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BAE Systems’ fourth Stratasys F900 3D printer will serve as an integral aspect of the company’s Factory of the Future initiative.
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Choosing the Right 3D Printer from a Sea of Options

Rob Levesque Senior Marketing Content Manager
Robert Levesque September 01, 2023
September 01, 2023

Choosing a 3D printer isn't easy. Why? Because there are too many choices, numerous considerations, and too few guidelines to guide you through the process. And when faced with many options, the effort can be paralyzing, leading to no decision. It's a natural human reaction. But, on the other hand, if you're armed with the right tools that clear a path through the jungle of information, you'll be able to gain clarity and at least be prepared to take the next step.

Here's a recipe to get you started. The theme running through the following steps focuses on narrowing your field of options. That's because it's simply easier to compare fewer alternatives. At the end of this post, there's an additional resource designed to help you implement what you're about to read.

engineers with 3d prototype

Step 1 - Establish Your Goals and Priorities

Your first step is to get clear on what you want to achieve with 3D printing. Is it mainly for prototyping - making tooling and manufacturing aids – producing end-use parts? Some or all of the above? 3D printing is capable of many things, so clearly identifying how you intend to use it will help reduce your choices.

 

realistic polyjet printings

Step 2 - Eliminate Unnecessary Options

Winnowing out the choices that don't match your intended purpose reduces your range of possibilities – and that's a good thing. The fewer choices you have to consider, the more decision fatigue you'll avoid.

For example, PolyJet technology is an incredible tool for making realistic patient-specific surgical practice models or incredibly realistic consumer product prototypes. But if your goal is functional prototyping or end-use flight parts for spacecraft, you can eliminate PolyJet and all the printers associated with that technology.

Fortus 450mc and 370 3D Printers next to each other

Step 3 - Use Filtering Criteria

Cost is an obvious example here. Printers run the gamut from low-cost to very expensive. Combining your 3D printing goals and your budget is another way of reducing your choices.

Facility requirements provide another filter to narrow the field. If you have no option for a temperature and humidity-controlled space in your physical plant, powder-bed printing technology is likely not an option.

direct metal laser sintering expertise

Step 4 - Seek Expert Help

One approach is engaging with the 3D printing community and others in your industry who use additive to understand better the available technologies and how they're used. Attending industry trade conferences like the RAPID+TCT event is also an excellent way to see which technologies may be most appropriate for your applications. Finally, service bureaus that make parts on a contract basis are another resource to experience the benefits of 3D printing directly. It's the perfect "try before you buy" option.

The bottom line is that when faced with a broad topic like additive manufacturing, one of the best strategies for making informed decisions is to restrict your available choices using some guidance and consideration tools. Research shows we make our best decisions when we have fewer choices, which reduces our cognitive load. For polymer 3D printing guidance, the Stratasys 3D Printing Buyer's Guide is an excellent resource for starting this process.

You might ask, "Why Stratasys?" The answer to that is found in the ecosystem surrounding what we offer. Besides five polymer 3D printing technologies that benefit small businesses to multinational manufacturers, Stratasys has the support, services, and experience to help you make an informed choice.

Get the Guide

Download the Buyer's Guide. Even if it's your first step in the evaluation process, you'll be closer to clarity than you probably are now.

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