You will agree with us that 3D printing makes a lot of sense in architecture and that the benefits of having a 3D printer are immeasurable. 3D printers will not only help to transform your design workflow – it will also allow you to present concepts and ideas to your clients faster and build realistic and more accurate architectural models not to talk of the time and money it saves.
Sure, you need a 3D printer to plunge your work into its endless benefits and explore its seemingly limitless potentials. But with a slew of 3D printer brands and models out there on the market today, finding the best 3D printers for architects can be a challenge, especially if you’re new to 3D printing.
In this edition, we are going to show you how to select the best 3D printers for architects. We will also show you some of the best 3D printers for architects in the market today to help you avoid the headaches and frustration that comes with buying the wrong product.
Let’s dive right in!
How to Select the Best 3D printers for Architects
When shopping for the best 3D printers for Architects, there are a few things you should look out for. This will not only ensure that you find a 3D printer that suits your needs but also help to prevent being disappointed or feeling ripped off with your new product. Most of the things you need to look out for centers on the specification and performance of the printer.
You need to understand what the printer’s specification means before you buy it or spend any money. Sure, reading and understanding the specifications can be a little boring, but it can go a long way to save you a lot of money and a whole lot of remorse or frustration of buying a wrong product. Before you buy a 3D printer, take a little time to read and compare the specifications of different product. Other things that you should take into consideration when finding the best 3D printers for Architects include:
Type of 3D printer
There are ten types of technology used in 3D printing today. This include: Electron Beam Melting (EBM), Binder Jetting, Material Jetting, Selective Laser Melting (SLM) Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), Drop on Demand (DOD), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Digital Light Processing (DLP), Stereolithography (SLA), and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). The type of 3D Printer that you choose will determine its cost, the kind of material you can use, and the characteristic of the final product.
Since you’re probably not planning to buy a metal 3D printer that worth $100, 000+, you can go for the type that is relevant to 3D printing consumers. From the 10 available types, there are just 2 types that are mostly used in the 3D printing world – the resin 3D printers and the FDM 3D printers.
- The FDM 3D printers use thermoplastic filaments such as TPU, PET, ABS, and PLA, and has dimension accuracy of ± 0.5 mm (± 0.5%). They are available in different prices ranging from $150 to $6,000; they support different materials and can create the best surface finish with full color. However, their final product may be brittle.
- Resin 3D printers make use of the Stereolithography (SLA) technology. In this technology, a layer of resin (photosensitive liquid) is exposed to a UV-laser beam so that it hardens and turns to solid. The moment the UV-laser swept the layer of the resin in your desired pattern, the resin will begin to solidify so, the laser can now start working on the next layer and build it on the previous one. This technology creates objects with a smooth surface and extreme details (± 0.15 mm lower limit dimension accuracy). These 3D printers are available in different prices ranging from $250 to $10,000 and only support photopolymer resin materials, so if you have good reasons to go for this 3D printer, you should consider doing so.
Here is the bad news: despite many recent improvements and advancements, the printing speed of 3D printers is still slow. However, the print speed of some 3D printers is faster than the others and can help you complete your printing project quicker so that you can focus on other important tasks.
Most low-budget 3D printers have a print speed of around 50 mm/s – which means that it would take a long time to print and create larger models. However, fast 3D printers have their downsides too. They usually create layers that are thicker and more obvious in their final product – which is the evidence that at times, slow and steady is truly a better option.
In some 3D printers, you can add an extra extruder to accelerate the printing process. Apart from the increase in your printing speed, the extruders might even allow you to use various colors or materials at the same time. So, if you’d like to use multiple materials simultaneously or increase your print speed, then you may need to go for a model with a dual extruder.
3D printers work by heating a material known as filament until it is soft and malleable; it will then remodel the heated filament to create the shape you need. There are various types of filament available today, but not all 3D printers can use all. The properties of the final product of your 3D printer depend on the type of filament you used.
For instance, the PLA and ABS filaments are commonly used as they make durable items that are also temperature resistant. There are many other types of filaments available so, if there’s a particular filament you’d like to use, make sure the 3D printer can support it before you buy it.
