I am no 3d printing expert, but I have output a few prints from Blender to a third party printer. I think the decision depends on what your final piece is supposed to look like and it’s intended use. Some printers can only use certain media, some only print at specific resolutions, some have different maximum and minimum printing area/volume. Also, from what I heard, some cheaper personal printers need to be calibrated often, either burn out after overuse, or seize up because of underuse. Again, I dont know from experience, so dont take my word from that bit.
It would probably be worth paying for some prints to see how the process goes, and see your how your models output first hand, and if possible try to see if you can print one on a friends machine or a local 3d hobby shop (not sure where you are, but they should be around, also, some public libraries have them too). That might give you a better idea of what you want to do.
Lastly, in terms of the process, there should be some youtube tutorials on the subject. However, I can give you my quick 30 second bit of advice:
- Use the 3d printing addon tool for blender (it is pretty self explanatory)
- Use the measurement tools within blender
- Work at scale using the measurement system you normally use
- At the end of your modeling, you will need to apply all modifiers, you are working off of the mesh data, anything native to blender will most likely not transfer.
- In addition to the last point, most 3d printers come with an application to prep the print from, usually you import your mesh model and add supports and such from there (and you can tweak the size and such)
- Avoid extremely small details, especially those that cannot be supported by their own weight (this will vary based on printer)
- Make sure all meshes are manifold (sealed on all sides, aka no open faces or “holes”)