Here are the best 3D printers for people to get started.
In this guide, we focus on the most capable desktop printers you can get for home and office use.
Dremel Digilab 3D45- [For Serious Users]
Why Buy This One - This is a top of the line cartesian 3D printer with fused filament fabrication technology, and it has been rated #1 by many other publishers in this space
4 Materials, 1 Printer - Print Nylon, PETG, Eco-ABS, & PLA
50-Micron Resolution - The lower the number, the better quality your print is. (10 - 20 Micron are even better)
Auto Level - Effortlessly align print bed from all 4 corners to establish the base for printing
Print High Temp Material With Confidence - The enclosed system allows easy part retrieval and it retains temperature for a high-quality material print.
Built-In Vent Duct - Sucks out all the toxic fume out of the working space if it's set up correctly, and the active carbon filter protects the user from potentially harmful VOCs
MakerBot Replicator+ [Best Overall]
Why Use This One - The MakerBot Replicator+ offers better speed, good quality, quiet print performance for beginners. It's by far the best professional-grade printer out of all other options.
30% Boosted Print Speed - Considerably faster print speed than its predecessor (175 mm/sec print head travel speed & 15 cubic mm/ sec)
TOUGH Material Supported - 2X the impact strength of ABS for high durability prototypes. Significantly less warping and curling than ABS without the need for heated build plates
PLA Supported - Most used bioplastics in the world. It's eco-friendly and extremely affordable for beginners
Better Print Adhere Grip Surface - Reduced print warping and curling, and the printed part is easier to remove with the new bendable Flex Build Plate
Included 1 PLA Spool - Get started right away right out of the box
Ultimaker S5 [Best For Large Volume Print]
Why Pick This One - The S5 has a much bigger print volume for making something big [ 330 X 240 X 300mm] and it integrates seamlessly with slicer Cura 3D software that can print a wide range of materials for good quality. It's by far the best next to the MakerBot for beginners, professionals, and creative designers.
Wide Range Of Materials - It prints fast and supports 2 color printing, dissolvable support, and with moving parts
Easy To Load Material - Faster to load and unload material after every print. Significantly reduced filament breakage when sitting idle for extended periods
No Leveling Required - All professional printers should have it, and this one does. It saves time and prevents many failure points when building the first layer of every print
Built-In Cloud System & Camera - Team members can send print jobs to the printer online or move files through a USB stick. Also, check the status of the print while you're away as a home security system
Included 2 PLA Spools - Get started right away right out of the box
Anycubic Photon [Best Resin Printer]
Why Use This One Over Others - If you're a talented scale modeler and know how to work with resin parts, this printer will take your project and artistic skills to the next serious level. It's unbelievable what this printer can do for its price.
Insane Mind-Blowing Detail - Use this to build highly detailed miniature display models to bring them to life
Prints Better & Costs Way Less - Make better resin parts up to $1 - 3 a piece on your own for parts you can't find on scale modeling online stores.
No Print Mold Line - 3D printed without mold line. No trimming or filing required
Amazing Customer Support - Things break, the company will take care of you at no charge. It's a great start for a beginner
Anycubic Mega Zero 2 [Best Budget Option]
Why Beginners Should Start Here - For just under $220, this simple FDM printer is a solid place to start for beginners. It's easy to use, less frustration, and more affordable
Sets Up In 20 Mins - Follow the instruction to put it together! Simple and quick with tools provided
Heated Print Bed - Parts will stick while you print until it's finished, and works with many other types of filament
Manual Bed Leveling - Tweak it, play around and learn the importance of print bed quality before moving onto an advanced printer
Ultra Simple - No fancy bells and whistles to lower the price. Just send a simple 3D model to the print and start printing
Buyer's Guide - What To Look For
First! What Do You Plan To Print
Different 3D printers are good for certain projects that others aren't, so it's important to know what you planning on printing and narrow down your buying decision.
It's not possible to buy an all-in-one 3D printer that can do everything at a reasonable price, so it's good to ask yourself these questions before buying:
- For casual fun projects?
- For prototyping?
- For DIY projects?
- For student projects?
- For mechanical parts that can withstand impact, strain and stress?
