To make an informed choice on which DIY 3D printer to build you need to ask yourself a few questions. How confident are you in your mechanical ability? What types of objects do you wish to print? In what materials would you like to print those objects? How big are those objects you wish to print?
We offer two kits that can be used as entry level builds though will be relevant as you progress more into the world of 3D printing. We've found it best to stick to some basic metrics and build from that. First, material. We recommend new builders focus on using PLA as the primarily printing material. It's safe, not noxious and is easy to work with. It has a relatively low melting point between 180* C and 210*C though most use it in the 185* C to 195* C range and is a very forgiving material with which to learn the craft of 3D printing. Once you become familiar with the basic mechanics of thermal extrusion as it relates to 3D printing you'll be ready for all kinds of materials. There is a wide variety of material with more coming out every week. First though, one needs to understand the basics.
The second point is size. Many times first builders are more concerned with the size of the print bed. The volume in which the machine prints is called the "build envelope". It's basically a big cube. A common size for not only a first build but many other builds is a 200 mm x 200 xx 200 mm build envelope. Or about an 8" cube. that might not sound like a lot but you can print many things, if not most everything you want or need in that build envelope. We recommend using this size as it's widely supported in the community and the common designs use these dimensions making sourcing parts easier. Manage your expectations, start at a reasonable size with something others have built.
We recommend two designs, both Reprap style designs, as first builds. They are our original mashup, the Roaddog Labs Bart and our variant of the i3 Rework, the Baja Rework.
The Roaddog Labs Bart is our latest design and the machine we recommend for first time builds. It incorporates a full melamine frame that provides more strength, stability and higher print speeds compared to a threaded rod design. Other enhancements include a redesigned direct drive extruder, belt tensioner on the Y axis, screw adjustable Z endstop traigger an the option for three point bed leveling. Bart includes a heated bed which is a requirement to print higher temp plastics like ABS. The included E3D v6 Lite hot end is a best of breed part and is good for temps to 240* C. Once you get the hang of it you can upgrade to an E3D v6 all metal hot end and extend your printing temps past 300* C.
Our other offering is an i3 Rework variant called the Baja_i3_Rework. It's an older, rod frame based design. It includes a heated bed. The included hot end is good for temps to 240* C and once you get the hang of it you can upgrade to an all metal hot end and extend your printing temps past 300* C. The i3 variants are all derivatives of the original Prusa i3, perhaps the most popular Reprap design today. Our Baja variant is a Rework that uses a four part melamine frame and herringbone gears on the extruder. the melamine frame lowers cost while offering stability compared to the more costly aluminum or steel frames. We don't use acrylic for frames because it's prone to crack and is typically more expensive than melamine. A herringbone extruder gear pattern makes extrusion more precise as it reduces backlash in the extrusion process a significant amount.