You want to find a machine that is going to stand up to classroom use, deliver great prints, and fit into your price range. Here are some helpful questions to ask when you're comparison shopping and a glimpse at how MakerGear stacks up.
1. What type of software can I use?
A 3D printer is only as good as the design it's given to print. And to design and format prints, you'll need the right software -- specifically design and slicing software. There are options to meet every ability level and budget, but all printers are compatible and some even require the use of proprietary software. MakerGear printers are designed for compatibilty with many open-source and commercially available software. For more help in choosing the software that's right for you, see our Software Guide here.
2. What type of filament is compatible with the printer?
Some printers on the market are only compatible with proprietary filament, which is often more expensive and limiting in terms of types and colors of materials available. Knowing the cost and availability of these items up front will save you down the road. At MakerGear, we've designed our machines to work with a broad range of commercially available filaments. And we are constantly testing new brands and new materials that will allow you to keep up as the technology advances.
3. Does the printer have a heated print bed?
One of the most critical aspects required for a great print, is the adhesion of the first layer to the printing surface. Some materials will not adhere to the surface unless it is heated to a specific temperature. MakerGear printers come standard with a heated build platform. It heats evenly across the entire build plate from corner to corner, and heats up to 110 °C and higher to ensure you get excellent adhesion.
4. How often will the printer need to be leveled?
Ensuring your print bed is level before printing is a critical step in achieving great prints. The more your printer jostles out of alignment, the more often you need to stop to re-level your printer. We've designed our MakerGear printers with True Level calibration to ensure that it's easy for you to properly level and it stays level. No more fussing!
5. What is the printer constructed out of -- steel or acrylic?
Make sure you know what the printer is made of. Great prints require stability and rigidity from the machine, and that starts with the printer's frame. Frames constructed out of materials such as acrylic or light gage steel can warp or fall out of alignment, which will diminish the quality of your prints in due time. MakerGear printers are built out of Powder Coated 11 gage stainless steel. You can rest assured, it will stay square year-after-year.
6. What is the build size of the machine?
Each 3D printer has a certain build volume. The bigger the build dimensions not only means you can print bigger parts, but you can print more student's designs simultaneously. The more prints you can batch, the better! The MakerGear M2 has a generous build volume at 8" wide x 10" deep x 8" high.
7. Enclosure or No-Enclosure?
Desktop 3D printers come in both open and enclosed designs. For most educational purposes, standard print materials such as PLA and ABS are most often used and don't require enclosures to get great prints. Enclosures become more critical when using specialty materials that require highly controlled temperatures. MakerGear printers are an open design, to make it easy to swap out nozzles, perform maintenance tasks and upgrades yourself. It also increases visibility allowing students to see the print process itself. And if you find for any reason you need an enclosure, it is not difficult to create a DIY solution.
8. What are the typical maintenance costs?
Just like any piece of machinery from a car to a computer, tune-ups are required from time-to-time to ensure the longevity of the machine. Make sure you know upfront what the typical maintenance costs look like, and if you will be able to complete any repairs or upgrades yourself. At MakerGear, we want you to have a wonderful experience with your printer for the life of the machine, and we make it easy and affordable to make upgrades and swap out parts as need be. Check out our shop to see what's available. Our support team is also available to talk through any questions you may have in the process.
9. What kind of support is available and are there additional fees?
In the event that you need assistance with a repair or maintenance question, make sure you will be able to get the help you need. Check to see what the support team's typical response time is and the extent to which their services are covered under your warranty. One of MakerGear's core values is providing prompt, friendly and expedient technical support. If you ever need to contact MakerGear for support, our team is staffed with the most knowledgable and responsive MakerGear experts.
10. What's the word on the street?
The 3D printer market is saturated with plenty of promises to be sure. Before you buy any printer, check to see what others are saying. A great place to look is 3D Hubs or Amazon for reviews.