With the advent of 3D scanners rose the demand for 3D printers. Today, there are already about more than 150 models of 3D printers available, offering a wide range of choices from the most affordable to the more pricier ones.
3D printing is a manufacturing innovation that makes it possible to create a physical object out of a digital device, using the technique of layer adding. Complex 3D designs can be created by 3D printers usually at a low cost, although large productions tend to be pricier and lower in precision. Various 3D printers support different materials, and the list of materials just keeps growing with time. Simple 3D printers are able to melt plastic to form the object print, while industrial machines can use lasers to melt even metals.
Choosing a 3D Printer
Choosing the right 3D Printer is not just about looking at the specs. 3D printers vary widely in their features, especially the materials they are able to work with. Other factors like, machine size, printing method, and printing speed also need to be considered.
The most inexpensive 3D printers use the FDM, or Fused Deposition Modeling technology. This is also the most common and fastest 3D printing method. 3D printers using this technology are able to work with plastic-based materials like PLA and ABS. With the low price comes the low accuracy, and more intricate designs will not be replicated accurately. This type of 3D printer is ideal for the education and small business sectors.
For more detailed and accurate creations, DLP (Digital Light Processing) and SLA (Stereolithography) are more ideal because they utilize a light source to set liquid resin. 3D printers capable of using these technologies are more expensive, but will be able to create intricate and detailed objects like sculptures and jewelry. The objects will acquire a smooth surface with extreme detail, making these 3D printers ideal for industries looking to create castable molds.
Here are some of the of the top-rated 3D printers currently available in their respective categories.
Best 3D Printer Overall – Ultimaker 3
Ultimaker 3 is truly the ultimate in 3D printing, thanks to its excellent print quality, versatile connectivity, and well-designed software.
The printer is compact and well-lit, and prints out highly accurate and smooth. Speed and heat can be adjusted anytime using the radial scroll wheel on the machine.Print layer heights can be customized, and each layer is so precise that ridges and grooves of plastic 3D printing are barely visible. Accuracy is up to 20 microns, and printing can reach up to 300 mm/s. Ultimaker 3 can print dimensions of about 7.9 x 8.5 x 8.5”.
– the printer’s Cura software is outstanding
– relatively affordable
– can be used by beginners
– proprietary filament is expensive
– no dual extruder
– long print time at default resolution
Best 3D Printer for Beginners – LulzBot Mini
The LulzBot Mini is great beginners because of its quick and easy operation. The layer height can range from 0.05 to 0.5mm, and prints are seamless and high-resolution.
Printed products are consistently accurate and tidy. Filaments like PVA, ABS, PLA, and HIPS are compatible with the LulzBot Mini, along with many other types. These filaments are all available from LulzBot, and they cost less than those sold outside.
The printer itself has a steel and aluminum chassis, along with a glass print plate that is coated with PEI. It uses Cura software that is easy enough for beginners to use, and offers many customizing options for more experienced users.
– uses a wide variety of filaments
– calibrations are automatic
– printer must be connected to a computer
– print plate is small
– no onboard control screen
Best Budget 3D Printer – Monoprice Select Mini
Aside from its affordability, another reason to buy the Monoprice Select Mini is the heated bed which ensures that warping doesn’t occur.
The heated bed is a feature usually found on more expensive models, but the Select Mini already includes this essential component. Aside from this, the printer allows users to adjust temperature settings in order to print different materials. Select Mini’s build area is 120 x 120 x120mm, and its resolution is 100 microns.
– simple to operate
– correct temperature setting may be hard to determine at first
– step learning curve
– cannot do high-speed print
Best 3D Printer for Big Objects – MakerBot Replicator 2
The MakerBot Replicator 2 will be a good choice for printing PLA. All it takes is a USB cable and an SD card to connect to a home or office computer. It is compatible with Windows, Linux, or Mac.
The machine can print objects up to 6 x 6 x 11”, and there will be various printing speed to choose from. The layer height is about 0.1mm, making a smooth and high-quality print.
The Replicator 2 will only print with PLA filament, and thus doesn’t have a heated platform. There is only one print head, so printing with only one color is possible. The machine is robust, as it is made from steel, and provides stability and accuracy while a printing job is ongoing.
