Blogtrepreneurs 3D Printer Reviews – Our Guide To The Best 3D printers of 2015
When it comes to new technologies, no field is more exciting than that of 3D printing. There seems to be no end to the things you can create using a 3D printer: models & prototypes, human tissue, even food. And it seems like almost every month there are a slew of new 3D printers to choose from, and every manufacturer claims their product is the best 3D printer on the market. That coupled with emerging printing processes can make choosing the right printer a daunting task. To give you a better understanding of what to look for, we have created a buyers guide to take some of the guesswork out of your shopping.
However, before you go looking for a new 3D printer, there are a few specializations you should be paying attention to:
The resolution of your unit will determine the quality and detail of your print. Lower end units are typically only capable of lower resolution printing – roughly the 400 micron range. Higher end units will go as low as 100 microns and may have more than 1 extruder, which will also help with print accuracy.
The print bed size of your unit will determine the maximum size project you can create on it. 5″ x 5″ x 5″ is a fairly common size for most desktop units.
Additionally, lower cost printers typically come with unheated print beds, which can limit the types of materials you can print with. This is due to the fact that rapidly cooling plastic shrinks. If it shrinks unevenly in certain places, warping will occur. A heated print bed will prevent this by allowing the finished product to stay at the right temperature during the entire printing run and allow it to shrink more evenly as it cools. Here is a video explaining the differences:
Another consideration is the printing process. 3D printers use a variety of different methods to build and layer the finished product. By far the most popular are fused deposition modeling (FDM) units, due to their cleanliness, ease of use, and cost effective design.
Stereolithography (SLA) is an older technology that is more for suited for industrial use, however some consumer models do still employ this type of printing processes.
Lastly, 3D printers can use a variety of different plastic materials. The most common types are ABS or PLA. There are pros and cons to each type, so it comes down to user preference. Aim for a mult function type printer with switchable nozzles – this will allow it to be compatible with other materials and other types of plastic polymers.
If you want to learn more about the basics of 3D printing check out our write up here.
In Depth 3D Printer Reviews
Our list below contains a buyer’s guide with the top 7 3D printer reviews. First time buyers and experts alike should be able to use this resource to purchase the best printer for his or her needs.
Beginner Models 500 or less
This category is for the newcomers to 3D printing, or if your just looking for a low cost unit.
The Da Vinci Jr. is easily the best 3D printer for the money. This no frills unit comes fully calibrated and has an auto feeding filament reel. It is also fully enclosed and easy to clean. With a fully assembled price of 349$, this printer is about as plug and play as it gets.
Special mention also goes to the OneUp series of printers – these have to be the most cost effective units on the market. The basic unit starts at $199 and they go up from there. They come In a variety of sizes (OneUp, TwoUp, ThreeUp) and resolutions/print beds that will suit anyone’s needs.
Mid Range Models 500 – 1500
If you need a little more features, this is the category to focus on.
Our runner up for this category would have to be the UP! Mini. At a price point of $599, it is almost a budget unit. But splurging here will net you the ability to work with ABS and a heated base unit. Additionally, the UP! Mini has a resolution of around 300 microns, which is quite high for this price range.
By far the best 3D printer for the money is the Lulzbot Mini. A base area of 6in x 6in x 6.2 inches makes it one of the larger units in this price range. It will support pretty much any material you throw at it, with the exception of carbon fiber based filaments. To top it off, the Mini is also self-calibrating and self-cleaning.
While a newcomer to the market, we really like the Wiiboox one. It’s the only unit we have seen with an air filtration module. People who are concerned about safety (we are) may want to look into this one.
Professional 1500 and up
Here are our top picks for those with a larger budget.
The AIO Zeus is easily one of the most feature packed printers on the market. This is the printer for people who need a stand alone unit. It has the ability to keep all of your models in its onboard memory. Also, it include an imbedded scanner and a self-adjusting build plate, which makes calibration a breeze. We also liked this printers extruder – its is more like a detachable cartridge. This makes future repairs or upgrades possible. Lastly, the software is also updated quite frequently, which is a good thing because the earlier versions of we tested locked up on us once or twice.
Our honorable mention in this category goes to the Makerbot replicator 2. With 410 cubic inches of volume it is the largest printer in the $1800 price range by far. As if that weren’t enough, it also comes with an amazing 100 micron layer resolution. Additionally, It includes some of the best 3D printer software we’ve ever seen. A simple 1-2-3 (add, prepare, preview) step printing process makes this printer a great starting point for novices and experts alike.
Regardless of the 3D printer you choose, you should ensure that you are purchasing a quality filament. Even the most well built printer will struggle when fed with poor quality plastic. If you notice your printer jamming up frequently or producing poor printing results, its time to look into a new filament.