3D printing reviews


The 4 Best 3D Printers for 2022

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Photo: Sarah Kobos

UpdatedSep 2022

Updates

We’ve updated this guide to include the Artillery Sidewinder X2 as a pick, revised the Prusa Mini+ and Prusa i3 MK3S+ sections with new details, and added a section discussing Ender-3 printers.

What can you make with a 3D printer? Almost anything you want—from vases to GoPro mounts to phone cases—provided you don’t mind that it’s made out of plastic. Whether you’re a tinkerer interested in prototyping or a tabletop-gaming enthusiast seeking to expand your arsenal of miniatures, a 3D printer might be the manufacturing tool you need. We recommend the Prusa Mini+ printer because it’s the most reliable printer we’ve tested, and we find it to be an especially good value at $400 or so. It’s also easy to use and relatively inexpensive to operate.

Our pick

Prusa Mini+

This printer consistently cranked out high-quality prints in our tests and has a huge print volume.

The consistency and the thoughtfully chosen, repairable parts of the Prusa Mini+ will please more advanced users who need a dependable 3D-printing machine. It’s also a bargain, with unusual features at this price such as a large, 7-by-7-by-7-inch printing area (also known as the print volume, or the total space you can print within) and a color display, as well as 24/7 customer support. Prusa printers are the quietest models we’ve tested, too, and they’re compatible with a wide range of plastic types.

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Upgrade pick

Prusa i3 MK3S+

This model offers the reliability and quality of a Prusa printer plus the largest print volume available.

The Prusa i3 MK3S+ is a worthy upgrade from the Mini+ for its 9.9-by-8.3-by-8.3-inch printing area, more stable z-axis, and better extruder. It comes with parts that are likely to last longer (though no color screen as on the Mini+) and an upgraded motherboard that can better detect and correct errors while the machine is printing. Its setup is also faster and easier than that of the Mini+.

Budget pick

Monoprice MP Cadet

The MP Cadet is cheap, reliable, and small enough to fit on any desk.

If you’re a total beginner who doesn’t want to invest too much, or if you’re looking for a printer that’s safer for children to use (similar machines are advertised for kids as young as 8), the Monoprice MP Cadet might be a better option. In our testing, it consistently turned out flawless (though less detailed) prints as long as the designs weren’t too complex. It has a small, desk-friendly footprint. It’s also less than half the price of the Prusa Mini+, but it doesn’t offer as many features or produce the same level of detail, and it has a smaller, 3. 9-by-4.1-by-3.9-inch print volume.

Also great

Artillery Sidewinder X2

This model is best for larger or taller printing jobs, such as cosplay or art pieces.

If you’re trying to print a sci-fi helmet or custom shelving brackets, a larger printer allows you to make the entire part in one shot rather than splitting it into smaller components and gluing them together. The print bed of the Artillery Sidewinder X2, an 11.8-inch square with a height of 15.7 inches, gives you a lot more room for bigger jobs. This model also offers easy setup and an intuitive menu, and in our tests it produced fantastic prints.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

Prusa Mini+

This printer consistently cranked out high-quality prints in our tests and has a huge print volume.

Upgrade pick

Prusa i3 MK3S+

This model offers the reliability and quality of a Prusa printer plus the largest print volume available.

Budget pick

Monoprice MP Cadet

The MP Cadet is cheap, reliable, and small enough to fit on any desk.

Also great

Artillery Sidewinder X2

This model is best for larger or taller printing jobs, such as cosplay or art pieces.

The research

  • Why you should trust us
  • Who should get this
  • What you should know about 3D printers
  • How we picked
  • How we tested
  • Our pick: Prusa Mini+
  • Upgrade pick: Prusa i3 MK3S+
  • Budget pick: Monoprice MP Cadet
  • Also great: Artillery Sidewinder X2
  • Care and maintenance
  • What about the Ender-3 and other Creality printers?
  • What to look forward to
  • The competition
  • Sources

Why you should trust us

Dave Gershgorn is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter and an avid 3D-printing enthusiast. He has printed through dozens of rolls of filament, has owned multiple printers, and has designed custom 3D-printable models for home improvement, product testing, and cosplay. His current personal printers are the Prusa i3 MK3S+ and the Elegoo Mars 3.

Signe Brewster has been researching, studying, and testing 3D printers for tech publications including Gigaom, TechCrunch, and now Wirecutter since 2013. She has printed hundreds of 3D models, and through that experience she has learned how to spot the annoyances that can come with using an emerging technology.

In the course of researching this guide, we interviewed several 3D-printing experts, including Sean Charlesworth, a 3D-printing specialist for Tested, and Justin Kelly, an entrepreneur who founded LaserGnomes and Proto House.

Who should get this

People who need to quickly make prototypes or custom plastic parts can get the most mileage out of a 3D printer. These machines are also useful tools for anyone who likes tinkering or teaching children about STEM concepts. You can find plenty of downloadable designs online at 3D-model libraries such as Thingiverse. The range of possibilities is even wider if you know how to use CAD (computer-aided design) software. And anyone can work with a 3D printer: Most printers are easy enough to use that a child (with adult supervision) can print any of the endless variety of toy designs available.

What you should know about 3D printers

Be warned that no 3D printer is unbreakable. A day will come when you’ll need to replace a part or get your hands dirty in some other way. Replacement parts are available for the Prusa Mini+ and MK3S+, but not all 3D printers are equally easy to fix. You might want to avoid 3D printing altogether if you aren’t confident that you’d be able to perform a minor repair on the equivalent of a household appliance.

Prospective buyers should also be aware that the 3D-printing industry is in a constant state of upheaval. MakerBot, which was long considered the frontrunner among home 3D printers, stopped marketing to hobbyists and home users several years ago in order to focus on commercial and educational institutions. Many of the printers we have tested have come and gone within the span of a year or two. So it’s not out of the question that you might someday find yourself without much support from the company that made your printer. It’s also possible that a new breakthrough will suddenly leave you with outdated technology.

In addition, a 3D printer brings health and environmental concerns. When a printer melts plastic as part of the extrusion process, it releases volatile organic compounds and other particulates. The CDC recommends (PDF) using printers in a “negatively pressured area with a dedicated ventilation system,” which is not a feature found in your average home. It’s a good idea to weigh how comfortable you are with exposure to some fumes before buying.

On the environmental side of things, consider that you’re investing in a machine that works primarily with plastics. It’s possible to recycle or compost certain types of 3D-printed plastics (polylactic acid, or PLA, being the most sustainable of the common varieties), but the process can be complicated. There’s also the option to invest in a spendy recycling system of your own.

How we picked

The Monoprice Maker Select v2 at work. Video: Signe Brewster

We turned to articles from 3D Hubs, Make, PCMag, and Tom’s Guide, plus customer reviews on sites like Amazon, to develop a short list of the best 3D printers for beginners. We then interviewed our experts on what to look for in a printer.

You could spend anywhere from $200 to $1 million on a 3D printer. The best options for hobbyists are priced at $1,000 or less. As with any piece of technology, printers in different price ranges offer different mixes of features. Printers really do get better the more you spend—and sometimes they’re also easier to use. Some higher-priced machines offer specialty features such as dual-color printing or a webcam for monitoring your print remotely, while other expensive units are known for their exceptional reliability.

We skipped 3D printer kits, which are less expensive but require a great deal of assembly, in favor of machines that print good-looking parts straight out of the box with as little maintenance required as possible.

