Who would have thought just 20 years ago that we’d be able to print three-dimensional objects? You’d have been laughed at and shunned, considered a guy who’s watched one too many sci-fi movies. Well, who’s laughing now? You might think that they’re too expensive for the Average Joe to afford, but you’d be wrong, some of the best 3D printers are available for commercial use, so you can design and print anything you feel like, from everyday items like salt and pepper shakers to tools, belts, phone cases and pretty much whatever you decide. Never catch yourself wishing you had something ever again, you can just print it, we’ve compiled our choices for the most useful 3D printers, so check it out and step into the future.
The Best 3D Printer
Number one on our list searching for the best home 3D printer is the Robo R2 Smart Assembled 3D Printer. This wifi enabled machine is a more than adequate, if slightly expensive, starter machine for those just realizing the magic of 3D printers, but it’s also advanced enough for anyone who’s done a little of this printing thing before to find their new favorite machine.
Measuring 8 x 8 x 10 inches, it’s got one of the largest print bases available, giving you greater control and variety over what you choose to print. It also comes with 4GB worth of storage space, giving you as many as 500 3D models to access at a simple tap of the screen. The open source filament gives you an array of material options, and it’ll even alert you when the filament is running low.
Open source filament system
5” touch screen and automatic detection
- BrandRobo 3D
- Weight2.2 pounds
Excellent customer support
App not available on Android yet
An excellent choice for a home 3D printer for total newbies, the FlashForge Finder 3D Printer is designed with a straightforward operation and works straight out of the box so you can get to printing whatever you please in a matter of minutes. The intelligent design leveling system provides intuitive calibration, which offers more precise calibration ensuring you always get the results you want, and not something that looks like the bastard child of tech failure and and poor decisions, which is never a good thing.
It’s also incredibly quiet, perhaps too quiet, during operations so don’t be too alarmed if you don’t hear a thing as it prints. This is a marked and welcome change from traditional paper printers and could take some getting used to. You can connect to it via the cloud, wifi, or USB, and can use the built-in screen to preview your creations and add any finishing touches you desire.
Slide-in build plate for easy removal
Cloud, wifi, USB and Flash Drive connectivity
Intelligent assisted leveling system
- Weight24.3 pounds
Safe, non-heated build plate
Works straight out of the box
Small build plate
The most expensive selection on our list, the MakerBot Replicator+ 3D Printer is an awesome machine that feels more like an industrial printer than one you’d expect to have in your home. It contains all manner of useful features for the experts among you, and provides perhaps the fastest printing speed ever – or at least, out of the 8 we’ve selected.
Tried, tested, and then tested again, it’s incredibly reliable and provides intelligent workflow to make your life easier. This is achieved with the Smart Extruder+, full-color LCD display, wifi connectivity, and an onboard camera for remote monitoring. The included software allows you to store 3D files and access them from the cloud, while the MakerBot Thingiverse provides millions of files for you to choose from.
Smart Extruder+ for seamless workflow
Quick-start wireless setup with wifi connectivity
Auto arrange multiple build plates at once
- Weight40.3 pounds
Low filament alerts
Tirelessly tested for quality
Expensive, really expensive
The Sindoh 3DWOX DP200 3D Printer provides you with a premium experience that could ignite your love for 3D printing – if it hasn’t been sparked already. With fully automated loading, assisted bed leveling, and remote monitoring, you’re taken care of from start to finish and ensures some of the most precise 3D creations possible.
There’s also a variety of connectivity options to suit your preferred method. These options include wifi or ethernet, as well as USB so you can upload 3D designs directly into the printer. The build area is 7.9 x 7.9 x 7.3″, and has a heated aluminum bed, and even though it only has a single extruder, you’re still guaranteed reliable, precise models that will still work and not ‘glob up’ if there are a few months between your printing adventures.
Automatic loading and unloading
Assisted leveling system
Variety of connectivity options including wifi, USB, and Ethernet
Full-color touchscreen menu for easy navigation
- Weight44.8 pounds
Displays optimized printing directions
Easy mode for beginners
Inconvenient filament refills
The Monoprice Maker Pro Mk. 1 3D Printer strives to make your printing as simple as possible. For convenience, it’s equipped with an auto bed leveler that ensures precise and error-free printing, as well as an auto-resume function which restarts any kind of printing in the event of a sudden power failure due to outages, unplugged cables, or someone switching off the printer, without you needing to lift a finger, and saving what’s already been completed, whether it’s an hour-long print or 20 hour print.
