1. Size of Single Largest Part
3D printers that can both print large parts and achieve high levels of accuracy generally have the highest upfront investment. Different print volumes define the size of 3D printer you are looking into.
2. 3D Printed Part Strength Requirements and Properties
Finding the right 3D printing technology boils down to what types of requirements and mechanical properties needs for the application.
- Production strength and durability
- Functional prototype/limited-use strength
- Sacrificial patterns
Many applications require specific part qualities depending on the materials such as metal, ABS-like, nylon, castable, biocompatible, high temperature resistance and so on.
3. Quantity of Parts Per Month
Knowing how many parts you expect to print per month will help you in selecting the optimal 3D printer for your needs.
4. Time-To-Part or Throughput
It is important to note that “raw” print speed and throughput are not the same thing. Some 3D printers are optimized to print a single part very quickly but slow down when you try to print multiple parts simultaneously. Others are slower to print one part but can print 10, 50 or 100 parts simultaneously in only slightly more time.
Accuracy, precision and repeatability are complex topics that have many nuances and are dependent on a variety of factors such as part size, material, geometry, post-processing, print orientation and more.
6. Part Aesthetics
Some applications required printed parts that are visually appealing or have specific look and feel requirements while other applications are purely functional.
7. Initial Investment and Total Cost of Operation
Depending on your application and company’s level in the AM maturity model, you may prioritize a low cost of entry to experiment and test how 3D printing will benefit your business. If you have an AM strategy in place and know how 3D printed parts fit into your business strategy, making higher initial investment in production 3D printer will result in a lower total cost of operation.