You’ve decided to invest in a 3D printer. Before contacting the salesman or ordering a desktop version online, you decide to check out preliminary specification information from the manufacturer’s website. Just how easy is it to search the manufacturer’s web sites for the data you need? We checked out 5 websites and found that for the most part, you can find the data you need within 2 to 4 web clicks.
3D Systems offers the largest number of 3D printers and additive manufacturing systems. At the top of the homepage, 3D Systems breaks your choices to personal printers, professional printers, and production printers.
Let’s say you select professional printers. When you click on that link, the next page on the website has a menu at the top plus other general or news information throughout the page. The Products choice on the menu bar will take you to 3D printers, materials, software, and training and education.
Unless you scroll down this entire page, you will most likely click on 3D printers, where you will find a list of about 19 systems. If you are not familiar with each of these systems and where they best apply, this list can be daunting and may mean going through each one, one at a time. The text on each one gives you a broad idea of printer capabilities, but you will likely have to download a brochure from each one to determine it’s specifications.
If you did scroll down the page a bit, you find a question—“Which 3D printer is best for me?” Clicking on that takes you to a general configurator, which asks you to check a couple of choices and then returns with 2 machine suggestions. Parts of this tool are incomplete. When we made a couple of choices, we found the message “page not found,” so this tool might not be as helpful as you would want.
For the production printers, you select the Printers choice on the top menu, and then you must determine whether you want laser sintering, stereolithography, direct metal sintering or a voxeljet system. The Stereolithography choice has the most printers listed under it. Here, however, you get a broad idea of what each system can do to help narrow your choice a bit. For detailed information, you will need to download a brochure.
For the most part, you can find specification data within 3 to 4 site clicks.
For the personal choices, the first click will list 3 choices. Clicking on RapMan and 3D Touch takes you to the Cubify portion of 3D Systems website. These systems are no longer being sold, but you can obtain parts and service.
The Project 1500 choice takes you a page that briefly describes this printer, but that also lists a number of 3D Systems printers on the left. Some of these are desktop, personal versions, some are professional units, so there’s room for confusion here. For detailed specs, you will have to download a brochure about the systems you are interested in.
Clicking on the Cube takes you to the Cubify website, which is similar to the MakerBot website. It will take you 2 clicks to get to the order page. Between the Cube and CubeX, they have a nice chart of features and capabilities to help you choose.
Since the merger with Objet, the Stratays website has been reorganized. You can begin your search by clicking on a menu bar that lists 3D printers, materials, applications, industries, or resources depending on whether the material, the application, the industry or the printer is your key selection criteria. If you click on any of these, you will be guided to the 3D printing/additive manufacturing system(s) that best suit your criteria.
Clicking on the 3D printers tab will take you to a break out of systems grouped as the Ideas series, the Design series and the Production series. The Idea series is where you will find the smaller desktop units, Mojo and the uPrint line. The Design series includes the Objet line as well as Dimension line. Plus, it is further separated into another choice—do you need precision or performance? And the Production series has the Fortus line.
When you click on the material choice of the menu bar, you will find a list of materials Stratasys offers. Clicking on a specific material will give you some info about that material’s properties, and then a list of which machines work best with that material.
In the application, the site gives a brief description and offers video and other content. It would be nice if this section had a cross-reference indicating with systems suited which applications. This section lists materials appropriate to specific applications, but one more step would be helpful too.
In the industries section, some selections will suggest a specific printer, others will go into materials, and from there you can narrow your choices.
With this website, it will take you about 2 clicks to get to a printer where you can download a specification sheet for more information.
EOS makes it fairly easy to find a 3D printing/additive manufacturing system, but you do have to do a little interpreting. It might seem obvious to click on the Additive manufacturing choice on its menu bar, but that will take you to more of a marketing page on innovative EOS technology. If you go to Systems and Solutions instead, you can make a material choice, which will lead you to Systems and Equipment. Selection any one of the systems displayed will take you to its page, which will list all the specifications. Depending on the system, you can still download a data sheet, but not all systems have a data sheet available.
SLM Solutions makes it easy to find info on its products. Click on products, pick one and read about it as well as examine the specs. You can download other information, like brochures, easily as well.
Makerbot has an easy to use site as well. In two clicks you get to specification information. Plus you can buy online, adding material and parts to your shopping cart. Definitely geared to hobby/makers, but it is easy to use.