No matter what price range you’re considering, we’ve concluded that the best 3D printers offer the following features:

  • High-quality prints: Without too much tweaking, the printer should put out smooth-looking models with layers that are 0.1 mm or thinner and barely visible.
  • Easy-to-use hardware: Even a complete beginner should be able to put the printer together, load filament, start a print, and remove a finished model from the print bed. The bed should also level itself or be simple to level manually (a sloping print bed can cause printing errors).
  • Ample connectivity options: Ideally, you should be able to start a print over Wi-Fi or transfer the file over a USB cable. Loading files onto an SD card that you plug into the printer is also okay. A design that requires you to keep a computer tethered to the printer at all times via USB is a serious flaw but not necessarily a dealbreaker.
  • Intuitive software: Beginners should be able to jump right into using a printer’s software, including making adjustments to models before printing. The software should come preloaded with print settings but provide options for more experienced users to fine-tune. It’s a big plus if a printer is compatible with Ultimaker Cura, which has become somewhat of an industry standard and a favorite of ours.
  • Large-enough print volume: It would be nice to have the ability to print objects as large as you want, but the reality is that most models found in libraries like Thingiverse are designed for small 3D-printer beds, with workarounds for combining several printed pieces to create a larger object. As a result, beginners need only a print bed that’s large enough to print models about the size of a small tissue box.
  • Heated bed: Heated beds prevent prints from warping, help models stick to the print bed, and allow you to print using a wider range of materials. (ABS, one of the two most common types of plastic used for 3D printing, and other materials shrink as they cool. Without a heated bed, you are limited to PLA, the other main type of plastic.)
  • Compatibility with any brand of filament: Some companies embed chips in the spools of plastic that feed into their 3D printers, requiring you to buy refills directly from the printer manufacturer. Proprietary filament is generally more expensive, and if the company that makes it goes out of business, you won’t be able to use the printer.
  • Suited to everyday life: The machine should look at home sitting on a desk. Ideally, it isn’t too big or heavy, and it’s relatively quiet so you can’t hear it from every corner of the house. Although some printers are marginally faster than others, large prints can take days; even small prints take hours. A quiet printer is much easier to live with. Printers should also be able to print in polylactic acid, or PLA, plastic. While melting any type of plastic releases volatile organic compounds and other particulates into the air, the CDC considers PLA to be safer (PDF). PLA also has a sweet, inoffensive smell—still, it’s best for both children and adults to use a 3D printer in a well-ventilated room.
  • Enclosed printing chamber: Enclosing the print space keeps prints at a consistent temperature to prevent warping and other printing imperfections. It’s an especially good idea to have an enclosed chamber if you are printing with acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS—one of the two most popular printing materials—which is more prone to warping because it shrinks when it cools. Although enclosed printing chambers are nice to have, they’re not essential, and they’re actually fairly rare among inexpensive 3D printers.

How we tested

Photo: Signe Brewster

We time how long we take to get each printer from the box to set up on our desk, and we jot down notes on the initial software installation and navigation process. Then we get to printing. We allow each printer eight attempts to produce as many acceptable models as possible. We rate each print as either a success, a mediocre effort, or a failure. Successful prints look smooth, with no obvious imperfections. Mediocre prints have readily visible layers or imperfections but still look like a completed model. Failure takes many forms—everything from broken filament string that causes the print to stop to wild spaghetti-like misprints due to software or hardware errors.

Witness the terrifying results of two prints that did not stick to the Monoprice MP Cadet’s print bed correctly. Photo: Signe Brewster

Printers usually come with several models preloaded; we always start by printing one of these because they’re carefully optimized for the printer. Errors in these prints indicate that there is likely something wrong on the hardware end that we need to adjust. After the first successful print, we move on to designs we’ve found on Thingiverse. For our 2020 and 2021 testing, that group included “Low-Poly Bulbasaur” and “Low-Poly Charmander” by Thingiverse member flowalistik, “Curved honeycomb vase” by eggnot, and “Skull lamps - Voronoi Style” by shiuan. Our 2022 test added the “3DBenchy” model by CreativeTools and the “Nano All In One 3D printer test” from Printables member Steeveeet. These models had a range of detail, overhangs, and scale that would give us an impression of the printers’ strengths.

Almost any 3D printer is capable of putting out successful models—experienced users know (or can figure out) how to tweak settings and hardware to get such results. But beginners (or even intermediate users like us) aren’t as likely to know what to do or to care enough to spend time fine-tuning. For the purposes of our testing, we give the printers the basic care they need to function—an initial bed-level check combined with factory-recommended settings—but we don’t tweak the printer or software to get better prints unless something goes wrong.

We also note how many times we have to repair the printers, how often each machine needs its print bed leveled, and how difficult it is to remove completed models from the print bed. These are general issues that pop up for any tier of 3D printer, but some printers are better than others at reducing the time you have to spend cleaning and repairing them.

Our pick: Prusa Mini+

Photo: Sarah Kobos
Our pick

Prusa Mini+

This printer consistently cranked out high-quality prints in our tests and has a huge print volume.

The Prusa Mini+ offers the best overall 3D-printing experience thanks to its combination of print quality, reliability, and desk-appropriate size, all offered at a relatively low price. It produced some of the best-looking prints among the machines we tested, it works with a wide variety of filament brands and types, and it comes preassembled. (You can save some dough and buy a kit to assemble the Mini+ yourself instead, though we didn’t test kits because of the added skill involved.) Prusa printers are the quietest we’ve tested, which makes them especially bearable to work alongside in an office.

Across eight test prints, the Mini+ produced eight perfect models, the best result from any printer we’ve tested. It can print layers as thin as 0.05 mm, half the thickness that most of the printers we’ve tested can achieve. As a result, it prints objects that look especially glossy and smooth. Unlike with most of the other printers we’ve tested, we’ve never seen an obvious error in printed models from the Mini+.

We decided to use the free PrusaSlicer software program to prepare files for printing. We still prefer the detail packed into Ultimaker Cura, another free program compatible with a wide range of printer types, but we found PrusaSlicer easy to use and reliable in how it prepared files for the Mini+. It has plenty of customization options for the average 3D-printer owner.

We used a USB stick to transfer files from our computer to the printer, but Prusa has published a guide to a DIY upgrade that allows you to send files over Wi-Fi. Once you plug in the USB stick, you can use a knob to scroll through the menu and file list on the Mini+’s color screen, which we found to be much easier to parse than the blue and white, text-only screen of the Prusa i3 MK3S+.

Although the MK3S+ has a larger, 9.9-by-8.3-by-8.3-inch PEI print bed, the Mini+ is no slouch with its 7-by-7-by-7-inch print volume. (For an even larger print bed, check out our also-great pick, the Artillery Sidewinder X2.) Most free models you’ll find available on library websites like Thingiverse are made for this size of print bed, so it’s not often that you’ll max out its abilities. We were able to remove the bed and bend it to pop off prints, but usually we used a scraper and gentle pressure instead. The Mini+ isn’t flashy, but it’s especially practical. It automates as many quality checks as possible, so there’s less manual setup each time you print. It’s also built out of replaceable parts; that’s useful if you plan to run the printer continuously and want it to have as long a lifespan as possible. And Prusa’s printers are upgradable, whether you want to add nicer parts or swap in features from the latest printer.

