With the abundance of 3d printers and cnc routers now out on the market, from sub $500 options to more expensive options in the thousands of dollars price range, the question now becomes, when or if you should purchase.
We’ve recently put up some guides on different 3d printers here and here, and have talked at length on the different kinds of cnc machines you can get e.g. 3 axis vs 5 axis. Today we’ll take a closer look into whether or not it is worth buying or just outsourcing your work to a local cnc/ 3d printer or overseas to cheaper companies in China for example.
3d printers are pretty damn good these days. The M3D and the Form 1+ both do down to a very fine resolution (around the 50 microns mark). And pricing isn’t too bad.
The resin required for spooling and the nozzle maintenance costs are in the hundreds if not cheaper. This means you can definitely have a hobby 3d printer for under $1000 with materials needed for occasional printing during the year.
Eventually we will see 3d printers come down even more in cost. much like regular inkjet and laserjet printers have. We do think this will take a while though, so theres not point in really waiting a year or two. If this is the case, you might as well just buy now as there are some good options out already that have a minimum of 100 x 100 x 100mm work area and a good micron level in terms of print resolution for a tabletop 3d printer.
While many 3d printers now come with their own screen for you to be able to plug and print, a cnc machine typically requires a computer/ tablet to run You can get tablets that run full versions of Windows, that will be able to plug into your cnc machine for cutting – many Chinese based tablets allow dual boot into either Android or Windows, including Xiaomi, Chuwi, and Onda.
Many cnc machines come open, as in there isn’t an enclosed space, allowing you to tinker a little more in terms of a tabletop cnc router (different table-tops).
At the end of the day, buying a small tabletop cnc machine doesn’t seem worth it anymore with all the different 3d printer filaments you can buy nowadays at a fairly affordable price – however if you’re looking into engraving/ cutting harder materials like wood or metal (which can sometimes be cheaper than 3d printer resin filaments), then the choice would be a classic cnc router machine with a potential homemade platform.
Other stuff to think about
Other stuff to remember when getting a cnc or 3d printer would be the following:
Application – which material will you be using? If mainly plastic, then a resin 3d printer is the way to go. If pre-existing wood or metal then cnc machine
Warranty – Some of the new 3d printers out are still very young. They just haven’t been around for 5 years or more, so we really don’t know which will stand the test of time when it comes down to workmanship, quality of the parts and customer service.
Detail and size – Many cnc machines have diy bases – that means you can build a larger or smaller base to fit your needs. A closed 3d printer just won’t allow that sort of flexibility.
So what kind of machine will you or won’t you be buying?