Different types of 3D Printing Kits
Scratch Built 3D Printer - Are you the DIY type who prefers to build things from scratch? If so, then you might consider going to DIY RepRap route. While it is up in the air if this method will actually save you any money, there is something to be said for building your own 3D printer from scratch. You become very intimate with the printer and will know every nut, bolt and quirk it has by the time you are successfully printing.
Unless you are mechanically inclined and very handy with building things, I would avoid this method as sourcing and modifying parts to fit can be a bit of a task for beginners. Once built you will need to spend hours configuring, adjusting, and calibrating things, before you are printing at an acceptable level of quality. The image above depicts a RepRap Mendel that was built from scratch.
Kit Built 3D Printer - If you would still like to save some money, but not have to deal with the hassle of sourcing parts and modifying them to fit together, then maybe a kit is the way for you. Many manufacturers sell kits with "easy-to-assemble" instructions included. You still must be somewhat mechanically inclined and able to understand basic geometry. Many of these kits come with the electronics already built, but there are a few that require you to break out a soldering iron and populate the PCBs. If soldering is not your bag, then I would definitely avoid a kit that requires soldering.
Like a scratch build, you will need to spend hours adjusting, calibrating, and configuring things before your machine is printing at a good level of quality. The image above is the typical RepRap Prusa Mendel kit you will find for sale around the web.
Preassembled 3D Printer - These machines are ready to print out of the box and usually require very little tuning to print at high quality levels. Be prepared to pay a premium for an assembled and tuned printer, though. The advantage with these printers is that you can often times be up and printing within thirty minutes of opening the box. The disadvantage is that you did not assemble the printer yourself and as so, you have no clue what everything does.
So when something breaks, (and it will) you are almost always left in the dark and must turn to experienced printer builders for advice and guidance on what went wrong and how to fix it. The Lulzbot AO-101 pictured above is one of the high-end RepRap Mendel Max based 3D printers on the market today.
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