The Mini+ can print in layers as thin as 0.05 mm, which aids in its ability to print finely detailed models. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Although the Mini+ is small enough to fit on a desk, it can still print models as large as 7 by 7 by 7 inches. Photo: Sarah Kobos

The Mini+ can print in layers as thin as 0.05 mm, which aids in its ability to print finely detailed models. Photo: Sarah Kobos

The Mini+ can print in standard plastics such as PLA and ABS, plus materials like nylon and wood blends. If you’re interested in even more exotic materials, the MK3S+ is a better choice. Prusa makes a line of reasonably priced filament in many types of materials that we have enjoyed using, but the Mini+ is compatible with filaments from other brands, too. We have used Hatchbox filaments with good results in other printers in the past, but we haven’t tested them on the Mini+.

The Mini+ has a decidedly old-school look among 3D printers. But we actually prefer its exposed components to the sleeker looking printers we’ve tested because the design makes the printer easier to repair.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

It took us just over an hour to assemble the “preassembled” version of the Mini+. That’s the longest process for any printer we’ve tested. From ensuring that we attached wires in the right place to fiddling with screws at awkward angles, the experience was more of a headache than we expected after the relatively easy assembly required for the MK3S+. The instructions are sometimes vague, so we recommend a close read. However, once we had the Mini+ assembled, it was quick and easy to get ready for printing.

Spending more on a 3D printer gets you, well, more: Touchscreen controls and the ability to print over Wi-Fi are two features we’ve enjoyed on more expensive printers. One benefit of using a USB stick instead of Wi-Fi is that you can save multiple prints to the stick at once; that way, when the first job finishes, you can remove the print and start the next one without having to go back to your computer. But we look forward to Prusa’s addition of Wi-Fi abilities in the future.

The Mini+ has a totally open design, which means that it releases the VOCs and particulates that it produces while using certain types of filament like ABS. You might notice a maple-syrup or plastic smell from the melting filament. If you’ll be using the machine in a home environment, it’s a good idea to use a “healthier” plastic such as PLA. It’s also a good idea to print at the lowest temperature possible for your chosen material; the lower the temperature, the less bad stuff the printer releases into the air. If you plan to spend time in the same room as a running 3D printer and don’t have a ventilated hood or HEPA air filter, turn on a fan or crack a window to improve ventilation (PDF). It’s also a good idea to wear gloves to prevent skin transfer.

Upgrade pick: Prusa i3 MK3S+

Photo: Signe Brewster
Upgrade pick

Prusa i3 MK3S+

This model offers the reliability and quality of a Prusa printer plus the largest print volume available.

The Prusa i3 MK3S+ offers the reliability and print quality of the Mini+ along with a larger print bed, a more stable design for greater printing detail, and a better extruder that can handle a wide array of materials. It also comes preassembled or in a DIY kit, though we found the preassembled kit much simpler to set up than the Mini+.

In eight test runs, the MK3S+ made five perfect prints, second only to the Mini+. Like the Mini+, it prints layers as thin as 0.05 mm, creating more detailed models than most competitors in its price range. Of the three jobs that were failures, two were due to setup error and one was due to a clog that we were able to resolve. Unlike with most of the other printers we tested, we never saw an obvious error in the printed models. The print quality of the MK3S+ can be attributed to its sturdy frame and dual z-axis lead screws, which keep layer lines tight and consistent.

It took 32 minutes for us to set up the MK3S+, about average for the printers we’ve tested. Our test unit came assembled, but we took some time to run through the initial setup wizard. Although most of the setup is automated, you should pay close attention during the bed-level calibration; using the knob next to the printer’s computer screen, you need to lower the print nozzle until it nearly touches the bed, slightly squishing the melted filament. We made some mistakes the first time we booted up the printer. We recommend carefully reading the messages on the screen while the setup wizard is running, as well as studying the printer’s instruction manual. The manual is wordy at times, but we prefer that to the minimal or confusing instructions that other printer makers tend to include.

Several software options are available for the MK3S+; we used Cura, downloaded directly from the Ultimaker website. Cura is compatible with a wide range of printers, so during setup you should pick the MK3S+ profile to ensure that the software is tailored to your machine. We’ve used Cura for years without issue. Beginners can start a print quickly, without much thought, or drill deeper into the settings in the software’s intuitive menus when they’re ready to do more fine-tuning. It’s also worth checking out PrusaSlicer, which, as the name implies, is Prusa’s version of slicing software; there, the company offers expertly tuned profiles for its printers and filaments, as well as helpful features like variable layer height based on where your model has the most detail. It also has great features for generating custom support material, which is like scaffolding around your print that helps your printer lay down material at gravity-defying angles. In PrusaSlicer you can “paint” the areas on your model where you want support material, and the slicer will build that scaffolding up from the build plate to meet those specific areas, making the print less prone to failure.

You can print on the MK3S+ over Wi-Fi directly from PrusaSlicer if you install a Raspberry Pi Zero W into your machine, or you can save your file to an SD card and insert it into the machine. Using a knob, you can scroll through the black-and-white menu on the MK3S+’s small screen to select which model you want to print. It isn’t the flashiest or most intuitive system, but it is similar to what you’ll find on most other $1,000 printers.

The MK3S+’s controller is functional but barebones. Higher-end printers often have color touchscreens. Photo: Signe Brewster

The MK3S+ has plenty of cool features, our favorite of which is the removable 9.9-by-8.3-by-8.3-inch PEI print bed. Its direct-drive extruder allows you to print with flexible filaments like TPU to make custom phone cases, for example, or rubbery feet for gadgets. The extruder also includes a filament-runout sensor, which automatically pauses a print if you don’t have enough filament to finish. And this machine is modular and built out of replaceable parts, so you can swap in the latest upgrades.

The MK3S+ can print using standard filaments such as ABS and PLA, as well as more interesting materials like nylon or those that contain carbon fiber. It’s compatible with a wider range of filaments than the Mini+ (its hotend, the structure that melts and extrudes plastic, can reach 572 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with the Mini+’s 536 degrees), though most people don’t need to take advantage of its more unusual filament options.

Although this machine doesn’t look as stylish as some of the other 3D printers we’ve tested, its 15-by-17-inch footprint is small enough for it to fit on a desk. It’s also impressively quiet (though you’ll still know it’s on when you’re in the same room). As people who have each tried to sleep within earshot of 3D printers whirring and singing in their robotic tones, we can attest to the importance of a printer that is seen and not heard. As is the case with the Mini+, we recommend cracking a window to avoid inhaling the fumes that the MK3S+ releases due to its open design.

Budget pick: Monoprice MP Cadet

Photo: Signe Brewster
Budget pick

Monoprice MP Cadet

The MP Cadet is cheap, reliable, and small enough to fit on any desk.

If you aren’t sure you want to commit to using a 3D printer regularly, or if you just want to spend a bit less, the Monoprice MP Cadet is a good budget option. In our testing, this $200 printer made prints that looked just as good as the results from printers that cost several times more, and its small size makes it especially desk friendly. Its removable, unheated bed is also more suitable for little fingers and releases finished prints with ease (though it puts your prints at risk of warping). However, this machine lacks the relatively advanced features you get from more expensive printers such as the Prusa Mini+ and i3 MK3S+.

Among the eight test prints we attempted, the MP Cadet produced four great-looking prints, one mediocre print, and three failures. The MP Cadet can print layers as thin as 0.4 mm; they’re eight times thicker than the MK3S+’s 0.05 mm layers but still thin enough that prints look tidy (even if you can see each individual layer). This machine did a mediocre job of printing the skull lamp file, which has lots of small details and overhangs that ended up looking a bit sloppy but still came out intact.