Some 3D printers can even support other materials like Sugru or clay. However, these printers are usually not as reliable as the standard filament-based printers. You can buy this type of printer if you want to use it for experimental purposes. Otherwise, a standard printer will be more suited for you.
Build Volume (print volume)
This is known as the maximum object size that you can create with a 3D printer. 3D printers are available in different sizes and shape, so some might come with a wider or taller build area than others. The larger the build volume of a 3D printer, the better it is, especially when it comes to selecting the best 3D printers for architects.
Unfortunately, the larger the build volume of a 3D printer, the higher its price tag. So, before you buy a 3D printer, you should strike a balance between saving money in the long run or creating a huge object.
You need a 3D printer with high resolution, especially for printing objects with small but important details. The printing resolution of a 3D printer depends on its nozzle size and material you use, that is why you should consider printers with motion control, small layer heights, and smaller interchangeable nozzle sizes.
With such printers, you can use nozzles that are as large as 1.0 mm for large objects, where small details are less important; this will increase the printing speed without much effect on the details and overall quality of the final product. But if you want the best resolution, you can use the 0.35 mm nozzle which will increase definition but can affect the printing speed.
This boils down to the type of material or filament you use. In 3D printing, three components emit heat: the heated chamber, heated bed, and hot end.
The hot end: The most important aspect you need to check is the maximum temperature of the printer’s hot end as it can limit the type of filament or material that you can extrude. For instance, most 3D printers for hobbyists can reach up to 200 ⁰C, which is the melting point of PLA filaments, while others can reach up to 240 ⁰C to melt ABS filaments and print small to medium size parts. Most professional grade 3D printers can easily operate at a temperature of over 300 ⁰C and print large parts in different materials such as Polycarbonate, Nylon, and ABS.
Most architectural 3D printing requires a professional-grade printer. However, you can go for a low temp 3D printer if you prefer to use PLA filaments or if you can produce most of your parts in PLA. Also, you should keep in mind that PLA filaments cannot withstand temperature that is higher than 210 ⁰C. for instance, if you leave it in a car on a sunny day, it will degrade. So, you have to consider the heat requirement of the material you intend to use to select a printer that can meet your needs.
Check the table of printing temperature ranges for different types of materials below.
|Materials||Temperature range (⁰C)|
|PVA||200 – 210|
|Laywood||200 – 210|
|Laybrick||200 – 210|
|PLA 4043D||200 – 210|
|PLA||210 – 220|
|Soft PLA||210 – 220|
|Bronze Fil||210 – 220|
|HIPS||220 – 240|
|TPE||235 – 250|
|ColorFabb XT||240 – 250|
|BendLay||240 – 250|
|T-Glase||240 – 250|
|TPU||240 – 250|
|PET||240 – 255|
|ABS||240 – 260|
|Nylon 618||240 – 270|
|Nylon Bridge||240 – 270|
|Nylon 645||240 – 280|
|Polycarbonate||310 – 315|
Heated bed: Having a powerful heated bed (build plate) is very important, especially for printing large objects. The adequate power supply is also critical when printing large objects as it can require a lot of power to get the build plate to over 130 ⁰C (which is necessary for ABS) or 145 ⁰C (for polycarbonate). It is also important to go for a model whose entire bed is heated and not the one that is only heated at the central part. That is because some models claim to come with a heated bed, whereas only the bed’s center part is heated, and their outer parts are not. Models whose bed is not fully heated will lead to lifting and warpage of its final product.
Heated chamber: When 3D printing with materials that require higher temperature, it is absolutely mandatory to contain the heat. That is because higher temp materials such as Polycarbonate and ABS tend to contract very quickly when they cool, so an enclosed heated chamber is needed to contain the heat and prevent the object from cooling down rapidly. Also, the chamber helps to contain the odor.
A heated bed can be a good start for heating small prints but is not enough for handling large prints. For large prints or printing with higher temp materials, temperature-controlled heaters can be employed to control the temperature of the chamber and improve their layer to layer adhesion as well as their surface finish.
