For those of us with tightened purse-strings, buying new 3D printers is out of the question. They can be a bit too much of an investment but at the same time options are sparse. A major problem is how the wile popular, the industry has not seen advances in the alternative buyer’s market. However, the market is changing and we’re seeing more and more clamour for second-hand / used and refurbished 3D printers.
This article is a look at the various alternatives to buying a brand new 3D printer, their pros, cons and some advice on how to best navigate the market for used printers.
Factors to Consider Before Buying
Firstly, buying a used or refurbished 3D printer is a new phenomenon. There is no standard guide or source that can give users a standardised process of buying. Therefore, a lot of care is necessary when buying from anyone outside of the parent company. You will not be able to view the purchase history of the printer, so make sure it works the way you want it to.
The best way to test it is to check whether crucial parts are stable. If something is coming loose, that’s a really bad sign. Check the frame for cracks and openings (especially if it’s supposed to a closed heating chamber). Similarly, check if the bed heating is substantial and the bed is levelled. A lot of parts are easier to replace, so they may not be as crucial to test, depending on your needs and preferences.
Secondly, what is the nature of the printer. Is it using a closed or open source system? There is a crucial difference between FDM and FFF. You may need to know this if you’re the type who likes to make alterations. This is especially crucial if you’re buying a 3D printer only improve on it later.
Thirdly, the age of the printer matters. If it’s too old, they may not be in production. This can be an issue as parts will be scarce. If it’s too new, it may not have all the upgrades, meaning you’ll have to wait before it’s up to the standards you want. Additionally, if you want to tinker with it, newer printers may not have too many examples of people experimenting with it.
Second-hand / Used 3D Printers
As mentioned earlier, the most obvious advantage is price. Although it can be tricky considering there isn’t that much precedent on what the ideal price for second-hand or refurbished should be. This type of purchase may require a bit of prior research and browsing through forums. Generally, used 3D printers are desktop but there are industrial ones available as well.
Dragging down costs is especially important if you need to buy a 3D printer for industrial applications. Second-hand / used industrial 3D printers are more common due than refurbished, if still a bit rare. One possible reason is that most industrial printers are very specifically tied to contracts and some are built specifically for certain companies/ functions. This often means that they can’t really be repurposed as easily.
Another possible advantage is that many second-hand printers may have already been tweaked. Tweaked printers can have new, improved hardware. These tweaks can vastly improve on the original. In fact, a lot of the more industrious resellers may have bought a cheap 3D printer, stripped its parts and put in upgrades to bring it up to scratch.
It’s best to buy second-hand personally as opposed to over the Internet. Sites like Ebay and Newegg leave you to do your own investigating as to the state of the product you’re dealing with. Similarly, if dealing with a seller find out why they’re selling it. Another issue is, if the reseller made any modifications, whether they might suit your intended purpose for buying a 3D printer.
Another additional hurdle can be making your own adjustments or fixing up the used printer. If it has been fixed up by the reseller, he might jack up the price. Additionally, if the printer needs parts or improvements, remember to factor those prices in when you buy it.
Refurbished 3D Printers
The market for refurbished printers is mostly handled by the companies themselves. Robo, for example, sell their refurbished printers on their website. Other sites also provide refurbished printers. You should make sure whether the printers have been certified by the company in question.
Refurbished printers are sold in a more official capacity by companies. Whereas the design on a second-hand printer is done by the owner, professionals take on refurbished 3D printers. Oftentimes when a company puts a 3D printer back on the market, they have it tweaked clear of bugs with the aid of the original engineers. This provides a more professional hand to it and can act as assurance for consumers more skeptical of buying second-hand.
Even though they are cheaper and can have potential advantages over standard purchase potential buyers should keep an eye on the purchase agreements. Refurbished and factory restored printers can have stringent warranties and return policies. Many companies might sell them to newer consumers without their standard contract. It’s important to know what you’re getting into.
Where to Buy Them
Ebay gets a bad rap, oftentimes. However, they tend to do background checks and take a degree of responsibility for sales. Moreover, they tend to keep their website relatively safer in terms of trading. You can find refurbished and used ones, but do exercise a degree of caution.
- Official Retailers
Matterthings is a website that specialises in printing services and parts. They have a wide list of clientele and they engage in retail and service for nearly all things 3D printing. Matterthings is considerably trustworthy because of how renowned their operations are within the industry. They tend to have fewer printers in the used/refurbished category, but they’re still worth a look.
There are also official retailers like Shropshire 3D printers, that can be contacted and have their own premises (making it less likely that they will fleece you). Physical locations are generally a little more trustworthy simply because they can be contacted once again.
- Company Channels
Official channels are far more geared towards used. This is, naturally, the most reliable place to buy. Robo3D distributes refurbished units on their website. Other companies also have their own sales divisions.
- Check Local Area
One of the ways to get a 3D printer is to get in touch with a manufacturing facility, factory or service provider. They may be looking to upgrade and thus selling their old one. They may have placed ads on the web or in the classifieds. It’s usually bad form to buy off of classifieds or from people you don’t know, but it’s perhaps more kosher when they are in your area and you can physically contact them once again.
- Forums and sites
Lots of people hang out on sites like itworks3D or other sites not specifically designated towards selling. While it’s not totally wise to buy from a site without an overt business goal of selling or buying, it’s still an option. Make sure to get all the proper information and check the printer in these circumstances.