If youre thinking about buying your first 3D printer, youre probably looking for something affordable as well as reliable. Never fear there are plenty of feature-rich 3D printers under $1000 that are ready to print right out of the box.
When it comes time to choose the right model, youll want to consider what features are the most important for you. Are you comfortable with tinkering around with the machine to get a perfect print? Do you need a big print volume for larger objects? Are you introducing 3D printing to kids or a classroom? Do you need a workhorse that will produce hundreds of models for your home business? Whatever you want from your 3D printer, this list should have a match for you that wont break the bank.
When youre just getting started with 3D printing, youll want to familiarize yourself with the different printing communities and open-source software options that are available.Thingiverseis the largest online community of people sharing their experience, reviews and printable files. Its a great launching pad whether you dont know where to start or youre a seasoned expert. Thingiverse,GrabCAD, andNIH 3D Print Exchange(a STEM community) are top resources for nabbing free prints to get your new hobby started. When youre ready to design your own stuff,Tinkercaduses a drag-and-drop interface with basic building blocks to help you create any design you have in mind, making it one of the simplest design tools available and especially useful for non-designers. Sites likeShapewaysPinShape, andMyMiniFactoryare examples of marketplaces where you can buy designs and sell your own. Check out this awesome list fromAll3DPfor more free resources.
Once you have a new rad design ready to go, youll need a slicer. A slicer converts your digital model into a series of thin layers and produces a file with the instructions that tell your 3D printer how to create your print.CuraandSlic3rare free 3D slicing software applications that prepare your designs for printing.Repetieroffers a host of solutions to slice and print your files or act as a front end for either Cura or Slic3r.
Keep in mind that theres a learning curve to printing and you have to expect a few, maybe many, failures as you try to print larger and more complex parts. Tips and hacks from the communities atreddit, Thingiverse andInstructables(my old stomping ground) will set you up with tricks like using painters tape or hairspray to make your prints stick to the print bed and printing your own spools holders for machines that dont want you to use non-proprietary materials.
In terms of manufacturers, Prusa is widely regarded as the leader in affordable, reliable 3D printers and have spawned manyPrusa-inspired 3D printersfor those who dont want to wait on pre-orders and long shipping times. Some of the features that make Prusa outstanding include a variety of print materials, open source (non-proprietary) software and hardware options, a range of print resolutions to suit your needs, and a humble price tag. Fortunately, you can now find all of those qualities from a variety of manufacturers offering a wide selection of printer styles.
The technology used by most 3D printers in this list is fused deposition modeling, a special application of plastic extrusion that creates objects by building layers of material. This keeps the process simple and affordable, but also subject to a higher ratio of print errors than more sophisticated methods. Fortunately, for most makers and tinkerers, these entry-level models are more than sufficient to get you where you want to go. The following list is sorted by price, with some call-outs as to which models might best suit your particular needs. If Ive missed a model you particularly love, let me know in the comments below!
The XYZprinter da Vinci Jr. comes with a price tag that makes it an excellent option for a first 3D printer and is targeted towards younger users and classrooms. The da Vinci Jr. series prints only with XYZprintings bio-compostable, non-toxic PLA filament derived from natural materials such as sugarcane and cornstarch, meaning you wont be breathing in harmful fumes. The drawback is that you dont have options for other printing materials. You are also limited by XYZs proprietary software. So while this is technically a plug-and-play machine, it will require some tinkering to adjust the settings just right and some time to learn the software. The print bed is not heated, so youll need to come up with a hack to make it sticky (remember when I mentioned painters tape and hairspray?).
Price: $234.89 (33 percent off MSRP)
Youll be pleasantly surprised by the quality of prints the Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer produces once youve dialed in the right settings. If your first prints are a little rough or flaky, it means youll need to spend more time calibrating (this siteoffers some great tips). This tiny model comes with plenty of features at an extraordinary price, including a heated print bed, open source software and hardware, and the ability to print a variety of materials. Because this is not an enclosed printer, you will need to be aware of its surroundings and ambient temperature, as heat and drafts can impact your prints. Some reviewers report nozzle jams that can be resolved by pressing in on the feed tube collar to remove and clean it as well as trouble with the stickiness of the build plate which is improved with painters tape. All in all, this is a great starter machine that supports open source software and all filament times, so long as you know there will be some tinkering involved.
The Printrbot Play comes preassembled or as a DIY kit for the same price. It offers the smallest print volume on this list but does allow you to print a variety of materials. The Play doesnt come with a heated print bed which can result in some warped prints that cool unevenly. With time (its a slow printer) and patience (it can require recalibration), you can get some great prints from this affordable model.
Price: $279.81 (24 percent off MSRP)
Considered one of the best starter printers and Best Portable 3D Printer for Schools by MAKE Magazine, the Printrbot Simple is a great open source machine. Like the Printrbot Play, the Printrbot Simple also comes pre-assembled or as a DIY kit and with the option of aheated bed upgradefor $749 all-in. It offers a larger print volume than the Play but limits you to printing with PLA.
