Like any new and innovative technology, 3D printing is the latest thing to excite anyone who loves easy-to-use interactive technology. You’ve heard several notable things about 3D printers and what you can do with them.
Today, thousands of different 3D printer models are available on the market. But most people have the concern that which 3D printer should buy?
In order to answer this question, we have written this 3D printer buying guide. In this guide, we’ve made it simple for you to find a good 3D printer from the most popular brands of 3D printing.
This user experience based guide deals with print quality, build quality, reliability, ease of use, print failure rate, customer service, community, running cost, software, and value. Before start purchasing, one should think about what and how often you want to 3D print. Here’s your best guide in a nutshell:
#Question- How to Buy a 3D Printer
What to Look For
- Printing speed is crucial, so it’s recommended to look at the printing speed. Some 3D printing projects take hours because complex models with lots of edges can result in slow prints. So if you want quick printing, look for a top speed of at least 20 millimeters per second.
- Some printers come as kits that need assembling. Although some machines have a lot of parts, only a person with basic mechanical knowledge can easily put them together. So you can go with a fully assembled 3D printer.
- Most models have single extruders for the filaments, which can only print one material or one color at a time. When purchasing your printer, consider the filament widths which are available in two widths: 1.75 millimeters and 3 millimeters.
- For a decent-sized 3D printer, one should look for a build area of at least 5 x 5 x 5 inches and 13 x 13 x 13 cm. Also, consider the resolutions of 3D printers when purchasing your printer
3D Printing Techniques
There are various types of 3D printers and printing processes available, similar to that of the 2D printers we’re so familiar with.
Nowadays, there are nine major 3D printing technologies.
- Stereolithography (SLA)
- Digital Light Processing (DLP)
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
- Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
- Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)
- Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)
- Binder Jetting (BJ)
- Material Jetting (MJ)
As you probably want to buy an economical 3D printer, there are just two consumer 3D printer types which are relevant and most popular: FDM and SLA. Let’s have a look-
FDM 3D Printer
FDM is the most popular 3D printing technique used in desktop 3D printing. A thermoplastic filament is heated and extruded through the nozzle and onto the base in X and Y coordinates, while the building board diminishes the object layer by layer in the Z direction.
FDM printers are the least expensive machines for product development and rapid prototyping in small business and education sectors. These type of printers are capable of fabricating robust parts reliably and quickly. They use the quality of interesting materials.
If you want to buy an FDM 3D printer, you can decide from a variety of brands, there are many companies to choose from and prices vary from $300 to $5000.
SLA 3D Printer
Stereolithography (SLA) is an additive manufacturing method that relates to the Vat Photopolymerization. It works by exposing a coating of photosensitive liquid resin to a UV-laser beam so that the resin hardens and converts solid. In SLA, the laser has swept a layer of resin in the desired pattern.
After that, it begins to harden and the model-building platform in the liquid tank of the printer steps down the thickness of a single layer, and the laser starts to form the next layer. Every layer is built on top of the preceding one.
Like the FDM 3D printer technology, The objects with projections of 3D printed with this type of printer will require support structures similar to FDM 3D printer technology. And the object must be rinsed with a solvent after printing has completed. Most of the times it’s also baked in a UV oven to finish processing. SLA creates smooth surfaced objects with extreme details.
Furthermore, the excellent finishes are achieved when the designer takes advantage of the benefits and limitations of the manufacturing process. It has several common characteristics with Direct Light Processing (DLP), another Vat Photopolymerization 3D printing technology.
Moreover, it is widely popular in industries like jewelry and cosmetic dentistry for creating castable patterns. The cost of an SLA 3D printer is between $3000 and $10,000.
Categories of 3D Printing
We can see the market roughly split into the four most common categories of 3D printing. Here we’re explaining most popular models based on different categories.
In our Prosumer, printers come with more professionals looks. These have an exceptional build quality that can produce high-quality parts, reliably. 3D printers in this category are best suited for professional designers and small businesses.
- Ultimaker 3 Extended
The Ultimaker 3 Extended is a very reliable printer capable of running print after print with little to no maintenance. Using Ultimakers’ free Cura software users can slice models using optimised material profiles and send them to print wirelessly over wifi. After which users can watch their print live from the cura software using the UM3 Extended in-built camera.
