Buying a 3D printer advice.


I see allot of articles on 3D printing on htxt. I'm thinking of buying a 3D printer and have a couple of questions. Hope you guys can help me out!

What is the best printer (R10 000 - R20 000) to buy in South Africa?
Where to buy from (trusted sources)
What are the prices for the material (cartridges?) that is used for printing and is it easy to get hold of?
What will the quality of the printing be?

A friend of mine prints model yachts for clients, but after printing he still need to do ALLOT of sanding and finishing.

My aim would be to be able to print anything from small detailed lego size objects to bigger (20mm x 20mm ?) objects and prototypes.

If my budget is too small, what can I expect to pay for a good quality printer, time/detail/size/materials?

Advice regarding software will also be appreciated!



  • Hi @RodneyVikens - good question. The rand price has made 3D printing much more expensive than it was when I built my printer, which is sad.

    The best printers imo are the SA-built onees RepRap Morgan or RoboBeast. They're both awesome machines which can print very fine resolutions and you'll get great support direct from the engineers that make them - but they are both just a little bit out of your price range.

    For cheaper printers, I'd look at the Wanhau Duplicators CAD House sells - they've got a good reputation internationally, and again we know the guys at CAD House quite well and they're very good on support etc. RS Components also sells some lower cost printers - I haven't tried these but as far as I know they do the job.

    Standard build volumes for printers are 200x200x200mm, but you can get larger if you need it). Obviously the larger the print is, the longer it takes. Something like a LEGO brick will take 1-2 hours, a phone holder can take 7-8 hours. There's a lot of variables like the quality setting, how much infill you print (ie. do you want the model to be solid or semi-hollow) etc.

    With extruder-type printers like these, though, there's always going to be some quality issues - you're never going to get away from having visible layers unless you do something like cover the final print in putty etc. Best thing is to use it as part of the aesthetic. You can print lower layer hieghts - but obviously the finer these are the longer it takes to print...

    Filament varies - I tend to buy cheap rolls which cost less than R300 a roll, and then end up throwing away a bunch of prints because of problems with using cheap filament... Oddest thing that I find is that cheap filament is strangely brittle. Mine keeps snapping between prints. No idea why.

    Ultimately, though, 3D printing is still part artform and the best plan is to go in not expecting things to turn out right straight away. Even with the best off-the-shelf machines, you need to have patience and be willing to learn from and tolerate prints not going right. Especially when it comes to software - I currently use Cura for slicing and Pronterface for printing, but there's always other options.

    There's some great SA communities though. The House4Hack, MakerStation, The Maker Space, SA Maker Collective, 3D Printing South Africa - all on Facebook etc. Everyone's ready to pitch in with advice and there's some lovely people who'll always offer to print you a spare part and help sort out problems too.

  • Wow! Thanks for the feedback, this is very helpful! I will check out the sources you have listed.

  • No problem - I'm a keen hobbiest. My biggest problem is that I'm a terrible designer, so end up mostly printing other people's models, but I still have a house and car packed with useful stuff that's been 3D printed.

    One other option, of course, is to build the printer yourself. It can be a bit daunting and needs a lot of patience to configure properly, but I did it with no previous experience of that kind of thing and got there eventually. You can save a fortune too: packs like this have everything you need to build a Prusa i3 (which is potentially as good as any other printer out there, depending on how well it's put together) for less than R8k.

  • edited January 2017

    Oh - one other thing on the filament. A spool is usually between 750g-1kg of plastic, and lasts ages (obviously depending on how much you print/how many models you have to bin because they fail). I don't really get through more than 2-3 a year.

    And glow in the dark filament is the best thing ever.

  • Thank you. I was actually going to ask you regarding building the machine myself. This will also give me more knowledge regarding the mechanics of the printer itself (which looks like is the best way to go). The price looks very good! I also like the idea of being able to replace parts and spares and spending time building the machine. In terms of 'upgrading'. Is it possible to upgrade these kits and use the spares on another 'better' machine. Of cause I have no experience in this so my understanding of the technology is limited. For example with my PC I can only upgrade the CPU / Motherboard / RAM up to a certain point before it is not supported anymore. Some of the components of backwards compatible. How does this work on the 3D kits?

    I appreciate all your replies.

    (PS. How do I get notifications of new message to my email here on the Forum?)

  • @RodneyVikens I'll turn the notifications on - I think it got switched off in a recent upgrade....

    In terms of upgrading printers - definitely. I've printed new, improved parts for mine loads - and it's much easier if you're building yourself using an open source design etc. One of the fundamental principals behind RepRap (the design which started the desktop printing movement) is that you should be able to print most of the parts for a 3D printer, so it becomes self-replicating.

    (That's not so important to people nowadays as parts have become much cheaper due to demand, but still there in the background. RepRap Morgan was originally almost entirely 3D printed barring the electronics and a couple of pieces of drainpipe)

  • (Notifications are in the settings icon underneath your name at the top right of the page, then change notification preferences)

  • Great! Thanks for all the advice. The "" is currently out of stock. I have watched some videos and see there is also an MK2 but can't find it in SA doing a google search. Is there a big difference?
    Anyways, I will do some more research also taking in account what you've shared! But I think I'll go with the Prusa i3 when they are back in stock.

  • edited January 2017

    @RodneyVikens Try I've bought filament from there before, so think they're reliable. They have stock (and are cheaper). Other alternative would be to find a makerspace with a laser cutter (like Binary Space or House4Hack depending on where you live). They'll be able to cut the frame, then you can buy the rest of the kit separately (although probably not for less, tbh).

  • Hope you already got enough information. Which 3D printer you are going to buy?

  • @Allandonald I visited a friend today that has a Wanhao Duplicator, but I must say that I'm more impressed with the Prusa i3 and the modular design of it. I'll still do a little bit more research but think I'll get the Prusa i3 kit and slowly upgrade it as I get more into the 3D printing.

    I've tried looking for the Prusa i3 MK2 model as reviews are very positive. Maybe it is not available in SA yet?

    Before this thread I never knew anything about 3D printers, filaments, the different slicing software, clogged nozzles, heated beds etc... This is very exciting! Sounds like every failure will be a step closer to success.....

  • So you are going to buy Prusa i3. I must say that you have taken good decision. I think YouTube is a good source to know anything about such machine.

  • @RodneyVikens I don't know a lot about the i3 Mk2 - but it's all open source so you might be able to get help at a one of the makerspaces to produce the build components that are different. A lot of the differences in electrical components - ie the heatbed and stepper motors the official Prusa Printers uses - will probably change between suppliers anyway.

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