3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process whereby three-dimensional objects are assembled from a digital file. Advanced printers lay down one layer on top of another until the object has been fully assembled. 3D printing was invented in the 80s and has been used by manufacturers since the early 90s. It is heavily used in the aerospace, aviation and automotive industries, where printers can produce prototype parts quickly for field testing and also speed up the manufacturing of various bit parts.
The use of 3D printers on a personal level began to take off in 2011. As the printers became more affordable for hobbyists and enthusiasts, 3D printers involved from a commodity to an invaluable tool for many people, particular inventors and entrepreneurs who recognized their enormous potential.
Today, 3D Printers are no longer relegated to factories and laboratories. They can be used for making toys and jewelry, and they often serve valuable educational purposes. In the education space, it is being used by teachers for classroom activities and projects. MakerBot has a ready-to-print Frog Dissection Kit, and a research professor has been conducting experiments using a 3D printer to make edible meals!
3D Printers are being used in by Industrial designers, Aerospace, aviation, and automotive designers, architectures, and medical research scientists for anatomical model-making to bio-printing and designing molecular models. But they are also being used in the private sphere for creating sculptures, architectural models and new technological innovations, among other things.
Picking out the right 3D printer is not necessarily an easy task. There are a wide number of options available, which can be overwhelming if you’re not sure what to look for. This guide has isolated some of the best printers available, which will go a long way towards helping you find the right printer for your needs.
If you are in the market looking for a 3D printer, why not get the very best? The Form 1+ by Formlabs is the latest model by the manufacturer whose Form 1 was one of the most funded 3D Printer on Kickstarter made for professional creators. It was developed by graduates of MIT and is quite different from other type of printer as it uses stereolithography to produce 3D prints using liquid resin.
The Form1+ is just as beautifully designed machine that has improved a lot in terms of reliability. PreForm, their prosperity software provides an excellent working environment to stay within their ecosystem.
With the Form 1+ you are able to get faster, easier, and more detailed 3D prints which you are unable to do with low end consumer printers, you don’t need to perform any calibration and can get going in as little as 15 minutes. Due to its professional grade output, we recommend it to professionals, designers and architects.
If you are looking for a 3D Printer that will fit in your budget, here are our picks for the 10 best 3D Printers.
The Monoprice Select is probably the cheapest 3D printer on the market. Although it lacks the advanced properties of more expensive 3D printers, it is an ideal model for anyone just getting into 3D printing. Thanks in part to its low cost, the Monoprice Select is currently the best-selling 3D printer on Amazon.
One of the things that stood out about this printer is its versatility. The printer supports any type of filament, from ABS to conductive PLA and composite wood and metal. The printer is compact enough to fit on a standard office desk and ships fully assembled, so you can print from this device right out of the package. The printer comes with a sample filament for use, as well as a few pre-installed models for testing.
The printer is compatible with both Apple and PC products. It works with both MicroSD and MicroUSB. A bed scraper and leveling hex wrench are also included. This printer is not going to cut it for professional use, but if you are a beginner or a student, this is a great 3D printer to learn on.
Winner of the 2014 CES Editors’ Choice Award for the Most Affordable 3D Printer, the da Vinci 1.0 is a perfect entry level printer for anyone who wants to have their first taste of 3D printing and that too without breaking a bank.
It is a plug-and-play, easy to use 3D Printer that you can use right out of the box, just install the filament cartridges and you are ready to go. It works on Fused Filament Fabrication technology, using the most widely used plastic filament material types: ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PLA (Polylactic acid), making it really affordable by keeping the running costs low.
The fully-enclosed design makes it very safe for beginners and hobbyists as it protects the users from the high temperatures required to print, and ensures that no external filament movement occurs. The price point, easy of use, and safety makes it a really great choice for an entry level 3D Printer.
Like the Dremel Idea, this X-One 3D Printer is a good-choice for a mid-level 3D printer. Constructed from durable double-thick metal and supported by an aluminum platform build, the printer uses standard 1.75 mm filament to power your printing.
Compatible with both Windows and Apple OS, and printing available through USB or micoSD, there are a lot of ways to use this printer. It comes with a 3.5 inch touch-screen, which makes it easier to operate the printer software for your printing needs.