This is another important aspect you need to consider when getting the best 3D printer for your architectural work as it can help you decide if you’re going for a good product or not. A 3D printer with a good warranty will keep you rest assured that a printer manufacturer got your back should your 3D printer develop a fault. You should check the terms of the warranty and ask questions on how the product’s repairs are handled as well as its turnaround time.
It’s one thing for a 3D printer to have a good specification, it’s another thing for it to have an excellent performance in real life. Apart from the printer’s specifications, the best way to identify a 3D printer that is durable, easy to use, and has awesome performance in real life is to consider its users’ feedback.
To provide you with a list of the best 3D printers for architects on the market today, we reviewed several brands and models on Amazon to select ten high-performing 3D printers recommended for architects. Then, we narrowed down our search by selecting five 3D printers with lots of positive feedbacks and the best users’ ratings from the ones we selected earlier to bring you our top 5 recommendations for architects which includes the following:
- FlashForge Creator Pro
- MakerGear M2
- QIDI TECH X-MAX
- ANYCUBIC Chiron
- Raise3D 101017001 Pro2 Plus
FlashForge Creator Pro
This 3D printer from FlashForge is one of the most powerful and user-friendly 3D printers with high stability that you can rely on for your architectural work. The printer comes with a sturdy metal frame for high stability and a heavy-duty heated aluminum build plate that stays flat even when you continually expose it to excessive heat.
The 3D printer offers a print volume of 8.9 x 5.8 x 5.9 inches, adjustable layer resolution (0.1 -.03 mm) to adjust the filament to the thickness you need, and a printing speed of 40 – 100 mm. It also features a dual extruder that can be adjusted to increase your printing flexibility and allow you to print dual color and material simultaneously.
It has a simple execution process and interface, which made it very easy to use, so you don’t have to be an expert to operate this machine. It supports a wide range of materials and features an open source software that allows experts to upgrade or modify it the way they like. Its flexible enclosed chamber protects and insulates prints filaments and block exterior temperature to reduce wraps for more accurate prints. Lastly, it comes with free email support and a full manufacturer warranty.
- Quiet operation
- Its software is compatible with Linux, Mac, and Windows
- Compatible with several materials (such as PP, Wood Filled Filament, Metal Filled Filament, TPU, TPE, PETG, HIPS, PVA, ABS Pro, ABS, PLA, and many more)
- Durable aluminum build plate
- High stability
- Enclosed chambers protect its printing area from external materials
- It is not a “plug and play” printer, and its set-up process is complex especially for new users
This M2 Desktop 3D printer from MakerGear is a stable, durable and a well-built 3D printer thanks to its exquisite steel frame and its anti-corrosive black powder finish. It comes with 8 x 10 x 8 inches print volume – a build volume that is larger than most 3D printers in its class.
This 3D printer is very easy to use. It comes pre-assembled so that you can use it immediately you unbox it. The printer is compatible with various software that makes printing more convenient and offers several printing options- you can connect it to your PC via a USB cable or use a micro SD card and operate the printer without connecting to a PC. It comes with a single extruder which can handle most 3D printing tasks, but you can upgrade it to the dual extruder to print two different materials and colors at the same time.
- Good warranty and customer support
- Good thermal stability
- Easy to use
- Larger print volume
- Supports different materials (such as polycarbonate, ABS, PLA, TPU, and HIPS)
- No LCD screen, so printing from micro SD or USB disk is less convenient
- The frame is not fully enclosed so its temperature may be less constant
QIDI TECH X-MAX
The X-Max 3D printer from Qidi Technology is an industrial grade 3D printer for architects who are looking to create larger models with a great deal of accuracy. This 3D printer has a smart design and boasts an impressively large build volume of 11.8 x 9.8 x 11.8 inches to give you a total of 1364 cubic inches.