The UM3 Extended offers swappable “print cores” optimized for build or soluble support materials. Also, boasts a unique lift switch which raises the second nozzle when not in use so that it does not interfere with the print.
Moreover, it offers auto-bed leveling this with the auto-bed leveling, the UM3 Extended package comes in at a high cost of $4,295.
- Raise3D N2
Raise3D N2 machine comes with excellent build quality, a repeatedly highlighted feature. It offers the resume feature so if your print does fail or you have an unfortunate power outage you can utilize the machines print. With its large build volume, you can create big prototypes or multiple parts in one print.
Moreover, the Raise3D N2 works straight out of the box and a great choice for those looking to create engineering-grade prototypes or parts on a desktop machine. It comes with a fully enclosed design for improved safety when printing in materials such as ABS in an office environment.
- Form 2
Form 2 from Formlabs remains the solution for users that require highly accurate 3D prints and uses a sliding peel mechanism to gently remove the object from the print bed. It also comes equipped with an automatic resin system that ensures that the amount of resin within the tank is always stable.
Form 2 offers really high on print quality, build quality, and precision. The running cost of form 2 can slowly add up as their standard liquid resin used for printing is priced at $149 per liter.
Form 2 comes with a price tag of $3,499 continues to be a reliable desktop SLA machine and its high-end industrial counterparts starting at $100,000.
These printers are for those users looking for robust machines that can print nonstop with minimal print failure. Workhorse printers manufactured with reliability and are open to slight modifications and tinkering.
- Original Prusa i3 MK2S
The Original Prusa i3 MK2S adds a bunch of useful features on top of the original design to keep the machine endlessly running. One of the most impressive features of this printer is It’s thickness, custom PCB heater with a thin PEI foil on top.
Moreover, they introduced new hardware to combat this in the form of better bearings and rods so that when in use they run more smoothly and more quietly. The MK2S is a true workhorse and its price starting at $724.79 in kit form.
- Makergear M2
The Makergear M2 is a precise and reliable 3D printer and owes its reliability to a solid steel frame and aluminum construction. it offers a heated platform for printing in both PLA and ABS.
Maintenance of these printers is easy and a swappable dual-extruder upgrade gives this printer its modular nature.
Moreover, it’s open-source electronics and firmware allow users to adjust and tweak this machine to their liking. The price of M2 is starting at $1,825.00 and delivers reliability and quality.
- LulzBot TAZ 6
The Lulzbot TAZ 6 is also a workhorse printer that comes equipped with the v2 Hot End, capable of printing in a wide variation of materials ranging from normal purpose plastics to conductive ABS, Nylon, Polycarbonates and Alloy 910.
Furthermore, the TAZ 6 is a reliable 3D printer recommended for intermediates and professionals looking to increase their technical knowledge and tinkering capabilities. Its price starts at $2,500.
Plug ‘n’ Play:
In this category, printers are capable of printing straight out of the box with minimal setup. These printers come with the easiest to use and good printing quality.
- CraftBot PLUS
An excellent slicing software of CraftBot PLUS comes with a heated platform. Also, presents to its reliability and gives this printer the ability to print in more exotic FDM materials such as the metal or wood filled PLA’s.
Preparing your models for printing with CraftBot PLUS is a breeze and featuring a color touch screen that is responsive and easy to navigate. Moreover, CraftUnique support team widely known for their fast and professional response.
- FlashForge Finder
The FlashForge Finder is a small size 3D printer for new users and educators. It offers a built-in distance sensor combined with the easy-to-follow guide instruction on the LCD touchscreen.
Flashforge Finder’s compact frame makes it easy to transport and stand out amongst other machines. It is one of the best Plug ‘n’ Play printers that can continually produce quality PLA prints. An excellent beginners machine that eases you into the world of 3D printing.
- Zortrax M200
In 2013, Zortrax launched the Kickstarter campaign for the M200. The Zortrax M200 comes with the ability to print straight out of the box with almost no time needed for calibration. It offers best print quality, reliability and value for money.
