As a follow up to our guide on 3d printing, we thought we’d dig through all the different 3d printers out there and lay out the pricing as well as specs. There’s been an explosion in 3d printing (cooler name than what it used to be referred to which was rapid prototyping). Here we go!
First up: what we looked for in terms of criteria
We’ll be focusing on finding the best home 3d printer in terms of price. From what we’ve seen you can get a 3d printer for as low as $300 all the way up to $3500 for your home. There are a few picks we really like in the sub $500 range, but there are some good picks if you’re willing to splash out.
We’ll also take a look at costs of materials. Some resins that come with these machines are upwards of $150-$200 a bottle. This may quickly negate the savings you may get froma cheap 3d printer to start.
Printable area/ size
This is important. The printable area. Of course you could always split up your 3d file and print in multiple parts then glue together later on. However having a good working area is going to make things a lot easier. Typically looking for anything over 100 mm x 100 mm x 100 mm would be a good start, and a good size for home use.
We will need to take a look at the tolerances for each machine. Some go as fine as 50 microns (0.05mm) or 25 microns (0.025mm), which is a very fine resolution and sufficient for home use without having to refinish too much by hand. e.g. getting something that is too rough and having to sand it back.
On the opposite side to this you want a printer that has a good upper range in terms of tolerance so the printer can build faster. We’ll look into that soon.
Ease of use
Does the machine have to be assembled? Does the machine have to be calibrated? Lots of 3d printing machines take a bit of set-up time, this can take days to get built and calibrated right. There are some 3d printers like the Form 1+, Buccaneer and the M3D that all have enclosed working areas, so assembly and calibration is almost non-existent.
Often cheap 3d printers come with crappy support and warranty. With a lot of the made in China stuff, trying to get warranty support is difficult, and new parts cost a fortune (It would be bad-ass if you can print common parts that break).
Because we’re going to be looking into home-use 3d printers, the cost of a 3d printer will also have to balance out on service. Personally, I like to deal with more reputable companies that give a good warranty, especially in the cnc/ 3d printing space.
Price: sub $1000, approx. $900
Build area: 9″ x 5.9″ x 5.5″
The Dremel Idea builder is a solid choice at just under $1000. Aside from great customer service, the filament is only $30 for different colors for 0.5kg spool weight which means your printing in terms of material is going to be very cost effective.
Full color touch screen with on-board software so you can use this standalone if need be. Seems a bit gimmicky as everyone has a computer/ tablet these days to plug in.
Price: Sub $500, 450 for the retail version (has 1 year warranty, and 1 filament bottle) pretty damn good!
Print resolution: 50 to 350 microns
Build area: 109mm x 113mm at the base, but reduced to 91mm x 84mm above a height of 74mm, for a total height of 116mm
The M3D is a huge new up and comer. The M3D is now available to the masses direct from their website. While the overall size is somewhat small, for the price of under $500. In order to get this at such a low price at a good quality the printer’s footprint is much smaller than some of the other models mentioned here. If you’re okay with the size, then the fact that this is a fully enclosed unit that requires almost no set-up, then this may just be your top pick!
Price: Between $2000 to $3000, now at $2799
Print resolution: 25 to 200 microns
Build area: 125×125×165 mm
The Form 1+ is a slick looking 3d printer, is not on the large size, so slightly larger than the Micro, but not as big as the Dremel or MakerBot. What makes the Form1+ really stand out is its ease of use. You can easily plug in a usb and just go ahead and print – no computer necessary!
However due to the price, we can’t help but wonder that maybe if this feature wasn’t present, the unit would be cheaper buy a good amount. Everyone has as tablet, smartphone or computer – so for the machine to not require one is kind of obsolete – but we do get the idea of giving people options for easy printing.
Price: Under $1000, now at $799
Print resolution: goes down to 50 microns
Build area: 130 x 96 x 139mm
The Buccaneer probably competes with the M3D (Micro 3D) the most at the sub $1000 price-point. It is more expensive however, but this is because one of thee cool features is the UI. The user interface can be done all through a phone app. Now that’s pretty cool – being able to sit back on your couch and create objects that can be sent to print on your networked 3d printer is now a reality.
The Buccaneer just looks bad-ass. With super sleek lines and a stamped stainless steel frame, the build quality is just amazing and will look really good on top of your desk/ table.
What we don’t recommend:
Price: Between $2000 and $2000, approx $2600
Build Area: 25.2 L x 19.9 W x 15.0 H cm
Filament: MakerBot PLA Filament
Other features: Wi-fi, lcd interface, camera
The Makerbot is a solid machine in the $2-$3000 range, but we can’t recommend this due to the tidal wave of bad reviews out there. There are reports of really poor customer service and the extruder having issues. The extruder nozzle seems to clog often if you are refilling the filament often – which is unavoidable for different colors and textures.
As you can see there is no one best 3d printer out there. It all depends on your budget and what you plan on 3d printing. For sub $500 the Micro 3D is the way to go. Beyond that the Dremel Idea Builder and Buccaneer offer compelling options.
Which 3d printer do you think is the best?