Look below for information on what\where to buy and a few tips and tricks. More tips and information on how to deploy in a library can be found here.
Where & What to Buy
Large (A lot of the better 3D printers with a large build area take 3mm filament):
Lulzbot Taz 6 – 3mm filament
P: One of the best, most versatile printers out there. Supports self-leveling and is extremely reliable. Has pretty much every feature you will want. I am a huge fan.
C: The software is very flexible and will let you do anything you want with it. The downside of this is that it is therefore more complicated and having so many options can sometimes lead to failure if you are not experienced.
Ultimaker 2+ and 2+ Extended – 3mm filament
I have not worked with this printer but many of its specs are similar to the Taz 6 and I consistently hear good things about it. This printer is more enclosed.
Dremel 3D40 FLEX – 1.75mm filament - Dremel has recently pulled out of 3D printing, we now recommend the MakerBot Replicator+ in its place.
P: Very easy to use. Enclosed, and fairly quiet. Cloud and wireless printing, as well as USB on device. Auto-leveling. We tested one of these and over the course of about 6 months of use moving it around and printing fairly complicated and small items we did not have a single print fail.
C: Reliability of prints requires use of Dremel filament, can only print low temp filaments (no ABS).
Flashforge Creator Pro 2 – 1.75mm filament
P: Low cost option, with dual head extrusion. Similar design/construction to the legendary Makerbot 2. Heated bed, allowing for filiments such as ABS. Doors and cover which reduces drafts, contains some of the sound and reduces the smell of prints.
C: Limiting software, due to the fact that it uses their in-house "FlashPrint" slicer. Two print heads means double the maintenance. Print speed is just ok.
Makergear M2 – 1.75mm filament
I have not worked with this printer but many of its specs are similar to the H800 and I consistently hear good things about it. No auto-level or case, but supposedly it is quick and easy to level and doesn’t need re-leveling often. Almost the same size build platform as the H800.
The Makerbot Replicator Mini +
Simple, accessible, and reliable desktop 3D printing—right out of the box.
Printrbot Play – 1.75mm filament
P: This thing is a tank. It is very easy to move around and is pretty kid friendly (as kid friendly as a 3D printer gets). It is extremely cheap for the how reliable and sturdy it is.
C: Software isn’t as full featured as Lulzbot and can feel limiting. The print area is very small.
Lulzbot Mini – 3mm filament
Essentially the same specs as the Taz 6 but smaller and cheaper. Differences here: https://www.lulzbot.com/store/printers
Monoprice Maker Select v2 (& Select Mini V2) – 1.75mm filament
This is one of the most compact and affordable 3D printers on the market. It is a little less friendly to learn, but the price makes up for it and it is an awesome entry level printer to test the waters with.
Da Vinci Mini – 1.75mm filament
A compact offering from XYZ printing that also allows for wireless printing, reducing clutter and required cables when using as a traveling printer setup.
OEM filament from Makerbot and Afinia.
SainSmart – Works great in our Makerbot 2. Its been said that you can reduce extruder temp to 215 for best results.
Hatchbox and Mitus (found on Amazon) provide a cheaper alternative with surprisingly decent print quality. Worth trying out.
Tips and tricks
Keep drafts to a minimum or enclose your printer.
Level the build plate frequently.
If a print isn’t working, it may just be the design is not ready for printing. Try another model before assuming your printer has a problem.
Lubricate moving parts every 35-50 hours of printing.
If prints are “dirty”, print a filter to clean filament as it advances.
Painters tape can be placed on the build plate to help prints stick and make prints easier to remove. Be sure to level your build plate to include the thickness of the tape.
You can mend broken or failed parts by welding them together with a rotary tool and some filament or a 3P Pen
If you are having trouble not covered here, check out this awesome troubleshooting guide
3D Printers in Libraries in the News:
8.05.13 – Print Yourself (or your Librarian)
7.11.13 – Chicago Public Library Makerspaces
Here are some other news articles on how 3D printers are being used.
09.30.13 – Printing in spaaaaaaace
11.23.13 – Printing Piracy
11.22.13 – Origins of the 3D Printer
01.31.14 – Printing a Hand
12.15.14 – Derby the Dog