Moreover, the Zortrax M200 is a real Plug ‘n’ Play machine that produces reliable and accurate prints without the need to dive deep into multiple control settings. With an approx 97% recommendation level from current owners, the M200 is great for beginners and experts alike. It’s also affordable, coming fully assembled with a full range of accessories for just over $2,000.
SLS is one of the most used industrial 3D printing technologies, has been chosen as the final category. Selective Laser Sintering makes use of a laser to blend layers of powdered material together into finished objects.
- Formiga P 110
The Formiga P 110 offers more cost-effective low volume printing whilst keeping the quality standards top notch using the well-optimized Laser sintering process by EOS. The most general polyamide materials are also chosen for their recyclability. As a result, the prices are reduced even further while still producing high-quality functional prototypes and components.
Moreover, the EOS P 110 is rated highly in its class and has many applications for experts and professionals in the aerospace, automotive and industrial fields. With the approach to the most general PA materials this industrial SLS printer is top of its class as the highest rated machine.
Where to Buy a 3D Printer
If you want to buy a 3D printer, a lot of options are available, where you can choose easily. Here are some platforms to buy a 3D printer:
Buy a 3D Printer from Amazon
Amazon is an excellent platform for buying 3D printers. They offer lightning-fast delivery, have most models in stock, and you can count on their reliability and eagerness.
However, remember that 3D printer manufacturers don‘t sell their printers through Amazon – but you can purchase most of the 3D printer models directly from the manufacturers.
Buy a 3D Printer For Less Money
If you want to spend less money, you still can get a great 3D printer – check this list of the best affordable 3D printers.
Best Cheap 3D Printers Priced Under $200, $500 & $1000
|3D Printer||Filament Types||Build Volume (mm)||Where to Buy|
|Creality Ender 3||PLA, ABS, Exotics||220 x 220 x 250||Buy now on Amazon|
|Alfawise U20||PLA, ABS, Exotics||300 x 300 x 400mm||Buy now on GearBest|
|Geeetech A10||PLA, ABS, Exotics||220 x 220 x 260||Buy now on Amazon|
|Anycubic Photon||SLA / DLP resin||115 x 65 x 155||Buy now on Amazon|
|TEVO Nereus||PLA, ABS, Exotics||320 x 320 x 400||Buy now on Amazon|
|Anet E10||PLA, ABS, Exotics||220 x 270 x 300||Buy now on Amazon|
|Wanhao Duplicator D7||SLA / DLP resins||120 x 68 x 180||Buy now on Amazon|
|Creality CR-10||PLA, ABS, Exotics||300 x 300 x 400||Buy now on Amazon|
|Anet E12||PLA, ABS, Exotics||300 x 300 x 400||Buy now on Amazon|
|BIQU Magician||PLA, ABS, Exotics||100 diameter x 150||Buy now on Amazon|
|Anycubic i3 Mega||PLA, ABS, Exotics||210 x 210 x 205||Buy now on Amazon|
|Anycubic Mega-S||PLA, ABS, Exotics||210 x 210 x 205||Buy now on Amazon|
|TEVO Flash||PLA, ABS, Exotics||235 x 235 x 250||Buy now on Amazon|
Also, you can always buy a second-hand 3D printer. Here are some second-hand 3D printers:
Buy a 3D Printer on Kickstarter
If you’re just beginning in the wild and wonderful world of 3D printing, properly avoid from backing a great looking, dead cheap 3D printer at Kickstarter or Indiegogo. First, you won’t get immediate satisfaction and will have to wait many months (if not years) until the printer arrives. Second, it’s a bit risky in buying a 3D printer through crowdfunding.
Furthermore, a Kickstarter 3D printer can be a great way of getting a cutting-edge 3D printer. Also, several excellent 3D printing companies are available on Kickstarter.
The Bottom line- Additional info:
There’re many things to consider when it comes to 3D printing. Here, we’re providing you some resources that will help you to understand 3D printing better:
- 3D Printer- Questions Answeres
- 3D Printing Troubleshooting: Common Problems
- Most Important 3D Printing Terminology
If you have any query related to buying a 3D printer, please let us know in the comments. We have published another article on printer buying guide, must read that.