Creating something from scratch, with a click from your computer, used to seem like an impossible accomplishment.
However, nowadays 3D printing is advancing faster than ever, and many people have access to 3D printers at home.
Nevertheless, the process has its complexity, and it requires you to connect the 3D printer to your laptop. But will any laptop do?
On average, any laptop will indeed do when it comes to 3D printing.
The most common type of file used to print the 3D models is an STL file, which is almost always small enough for any regular laptop to handle without an issue.
However, if you’re looking to 3D print an especially high-resolution, large, and complicated model, then you might need to upgrade your laptop to something that has the capacity to handle the larger file!
Can I use an average computer for 3D printing?
In order to use a 3D printer with your laptop, all you usually need is a good enough internet connection, or sometimes even just a cable. So 3D printing is completely viable with just an average computer.
However, if you are looking to use your laptop to generate the code for the 3D printer files, then you might need to upgrade. Generating the code isn’t as easy as simply processing the file onto the 3D printer.
The code generating is done through a specific software: the Slicer program.
This can be quite demanding and requires a higher and more capable CPU. Especially if the 3D model designs are large and complex, with multiple shapes and sides to consider.
Your laptop doesn’t have to be off the charts amazing in order to generate the 3D file codes, but it does have to be slightly more competent than any old average laptop.
Ideally, it should have at least 6GB of ram, an Intel I5 quad-core processor, and a decent graphics card.
Best laptops for 3D printing
Most laptops sold nowadays are perfectly capable of 3D printing, as they almost always come with the required hardware and software capabilities.
Nevertheless, if you’re buying a laptop and are specifically thinking of using it with a 3D printer, here are some of the top product options that you can look into, and that will 100% be up for the job:
OUR TOP PICK
This is a great laptop if you’re looking to use a 3D printer. It has 8GB of computer memory, giving you plenty of space for the 3D model files.
It also has an Intel Core 6th Generation processor, which will allow for a high performance and capacity.
It comes with a 64Bit Windows 10 Professional system, and all in all will be able to handle the 3D printing without a single struggle.
Acer is a great laptop brand when it comes to hardware capabilities, so it’s a pretty safe bet when it comes to pairing it up with a 3D printer.
It has 4GB of computer memory and features a Dual core processor with up to 3.5GHz, which is more than enough.
It comes with the Windows 10 system and supports high quality graphics if you also want to design your own 3D model projects.
It’s not ridiculously advanced in any way, but it can handle 3D printing without a problem.
When it comes to 3D printing laptops, the safest bet is to go for a gaming laptop.
Gaming laptops are equipped with highly capable and powerful hardware, and they have some of the best graphics out there.
This makes them ideal not only for running more advanced 3D printing projects but also for designing the models yourself and getting a higher level of detail and precision.
This laptop in particular is a 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor, with up to 4.5GHz. It has a GTX 1650 Ti graphics card, with 4GB of dedicated memory.
Everything about it is more than capable of handling the more advanced 3D printing, so it’s definitely ideal for the bigger and more complicated 3D printing projects.
Recommended requirements for 3D printing
Nowadays, most laptops should be more than capable of running a 3D printer without much of a struggle, as they are almost always equipped with the hardware required to run a standard 3D printer, especially those designed for home use.
The most important factors that you need to consider and look for, are the clock speed of the laptop, and the graphics card that you have.
The clock speed is what will do most of the work when actually rendering the 3D model. As 3D printing is usually a single-threaded task, the faster the clock speed, the faster (and therefore usually better) the model will come out.
The graphics card, on the other hand, is what renders the 3D model on screen, in real time, so that you can work on it.
If the graphics card is low-spec, you won’t be able to have as much attention to detail, which leads to a more “pixelated” result.
This then translates onto the 3D printed model by obtaining a rougher surface, when it could have been completely smooth and rendered down the tiniest detail.
This is why you should aim for the best possible graphics card, and ideally, you should have one that is solely dedicated to GPU, so that it can handle the higher resolution 3D model files, with ease.
But let’s look at some of the other important recommended requirements so that your laptop can handle 3D printing struggle-free:
Hardware recommended requirements
The recommended hardware refers to the actual components and capabilities of the laptop itself, so it’s something to look out for when purchasing the laptop that you’ll be using to 3D print.
