Best 3D Printers (2019)

Best 3D Printers (2020)

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If you are informed about the latest in technology regarding 3D printing, you know how far we’ve come with it.

Just a few years ago, 3D printers weren’t readily available to the public. They were used in medical, military, industrial, and government applications.

Today, 3D printing is available for anyone who wants to print 3D objects at home, or in any industry. The problem isn’t the availability of such technology, but in choosing a 3D printer that fits your budget and needs.

 

 

 

Best 3D Printer

This guide will cover the top 5 3D printers, their attributes, functions, and features in detail so you can make an informed decision whether you’re looking to use it at home or on the job.

 

1. The Lulzbot Mini Desktop 3D Printer *Overall Winner*

LulzBot Mini Desktop 3D Printerir?t=selectedbest 20&l=li3&o=1&a=B00S54E1AI

The Lulzbot Mini Desktop 3D Printer is touted as the 3D printer for everyone, and it’s true. Not only is it affordable for just about anyone, it’s designed to be easy to use, built to last, and is top-rated for its versatility. Here is what you need to know about this desktop model.

  • Working area – 6” x 6” x 6.2”
  • Minimum layer resolution – 50 microns
  • Top print speed – 275mm/sec
  • Temperatures – 248 to 572 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Frame type – Open
  • LED/LCD screen
  • Self-cleaning and self-leveling bed
  • Technology – Fused filament fabrication (FFF)
  • Materials – ABS, HIPS, PLA, Nylon
  • Uses USB connection to computer
  • Modular tool head carriage designed for versatility in plug-and-play print heads
  • Free software – Cura Lulzbot
  • Compatible software – BotQueue, OctoPrint, Me
  • Warranty – 1-year with 1-year of tech support
  • Extruders – 1
  • Number of colors -1
  • The recommended uses for this versatile little 3D printer is for beginners, home use, education, research, and for commercial prototyping.

Users claim that this model is relatively quiet to operate and that what seems like a small working bed, is ample for most applications in the home or for educational use. It’s ideal for small scale prototyping.

If you want a Lulzbot model with a larger print surface and tetherless printing with SD card, and with the additional recommended use for industrial applications, the Taz 6 is another top-rated Lulzbot model.

 

 

 

2. The MakerBot Replicator+

The MakerBot Replicator+ir?t=selectedbest 20&l=li3&o=1&a=B01LZSUQKL

The MakerBot Replicator+ is an affordable machine built for engineers and designers and has been tested and optimized to print easily, quickly, and reliably.

  • Working area – 6.5 ” x 11 .6″ x 7.6″
  • Minimum layer resolution – 100 microns (0.1mm)
  • Frame type – Open
  • Remote monitoring
  • Color LCD interface
  • Connectivity – USB cable, USB stick, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi
  • Native CAD support
  • Materials – PLA and ABS
  • Technology – Fused filament fabrication (FFF)
  • Free software – MarkerBot Print used to streamline and optimize all 3D printing processes for ease of workflow. It allows you to discover, prepare, manage and share your 3D prints.
  • 30 percent faster than its predecessor
  • 25 percent larger build volume
  • Sturdy construction
  • Smart Extruder+ technology
  • Extruders – 1
  • Number of colors – 1

The benefits outweigh any downsides according to users who say it can run loudly, for most that isn’t a deal breaker. Overall, users say this model is a noticeable upgrade over its predecessor with faster printing, larger build area, and better workflow options for professionals.

If the working area size is problematic for your needs, this brand has 3D printing machines to meet those needs.

 

 

 

3. Ultimaker 3

Ultimaker 3ir?t=selectedbest 20&l=li3&o=1&a=B01M66TXYD

The Ultimaker 3 offers good print quality, especially for a 3D printer that has a plastic filament. The dual print core technology allows you to print two filament colors or types.

  • Working area – 7.8″ x 8.5″ x 8.5″
  • Frame type – Open
  • LED/LCD screen
  • Technology – Fused filament fabrication (FFF)
  • Extruders – 2
  • Minimum layer resolution – 60 microns
  • Number of colors – 2
  • Connectivity – USB type A port, Wireless 802.11b/g/n
  • Materials – ABS, HIPS, PLA, PVA, PETG, Nylon
  • Voltage VAC – 120VAC
  • 3D Print Speed Max – 300mm/s
  • Free software – Ultimaker Cura
  • Warranty – Comprehensive 1 year
  • In the box – USB stick, grease, glue stick, USB and Ethernet cables, hex wrenches, spools, spool holder, lifetime expert support, Ultimaker app, calibration card and sheet, print cores

Most users really like this model, which is how it made the top 5 3D printer of 2018 list. Like most products on the market, there are some cons reported by users like the frequency of firmware and software updates and it’s a bit slow for some users’ tastes. Otherwise, users seem to love the print quality, the built-in camera that aids in monitoring, and the low level of noise this 3D printer offers.

