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3-D printers make you the designer

A musician plays a 3D-printed electric guitar at the 3D Systems booth at the 2015 International CES.
A musician plays a 3D-printed electric guitar at the 3D Systems booth at the 2015 International CES. AP

Though still in its early stages, 3-D printing has come very far, especially in terms of ease of use. Most importantly, 3D printers are now available with much lower price tags.

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge into 3-D printing, here are four models we recommend.

da Vinci Jr.

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Da Vinci Jr. 3D Printer by XYZprinting is easy to set up and use, requires no calibration and is currently the most inexpensive 3-D printer on the market.

The bad: The printer is relatively bulky (about 16.5-by-17-by-15 inches) considering its small build platform, nearly the size of a 6-inch cube. It uses XYZprinting’s proprietary consumables (modeling plastics), and glue may be needed for it to offer a high success rate.

The cost: $349

The bottom line: The Da Vinci Jr. 3D Printer’s low cost and high ease of use make it an ideal entry-level model for anyone wanting to create items. http://us.xyzprinting.com

Da Vinci 1.0

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Da Vinci 1.0 AiO by XYZprinting works well as a 3-D printer and a 3-D scanner. The machine has a larger print platform, which allows for making larger objects up to 7.8-by-7.8-by-7.5 inches. The printer is ready to use right out of the box, and it’s priced much lower than competing devices. This model lets you use 3-D models from XYZprinting’s 3D Design Hub and Artist Collection.

The bad: The machine uses XYZprinting’s proprietary consumables, and you can’t swap filaments during a print job. Its print platform is not removable, making it harder to clean.

The cost: $799

The bottom line: Affordable, reliable and easy to use, the XYZprinting Da Vinci 1.0 AiO 3D Printer is great leap toward making 3-D printing available to the masses. http://us.xyzprinting.com

3D Systems Cube 3

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Cube 3 by 3D Systems is well-designed and easy to use. The printer builds small objects (up to 6-by-6-by-6 inches) excellently and is inexpensive for a printer that can print with two materials in the same job. A smartphone app is available for download.

The bad: Printing large objects can randomly fail halfway through the process, and the printer needs to cool down after a job before it can print again. The machine uses 3D Systems’ expensive proprietary filament cartridges.

The cost: $899 to $999

The bottom line: If you don’t mind sticking to small print jobs, the Cube 3 is as good as it gets for a compact 3-D printer. http://cubify.com/cube

DeeGreen

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The DeeGreen, by be3D, performs well and is as easy to use as most regular printers. The machine has automatic bed calibration, a useful built-in touchscreen and includes simple yet powerful software and a build volume of about 5.9-by-5.9-by-5.9 inches.

The bad: The DeeGreen is very expensive and requires an SD card to work.

The cost: $1,999

The bottom line: Though cost-prohibitive, the DeeGreen is an excellent entry to 3-D printing thanks to its fast, reliable performance and plug-and-play ease of use. www.ysoft.com/en/be3d/home

Karen Sullivan contributed.

The 3-D printing ‘revolution’

▪ 3-D printing actually describes a type of manufacturing. Desktop models are often used at home, while more sophisticated and expensive industrial models also are available. The printers put down layers of plastic filament to recreate an image from a computer file. The image typically is “drawn” from an image produced by a 3-D scanner or a computer-aided design program.

▪ Calibrating a -3D printer is critical to getting a finished product that closely resembles the computer model or 3-D scan. Check reviews on the model you are considering to get a sense of how much time you’ll spend on this step.

▪ The idea behind 3-D printing is that anyone can create anything as the technology improves and the cost of 3-D printers becomes affordable for the masses. That means when a hose breaks on your washing machine, you could conceivably print a new one – or pay a service provider to print it for you if you don’t have your own printer.

▪ Tech watchers predict that 3-D printers ultimately could change the consumer marketplace. Demand for goods in retail stores could drop as people figure out how to make more things themselves.

Karen Sullivan

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