Best 3D Printer For Small Business: Desktop vs. Large Volume System

Technological progress has led to the development of the desktop 3D printer and other powerful 3D printing machines. This article describes the difference between personal 3D printing systems and industrial products.

There are many differences between a desktop 3D printer and the large machines used in commercial applications and industries, but the most important is the volume of output. All 3D printing machines do the same thing, and that’s printing 3D objects based on 3D models that you acquire, or create, but the industrial 3d printers print on a larger scale of volume. There’s a lot more to it than that, as the following article will show.

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Personal Desktop / Consumer Level 3D Printers

Consumer 3D printers can often create relatively small objects up to items approximately the size of a loaf of bread. On the other hand, some newer versions promise large structural platforms covering up to 11.2′ x 10.6′ x 9.06′. That’s more than twice the existing standard.

High-end desktop 3D printers are available in various shapes and sizes, with entry-level filament printers available in the range of $300 up to $2,000. These are basic printing machines that use filament deposition manufacturing (FDM) to create a print from a model. Basically what these printers do is melt a plastic filament and build the object from the molten filament in additive layers.

These systems are low-cost and popular among hobbyists. This article from Tweaktown shows you how to get the most out of them.  Most low end systems can print in only one color and the build area is usually limited to around 4 x 4 x 4 inches. There are higher-end filament 3D printers, however, with larger build areas and equipped with several extruders for higher resolution (smoother) printing and more colors.

Advanced 3D Printers

The higher-cost ($3,000 and above) 3D printing devices on the market can print with materials other than plastic.

These new printers can print items made of clay, Sugru, Plasticine, and other materials, offering you greater versatility. Furthermore, these new lines of 3D printing machines are even capable of utilizing flexible, bendable printing materials that are nearly as versatile as rubber.

There is so much potential! You can also use them to print clay pots and jars, among other things. Newer materials are being introduced and many new types are in the experimental stage.

Advanced Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing machines are also available for $3,000 and above. Advanced SLA printers are know for being very quiet, and in contrast to other 3D printers, SLA printers employ a laser and photosensitive resin. To print, a focused light beam is flashed on the resin in the layer pattern, causing it to solidify, and the system adds layer after layer until the item is finished. While most SLA materials are strong, they only comes in a few colors and tend to be more costly.

Industrial 3D Printers

An article in Bloomberg Business Week highlights the fact that these large 3D printing machines are used in several industries to create specialized parts and components, and therein lies the difference between a desktop personal 3D printing machine and its industrial counterparts.

While 3D consumer printing machines are used to create small objects, most industrial 3D printing machines are designed to manufacture large components, such as aircraft and automotive parts. Or in the case of NASA, components for outer space exploration. For example consumer-level 3D printing machines typically measure the build platform in inches, while industry level systems can print very large objects at full-scale.

As such, some of the bigger machines have a printing volume of more than a cubic meter, big enough to produce 1:1 models and prototypes. These large 3D printing can make items such as bicycle frames, furniture, skateboards, indoor or outdoor architectural pieces, etc.

There are many kinds of commercial and industrial level 3D machines, including powder printers. Powder printers spread fine powder on the build area while a laser melts the power to create a layer. The process is repeated layer after layer to create the object, and unlike other printing machines, powder printers support custom colors and different building materials like glass, steel, and plastics.

Which One is Right For You?

The best solution is ultimately determined by your requirements. If you’re new to 3D printing, you should start with lower-end filament printers to learn how they function and experiment a little. Although these printers have grown easier to operate, it is nevertheless suggested that you proceed cautiously to avoid frustration.

If you find the small printing sizes of the lower-end 3D printing machines restricting, you may upgrade to one of the larger form factor printers, which are more expensive but provide more features. Either way, there are many options for most 3D enthusiasts today.

There are3D printing machines that are the most suitable for advanced users for many reasons. Offering multi-color, and multi-media printing options and large construction spaces they have advanced capacity and capability. They can be expensive, but are worth it! There are so many new features available, and support materials for industrial applications that it’s is staggering. As mentioned previously, many are still in the experimental stages. Remember that the 3D printing is still in its infancy and is not as easy to use an inkjet printer.

When considering purchasing a new piece of 3D printing equipment, consider that the output is dependent on the material used, and as previously stated, some printers can only handle particular types, while others can print “multi-media”, or with many colors or types of materials. This will not be an issue if you are a hobbyist, but it will be if you are making professional prototypes with an industrial machine for your business and customers.

To get the most out of your printer, you must be familiar with contemporary 3D software. A high level of skill yields the best results from the printer. There are many software packages available with varying capability, and many are free. Even with a free software, you need to invest time to learn how the software works. Of course, if you are familiar already with 3D software, this will not be a problem, and you can focus on learn everything you can about the 3D printing equipment.


Here are some of the most popular 3D printing applications these days.


  • To-Scale Functional Models
  • Presentation Pieces
  • Prototype Development

Medical Study

  • CAT Scan Modeling
  • To-Scale Bone Structure Modeling
  • Inexpensive Skeletal Recreation

Architectural Design

  • Completed Development Models
  • Visual Aids For Architectural Design Ideas
  • Quickly evaluate concept ideas

Teaching Aids

  • Scientific Reproduction
  • Visual Industrial Concepts


Many have said that the development of 3D printing is the second industrial revolution. You can print almost anything you can imagine with a 3D printer, and the ramifications and possibilities are mind-boggling.

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