The printer comes with two extruders and creates objects by alternating between its two extruders, and supports various materials such as PETG, TPU, Nylon, PC, ABS, PLA, carbon fiber and many more. The included air filter is another that we cannot overlook; this reduces the harmful particles and odor from filaments to ensure that your workplace is free harmful air pollutants. The quality of its final products is also one of its plus points; it creates smooth finishes and can create layers as small as 50 microns on models with minute details.
The printer has a large 5-inch color touch screen and offers numerous connectivity options that make interfacing with the printer a breeze. It also offers a whisper- quiet operation and comes pre-assembled, which made it easy to use even right after unboxing it.
- Large build area
- Smart and durable design
- Silent operation
- Support various materials
- Offers several connectivity options
- Good warranty and customer support
- No dual extruder
- The manual is not detailed enough
If you’re looking for an affordable 3D printer with a huge build volume for your architectural 3D printing task, then the ANYCUBIC Chiron might be all you need. The Chiron 3D printer has an impressively large print volume of 15.75 x 15.75 x 17.72 inch, which is a great choice for architects who want to print large models with pleasant 3D printing experience.
The printer comes with a single extruder and accepts a variety of filaments like wood, ABS, PLA, HIPS, TPU, etc. its quick assembly and modular design allow you to start using the 3D printer straight away. The printer has a maximum print speed of 100 mm/s, offers a 1-year limited warranty and lifetime technical support and come with TFT touch screen for easy and convenient interfacing.
- Large build volume
- Fast heating bed
- Easy to set up
- Support various materials
- Good warranty and customer support
- Very sturdy
- The automatic bed leveling is not smart
- Some quality related issues
Raise3D 101017001 Pro2 Plus
The Pro 2 Plus from Raise3D is one of the best large format 3D printers available on the market today, and it is a great choice for architects and professional designers who need big prints. This machine has a massive print volume of 12 x 12 x 23. 8 inch and can print in a variety of materials such as PLA derivatives, PLA, TPE, PC, HIPS, TPU, ABS, Nylon, PP, ASA, Exotics, PET-G at a speed of 30 to 150 mm/s.
The machine features dual extrusion systems, removable print bed, automatic bed-leveling, power outage resume, HEPA filter to prevent air pollution and filament runout sensor to detect if the material is almost exhausted. The machine has a layer resolution of 0.1 mm, and it is fully enclosed for better heat management and model creation. It also has a 7-inch TFT touchscreen as well as Wi-Fi, LAN and USB support that makes its control and connectivity a breeze.
- HEPA filter
- Fully enclosed for better heat management
- Large print volume
- Layer resolution of 0.01
- Supports USB, Wi-Fi, LAN and compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac
- Come with Dual extruder
- Superb printing quality
- Support different materials
- Does not notify you at the end of print
|Item||Build volume||Weight||Dual extruder||nozzle size||Technology||Printing speed||Ratings|
|FlashForge Creator Pro||8.9 x 5.8 x 5.9 inch||24.3 lbs||Yes||0.4 mm||FDM||40 to 100 mm/s||4.3|
|MakerGear M2||8 x 10 x 8 inch||36.6 lbs||No but upgradable||0.35 mm||FDM||80 to 200 mm/s||4.5|
|QIDI TECH X-MAX||11.8 x 9.8 x 11.8 inch||61.7 lbs||No||0.4 mm||FDM||Up to 150 mm/s||4.7|
|ANYCUBIC Chiron||15.75 x 15.75 x 17.72 inch||15 kg||No||0.4 mm||FDM||100 mm/s||3.7|
|Raise3D 101017001 Pro2 Plus||12 x 12 x 23. 8 inch||56 kg||Yes||0.2 to 0.8 mm||FDM||30 to 150 mm/s||4.4|
Above are the best 3D printers we recommend for architects and designers who wish to transform their design workflow and stay on top of their game. They are the ones we found more reliable, accurate, durable, offers good customer support and warranty, and has lots of positive users’ feedback.
In this article, we have also discussed some important factors you need to consider when selecting the best 3D printer for architects. We are sure that we have been able to open your eyes to some features you need to check to select the right one for your needs. What are you still waiting for? Get to the market now and select any of our recommendations that suit your needs and you’ll be glad you did!