As it is an open machine, you minimize restrictions on what you can and can’t build. On the Maker Mk. 1, you get a build area of 11.8 x 11.8 x 15.7” which is more than enough room to create some highly detailed models of your choosing. To complement this, the tiny layer heights provide even more detail than usual, ensuring you can get every millimeter of your model and not skimp on the finer designs.
Auto bed level
Auto resume function
Flexible magnetic print sheet
Up to 150mm/sec printing speed
- Weight2.2 pounds
Spacious build area
Easy print removal
Some quality control issues
If you’re looking for an entry-level 3D printer that goes a little further than your average novice model, then the Dremel Digilab 3D20 3D Printer is the place to look. While not the cheapest model available, we believe it’s the best value for money you can find, even if you’re looking at over $500 for a model.
There’s a reason for this price, though. While it is recommended for beginners, it is also advanced enough to support your 3D printing activities once you stride into the realm of expert. The fully-enclosed build area provides safety, while the full-color touchscreen makes navigation and selection the easiest thing you’ll ever do. It’s ready to use straight out of the box and comes with 0.5kg of filament to help you get to grips with how everything works. As for build area, you can create a model with a maximum size of 9 x 5.9 x 5.5”, which might not be the largest, but it’s not the smallest, either and is sure to provide you with enough space to master your craft.
Fully enclosed build area
Free cloud-based slicing software
Full-color LCD touchscreen
- Weight15.43 pounds
Ready to use out of the box
Reliable and rigorously tested
Size doesn’t allow for larger prints
If you’re looking for a compact but reliably functional desktop 3D printer, then you should take some time to consider the Qidi Technology Dual Extruder 3D Printer which is designed with a dual extruder which helps to accelerate the creation process and ensures speedy 3D printing that will surprise even the most impatient people. Along with this, it uses a fully enclosed design for consistent temperature while the fully-metal frame provides a durability that you just don’t get with plastic models.
Additionally, the easy to use software makes it perfect for beginners, which for this price is what the printer is designed for. This doesn’t make it any less effective than more advanced versions, though, and will provide excellent, reliable printing and comes with slicing software that guarantees maximum control over every stage of the printing.
Fully enclosed for constant temperature
Fully-metal frame for durability
Easy to use software
Flat surface that doesn’t warp model shape
- BrandQidi Technology
- Weight55.1 pounds
SD card connectivity
Fully calibrated before delivery
Turbofan cooling function
Difficult customer service communication
Our final pick for the best color 3D printer is this MakerGear M2 Desktop 3D Printer which is a fantastic option that’s packed full of features and should be considered by anyone looking to upgrade from their current model to something a little meatier.
The M2 has his meat in spades. The large build area allows you to create models you’d previously only dreamed of and measures a comprehensive 8 x 10 x 8”, while the open source software gives you millions of options for printing until you run out of idea (which you won’t, but feel free to try). If disaster strikes and you do run out or encounter problems, MakerGear also provides replacement film and tools to keep you printing all day, every day.
Large build envelope
Open source electronics and software
Replacement printing film and toolset included
Compatible with 3D CAD software
- Model M2
- Weight36.6 pounds
Factory calibrated before delivery
Two fans for cooling machine and model
Metal frame provides dimension accuracy
Dual extruder sold separately
3D Printer Buying Guide & FAQs
How We Chose Our Selection of 3D Printers
It’s not as easy as you might think when searching for 3D printers, we managed it, of course, but not until after we’d identified essential selection criteria.
Ease of Use - Don’t you just hate buying something and then never using it because it’s too complicated? 3D printers can be intimidating when first using them, but as they’ve become more sophisticated and much more user-friendly, they are more straightforward to use than ever. We’ve ensured we’ve selected printers that are easy to use, often at a mere tap of a screen.
Components - Obviously, we’d love to select only 3D printers that had every single thing you need from a 3D printer, but we understand that this isn’t possible for a variety of reasons. Instead, we searched for products that we believed were the top of their class, whether they were cheap, mid-range, or expensive and had everything you would need at each level. If you’re a novice printer, then you could be overwhelmed by too many components, whereas an expert could feel like they don’t have enough components for print what they need to.
Price - Despite the fact that 3D printers are nowhere near as expensive as they once were and some are in fact cheaper than your average laser printer, we still wanted to get a decent range of prices to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Of course, more advanced printers cost more money so there will be some that may be out of some reader’s price range. Hopefully, though, we picked a wide enough selection so all budgets can afford something if they want to.
