Regardless of whether you’re a maker, engineer, or educator, you can find a 3D printer model that matches your budget and requirements.
What is a 3D printer?
A 3D printer is an additive manufacturing machine that creates models layer-by-layer. The result is a component made of plastic that represents an idea, an engineering drawing, or a project in 3D space. There are two popular types of 3D printers: FDM and Resin. Let’s look at each of these in-depth.
Should I buy an FDM 3D printer?
FDM or Fused Deposition Modeling is a type of 3D printer that feeds plastic filament through a hot extruder and builts the component by depositing layers from the bottom up.
FDM printers are much more budget-friendly than resin 3D printers. You can use a variety of plastic materials including PLA, ABS, Nylon, and wood-blends.
|1||HATCHBOX PLA 3D Printer Filament, Dimensional...||$22.99||Buy on Amazon|
|2||HATCHBOX PLA 3D Printer Filament, Dimensional...||$22.99||Buy on Amazon|
Should I buy a Resin 3D printer?
SLA or Resin 3D printers use Stereolithography and a UV light to melt and harden layers of liquid resin. Models are built from top to bottom, which is the opposite of FDM printers.
SLA printers are typically more expensive than FDM printers and aren’t as budget-friendly. For this article, we’ll be looking at the top 5 FDM 3D printers worth buying.
Reasons to Buy a 3D printer
The main reason people buy 3D printers is so that they can bring CAD models and ideas to life. It’s a lot more affordable to 3D print in plastic than it is machining out of metal. 3D printing provides a way to get a real-life mock-up of a drawing or design before sinking money into revisions and tooling.
You might be thinking about getting a 3D printer because they look cool, you want a new hobby, or you have something you want to prototype on a budget.
There are a ton of different options when it comes to buying 3D printers. It can be tricky to figure out what model to buy and how much money to spend.
There are two major reasons why you’d want to buy a 3D printer in the first place:
- To learn how to 3D print
- To make 3D prototypes
Let’s talk about those reasons a little bit more before we dive into the top 5 3D printers you should buy.
First of all, if your goal is to learn how a 3D printer works, then I recommend checking out a 3D printer kit. These are often a fraction of the price of an educational or professional 3D printer model, which means you’ll have to do all of the assembly and tuning, but you’ll save quite a bit of money.
One thing to note is that these printers do require a bit of finesse and don’t necessarily provide consistent quality each time. However, they are much lower in price, and you will learn the in’s and out’s of working with 3D printers by going this route.
Secondly, the obvious reason why you’d want to buy a 3D printer is so that you can print 3D prototypes. Unlike buying a treadmill and using it to hang clothes, people who own 3D printers are using them for something. Whether it’s printing out a low-cost engineering tool, creating robots in a classroom, or making CAD models come to life, 3D printers are designed to generate 3D models.
How to Buy a 3D printer
If you’re not sure which 3D printer to buy, I recommend thinking about your budget and your application for the 3D printer.
3D printers for Engineering Offices
If you’re working as an engineer and need it to mock-up parts before finalizing a manufacturing process, then you’ll want a machine that provides consistent quality with minimal setup. Your budget will probably be around $2,500 (and up).
3D printers for STEM Classrooms
Whereas, if you’re printing models for a STEM classroom, you’ll also want a printer that’s reliable and easy to use, but your budget might be around $1,500.
3D printers for Hobbyists (at Home)
Lastly, if you’re looking for a 3D printer you can use in your hobby shop, then 3D printer kits might be the affordable route, setting you at a budget of $200-$800.
In this article, we’ll explore five top 3D printers you can buy in 2019. If you’re looking for a Christmas or engineering gift, or just want to break into the world of 3D printing, you can use this guide to make your selection. I’ve included a chart that you can download and print out to make your search easier.