Here are the recommended requirements it should have:
- Memory: 16GB ram, or higher if possible
- Free disk space: you should have a minimum of 20Gb of free disk space, and ideally an SSD memory
- CPU: ideally an Intel quad-core processor, with at least 2.2GHz
- Graphics Card: high quality with 1GB of memory, or more
Software recommended requirements
The software requirements refer to the internal setup of the laptop, including the system that you are using, and the connection that you have set up to run the 3D printer.
Here are the recommended requirements it should have:
- Operating system: Windows 64-bit, Windows 10, Windows 8, or Windows 7 SP1
- Network connection: both Ethernet and a wireless connection to a local network are recommended. What’s most important is that the connection is strong and stable enough to not interrupt the printing process at any moment
Is a computer better than a laptop for 3D printing?
We’ve looked at laptops when it comes to 3D printing because nowadays they are a lot more common, and a lot more accessible for home use.
But would a desktop computer work better than a laptop when it comes to 3D printing?
Technically, yes. This is because computers usually have higher capabilities, and a lot more strength to power through the process.
Although, of course, this depends on the model of the computer, vs the model of the laptop in question. It can really depend!
On average, laptops will tend to send the information over to the 3D printer in chunks, and if this happens too often it can cause the printer to turn on and off during the process, which is less than ideal.
A computer, on the other hand, is better for sending information in a smooth and stable way, for an uninterrupted process.
As mentioned, computers tend to have a lot more power, so they can 3D print while operating different tasks.
A laptop, on the other hand, will likely struggle to focus on anything other than 3D printing, or else it will begin to fail. And depending on how big the 3D model you’re printing is, you might be stuck waiting for quite some time, unable to do anything else.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it worth getting an expensive computer for 3D printing?
This completely depends on what you’re aiming to get out of 3D printing. If you’re a beginner, and you’re going to be printing small and simple models, there’s no need to get a fancy computer, as an average will do just fine.
However, if you’re going to dedicate quite a lot of time to 3D printing, and are going to print regularly, or if you’re going to design your own models, then it’s definitely worth investing in a more expensive and capable computer.
This will allow you to expand beyond the simpler models so that you can create larger and more complicated projects.
Can I 3D print without a computer?
The answer to this is yes! You don’t necessarily always need a computer in order to use a 3D printer.
In fact, a lot of 3D printers have their own control panel into which you can directly insert the SD card containing the 3D print file.
You can also sometimes use the 3D printer through a smartphone or tablet, as long as it can contain the 3D print file, you’re good to go.
Is 3D printing hard?
Although 3D printing is becoming more and more accessible for home use, it is still a relatively new thing, and therefore not as user-friendly as it could potentially be.
Once you’re accustomed to how a 3D printer works, the process is relatively easy and simple. However, as a beginner, getting used to how it works and knowing what to do can take some time, and it can be a little overwhelming, to begin with.
This is why, if you’re wanting to try out 3D printing for the first time, it is recommended that you start off with a smaller and cheaper 3D printer, as they will be a lot easier to use than the more advanced ones.
Is 3D printing expensive?
For smaller models, 3D printing is relatively cheap and very accessible for home use. However, as soon as the 3D models start getting bigger, the expense quickly rises to match the size, and the number of materials used.
If you’re getting into more advanced 3D printing, you will also then need more advanced equipment, like a better 3D printer, and a more capable laptop or computer.
So at a hobby level, no, it’s not too expensive. But if you get into more advanced 3D printing, it can become pretty expensive!
To sum the answer up, for simple and basic 3D printing, you don’t need a particularly good computer at all.
In fact, any computer will likely be able to handle 3D printing with ease, and sometimes you don’t even require a computer in order to use the 3D printer at all.
However, if you’re attempting larger or more complicated 3D models, or you’re wanting to generate the 3D model file codes yourself, then you might need to upgrade the computer so that it has a higher capability to process the task, and handle the extra high resolution and size of the file.
If you’re creating the 3D model designs yourself, the safest bet is to use a gaming computer, as it will 100% have the necessary hardware, and a good enough graphics card to get as much detail as possible into the 3D model, for the best results possible.