Best cheap 3D printer

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The Prusa i3, Hybercube and RepRapPro Huxley are examples of open-source 3D printers designed to be self-replicating – or at the very least, capable of replicating their own plastic parts.

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Which cheap 3D printer is best?

Contemporary desktop 3D printers are complex, expensive machines, with higher-quality models costing hundreds of dollars or more. However, there are a few cheap 3D printers capable of fabricating high-quality 3D objects without straining the wallets of their users.

The ANYCUBIC Photon Mono 3D Printer is an excellent device for beginners due to its compact size, affordable price and precise resin 3D printing process. Other relatively inexpensive devices built around filament 3D printing technology are designed to be customizable and easily tweaked to fit their owners’ needs.

What to know before you buy a cheap 3D printer

Printing methods

Currently, there are two fabrication methods commonly used in desktop 3D printers. Filament 3D printers use a motor-guided extruder to squeeze layers of heated thermoplastic onto a print bed, much like a pastry chef squeezing frosting onto a cake. Resin 3D printers use a grid of ultraviolet lights to harden the liquid resin sticking to the surface of a build-plate; as the build plate slowly rises up, the 3D object is pulled out of the pool of resin, much like a stalactite forming from the roof of a cave. Resin 3D printing has the advantage of being able to create objects with very fine details, while filament 3D printers can create tougher objects and replacement parts for complex devices.

Location

Many 3D printers generate loud noises when they’re in the middle of a printing job. Some 3D printers can even give off caustic smells depending on the materials being used during the printing process. To minimize these disruptions to your life, place your 3D printer in a room with good sound insulation and ventilation.

Maintenance

Even the best 3D printers need to be regularly cleaned and maintained to function at peak efficiency – doubly so when it comes to cheap 3D printers. Keep the extruder nozzles of filament 3D printers clean and free of hardened polymers so it doesn’t get clogged midway through a print job. Owners of resin 3D printers, should periodically check their resin tanks to make sure unwelcome particulates haven’t seeped into the liquid or obscured their ultraviolet optics. If you plan to use cleaning products on your 3D printer, read the product’s instruction manual to make sure the cleaning solutions won’t damage the printer or the objects it creates.

What to look for in a quality cheap 3D printer

Print beds and build plates that aren’t too small

The size and shape of objects generated by 3D printers is governed primarily by the size of the 3D printer’s assembly space. Filament 3D printers have an extruder nozzle that moves across a heated print bed; resin 3D printers have a build-plate that slowly rises up from a pool of liquid resin. If you want to create large objects with your 3D printer, seek out products with large volumes of internal space and wide build-plates/print beds.

Precise, responsive motors and parts

Filament and resin 3D printers shape an object out of raw materials by using a series of computer-controlled motors that shift printer parts along certain axes of motion. Filament printers use a x-axis, y-axis and z-axis motor to shift an extruder nozzle and/or a print bed in various directions. In contrast, a resin 3D printer lifts its build-plate straight up along the z-axis as UV lights harden layers of resin along the x-axis and y-axis. For both types of 3D printer, the quality and precision of created objects is directly tied to the precision of their motors and their responsiveness to software commands.

Compatibility with design and printing software

Most 3D printer products come with their own set of software for designing 3D object templates and creating a file the 3D printer can interpret. The best Computer-Aided Design programs and 3D printing software, however, often are made by third-party developers. For this reason, hobbyists shopping for a bargain 3D printer should make sure their purchase is compatible with their favorite design software and file formats.

How much you can expect to spend on cheap 3D printers

Cheap 3D printers (mostly of the filament variety) generally cost $200-$250, with the least-expensive models costing around $150.

Cheap 3D printer FAQ

Is it possible to make 3D printers with a 3D printer?

A. To a degree. 3D printer components such as heating elements, nozzles, circuit chips and stepper motors need to be purchased at electronics stores or ordered online. Nearly all the essential structural components of a 3D printer, however, can be manufactured out of thermoplastics using a filament 3D printer.

What materials are used in 3D printers?

A. Resin 3D printers fabricate objects using a pool of liquid resin that hardens when exposed to ultraviolet light. Filament 3D printers use coils of solid thermoplastic such as Polylactic Acid (PLA for short) that are melted through exposure to heat, then left to cool once layered onto a print bed.

What’s the best cheap 3D printer to buy?

Top cheap 3D printer

ANYCUBIC Photon Mono 3D Printer

ANYCUBIC Photon Mono 3D Printer

What you need to know: This compact resin 3D printer is a great choice for hobbyists interested in fabricating intricately detailed objects.

What you’ll love: The printer is an affordable resin 3D printer that’s very beginner friendly, letting novice users print objects with both precision and speed.
What you should consider: The printing space of this product is tall but narrow and the companion app it comes with isn’t the most user-friendly.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top cheap 3D printer for the money

Voxelab Aquila 3D Printer

Voxelab Aquila 3D Printer

What you need to know: This open-frame filament 3D printer is sturdy, customizable and built around open-source software.

What you’ll love: This printer comes with a heatable glass print bed platform that prevents printed objects from warping or becoming stuck. The printer’s hardware is also fairly quiet, generating less than 50 decibels of sound.

What you should consider: Assembling and calibrating this product takes some time and effort.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Creality Ender 3 3D Printer

Creality Ender 3 3D Printer

What you need to know: The parts of this affordable open-source 3D printer are carefully tested for quality and resilience.

What you’ll love: This 3D printer product has an advanced extruder with features designed to prevent clogging or poor layering of thermoplastic. In the event of power outages, this 3D printer can resume printing where it left off.

What you should consider: This product needs to be carefully assembled and fine-tuned to maximize the quality of the objects it prints.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Coleman Gailloreto writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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