 

 

 

4. The FlashForge Creator Pro

The FlashForge Creator Proir?t=selectedbest 20&l=li3&o=1&a=B00I8NM6JO

The FlashForge Creator Pro is a great mid-range priced printer that is affordable, reliable, and maintains its quality. It’s a machine that produces like its a high-end professional model without the high-end price tag.

  • Working area – 8.9″ x 5.8″ x 5.9″
  • Sturdy metal frame
  • LED/LCD screen
  • Technology – Fused filament fabrication (FFF)
  • Extruders – 2
  • Minimum layer resolution – 100 microns
  • Connectivity – USB, SD Card
  • Materials – ABS and PLA
  • Voltage – AC Input, 100-240 V, ~2amps, 50-60 Hz, 350 W
  • Free software – ReplicatorG, FlashPrint

Overall, this is a solid and quality printer with superior customer support and easy to use even for beginners. Many users not only like the performance and quality, but also like the way it looks.

The biggest issue users reported is the noise, but that is not a big deal to them due to the quality and performance of this FlashForge 3D printer.

 

 

 

5. The Formlabs Form 2

The Formlabs Form 2ir?t=selectedbest 20&l=li3&o=1&a=B0768JSZ8J

The Formlabs Form 2 is for those of you who don’t mind paying more to get the best print quality possible. Not only is this printer a high-performance and a quality piece of equipment, it’s an attractive-looking machine.

  • Working area – 9” x 5.7” x 5.7”
  • Minimum layer resolution – 25 microns
  • Frame type – Closed
  • Interactive touchscreen with push-button power control
  • Automated resin fill
  • Technology – Stereolithography
  • Power – 100-240V, 1.5 A 50/60 Hz, 65W
  • Materials – ABS, HIPS, PLA, Nylon
  • Connectivity – USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi
  • Versatile colors, resins, and materials
  • Applications – Engineering, Dentistry, Jewelry, Ceramics, and Standard

The main feature that users like about this 3D printing machine is that it provides high-resolution printing at a fraction of the cost. It’s touted as the most advanced desktop machine to date.

Users like its ease of use, high-quality resolution, and the no-mess resin tank. Some have mentioned it’s a bit loud. Another drawback is that it doesn’t match the reliability of the Ultimaker 2+, but the print quality is what makes the biggest difference with this machine.

 

 

These are the top 5 3D printers of 2018 for your consideration. Hopefully, this guide has taught you something about the top setups on the market. You should know how 3D technology works, some applications where it’s valuable, and some tips for choosing the 3D printing machine that is suitable for your needs.

 

How 3D Printers Work

3D is the shortened term used for three-dimensional, which simply put is a thing that has height, width, and depth. We walk around in a 3D world every day. We are three-dimensional, as is our physical environment. We humans have 3D visual perception, which occurs when each eye forms two-dimensional images that the brain translates into 3D imagery.

Most standard movies we watch are in 2D, as if everything is at a distance. Some movies are 3D, bringing the actors and environment of the movie to life. 3D printing technology can be traced back to 1976, when the very first inkjet printer was invented. In 1984, Charles Hull invented stereolithography, which plays the biggest role in 3D printing today.

The 3D printing process uses a process that makes three-dimensional objects from a digital image file. The biggest problem with 3D printing was the cost of buying the equipment and supplies. Today, we have equipment that is affordable enough for anyone who wants to print digital objects can do so at their kitchen table.

3D printers work just like inkjet printers, but instead of ink, they use the appropriate material to create successive layers that create the physical 3D object from a chosen digital file. The process goes something like this:

  1. A laser beam is used to solidify the desired material.
  2. A tiny elevator is programed to move the working platform up and down to form the layers for the object.
  3. A vat holds the material used for creating the 3D object.
  4. The 3D object is made as the layering process begins.
  5. More advanced 3D printers often used a variety of materials like titanium, polymers, gold, silver, plastic, and resin to make 3D objects. Depending on the printer, one or more of these materials may be used.

 

The Evolution of 3D Printing

Just like all technology, 3D printing has gone through changes and has been improved over the years. Here’s are some details that might interest you.