The first failed print happened right away, as the print head immediately dug into the print bed, damaging its soft surface. We discovered that we had readied the print in Cura with a profile for the Monoprice Mini. Once we downloaded a version of Cura directly from Monoprice and selected the MP Cadet profile, the printer operated normally. The next two failures occurred when we tried to print the pack-of-gum-sized Charmander: Partway through the print, the Charmander figure lifted off the bed and adhered to the print nozzle instead, creating a half pocket monster, half spaghetti nightmare creature. Because the MP Cadet’s print bed is unheated, prints don’t adhere as well as they could. Using a layer of painter’s tape and dabbing at it with a glue stick before starting prints solved the problem. The upside of an unheated bed is that you can remove models as soon as the print job is done. We didn’t find any sort of scraping or bending necessary to pop off prints—another advantage of an unheated bed.

Monoprice advertises Wi-Fi printing for the MP Cadet, but we weren’t able to get it to work. We used a microSD card instead. Photo: Signe Brewster

Setting up the MP Cadet took us 30 minutes. It arrived assembled, but we ran into some kinks with Monoprice’s instructions. First, the company advertises that you can print from an iOS or Android app called PoloPrint, but the app is difficult to use, and owners complain of connection issues. Second, during our tests the printer offered the option to start printing the models loaded onto the microSD card in the printer—our hitting the print button did nothing, though, and we found the interface confusing. Instead, we recommend using Cura to load files onto the microSD card and then initiating prints on the printer’s screen.

As with the MK3S+, you can prepare models for printing on the MP Cadet with Cura. Despite the initial snafu we had in downloading the correct version, we appreciate that all of Cura’s features are available even when you’re working with such an inexpensive printer.

The MP Cadet’s print bed is relatively tiny, at just 3.9 by 4.1 by 3.9 inches. That’s big enough for it to print game pieces, toys, and some household parts; many downloadable designs also allow you to print them in several pieces and then assemble them to create a larger object. However, if you want to print big designs on a regular basis, a printer with a larger bed is worth the investment.

The MP Cadet is noticeably smaller than most printers, with an overall footprint of just 8.3 by 8.3 inches. However, because its print bed is not enclosed and it doesn’t have a heated bed, you need to keep it away from open windows and in an area with a relatively constant temperature so that the air doesn’t warp prints. The work area should also have good airflow, such as a small fan nearby. The melting filament gives off a maple-syrup or plastic smell, so in addition to having airflow in the room, you should avoid sitting right next to the printer as it operates to avoid inhaling the fumes. The MP Cadet is noisier than the Prusa i3 MK3S+, too, though it isn’t unbearably loud.

Also great: Artillery Sidewinder X2

Photo: Dave Gershgorn
Also great

Artillery Sidewinder X2

This model is best for larger or taller printing jobs, such as cosplay or art pieces.

For larger prints, the Artillery Sidewinder X2 offers a great balance of size, ease of use, and premium features for just about the same price as our top pick. Its 11.8-by-11.8-by-15.7-inch print bed gives you lots of space for 3D-printing cosplay helmets or lampshades, for example, and its direct-drive extruder makes it great for flexible filament, as well. This machine isn’t for everyone, though, due to its size and impracticality for most everyday prints. It’s physically much larger than all of our other picks, so you need a dedicated space for it that’s at least 24 inches deep, 18 inches wide, and 36 inches tall. A larger print bed also means a tougher time leveling that bed, compared with the experience on our smaller picks. But if you want a printer that can keep up with your Mandalorian cosplay idea, the Sidewinder X2 can do it.

The Sidewinder X2 has an easy setup process similar to that of many other partially assembled 3D printers. You simply need to mount the printer’s gantry, a fancy word for the tall part of the printer that moves the extruder around, to the base. Doing so requires inserting four screws to secure the printer’s gantry to the base and then plugging in a few well-labeled cables. Much of the wiring is located inside the printer’s frame, so cable management wasn’t an issue in our tests, and there are no cables to snag while the machine is printing. However, the manual that comes with the Sidewinder X2 is not translated perfectly and can be a bit confusing. The internal wiring can also make the printer more difficult to repair compared with our other picks if a part breaks after dozens or hundreds of hours of printing.

In our tests, the initial calibration was a slightly more manual process than for our other picks, as the Sidewinder X2 has a Level menu that moves the extruder to preloaded points around the print bed. You tap the touchscreen to move the extruder to a specific point, slide a piece of paper between the nozzle and the bed, and then turn a knob on the underside of the printer to raise or lower the bed until you feel only slight resistance from the nozzle when moving the paper. You repeat this step at four other points around the bed. It takes a bit of experience to dial in this process, but the Sidewinder X2 makes it easier and faster than most other manually leveled printers do. Printers with larger beds are always more difficult to level, since a larger area is more prone to warping or slight imperfections. Despite that, we found the Sidewinder X2 to be even across its entire bed surface.

We prepared models for the test prints in Cura, though a profile in the software for the Sidewinder X2 isn’t readily available. Instead, we used the included profile for the Sidewinder X1 and modified the build volume to match that of the X2. While Cura profiles and similar resources exist online for our other printer picks, the Sidewinder X2 generally has a smaller community of users, so it’s a bit tougher to find people with similar problems and solutions if something goes wrong.

The Sidewinder X2 produced excellent test prints and did especially well on the taller prints that were larger than anything possible from our other picks. For instance, we scaled the honeycomb vase test model up to 10.5 inches tall, and the resulting print had equally smooth surfaces from bottom to top. Longer prints, such as a 34-hour print we ran for a colleague’s cosplay outfit, ran without issue or incident and produced nearly perfect results. (The imperfections were due to user error when we set it to generate supports.)

However, this printer is best for people who know they want to print a lot of large objects. It’s physically very large and would commandeer the kind of desk found in a bedroom or a small office. The Prusa models are even easier to set up and maintain, have much better support communities, and are more repairable.

Care and maintenance

A 3D printer can be a finicky machine. Performing basic maintenance can go a long way toward preventing breakdowns and print flaws.

If your printer doesn’t automatically level its print bed, periodically check the print bed and adjust it if necessary. The Monoprice MP Cadet is self-leveling, while the Prusa Mini+ and MK3S+ have a calibration option (called the Wizard) in their menus. Most of the time, if your print isn’t sticking to the bed or is otherwise failing, it’s because the bed isn’t correctly leveled.

Some printers have print beds made of materials that prints adhere to extremely well—and judging from our experience, maybe a little too well. Adjusting print temperatures and a few other settings can help prevent sticking, but such tweaks aren’t always enough. Many printers now come with removable, flexible print beds; if your printer has one, remove the bed and carefully bend it to release your model. Don’t force it, or you’ll risk damaging the bed’s finish. If the print is still stuck, heat the bed back up to its printing temperature and see if the model pops off easier. Next, use a scraper to carefully unstick the edges of the print and then move in a sawing motion toward the center. If you’re still stumped, one final trick is to remove the print bed and stick it in the freezer for an hour. This should shrink the print a little and make it easier to remove.

Plastic remnants can build up over time on the print bed. A cloth and warm water are usually enough to remove them; more-stubborn grime should come away with a bit of rubbing alcohol that’s at least 90% isopropyl alcohol.

