer, we can print almost any object - from the telephone stand, through the components for hand prosthesis, to parts for building a house. How does it work?
The principle is very simple:
We start with the model that we want to print (in .stl format) and the program that will create the .gcode file for us. This is a kind of instruction telling how our machine should move. In this instruction, we set all print parameters (temperature, speed, retractions).
These programs are called "slicers" and the producers usually tell us which "slicer" we should use. Usually, it is Cura, recommended mainly due to popularity and free version. Other, more advanced "slicers" (such as Simplify3D) are paid, but they have much more options, so you should consider buying them.
The selected file is prepared in our program, and the generated .gcode is saved on the SD card. After inserting the card into the printer, we open our file, the nozzle begins to warm up and the printing process begins. Pay special attention to how the first layer is printed, which is key for the entire model. Improperly printed can spoil the whole project.
After applying many layers, our printout is created. You can print almost anything that fits on the work surface. A common problem is, for example, printing "in the air" or at a very large angle. The output from this situation is printing with so-called "supports".
The first test printout is the easiest - it does not require us to create .gcode. This file has been previously prepared and is on the memory card that we get with the printer. It is usually a small object - eg a chip - located in the middle of our platform, so that the first calibration does not affect the quality of the printout. Calibrations may vary due to the device. In the case of more expensive models, it is automatic.