  • 1992 – The first stereolithographic apparatus (SLA) machine was created by 3D Systems (co-founder George Hull). While this machine was far from perfect, it went a long way towards proving that intricate parts could be manufactured overnight.
  • 1999 – The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine opened the door for 3D technology in the medical field for generating 3D synthetic scaffolds coated with the cells of young patients undergoing urinary bladder augmentations. The genius behind this idea is that the organs are made using the patients’ own cells, so the risk of rejection is significantly reduced (i.e. little to none).
  • 2002 – A functioning mini kidney was engineered by scientists that could filter blood and produce diluted urine in animals. This development jump-started research at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine for 3D printing whole organs and tissues.
  • 2005 – An open-source initiative started by Dr. Adrian Bowyer made a 3D printer that could print most of its own components. RepRap was a project essentially started to show that manufacturing 3D parts for 3D printing is cheap.
  • 2006 – Moving forward to selective laser sintering (SLS) technology, the first machine to use it was deemed viable. This kind of machine uses a laser to fuse materials to create 3D products. This idea opened the door to mass production, customization, and on-demand manufacturing of various industrial parts and later on, prostheses.
  • 2008 – After the introduction of RepRap in 2005, this same RepRap project released Darwin, the first printer that could self-replicate most of its components. It allowed users who had a 3D printer to make 3D printers for their friends.
  • 2008 – An inexpensive, private beta process is launched by Shapeways for architects, designers, and artists to create their own 3D designs.
  • 2008 – This year was an amazing year for 3D technology because the first successful 3D printed prosthetic leg is printed and used by a person. This is the first reported person to walk on this kind of leg with all its parts, including the foot, socket, knee, etc. It was printed as one complex structure, no assembly required.
  • 2009 – The 3D bioprinter printed the first blood vessel, moving 3D from mere cells to blood vessels. Dr. Gabor Forgac created this technology.
  • 2010 – This year introduced the very first 3D printed robotic aircraft. This aircraft was designed by engineers at the University of Southampton and built in only seven days, costing only £5,000. Normally, elliptical wings are a very expensive part of a plane that makes it aerodynamic, but this technology made that substantially cheaper.
  • 2011 – Kor Ecologic created an environmentally friendly, sleek prototype car they called the Urbee using 3D printing tech. This car gets 200 mpg on the highway and 100 mpg in the city. It was designed to be inexpensive and fuel efficient. It’s estimated retail value is between $10,000 and $50,000 if it’s introduced to the public.
  • 2011 – The Midas touch hit this year with 3D printing with gold and silver. The company, i.materialise became the first 3D printing service globally to provide 14K gold and sterling silver as materials. The intent was to potentially open a new world of inexpensive manufacturing for jewelry designers.
  • 2012 – 2008 brought us the first fully functional prosthetic leg, but 2012 gave us the first 3D printed prosthetic jaw. This custom designed, three-dimensional lower jaw was implanted into an 83-year old woman who suffered with chronic bone infections. This technology is still being explored to help promote the growth of new bones and tissues.

The evolution of 3D printing has continually grown and today is finally affordable to the average person to use in their home to create prototypes or products to sell. Models, prosthetics, parts, organs, and more are being created using this amazing technology. You can expect to see this trend grow stronger and being used in surprising ways.

 

3D Printing Technologies

It’s important to know the about the different technologies used for 3D printers that are available on the market. Some are for industrial use, some standard use, some medical use, and the applications just go on and on. Here are the 3D printer types you will see when researching this technology.