– has LCD screen
– easy to use
– doesn’t print with ABS
– no starter filament
– no heated platform
Best 3D Printer for Makers – ZMorph 2.0 SX
The great thing about ZMORPH 2.0 SX is that it’s not only a 3D printer, but also a laser cutter and CNC router as well. It offers the option of laser cutting and milling materials like glass, wood, leather or PCB laminate, in addition to printing plastic.
The machine is ideal for intermediate to advanced users who prefer several material options and more versatility.
ZMorph allows users to choose between a laser diode for cutting, an extruder for 3D printing, or a CNC toolhead for milling, thanks to its interchangeable tool head system. Swapping can be done in just a few minutes, and all it takes to change the modes in the software is a few mouse clicks.
– modular toolheads
– smooth UI
– versatile connectivity
– average print quality
– calibration and setup may be a challenge
Best 3D Printer Under $1000 – Robo R1 Plus
Robo R1 Plus may be pricier than the average 3D printer, but it boasts of features that provides versatility in 3D printing like a wide selection of material options, a heated bed, and a large build area—features hard to find all together in most pricier models.
The Robo R1 Plus’s build area is an impressive 10 x 9 x 8”, making it possible to print small and big parts. The heated build plate prevents the extruded filament from cooling, avoiding distortions like warping and contracting of the printed object. The 3D printer is quite easy to use, and is ideal for beginner to intermediate users.
– heated platform
– large build volume
– value for money
– a bit slow
– build quality is average
Best Resin 3D Printer – XYZprinting Nobel 1.0a
Designers and artists who desire to work with small models will find satisfaction with the XYZprinting Nobel 1.0a 3D printer. This machine can produce exceptionally detailed objects better than other 3D printers in its class.
Creating detailed 3D prints of intricate objects like engineering models and jewelry are not a problem for XYZprinting Nobel 1.0a.
The Nobel can print an object measuring 5 x 5 x 7.9”, which is actually not bad for an SLA printer. The output is a clean and smooth model that is truly impressive. The machines itself has a simple plastic design with a translucent-orange hood that allows viewing and checking the printing inside.
– auto-fill system makes it easy to produce multiple prints
– simple to set up
– prints are clean and attractive
– limited range of materials
– switching resins is not easy
Best 3D Printer for Professionals – Zortrax M200
Zortrax has been around for a while, and its M200 doesn’t disappoint with its easy set up and consistent quality results.
Calibration is simple and precise, thanks to the machine’s automated bed leveling. The build area has a perforated platform that aims to prevent warping of the object, making it ideal to work with ABS material. There is an option to place Perspex panels that will offer further protection from atmospheric changes by enclosing the build space. The M200 is made from aluminum, making it sturdy and durable.
– easy to use
– quality prints
– quality build
– no USB cable
– no side covers
– heating and calibration takes a while
Best Reliable 3D Printer – MakerGear M2
The MakerGear M2 was built to last, owing to an aluminum and solid steel frame construction. Print quality is precise, and a vast choice of materials is available, including but not limited to, Nylon, Polycarbonate, and common thermoplastics.
A heated platform makes it possible to print both ABS and PLA. Users can also make their own tweaks and adjustments, thanks to the open source software of electronics of the M2. Machine maintenance is easy with interchangeable nozzles and swappable dual-extruders. The M2 is truly perfect for hobbyists and professionals alike.
– easy to maintain
– quality build
– no dual extruder
– slight learning curve
Best Plug n’ Play 3D Printer – CraftBot PLUS
The CraftBot PLUS3D printer scores high in its ease of use, enabling users to practically work with the machine out of the box.
The metal body also makes for a sturdy and stable build, allowing consistently precise printing. The software is a breeze to use as well, perhaps even the easiest to use among all the 3D printers. The machine can print both ABS and PLA since it is equipped with a heated platform.
The machine uses its propriety slicing software, CraftWare, to prepare models prior to printing. Printing with the CraftBot PLUS starts within minutes after the model is sliced. A touchscreen makes it effortless to navigate through the controls.
– value for money
– consistently produces excellent FDM prints
– very simple to use
– no dual nozzle system
– not open source