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 – 1.75mm filament
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). Prints can adhere too well at times, use of painters tape on the build plate resolves this potential print removal issue.
Afinia H800 (also known as the Up BOX) – 1.75mm filament
P: Updated, bigger brother of the H480. Has HEPA filtration and is enclosed. Very quiet when closed. Prints reliably and can self-level. Adding a glass build plate gives you wonderful print quality but breaks the ability to automatically calibrate nozzle height.
C: Same limiting software as the H480. Sometimes prints adhere too well (I use blue painters tape to solve this – peel the tape and the print off, then remove the tape from the print). Rafts can be hard to remove if you use them. Prints best with ABS from my experience. Reliability of prints requires use of Afinia filament. Have recently heard poor reviews of this printer from libraries.
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.
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.
Afinia H480 and UP! Mini-Printer (essentially the exact same machine but rebranded) – 1.75mm filament
P: Can self-level with a bit of help and movement of cables. Easy to use software, prints very reliably, print bed can be removed from the printer to take off the printed part. Can print in PLA and ABS (although ours has always been more reliable with ABS).
C: Sometimes prints adhere too well and are hard to remove, the software is very limiting and the hardware and design is old.
Lulzbot Mini – 3mm filament
Essentially the same specs as the Taz 6 but smaller and cheaper. Differences here: https://www.lulzbot.com/store/printers
Stay away from:
The M3D – This printer has very mixed reviews online, and the one we tested failed to deliver quality prints, if it managed to finish a print at all. Within a few weeks it developed a very loud and constant clicking as well. If you want a smaller, portable, and low cost printer I would suggest the Printrbot play.
Makerbot – After reading reviews and hearing from libraries working with them I highly suggest everyone stay away from all current generation Makerbot products (anything after the 2 and 2X).
- MatterHackers, ProtoPasta, ColorFabb – They carry all types of filament from standard PLA/ABS to carbon fiber, elastic and wood.
- 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.
- Store the filament in a DRY place (a sealed container with a desiccant or rice).
- 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:
- 04.29.15 – Libraries make space for 3-D printers; rules are sure to follow
- 01.28.14 – Mullica Hill library to build ‘Makerspace’ with 3-D printer, scanner
- 8.05.13 – Print Yourself (or your Librarian)
- 8.1.13 – Need to Use a 3D Printer? Try Your Local Library
- 7.11.13 – Chicago Public Library Makerspaces
- 7.09.13 – Georgia’s Own North Hall Tech Center Makes the News Again with 3D Printing
- 7.09.13 – Chicago Public Library 3D Printing – Video
- 04.13 – Westport Connecticut Library Printing Lab – Video
- 01.19.13 – Georgia’s Own North Hall Technology Center – 3D Printing
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