  • SLA – Stereolithography, the oldest 3D printing tech is still used today for creating 3D objects. It converts liqiud plastic, using laser light, into 3D solid objects. It takes about 6-8 hours to print a small item. Printing larger items can take as long as several days.
  • DLP – Digital light processing is similar to SLA and was invented by Texas Intstrument’s Larry Hornbeck in 1987. It uses digital micro-sized mirrors on a semiconductor chip that is used for 3D printing as well as for cell phones and movie projectors. DLP and SLA both work with photopolymers. the light source is the main difference between DLP and SLA. Arc lamps are used for DLP and it seems to print faster.
  • FDM – Fused deposition modeling is technology that was developed by Scott Crump, founder of Stratsys Ltd in the 1980s. FDM is functional for prototype construction, but it also creates concept models for end-use products. It is a process of building the object layer by layer by heating up and extruding thermoplastic filament.
  • SLS – Selective laser sintering is a method that uses laser as its power source to create solid 3D objects. It was developed by Carl Deckard in the 1980s with the help of his professor Joe Beaman at Texas University. SLS is very similar to SLA, only it uses powdered materials in the printer vat instead of liquid resin like SLA.
  • SLM – Selective laser melting, uses laser technology as the name implies. A high-powered laser beam fuses and melts metallic powders together to make 3D objects. This technique was developed at the Fraunhofer Institute in 1995 as part of a German research project.
  • EBM – Electronic beam melting is simply another type of additive manufacturing used for metal parts. Originally named by Arcam AB Inc., this technology uses a powered bed fusion method along with an electron beam as its power source to create 3D objects. The process is much like SLM, only without the laser power source.
  • LOM – Laminated object manufacturing is a faster prototyping technology developed by Helisys Inc in California. Metal laminates, adhesive-coated paper, or plastic are fused together via pressure and heat before it’s cut and shaped with a computer programmed knife or laser.

The same basic goal of adding layers upon layers of heated materials to make a 3D object is the common thread with all 3D print technologies. The differences are essentially the types of materials used and the light sources.

The processes are basically similar across technologies for 3D printing.

 

Common Applications

3D printing technology is used widely today for a variety of applications across almost every industry. You have already read some of the end-use products made by these machines but wait until you read the wide range of uses for it in the following information.

  • Broken stuff – If you’ve ever broken something that you cannot replace, 3D printing could come to the rescue. If you have something that is no longer sold, or has sentimental value to you, 3D printing allows you to print another one just like it.
  • Home-furnishings – Bespoke furniture made specifically for your home, according to your measurements and specifications is not just an application, but an opportunity for customization.
  • Customized items – Besides custom-made furniture, imagine the possibilities for shoes that actually fit your feet perfectly, door handles that fit your hands, and organs, bones, and skin made to treat specific injuries or damage.
  • Automotive – Auto parts and auto body parts can be 3D printed cheaper than conventional manufacturing methods. The future may hold more of this kind of manufacturing, which should reduce prices for end-users.
  • Medical – The medical arena is on top of this 3D printing technology for creating organs, tissues, cells, and other medical breakthroughs. They also use 3D imagery to help make surgeries less risky. Here is one example.
  • 3D printing saved the lives of conjoined twins on March 3, 2017, at Texas Children’s Hospital. The medical team involved printed an exact 3D resin model replica of the twins’ skeletal anatomy to help them find the best way to perform surgery and to avoid much of the risk. The surgery lasted 26 hours total on the 10-month old babies. 18 of those hours were used for the actual separation.
  • Product creation – Customized and creative art, jewellery, and other products are currently being made by designers, craftspeople, and artists to provide their customers with a faster delivery of what they want making.
  • Parts – They can be used to print parts for computers, appliances, electronics, 3D printers, and other items (within reason), which saves time, money, and effort.

These are just a few of the applications where these machines can be utilized in the modern world. Imagine what a few years will do for the evolution of 3D printing technology. Just how far can it go? There is much debate on whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but that’s an old debate that applies to nearly every kind of technology.

While not everything in 3D printing currently provides on-demand, instant gratification delivery, the time it takes to create products, prototypes, parts, art, etc., is vastly reduced by this technology.

The fastest an item can be 3D printed at this current time is 10 minutes, but that involves a simple, small object. Larger objects may take hours to days to create. The opportunities are endless, as are the applications.

 

The Benefits of 3D Printing

  • Time-to-market – 3D printing helps ideas and concepts develop faster. Some concepts can even be realized the same day of creation. Instead of days, weeks, or months, this ideal helps businesses gain and maintain the edge.
  • Risk mitigation – 3D printing allows you to verify a design before you invest your time, money, or effort into it.
  • Money saving – The 3D process lets people create parts, tools, etc. via additive manufacturing for substantially less than conventional machining technology.
  • Feedback – Prototypes allow you to test a market at trade shows so potential investors and buyers can see it and give you feedback on their interest before you produce it.
  • Clear communication – Humans are visual creatures (thus Instagram) that gain more knowledge and remember better through visual concepts. Therefore, you can avoid miscommunications related to a product with a conceptual image, which is exponentially more effective than a written description. Getting to hold that potential product is even better. That is what 3D printing can do.
  • Personalization – While personalization has somewhat been covered, it can’t be emphasized enough in this arena. 3D printing goes above and beyond the standard cookie-cutter, assembly line products. Custom fitted products for the medical, dental, jewellery, and fashion worlds is unique and desired.
  • Boost your imagination – Digital art is booming and blooming. The possibilities in this venue are beyond staggering. It’s a space where you are only limited by your own imagination.
  • Round peg to square hole – This isn’t an issue with 3D printers. Unlike the limitations of conventional machining, additive manufacturing boosts the possibilities so that there is no limit. You can create oddly shaped items, make something that seems unrealistic fit, and construct unique products that destroy the idea that a round peg won’t fit in a square hole.