The printer ships with a 1-kilogram roll of PLA filament to get your printing started. The printer supports both ABS and PLA filaments. The printer is intuitive and easy to use, and is a great choice for artists and hobbyists. The X-One is not really powerful enough for professional use, but it is a great printer for simpler needs.
The Dremel Idea 3D Printer recently struck partnership with HP and has become a printer of choice for their latest Sprout Computer which is world’s first fully integrated desktop 3D scanner.
This shows that the Dremel is definitely a printer to buy if you want to build something functional or for fun. It comes with pre-installed extruder which means you can start using it right out-of-box.
The software allows for customization of 3D models and the best part is that using the onboard software, you can use it as standalone printer, simply insert the SD Card and use the on screen touch panel to select the model file and start the build.
Dremel works with their own filaments that are specifically engineered to optimize printing in the Idea Builder. The community is great and has an open system that lets you download free, print-ready models from dremel3d.com. Overall It is a well rounded machine and well suited for hobbyists, students, and educators alike and with partnership with HP, it certainly is a must-have 3D printer for students.
LulzBot Mini is an extremely reliable, easy to use, and a high performance desktop 3D printer that has been reviewed and rated by leading industry publications like ReadWrite, Mashable, and Make Magazine as one of the best printers out there. PC Magazine awarded their “Editor’s Choice” award for mid-range 3D Printers to the LulzBot Mini.
Needless to say, if you are looking for something under this price range then definitely consider it as it is very beginner friendly. Every print starts with a nozzle cleaning and self-leveling that ensures a clean and perfectly level foundation for the prints.
You can use a number of materials with the Lulzbot Mini, they recommend HIPS but you can use other options like Nylon, ABS, PLA, and T-Glase or other materials including wood or stone which makes it excellent for artists but also great for home use, commercial prototyping, education and research purposes.
All LulzBot products use Free Software so you can use the software of your choice and the open source hardware means you can hack it to you use any way you like from using new software packages to new experimental materials.
Sindoh’s DP200 is a pretty powerful mid-range 3D Printer with a lot of awesome features. Unlike many 3D printers that have complicated filament changes, the 3DWOX has an extremely easy process. Just like swapping out ink cartridges in a traditional printer, all you have to do is remove the old cartridge and insert the new one.
The 3DWOX makes it easier to print with their assisted bed leveling, that keep make it easier to keep your bed level so your prints turn out right. Remote monitoring on a mobile smartphone app makes it easy to keep track of all your printing work, so you don’t have to remain by the printer the entire time.
Powerful and intuitive desktop software makes it easier to design amazing models for expert results. The software also guides you in the printing process, helping you to achieve better results while simultaneously guiding you and improving your abilities.
Sindoh’s have 50 years of printer experience and they bring that experience to the fore with the 3DWOX, helping you to take your art to a new level. This printer provides everything an artist needs to learn the ways of 3D printing, and it is also a good entry-level choice for professionals.
The Creator Pro by FlashForge is one of a kind open source 3D printer that is a setup up from the original wooden framed 3D printer. It has a solid design with sturdy metal frame and an all-new build platform that is redesigned to provide stable vertical movements and better quality prints as the platform can now withstand high temperature.
The Creator Pro is more stable, uses dual extruder, and provides up to 60% increase in print speed compared to its predecessor. It prints using ABS, PLA, nylon, dissolvable filament, and even composite materials such as wood and metal.
It offers best value for money compared with other 3D printers at higher price points and offers a balance between ease of use and complexity to be able to build professional level prints.
It is considered a very reliable and consistent printer with good precision and countless possibilities as it an open source printer that continuously upgrades with the help of Maker Community so you evolve with it.
The MakerGear M2 is the 3rd generation 3D printer produced by MakerGear and one of the highest rated and reliable printers we’ve come across during our research.
It is built on a solid and rigid Steel Frame, making it very sturdy which is very useful for printing things quickly. It is very modular and open designed so you can tweak the machine with interchangeable nozzles and parts. There are no Proprietary Filament Cartridges to be used with MakerGear M2 so you can pick any type of PLA or ABS material and use it with this 3D printer.
