Just a few years ago, 3D printing sounded like something from a science fiction film, but now 3D printers are becoming more common, allowing people to turn their digital dreams into reality.
Prices for 3D printers have come down drastically over the last few years, making them affordable for many consumers. However, purchasing a 3D printer is more complicated than buying a deskjet for your office, and you need to have an idea of what you’ll need the printer to make before buying one.
Do you love to tinker with hardware, or would you rather go straight to printing your 3D designs? If you enjoy putting things together, you should consider the RepRap line of open-source printers. RepRap, short for replicating rapid prototyper, is a project based on the development of 3D printers that can print most or all of their own components.
Many variations of the RepRap printer have been created over the last six years, based on open sourced designs and free-licensed software. In the early days, the RepRap project did not involve the direct marketing of 3D printers but rather concentrated on the open sharing of machine designs and software.
Since RepRap is open-source hardware, 3D printer kits are available from a variety of vendors. While the fact that these printers require assembly may be considered a minus for some users, there’s also a big plus because RepRap machines are self-replicating.
That means that once you have one RepRap machine, you can print most of the parts to make another one. You can also customize and tweak the finished printer to suit your needs.
How Much a RepRap Will Cost
There are four RepRap models available now, the original Darwin, the Mendel, the Huxley and the Prusa Mendel. The latter is ideal for beginners because it’s easier to assemble and offers superior performance.
The kit for a Prusa model sells for around $429 without the printed parts, while the kit for the Huxley model goes for about $620. The Mendel kit runs about $1,595.
Pre-Assembled VS DIY
If you would prefer to buy your 3D printer pre-assembled, you’ll have a variety of consumer printers to choose from. Some are based on the original RepRap model but come assembled. Good pre-assembled printers currently sell for around $1,500 to $2,000, although there are less-expensive models in the $800-$1,500 range.
So should you buy a RepRap kit or a pre-assembled consumer 3D printer? That depends on your technical expertise as well as what kind of products you plan to create.
If you’re the DIY type or think you might need more than one 3D printer, a RepRap model is probably your best choice. If you want to skip straight to creating your dream items, you’re likely to be happier with a pre-assembled consumer 3D printer.