3D Printers vs. 3D Production Systems: 10 Distinguishing Factors to Help You Select a System

By Joe Hiemenz, Stratasys, Inc.

When planning to purchase an additive manufacturing system, buyers will find capabilities and a price range wider than products from most any industry. Systems can range from several hundred dollars for a hobbyist unit to nearly $1 million for some high-performance systems. It’s no wonder there is confusion with respect to the product segments.

This paper addresses the capabilities, roles and positioning of systems geared for professional use. Beginning with the most basic information — the definition of 3D printers — this white paper positions the two product classes.

While clarifying the “typical” roles and strengths of each, it also shows that there is overlap between the 3D printers and their bigger brothers, sometimes referred to as 3D production systems. 

As additive manufacturing system prices have decreased, interest has swelled in owning a system to produce rapid prototypes, patterns, tooling and manufactured goods. Further fueling that interest is an increase in the number of technologies, systems and options available. Choice is the operative word, and those choices include entry-level systems priced below $15,000 (USD) as well as machines selling for more than $900,000 (USD).

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