If you’re having trouble with uneven layer lines on the sides of your print, this is often caused by loose axis belts, or a lack of lubrication on the screw that raises and lowers the z-axis. Many printers allow you to tune the tension of the printer’s belts, and you can clean the z-axis screw with 90% isopropyl alcohol and lubricate it with a dry-film PTFE lubricant.

Finally, be sure to follow each printer maker’s rules for heating up and cooling down the printer, which will help to prevent clogs.

What about the Ender-3 and other Creality printers?

If you read 3D-printing forums and subreddits, you’ll see many experienced 3D-printing enthusiasts recommending the Creality Ender-3, Ender-3 V2, or Ender-3 Pro as a first printer. The Ender-3 Pro can be often found on sale at Microcenter for just $100, and it’s a better printer than our budget pick, the Monoprice MP Cadet, on nearly every metric. There’s also an avid community of Ender-3 owners who post DIY upgrades and guides on how to use the machine, a crucial aspect of learning to operate the printer and troubleshooting when things go wrong.

So why don’t we recommend it as a top pick or even a budget pick? In our experience, we’ve found that the Ender-3 line requires more setup and more maintenance, and in comparison with our picks it poses a much more difficult learning curve for those who are just getting into 3D printing. As an example, crucial tasks like leveling the print bed on the Ender-3 require using separate calibration files that might have to be run multiple times or manually moving the print head across the bed, in contrast to Prusa’s and Monoprice’s easier, more automatic workflows. This manual work adds many minutes of pre-print setup for a 3D-printing newcomer versus seconds for our top picks, and in turn it leads to a higher chance of the machine sitting in the corner gathering dust. These processes become rote after time and are made easier by optional upgrades, but initially they require some dedication to learn.

Prusa models also earned the top-pick and upgrade-pick spots due to the company’s excellent support and fantastic forum filled with helpful printer owners. Ender-3 owners are more likely to find someone with the same problem, but owners of Prusa models are more likely to find a solution.

That doesn’t mean we don’t like the Ender-3 line. They’re actually great machines for those who are already mechanically adept or who don’t get easily frustrated learning a new, complex hobby. However, they’re not the best 3D printers for most people.

What to look forward to

We’re testing the Anycubic Kobra Max against the Sidewinder X2 as a printer that’s also great for its large bed size. Shipping delays prevented us from including the Kobra Max in this version of the guide, but we’ll include its test results and any potential changes to our recommendations in the next update.

The competition

The Creality Ender-3 S1 Plus is an addition to the Ender-3 line with a high-resolution display and a larger print volume. We found it to be louder, more complicated to set up, and more difficult to level in comparison with the Artillery Sidewinder X2.

The Creality Ender-2 Pro, a $170 competitor to the Prusa Mini+, seems built to look nearly identical to that model. However, in our tests its menus were confusing and made the printer more difficult to operate than any of our picks. Its fans were also drastically louder than those of any other printer we tested.

In some ways, the Dremel DigiLab 3D40 impressed us: For about 50% more than you typically pay for the Prusa i3 MK3S+, you get an enclosed print area, a huge print bed (though not quite as large as that of the MK3S+), a touchscreen, and cloud-based printing. However, its prints in our tests didn’t look quite as nice as those of the MK3S+. We also found removing prints to be difficult, and we managed to ruin two flexible beds when the top layer ripped off during print removal. Finally, we dislike that the 3D40 prints only with proprietary spools of PLA—if you want to use other types of Dremel filament, you have to spend several hundred dollars more on the Dremel DigiLab 3D45.

The Tiertime Up Mini 2 was a top pick in a previous version of this guide because of its consistently nice-looking prints. However, when we tested the updated Up Mini 2 ES, software issues got in the way of producing a single print. We tried updating the printer and then “activating” it several times, including with the help of customer support and a press-relations representative. But we continued to get a pop-up telling us to activate our printer and alerting us that slicing had failed. Even if we had resolved the software issue, the difficulty it added to setup was enough to leave a permanently sour taste in our mouths.

The Monoprice MP Cadet narrowly beat out the Monoprice Maker Select v2, our former budget pick. Although the MP Cadet was much easier to set up and produced better-looking prints in our tests, we still think the Maker Select v2’s comparably huge print bed makes it a bargain if you can find it these days. If you don’t mind tinkering a bit to get the right settings, the Maker Select v2 could be a better option. However, setting up the Maker Select v2 took us 45 minutes, and it suffered from a clog after just a few prints.

Once our upgrade pick, the LulzBot Mini has been discontinued and replaced with the LulzBot Mini 2. The new machine addresses some of the qualms we had with the original Mini by adding an onboard controller and an even larger print volume. However, a North Dakota entrepreneur recently acquired its parent company, Aleph Objects, and moved operations to Fargo. We have not yet tested a Mini 2, and the company did not reply to our requests for information.

If you’re looking for a printer that can print in two colors, the FlashForge Creator Pro is one of the best-reviewed options. However, in our tests it printed only one great-looking model, along with six okay-looking models and one failure. We liked the printer’s streamlined software, which made it easy for us to select what parts of a model to make which color. You load models onto the printer with an SD card, so queuing up a few prints at a time is also easy, and it has a large, 8.9-by-5.8-by-5.9-inch print volume.

We decided to test the Monoprice MP Select Mini v2 based on feedback from our readers and positive reviews. It’s inexpensive, equipped with a color screen, and easy to set up. But we had problems with print quality, and the printer sometimes stopped altogether in the middle of a job.

The easy-to-use MakerBot Replicator Mini+ restored our trust in the brand after MakerBot hit a rough patch with reliability. However, the company discontinued the printer as it further narrowed its focus on education. The MakerBot Replicator+ combines the advanced features of the Mini+ with a more impressive build volume (11. 6 by 7.6 by 6.5 inches), which makes it an ideal choice on paper, but we decided against testing that printer due to its $2,000 price. Most hobbyists should start with a more affordable machine.

The Qidi Tech I is a near-exact copy of the FlashForge Creator Pro that cost a bit less at the time of our research. It offers a massive print bed, dual extruders, and a solid design. It also had hundreds of positive reviews on Amazon when we checked. However, we were unable to get this printer for testing.

This article was edited by Ben Keough and Erica Ogg.

Sources

  1. Sean Charlesworth, Tested, phone interview, 2016

  2. Justin Kelly, Proto House, phone interview, 2016

  3. Dan Ackerman, The best 3D printer in 2020 for beginners and budget creators, CNET, February 28, 2020

  4. Tony Hoffman, The Best 3D Printers for 2020, PCMag, February 7, 2020

  5. Matthew Mensley, 2020 Best 3D Printers, All3DP, January 2, 2020

  6. Anatol Locker, 3D Printing With Kids: What You Need To Know, All3DP, November 5, 2015

About your guides

Dave Gershgorn

Dave Gershgorn is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter. He’s been covering consumer and enterprise technology since 2015, and he just can’t stop buying computers. If this weren’t his job, it would likely be a problem.

Signe Brewster

Signe Brewster is an editor on Wirecutter's PC team. She also writes about virtual reality. She previously reported on emerging technology and science for publications like Wirecutter, MIT Technology Review, Wired, Science, and Symmetry Magazine. She spends her free time quilting and pursuing an MFA in creative writing.

Further reading

  • The Best Robotics Kits for Beginners

    by Signe Brewster

    Our favorite robotics kits have a few things in common: a satisfying building experience, easy-to-understand coding instructions, and a friendly face. They also won over our discerning kid critics.