Price: $521.24 (13 percent off MSRP)
Requires some tinkering and recalibration
Non-heated bed option can result in warping
Find more Printrbot Simple information and reviews here.
5. Best Frustration-Free 3D Printer: ERIS Delta Destkop 3D Printer
The ERIS is a delta 3D printer whose most notable features are its quick change hotend and nozzle system and borosilicate glass build plate. The surface laminate means you dont need to add painters tape to get your prints to stay in place. But if you wanted to try out a different adhesion method, you can turn the bed over for a flat boro glass plate to work with. It comes with a spool holder to accommodate most available spools and does not use proprietary filaments. This is a lightweight but sturdy printer with a small footprint, making it a fine option for beginners, educators, and tinkerers.
Quick change hotend and nozzle system
Accelerometer probe design to calibrate the machine automatically
Borosilicate glass build plate requires no extra adhesive materials
The UP Mini is a popular model for schools, and for good reason. Its ready to go out of the box and comes with easy-to-use software. Bonus accessories include a full spool of filament, three filament samples, filament cutters, heat resistant gloves and a putty knife to aid in print removal. The built-in HEPA filter draws the air from the build chamber down for filtration and releases the cleaned air back into the build chamber. This not only removes the familiar melting plastic smell, it also results in superb ABS prints with zero warping, even on larger jobs that use the entire build area. It uses proprietary software and filament, but you can download a printable external attachment that allows the printer to use any 3rd party filament. It offers a heated print bed, tetherless wi-fi printing, and touchscreen display all great features for a sub-$1000 3D printer.
Uses proprietary filament and software
Find more UP mini 2 3D Printer information and reviews here.
7. Best 3D Printer For Home Manufacturing: da Vinci Pro
The da Vinci Pro is a great printer for the price point but may be best suited to someone with more experience. For less than $1000, you get fully adjustable heating, speed, and retraction settings, a heated aluminum print bed, open source ABS and PLA filament, a good print volume, and quick out-of-the-box set-up. This 3D printer is a great option for someone who is willing to tinker with calibration but may not be a good fit for someone whos new to 3D printing. Since customer service is lacking, you need to be comfortable with using the web to troubleshoot.
Disorganized slicing/printing can take extra time and leave behind unnecessary filament
Users report several microSD chip failures
Find more da Vinci Pro information and reviews here.
8. Best For Home Hobbyists: Dremel DigiLab 3D20 3D Printer
Dremel is a well-known, trusted name in the maker community. The DigiLab 3D20 is a fully-enclosed printer that comes ready to print right out of the box. It comes with a pre-installed extruder, full-color LCD touchscreen, and open-source slicing software. One drawback is Dremels use of proprietary PLA filament, but if youre willing to build an external spool holder, enlarge some of the holes in the side vent, and run your filament that way, you can save a lot of money and get cleaner prints. All in all, this is a great printer for someone whos looking for a pain-free print right out of the box. If youre willing to hack the setup a little, your experience will be even better.
Price: $792.20 (20 percent off MSRP)
PLA-only proprietary filament (though you can find online hacks for using other brands)
Acrylic plate requires painters tape for builds
Find more Dremel DigiLab 3D20 3D Printer information and reviews here.
9. Best Multi-Featured 3D Printer: Bibo 3D Printer With Laser Engraving
What makes the Bibo so awesome is the one-two punch of a laser engraver and a 3D printer. Its not as powerful as a full-blown laser cutter, but for surface treatments, it gets the job done. Not only that but with dual extruders and copy printing, you can easily print two of the same unit at once. This model also comes with a removable heated bed, full-color LCD touchscreen, and the ability to print a variety of filaments. It requires a minor bit of assembly to get up and running, but users report the bed stays level even after hundreds of prints. Its an amazingly well-performing unit at an incredible price.
Currently requires frequent firmware updates
Find more Bibo 3D Printer information and reviews here.
10. Best Workhorse 3D Printer: FlashForge 3D Printer Creator Pro
As one Amazon reviewer quips: The FlashForge Creator Pro is A Makerbot Replicator clone with all of the community enhancements out-of-the-box. The result is in some ways better than the Replicator 2X, at about half the cost. Whats not to love? With dual extruders and a heated aluminum bed, this fully-enclosed unit produces some quality prints. Similar models include thefor $699, which has the option to leave the sides open for better access but a smaller chip, and thecurrently going for $799 which some users prefer but only offers single extrusion. Some users report thermocoupler issues but for the most part, its easy to set up and start printing right out of the box. For the most reliable prints every time, stick to PLA and invest in a glass bed.
Poor bundled software (but ability to go open-source)
FlashForge seems to have only one customer service representative?
Find more FlashForge 3D Printer Creator Pro information and reviews here.
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