Features To Look For In 3D Printers
If you’re still unsure about which 3D printer to buy, then take a look at what features are essential to look for to help you make a decision.
Extruder - You’re going to find printers with either single or dual extruders. This is the part that moves the filament onto the hot part of the printer. A dual extruder will allow you to print in multiple colors at once, which is great if you’re looking for detail, but it isn’t always necessary.
Build Area - The build area determines how large your models can be printed to. Larger build areas obviously produce larger prints, but if you don’t have a large build area you can always split the built into separate prints and then combine them once finished. Build areas are measured width x depth x height.
Print Speed - You don’t want to wait around for hours to merely print a 2 inch model of yourself, so printing speed is something to look for. While it isn’t a dealbreaker, it’s always nice to not have to wait around for a long time, especially if you’re trying to print multiple things in one day.
Cooling Fan - The cooling fan is a crucial component for your 3D printer. You don’t need them for all materials, but most will require a cooling fan to help fine-tune your models. 3D printers will have between one and three fans and will focus either on cooling the material or the heat bed, or both.
Printing Material - Some printers will be able to handle multiple printing materials whereas other will only be capable of using one. The most common materials are ABS and PLA, which are durable and able to withstand high temperatures while other printers can use clay or Sugru but these aren’t as reliable. Make sure to check the compatible materials before buying.
3D Printer FAQs
Q: What Is a 3D Printer?
A: A 3D printer is a device that uses a heated filament to print 3D objects. You select a model and submit it into the printer either through wifi, SD card or other connections and let the printer do its thing. You’d be surprised just what a 3D printer can do.
Q: What Is The Best 3D Printer For Beginners?
A: If you’re just getting into 3D printing, then you may not want to spend too much money while you get the hang of it. This will give you lots of room for error - and there will be room for error - as well as being easy to use than more advanced models.
We can’t recommend the best printer for beginners, as everybody has different needs, but something that’s straightforward and cheap is a good place to start. We have identified some of the best beginner printers above.
Q: How Long Does It Take To Make Something In A 3D Printer?
A: While 3D printers have come a long way since their inception, they’re still quite a ways off from being the super-speedy machines that would cause them to be staples of every home and perhaps eradicate a couple of industries along the way (which would probably be the fault of the millennials, but whatever). Your typical 3D printer will print at a rate of 50mm per second, but there are some that are quicker than this.
It should be noted, though, that you don’t necessarily want a fast printer every single time. Fast printing means that there’s a chance for things to go wrong, disastrously wrong and so it some cases it’s better to accept that slow and steady will, in fact, win this race.
Q: What Causes Stringing In 3D Printing?
A: Stringing is caused by the print nozzle secreting printing material as it moves from one place to the next. Think of it similar to when you’re using super glue and you get that inconvenient, stringy runoff that inevitably sticks to your hands, clothes, and leaves you stuck to things you didn’t even know you had.
It’s not the end of the world when stringing happens, but it can ruin the print and waste precious material that could have been used to complete the model or whatever you had planned next. It can make the model look like a cheap knock-off of a toy instead of something that you poured your heart and soul into, or more likely tapped on a screen and expected something else.
Even a good 3D printer can encounter problems, so don’t expect your top of the range printer to avoid this forever, but there are steps you can take to prevent it happening. You should find a Retraction setting in your software that pulls the filament back in between spaces, stopping stringing and ensuring top quality prints every time.
Q: What Do 3D Printers Use To Print?
A: The 3D printer plastic that is used to create models is PLA or ABS, but it can also use clay, steel, titanium, wax, polycarbonate, epoxy resins, and silver. Not all printers will accept these materials though, and most commercial printers will only be able to work with the plastic filament sources. If you use something your printer is not compatible with, then you’re going to have a bad time.
Q: What Files Do 3D Printers Use?
A: As with most specialized functions, 3D printers use exclusive files that work with their software, but there is a variety, depending on what’s required.
OBJ which represents 3D geometry.
STL which are the standard files and are the bridging point between CAD software and the printer.
VRML which is used to add color to a print.
X3G which is a special file that works with the MakerBot 3D printer.
PLY which are models that have been generated by a scanner and will need importing before use.
FBX which is owned by Autodesk and can swap data between programs that also belong to Autodesk.
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