  • The 27 Best Gifts for 3-Year-Olds

    by Caitlin Giddings and Wirecutter Staff

    Many of the best gifts for 3-year-olds encourage role-play and make-believe—or help teach cooperative play.

  • Learning Toys and STEM Toys We Love

    by Courtney Schley

    We spent more than 30 hours trying 35 recommendations from experts, educators, and parents to pick the best learning and STEM toys. Here's what we found.

Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing to save people time, energy and money when making buying decisions. Whether it's finding great products or discovering helpful advice, we'll help you get it right (the first time). Subscribe now for unlimited access.

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The Best Cheap 3D Printers for 2022

While we'd hesitate to call 3D printing a mature technology, you might say it has reached its teenage years. Through their first decade-and-change, 3D printers have come down in price, grown easier to set up and operate, and become more reliable. And you may pay less than you expect: Many once-high-end features have migrated down to inexpensive models.

PC Labs has been reviewing 3D printers since 2013. Today, the state of 3D printing is strong, but that wasn’t always the case. For the first several years, it was often an adventure getting one of these printers up and running, let alone successfully through our testing regimen. Issues with filament-based—aka fused filament fabrication (FFF) or fused deposition modeling (FDM)—printers were abundant.

(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

More About Our Picks

Original Prusa Mini

4.5 Outstanding

Best Overall Budget 3D Printer

Bottom Line:

It requires assembly and calibration care (plus shipping from the Czech Republic), but the Original Prusa Mini is a compact, open-frame 3D printer that consistently produces superb-quality output for a great price.

Pros

  • Top-notch object quality
  • Supports a variety of filament types
  • Useful, professionally printed user guide
  • Great support resources
  • Versatile, user-friendly software

Cons

  • First-layer calibration can be tricky
  • Only includes starter packets of filament
  • Requires monitoring if young children or pets are around

Read Our Original Prusa Mini Review

XYZprinting da Vinci Mini

4.0 Excellent

Best Budget 3D Printer for Schools, Community Centers

Bottom Line:

The XYZprinting da Vinci Mini is a consumer-oriented 3D printer that provides a winning combination of low price, ease of setup and use, solid print quality, and smooth, misprint-free operation.

Pros

  • Very low price.
  • Reasonably priced filament.
  • Good print quality.
  • No misprints in testing.
  • Easy setup and operation.
  • Quiet.
  • Prints over a USB or Wi-Fi connection.

Cons

  • Occasional problems in trying to launch prints.
  • Removing printed objects from the print bed is sometimes tricky.

Read Our XYZprinting da Vinci Mini Review

Toybox 3D Printer

4.0 Excellent

Best Budget 3D Printer for Children

Bottom Line:

The Toybox 3D Printer works well as a model designed for children, offering reliable printing from a browser or mobile device and a few thousand toys to print, plus creative options to output drawings or photos. Just bear in mind the tiny build area.

Pros

  • Reliable, misprint-free printing
  • Easy setup
  • One-touch operation
  • Well-composed help resources
  • Access to more than 2,000 printable toys and projects
  • Lets you create your own printable designs

Cons

  • Tiny build area
  • Not ideal for importing 3D files created elsewhere

Read Our Toybox 3D Printer Review

Monoprice Mini Delta V2 3D Printer

4. 0 Excellent

Best Budget 3D Printer for Beginners, Non-Techies

Bottom Line:

3D printing gurus will be intrigued by the Monoprice Mini Delta V2's use of the delta rather than Cartesian coordinate system, but beginners will just enjoy its low price, ease of use, and speedy printing.

Pros

  • Sub-$200 price
  • Quick, nearly misprint-free printing
  • Easy setup and operation
  • Sturdy steel-and-aluminum frame
  • Supports multiple filament types

Cons

  • Tiny build area
  • So-so print quality
  • Mere one-year warranty

Read Our Monoprice Mini Delta V2 3D Printer Review

Anycubic i3 Mega S

3.5 Good

Best Budget 3D Printer With an Open Design, Big Build Area

Bottom Line:

The Anycubic i3 Mega S, an inexpensive open-frame 3D printer, produced decent-quality prints in our testing. To get the most out of it, though, may require precise calibration.

Pros

  • Modestly priced
  • Large build area for an inexpensive printer
  • Supports a variety of filament types
  • Generally solid print quality
  • Uses well-known Cura software

Cons

  • Finicky print-platform alignment
  • Supported coils of filament are small
  • Poorly placed spool holder

Read Our Anycubic i3 Mega S Review

Anycubic Vyper

3.5 Good

Best Budget 3D Printer for the Biggest Build Area Possible

Bottom Line:

Anycubic's modestly priced Vyper whips up large 3D prints on its open-frame design, and provides automatic print-bed leveling. Just know that some minor assembly is required—and printed objects may require a bit of cleanup.

Pros

  • Relatively large build area
  • Automatic bed leveling
  • Simple assembly

Cons

  • Short (one-year) warranty
  • Includes only a small starter filament coil
  • Using Cura software with the Vyper requires tweaking a couple of settings
  • Test prints showed some "hairy" filament residue

Read Our Anycubic Vyper Review

Creality Ender-3 V2

3. 5 Good

Best Budget 3D Printer for Tinkerers and DIY Types

Bottom Line:

Hands-on tweaking defines Creality's budget-price Ender-3 V2, an open-frame 3D printer that you build from a kit. It produces generally above-par prints, but its print bed can be tricky to keep leveled.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Slightly above-average print quality
  • Good-size build area for its price
  • Supports several filament types

Cons

  • Manual print-bed leveling can be tricky
  • Setup instructions could be deeper, more legible
  • Questionable quality control on some parts

Read Our Creality Ender-3 V2 Review

Flashforge Finder 3D Printer

3.5 Good

Best 3D Printer for the Very Tightest Budgets

Bottom Line:

The Flashforge Finder 3D Printer is moderately priced and offers good print quality, but it proved tricky to get up and running in our tests.

Pros

  • Quiet.
  • Good print quality.
  • Connects via USB 2.0 cable, USB thumb drive, or Wi-Fi.
  • Reasonably priced.

Cons

  • Some objects pulled off the platform during testing.
  • Poor documentation.
  • Modest build volume.
  • Limited to printing with polylactic acid filament (PLA).

Read Our Flashforge Finder 3D Printer Review

Polaroid PlaySmart 3D Printer

3.5 Good

Best Budget 3D Printer for Dabbling in Small Objects

Bottom Line:

The Polaroid PlaySmart 3D Printer is a compact, stylish 3D printer with above-par overall print quality, but, alas, a tiny build area for the money.

Pros

  • Small, lightweight for a desktop 3D printer.
  • Easy to set up and use.
  • Supports PLA, PETG, and wood composite filaments.
  • Multiple-color support.
  • Wi-Fi camera monitors print jobs.
  • Prints from USB drives, SD cards, or mobile devices.

Cons

  • High price for its capabilities.
  • Small build area.
  • Too-brief warranty.

Read Our Polaroid PlaySmart 3D Printer Review

XYZprinting da Vinci Jr. 1.0 A Pro

3.5 Good

Best Budget 3D Printer With Closed Design, Roomy Build Area

Bottom Line:

The XYZprinting da Vinci Jr. 1.0 A Pro is a moderately priced closed-frame 3D printer with a large build volume and overall good performance, but a potentially balky filament-feeding system.

