Suggestions for a mid-range 3d printer?

I have almost no experience with 3d printers and I’m looking to buy one for my employer (meaning, they’ll pay the cost).
The printed models are mostly going to be used for hobbyist robotics projects, but I also want the printer to be capable of doing good quality artistic prints.

The material used for print should be sturdy plastic. I’ve seen a printer use some sort of low-quality plastic and the models it produced broke easily. I want to avoid such materials.

any suggestions?

As really well designed printers i can recommend the Ultimaker2 and Mendelmax3. Are those within your budget?

It’s probably very much worth your time to keep an eye on this.

i’d say the budget is around 2500 - 3000 USD, so those are not bad suggestions.
i try to avoid kickstarter because the products are not ready, and there are no reviews to judge them, but that seems like a cool option for personal use

I have the Nophead Mendel90 and am very happy with it.

its a little over the budget, but if you need good quality i wouldnt rely on a fdm printer. I only really have some experience with more expensive Stereolithography printers though, so i cant really tell you if this one comes close to the quality of the professional ones. But if you really want to print quality artistic prints and especially usable robot parts this printer should be better suited than the other fdm printers available ( thats what i believe at least, i really only had the chance to see a few pieces of fdm printed parts while doing my internship at a prototyping company and they really weren`t comparable to the quality of a Stereolitography printer, but maybe somebody experienced with fdm printers can give you a better opinion on that, since i only have limited insight in the quality that is possible to get with this printers.).

There are only a few things you have to keep in mind with a stereolitography printer.
The material is more expensive and there are some limitations in what you can print. If you want to print overhangs you have to add some additionally supporting structure, since the model is printed in a fluid. Other than that there is depending on the complexity of the object some finishing work needed after the print is finished. This can also be advantage though. Because while Stereolitography printers can already print quite fine, they still have clearly visible steps in angled sides. This steps can be removed afterwards with sanded paper. Attached is a picture with a model i printed on the left and a resign cast on the right. I could image being able to cast the model you printed, in a better suited material for the robot, is something that could be interesting for you.


Does have the “dude” that has to operate the Printer any experience in working with 3D Models?

How much time is he willing to spend? 3D printing just is not Plug and Play yet, you need some time to understand what can be printed and what not, and the models may need some work.

There are different types of printing of which two are in your range:

Those put out kind of a “Worm” like Plastic.

They can be very cheap, like the one @m9105826 mentioned. (This model actually is very interesting.)

Those work with Light, have usually better resolution, easier (a bit) to work with.

have a look at this one:

Maybe there’s a FabLab anywhere near you, so you can play with a Printer?

The sturdiness also heavily depends on how the 3D Object (inside) is printed - regardless of Printer technology.

Have a look at Meshmixer’s (free software, evil Autodesk :wink: print functions. It might give you some insight in what is involved, mainly stuff like overhangs and so on.

I’m sure there are 3D print guides out there, read read and read more…

I don’t know much about 3D printing, but the UV technology (like used in the Form 1 above) is the first one that’s caught my interest, because of its speed and accuracy. Here’s a little information about the (upcoming?) Carbon3D printer. Note that Autodesk has invested $10 million in Carbon3D.