Top Five 3D Printers Worth Buying
Here are the top 5 3D printer models worth buying in 2019.
|ANET A8 3D Printer,Desktop Acrylic LCD Screen...||Buy on Amazon|
|Creality Ender 3 3D Printer Fully Open Source with...||$259.00 $206.99||Buy on Amazon|
|9671 - Ultimaker 3 3D Printer||$4,853.96||Buy on Amazon|
|MakerGear M2 Desktop 3D Printer||$1,999.00||Buy on Amazon|
1. Anet A8 and Anet A8 Plus – Best Budget 3D Printer
Price Range: $150-$300 | Ease of Use: ★
The Anet A8 was the first printer I ever bought and worked on. I knew absolutely nothing about 3D printing when I bought it. I read a couple of reviews about it online and then purchased it from GearBest. It took about 3 weeks to arrive at my door and about eight hours of assembly time.
If you’re looking for your next tech project, building a 3D printer will teach you a lot. However, if you’re looking to get into 3D printing to spend more time printing and less time finagling, then an Anet A8 or 3D printer kit may not be the best choice.
I spent a lot of time learning how to level a printer bed, fix a leaking nozzle, and dialing in the right temperatures for printing in PLA vs. ABS. I didn’t purchase my Anet A8 to print a ton of things, but rather to learn how to 3D print. If I were to buy another 3D printer, I probably would select a printer that’s a little less buildy and a little more printy.
2. Creality Ender 3 – Best Economy 3D Printer
Price Range: $200-$300 | Ease of Use: ★★
Like the Anet A8, the Creality Ender 3 is another budget-friendly 3D printer with a large build area. The assembly time is about three hours and the print quality takes some tuning to get right. The Creality Ender 3 is very similar to the Anet A8 Plus, so it’s up to you to figure out which one you’d rather have.
3. Prusa i3 MK3 – Most Reliable & Workhorse 3D Printer
Price Range: $750-$1,000 | Ease of Use: ★★★★
At first glance, the Prusa i3 MK3 looks like the Anet A8, and while that’s true, the Anet A8 is actually a clone of the Prusa i3. Confused yet?
The open-sourced Prusa i3 design is the most recognizable 3D printer in the world. The Prusa i3 MK3 comes as a hardware kit or fully assembled with quality assurance. The user guides are insurmountable. If I were to buy a 3D printer, I would pick the Prusa MINI or Prusa i3 MK3.
4. Ultimaker – Hassle-Free 3D Printing
Price Range: $2,000+ | Ease of Use: ★★★★★
If you’re looking for hassle-free 3D printing and engineering quality, then check out the Ultimaker. The Ultimaker is designed for professional applications including product development, manufacturing aids, end-use parts, architecture, and education. If you’re looking for a 3D printer ready to use out of the box, then the Ultimaker is a good option.
5. Makergear – High Precision for Professional 3D Printing
Price Range: $3,500+ | Ease of Use: ★★★★★
Lastly, if you’re looking for a high quality, premium 3D printer option, then I recommend looking at the Makergear 3D printers. Printers are manufactured in the USA and are designed to provide precision, quality, and reliability. Makergear 3D printers are great for high-volume 3D printing and delivering outstanding prints over the long haul.
Honorable Mention: FlashForge Adventurer 3 (Lite)
Update May 2020: FlashForge sent me an Adventurer 3 Lite back in January, and it’s been my workhorse 3D printer for the past 4 months. If you’re looking for an affordable (but smaller) 3D printer, then I recommend checking it out!
If I were to purchase a FlashForge Adventurer series, I’d opt for the Adventurer 3 (and not the Lite). It includes a built-in camera, which is great for monitoring and recording coveted timelapse videos. You can read more about my experience with the Adventurer 3 Lite, here.
Ready to buy a 3D printer?
In this article, we explored five 3D printers worth buying. Regardless of if you’re a maker, a teacher, or an engineer, there are a ton of 3D printer options these days. Choosing a 3D printer comes down to your budget, the application, and how frequently you plan on using it.
If you’re in the education or engineering fields, I recommend the Prusa i3 MK3 or Prusa MINI or Makergear 3D printers because they provide awesome quality and minimal setup for the investment.
If you’re a maker or want to learn how to 3D print, I recommend starting with the Anet A8 or Anet A8 Plus because they’re affordable options that will teach you the in’s and out’s of using a 3D printer.
With all that said, what 3D printer do you plan on buying? If you have a 3D printer that you like, be sure to leave a comment below!