Pros

  • Spacious build area
  • Works with third-party filaments
  • Self-leveling print bed

Cons

  • Build plate is not heated
  • Limited to PLA- and PETG-based filaments
  • Guide tube is prone to detaching

Read Our XYZprinting da Vinci Jr. 1.0 A Pro Review

Monoprice Voxel 3D Printer

3. 0 Average

Best Budget 3D Printer for Cheap Filament

Bottom Line:

The Monoprice Voxel is an under-$400 3D printer that's easy to set up and use. It exhibits generally good print quality, but it was unable to print two of our test objects.

Pros

  • Easy to set up and use.
  • Budget price for printer and filament spools.
  • Supports PLA, ABS, and several composite filament types.
  • Versatile software.
  • Prints over Ethernet or Wi-Fi, or from a USB thumb drive.

Cons

  • Frequent misprints on certain test objects.
  • Slightly balky touch screen.

Read Our Monoprice Voxel 3D Printer Review

Filament feeders had to be coaxed into delivering filament from the spool to the extruder. Print beds had to be manually aligned. The extruder or hot end had to be positioned just right to minimize the gap between the nozzle and the build plate (the flat surface on which the object is printed). Objects frequently stuck to the build plate, and required careful, sometimes unsuccessful, efforts to pry them off. These and other issues required painstaking effort to resolve, often combined with calls to tech support.

Not so much anymore. While they can still be rebellious at times, 3D printers have grown up a lot, and achieving the 3D printer basics has gotten a lot less likely to end in a shouting match over small things.


What to Look for in a Cheap 3D Printer

The big difference is the change that has come to the cheaper models. Nowadays, many of those ornery 3D-printing issues have been resolved (most of the time, anyway), even for consumer and bargain-priced 3D printers. Automatic print-bed leveling is the norm, and you can usually remove 3D-printed objects from heated and/or flexible build plates with a minimum of coaxing. Most 3D printer manufacturers have either developed and refined their own software, or have adapted an open-source printing platform such as Cura(Opens in a new window).

What separates more expensive 3D printers from cheap ones ("cheap" defined as $500 or less, for the purposes of this article) is often a select group of features. These include the build volume, the type of frame, the varieties of supported filament, the software, and the connectivity mix. Let's run through those in turn.

What's the Right Build Volume for a 3D Printer?

A 3D printer’s build volume is the maximum dimensions (HWD) of a part that it can print. (We say “a part” because a 3D-printed object can consist of multiple parts that are printed, then glued or otherwise pieced together.) While the smallest build volume of any 3D printer we have tested is 3.9 by 3.9 by 4.9 inches, we consider any build volume smaller than 6 by 6 by 6 inches to be small, any between that and 10 by 10 by 10 inches as medium, and any printer with at least one build dimension of more than 10 inches as having a large build volume.

(Photo: Molly Flores)

As a general rule, inexpensive 3D printers have small build volumes, while more expensive ones have larger build volumes. This depends in part on the type of printer. Closed-frame 3D printers—and most semi-open models, which have a rigid top, base, and sides but are open in front and, often, back—tend to have small build volumes, while open-frame printers, lacking as rigid a physical structure, often have relatively large build volumes for the price. You'll want to weigh the build volume against the kinds of objects you will print.

Should I Get an Open-Frame or Closed-Frame 3D Printer?

Which brings us to the frame "form factor" question: open-frame versus closed-frame. Closed-frame 3D printers are boxlike devices, with a rigid base, walls (with a see-through door in front), and top. Among their advantages? They muffle the operating noise, as well as reduce the odor from melted filament (which is potentially an issue with ABS plastic), and they provide some protection for people or pets who might inadvertently touch the hot extruder. A downside: They tend to have smaller build volumes than open-frame 3D printers, which have fewer (often, no) walls to constrict them.

(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

Low-cost 3D printers include both open-frame and closed-frame models, as well as a few stereolithography printers. If a relatively large build volume is a priority, you’re likely to get more bang for the buck with an open-frame model. Open-frames do have some clear downsides by definition: They tend to be noisy, emit odors when certain plastics are melted, and provide little protection for someone who might touch the hot extruder.

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Also, recognize some potential negatives of open frames, depending on the model. Some require assembly, being essentially kits, and most require more setup care than a closed-frame printer, plus more maintenance to keep them running smoothly. Still, these very traits should not deter—and may even appeal to—hobbyists and DIY folks.

What Should I Look for in 3D Printer Software and Connectivity?

Gone are the days when tinkerers had to cobble together several different programs to get a 3D printer to run. Manufacturers either include their own 3D printing program or modify an existing platform such as the open-source Cura.

3D printing software performs three main functions: processing an object file (resizing, moving, rotating, and in some cases duplicating it), slicing it (into virtual layers, based on your chosen resolution), and printing it. These are almost universally combined into a seamless process. Some high-end printers have software that supports a wider range of settings you can tweak, but even the basic suites work at least reasonably well.

More likely to vary among the cheaper set is the array of connection options from model to model. Nearly all have a USB Type-A port to fit a thumb drive for printing from document files. Most also have a USB Type-B port for connecting directly to a computer, and some offer Wi-Fi, too (or as an alternative), while a handful let you connect via Ethernet to share the printer across a local network.

Some printers support storing 3D files on an SD or microSD card (which may also contain the printer’s system files). Most 3D printer manufacturers (even the discount ones) have a mobile app to launch and monitor print jobs, and a few provide access to cloud services from which you can print.

While high-end 3D printers tend to have an abundance of connection choices, discount models vary widely in their choices. Some are generous and some are basic, so it pays to assess what a given model offers.

What Should I Look for in Filament Support?

Filament support tends to be a key area that separates the cheaper models from the higher-end ones. (See our guide to understanding 3D printing filaments for more particulars.) Inexpensive 3D printers tend to support a limited number of plastic filament types, some of them only PLA and/or ABS.

Recommended by Our Editors

3D Printing: What You Need to Know

3D Printer Filaments Explained

(Photo: Molly Flores)

PLA (polylactic acid) is a biodegradable, plant-based polymer, while ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is the same tough plastic that Legos are made from. Objects printed from ABS are durable and nontoxic, though the material can be tricky to work with. ABS can emit an acrid, unpleasant odor during printing, and the bottom corners of objects being printed with it have a tendency to curl upward a bit, especially if you are using a non-heated print bed. This can lead to unsightly prints, and/or prints prematurely pulling off the build plate, ruining them.

Many entry-level and low-price 3D printers stick exclusively to PLA. If you want to experiment with a larger variety of filaments—which include water-soluble filament, wood- and metal-laced composites, and both tough and flexible varieties—you may have to pay more, although a few discount models support a wide range of materials.

Should I Consider a 3D Printing Pen Instead?

Although they aren’t printers per se, inexpensive 3D pens are close kin to 3D printers—using the same filament types and a similar extrusion system—and we include them in the 3D printing category. Rather than tracing out a programmed pattern, you use the 3D pen much like a normal pen, except that you draw with molten plastic. You can trace a pattern or draw freehand, and even draw in three dimensions as the plastic quickly solidifies and hardens once extruded.

Most 3D pens cost less than $100, and some cost $50 or less. At a glance, 3D pens may appear to be toys, but some artists and craftspeople have taken to them, as it is possible to make quite complicated and beautiful objects with them. If your aim in 3D printing is something closer to freehand design and free expression than computer-centric, structured, and repeatable output, you might give one a try.