 

How to Choose a 3D Printer

Much like choosing a laser engraving or marking machine, the best way to find your ideal 3D printer is to read the specs and determine which one works best for you.

If you don’t understand the specifications and features of a 3D printer, there are many resources to help you along the way. Salespeople, manufacturer’s customer support, and people who are already involved in the industry. The following informative guide will help you learn more about choosing the perfect one.

 

About 3D Printing Tech and Printers

3D printing technology uses a few main types of technology for creating things like tools, toys, model cars and planes, parts, and more. The biggest problem with this tech is that not many average people know much about these machines. That problem will be solved now.

 

Your Budget

While it’s not usually the first thing you should consider, it’s one of the initial concerns when buying any technology. Therefore, this is where we’ll start.

They can range from about $200 to over $5,000, depending on the brand, quality, and features. You may have to make some concessions when you have a low budget, but it’s certainly an important aspect when investing in one of these tools.

 

Printing Size

3D printing machines, like laser and inkjet printers, come in different sizes. Size here relates to the working area of the machine, or the print bed size. You may see some low-end priced 3D printers that offer something like a 4” x 4” x 4” working area. That is probably going to be too small for most projects. This is where cheaper may not be better for you.

Unless you’re planning to make small items, stick to the mid-range of 6” x 6” x 6” or similar sized machines. 8” working areas are also popular. There are some larger capacity 3D printers with a massive sized working area, if you want to go all in and go big.

 

Experience

Will this be your first machine?

Do you already have some experience with using this technology? Are you very familiar with them? Maybe you have some other experience, knowledge, or expertise with technology or electronics that will help you get past the average learning curve. No matter what your level of experience with 3D printing, you can find your ideal printer.

There are some great 3D printers that are more like an appliance that is user-friendly and easy to use for anyone. That is what you want to go for if you’re new to this tech. Once you get some hands-on experience and develop your skills and expertise, you can upgrade to another printer.

 

Materials

The most popular material used in this industry is PLA, which is a vegetable-based plastic. That’s not the only material that can be used, but it’s a go-to material and that’s fine. If you decide what you’re making requires more flexibility than PLA can provide, you can look at ABS, Nylon, or PETG.

The reason you must consider materials is that you need to know what features you need on your 3D printer Features that accommodate certain materials include heat-resistant parts, temperature hot-end, and a heated bed.

 

Filament

Consider the size of the filament you need. Understand that most 3D printers come with the necessary filament for generic projects. Read the description of the machine to find out what size filament it can work with and decide what you want to use.

 

Project Purpose

What will you use your 3D printer to make? Even if you aren’t sure about the materials you need or the size of your filament, you do need to know your intended purpose. For instance, maybe you want to print toys, RC parts, car model pieces, or other items.

Your project purpose should take into consideration print speed. Consider this. Large prints that you try to get done quickly aren’t going to be as detailed as you want and aren’t going to be the quality a client wants. Also, consider if you’re making something that has to be food safe or resilient.

 

Customer and Tech Support

How good is the customer and tech support from the company?

Non-branded, generic 3D printers don’t often offer very good support services. If you only care about having email support, that won’t matter as much. However, if you prefer real-time chat, onsite, or faster response support, you need to consider that when selecting a brand for your machine.

 

Warranty

Always check the manufacturer’s warranty before investing in a 3D printer. In this case, it’s recommended to invest in the extended warranty. This choice has much to do with your experience with these machines and your level of learning.

 

Software Compatibility

Do you already have compatible software to work with a 3D printer?

You need to check what OS (operating system) is compatible with the printer. Most of these printers come with free software for editing and monitoring the device, but it still must be compatible with your current operating system.

Ask yourself these questions before investing in a 3D printer. You will be happy you did when you choose the perfect machine for your applications.

Even if you’re a first-time buyer/user of this 3D technology, the learning curve isn’t overwhelming. It’s not much different from using a conventional printer and photo editing software. It’s simply a newer technology with a few different aspects that you will learn by doing.

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