While it is not the quietest of all, the overall build volume definitely gives you more room to play. The high precision rails and quality components in a well-calibrated machine will produces high quality prints right out of the box and will be a lot of fun to use.
Having said that, it is not one of the most easiest printers to use but even if you have a minimal experience working with 3D Printers, this printer will be a setup up for you and we recommend it to professionals who have intermediate to advance experience.
LulzBot TAZ 5 is built on the open source RepRap Project, a British initiative to make 3D printers easily accessible for everyone by making them affordable.
It is a dream machine for the tinkers and adventurers as the open source hardware gives you the freedom to adapt and modify the printer e.g. it has a modular tool head design so you can interchange different print heads to work with a range of printing filament materials like PLA, ABS, HIPS, PET (T-glaze), Polycarbonate, Nylon, Wood-filled PLA, Metal-filled PLA, NinjaFlex, and SemiFlex TPU (with optional Flexystruder tool head.
Most of these material options are not available with other 3D Printers which makes it a great option for people who are really passionate about using this printer for their craft and play with different materials.
It has a software configurable print bed and hot end so you can increase the heat to 300°C (572°F) for the metal hot end and up to 120°C (248°F) for the print bed.
The Zortax M200 tops the chart when it comes to a well-built reliable 3D Printer under $2500. If you are paying that much for a printer, you definitely need something that not only performs well but lasts longer too.
It was first launched in 2013 through a crowdfunding platform and has been able to build a strong and loyal user base thanks to its aluminum body and rigid structure with features like auto-platform leveling and a system of dual X and Y axis provide precise calibration and printing.
It is very easy to use and rated highly in “Plug-n-Play” category, offers no customization, and uses their own specialized material only which you can find online. But overall, the printer is easy to use and produce reliable and accurate prints which is what makes this a great bargain at this price point.
Winner of “reddot design award” MarketBot Replicator offers the ease of use and connectivity for all your 3D printing needs in 2015, which means you can connect to the printer with your smartphone, tablet, or a desktop computer. It has a full color 3.5 LCD Display with an intuitive control dial for a rich user experience.
It has an on-board camera inside the printer so you once you initiate the printing process, you can go anywhere and remotely monitor the progress using MakerBot mobile app available for both android and iOs.
In terms of print quality, the quality is unmatched thanks MakerBot Replicator 3D Printing Platform. It uses a custom MakerBot PLA Filament and makes a very consumer friendly 3D Printer. We recommend this to everyone, especially professionals and tech geeks who will appreciate the extra features packed within this printer and reliability.
The Ultimaker 2 Extended is a beast of a machine, a true professional 3D Printer for fraction of the cost compared to other commercial printers costing anywhere from $10K – $100K.
Folks who are looking for a multi functional and a robust desktop 3D printer, the Ultimaker 2 Extended is where it is at. As they say on the website, “Bigger in every way, the Ultimaker 2 Extended gives you all the space you need to print larger, more complex objects. And with its jaw-dropping speed, reliability and 20 micron definition, every print measures up to expectation.”
With Ultimaker 2 Extended you can expect high precision and reliability when using this printer. It has an open source hardware and software so if you are an advance user, you’ll love the product. The active discussion forum, which has a variety of resources and tutorials, is a big reason for Ultimaker 2’s success which is great because when you are working with a technology like this, you need the support and help from others who are on the same path as yourself.
The thing which we love the most about it is that it is super silent and has a heated platform which does not need any adjustment. Their Cura software is very intuitive and great for both newbies who want everything setup for them and for experts who want to tinker with advanced settings.
There isn’t any 3D Printer better than this in this price range which is ideal for professionals, be it aviation, medical, architecture, or industrial design. It uses PLA, ABS, and CPE Filament materials, all of which are easily available here.
If you are looking to invest in a 3D Printer, the Formlabs Form 1+ stands apart from the rest with its innovative approach to 3D printing. Obviously, not everyone is looking for such an expensive model, which is why we have included so many other choices for you for all price ranges and needs. The important thing is to consider what you hope to accomplish with the printer and which one will best suit your needs.
Do share in the comments below and let us know which 3D Printer you liked the most. As always, your feedback is greatly appreciated.