So, Which Cheap 3D Printer Should I Buy?

Buying a budget 3D printer needn’t mean a world of sacrifice. Plenty of capable and reliable models sell at less than $500, and while they may not be as feature-rich as their more expensive cousins, there's no sense in paying for things you don’t need.

Many casual 3D-printing experimenters will be fine with printing over a USB cable or from a thumb drive, and sticking to PLA may be the best choice for a starter 3D printer. If you focus just on the features you want, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find. Here we feature the best under-$500 3D printers we have reviewed. Also check out our guide to our favorite 3D printers overall.

Zenit 3D printer reviews from real customers. Successful business case FDM 3D printing.

Hello everyone, Friends! With you 3DTool!

Some time ago, we went to visit one of our clients, who has owned a large fleet of Zenit 3D printers since the end of 2017. It became interesting what they were doing.

The Mayak-R company is located in the town of Zheleznodorozhny near Moscow. The manager of the company, Alexander, took us inside, and the first thing that caught my eye was the neatly arranged in width and length of the premises and carefully numbered ZENIT 3D printers. There are nineteen of them.

It turned out that the Mayak-R company is a highly specialized manufacturing company serving the needs of one technical giant (and several slightly smaller manufacturers) in Russia for the production of three-dimensional illuminated letters for retail outlets. These are the same letters that are lit at the entrance and commercial equipment in official stores.

The process goes like this. A specialist within the company prepares 3D models of letters, then sends them for printing. The body of each letter is printed on a 3D printer (one piece per table). At first, employees tried to manage printing from one computer with all printers at once. But then they came to the conclusion that printing from a card is more convenient and faster. Each letter takes approximately one hour and forty minutes to print. After that, the workers (girls do this painstaking work) manually fix the wires inside. And a white plastic panel is placed on the front of the letter (made of a material similar to plexiglass, it is cut here in the company, on two huge lasers), and the letter is ready.

To our question, how did the company understand that it was necessary to buy exactly 19 (not 17, not 20, not 23, but exactly 19) printers, Alexander told. “The tech giant's brand name has seven letters, we needed to print three sets at once, so we decided to buy 21 printers at first. But when we bought nineteen, we realized that we were coping.” During peak orders last December, and expected this December as well, the entire fleet of printers is working around the clock, as well as employees of the company.

Now it’s calm with orders, so only three printers were working with us, and the manager was able to calmly devote time to us.

By the way, all letters are printed from black PLA plastic, brand SEM. Alexander said that a lot of types and brands were tested, they settled on this one as the most suitable for the needs of production.

In the corner of the room stands dusty and lonely Wanhao. The leader told us that at first there were thoughts of buying Chinese. But relations with this printer did not work out, and the company also understood the importance of Russian technical support and the possibility of promptly resolving issues with spare parts.

At the beginning of the journey, the Mayak-R company acquired Zenit, tested it as a workhorse, and after that a year ago decided to purchase the entire fleet of ZENIT 3D printers.

As for the improvements in the settings - all letters are printed at a speed twice as fast as recommended in the instructions, but the printers cope, and the customer is satisfied with the final quality.

We thank the Mayak-R company for an interesting tour of the production.

Summing up this case, we can conclude that Zenit 3D printers are rightfully reliable workhorses with the ability to work 24/7.

By the way, the warranty for ZENIT 3D printers is 3 YEARS. This can be said to be a record among all 3D printers on the Russian market.

You can buy ZENIT 3D printers in our company: https://3dtool.ru/product/3d-printer-zenit/

There is also a version of the ZENIT 3D printer with two extruders: https://3dtool.ru/product/3d-printer-zenit-duo/

For questions and to know the status of your order, you can

  • Email: [email protected] ru
  • By phone: 8(800)775-86-69
  • Or on our website: http://3dtool.ru

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I would like to express my gratitude to the employees of the 3D service company for the work done. Ordered details of one of the projects. The components were printed quickly and accurately, allowing us to deliver the finished product on time.

-Sergey, head of the project department

We had a very interesting project at work. The client's conditions included the preservation of family furniture. To beat this, we decided to use the details in the interior. But the problem is that cast iron and threads are extremely difficult to repeat. We turned to the 3D service, ordered a 3D scan. As a result, we ended up with exact copies of carvings and castings, which we used to create unique design items. Part was cast in metal, and part was printed for painting. We recommend the 3D service team as professionals. The company offers different options, and printing is possible with different materials. They will find the best solution for your task, do not hesitate.

- Ekaterina, interior designer

A part from a meat grinder broke. The model is old, but very good, I don’t want to throw away a good car because of a small gear. For a long time I tried to find a replacement, but unsuccessfully. A friend suggested a solution to the problem, and I went to the 3D service. Explained to the guys what was required and they quickly helped me. They scanned the old part, removed the damage, printed it. I didn't even think it was possible. The item fit just perfect. Thank you.

- Gennady, part from meat grinder

I ordered 3D printing of a figurine of a husband and daughter. We decided with him that our daughter should have a memory not only in the form of banal photos and videos, but also a wonderful figure: dad holds her in his arms. Time flies, and this souvenir is now decorating our mantelpiece. We hope that in the future it will also be dear to our daughter. By the way, the team coped with the task very well. The figurine turned out to be a high-quality, accurate imitation only in miniature. Thank you.

- Tatyana, 3D printing of the figurine

We have been doing car tuning for many years. We try to use all possible relevant technologies. Received an order for tuning the car. In addition to airbrushing, the idea included changing the body kit of the car. In order to accurately design and show the options to the client, we decided to use 3D scanning. The guys quickly came to our workshop. We watched the work, and it was just amazing, very interesting, professional. So the future has come to us in the garage! As a result, we received ready-made scans that were processed into an accurate 3D model. Thank you guys for your hard work and dedication.

-Mikhail, tuning service

To defend my student work, I needed to make an architectural model. All I had was an idea, its description and drawing. The guys helped me, imbued with my work. Performed accurate 3D modeling, and then also 3D printing. In my hands I had not only a file with a 3D model, but also a beautiful plaster model. Thanks to you, my work was highly appreciated. I plan to cooperate with these guys in my professional activity. I wish you success!

-Elena, architect

To make a part, we needed to model it. We provided the guys with engineering drawings of the part. They quickly and professionally completed their 3D modeling work. This item is currently being tested. Thank you, we will contact you again.

-San Sanych, engineer

I contacted the company for 3D modeling of my own design element, which I decided to decorate my living room with. I sent the guys a sketch with the exact dimensions and description. As a result of their professional work, I received an accurate 3D model, and this is exactly how I imagined it. Thank you very much.

-Marina

Every year it becomes more and more difficult to make corporate gifts, especially when dealing with people who have everything and it is impossible to give something cheap. Our solution is to model the company logo and equip various personalized gifts with it. For example, we gave one of our regular partners an expensive cane, on the head of which was our company logo and his initials. The guys were approached for 3D modeling of our logo. And then 3D modeling of several such individual gifts. Everything is on top.

- Alexander, PR specialist

3D scanning is a real find for collectors. He asked the guys to scan his small collection of antiques. Now I can view them not only live, but also with high detail on the computer. It is also valuable that you can exchange information with other collectors and auctions. Accurate 3D models allow you to estimate the preliminary cost and condition of the artifact. The guys took into account my wishes and came to my house with the equipment.


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