Popular 3D Printer Type
Consumer Grade 3D Printers
FFF (FDM) Printers
FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) printer is also known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). These are easy to use desktop printers range from $500 - $4000 for consumers, students, hobbyists, and other engineering professionals.
It uses a wide range of thermoplastic polymers that are affordable and very useful to build things.
In short, a FFF printer falls under the material extrusion category of 3D printing technology.
Here is how it works:
- Filament gets pushed into the hot extruder
- Heated filament then deposited through the nozzle, onto the build bed
- Build layers until the object is completed
SLA (Stereolithography Apparatus) printer falls under the Vat Photopolymerization category of 3D printing technology. The SLA printer uses a liquid resin material to print objects and uses a powerful laser to harden the shape of the object.
SLA printers are highly specialized to print highly specialized materials used for applications such as de
Here is how it works:
- The laser sits at the bottom of the vat filled with liquid thermosetting resin
- Laser fires selectively onto the liquid photosensitive resin
- Laser exposure hardens the resin layer
- Process repeats until the entire object is complete
Selective laser melting (SLM) is one of the powder bed fusion additive manufacturing technology for metal. Its other name is direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). On a molecular level, the laser melts the powder together layer by layer until the model is complete.
SLM technology is very useful for rapid prototyping and mass production for complex metal parts.
Here is how it works:
- Metal powder is spread across the build plate in very thin layers by the coater blade
- High power laser fuses a 2D slice of the part by melting the powder material via the 3D printer’s topology optimization algorithms
- Build plat drops down to the next height of layer and repeats the process and spread another layer of powder material
- While the entire process is going, the printing chamber is atmosphere controlled to a specific temperature
Selective laser sintering (SLS) is a part of the additive manufacturing processes for plastics.
Its selling point is to make stronger parts for prototyping by using a high-power laser to sinter small particles of polymer powder into shapes.
Here is how it works:
- Take the part out of the chamber (be sure to wear protective gear)
- Clean off excess powder (Reuseable)
- Media blasting the finish part for a smoother surface finish
- Primed for paint, coating or electroplating if needed
Position Axis Type
In this guide, we've mostly covered the common cartesian printers. Cartesian is 1 of 3 popular axis type.
To learn how they work differently, please read here
How Much Print Volume Needed?
Most 3D printers can print small parts without any problem. However, if you want to print large parts in a single print, then you have to pay close attention to the 3D printer's print volume specs.
The print volume directly affects the printer's size and cost.
150 - 200 mm³ is considered average size, and anything above that is large.
What Materials To Print With
The most popular 3D printer most people have access to is FDM. FDM printers can print:
ABS, and PLA materials and are the two most common materials to work with.
In addition, an FDM printer can also use:
Next, we have to pay close attention to the strength of the material.
Many factors can affect an object's construction such as temperature variation, filament moisture, and printing conditions. The strength of the object is based on how the object is designed and how the printer is setup to do the print job
The printer's nozzle temperature, nozzle size, slicing setting, and bed adhesion all play major roles in creating a smooth surface quality print.
Even though most plastic prints require post-processing to make the object's surface smoother, but incorrect printer extrusion amount or poor material preparations can ruin the print.
The object's dimensional accuracy can be affected by all types of material selections. For example, poorly heated material can have trouble bonding the next print layer, or have shrinking and warping problems.
Other times, poor bed adhesion, in the beginning, can make the part fall to the sides as the weight of the object increases as it's being built.
What Color and Blends To Print With?
Regardless of the material type, dyes can be combined with the material to produce a full palette of colors that give designers plenty of flexibility.
Printers with multiple extruders can print objects in two or more colors, and most are dual extruders with each extruder being fed a different color filament.
Printing different colors are only practical like this:
It's not mixing colors like a drawing as most people think it can.
Bed Leveling Feature
Automatic bed leveling is highly recommended for any user. It saves time and eliminates frustrations when trying to balance a plane across multiple reference points manually.
Even if you can do it fast manually, but you can never be as precise as the machine.
Manual bed leveling generally comes with low-cost printers for learning purposes, but as time goes on, automatic bed leveling is the way to go so you can get your parts printed faster.
Print Bed Surface
The print bed is one of the most important aspects of a 3D printer. They come in many variations with different surfaces, thermal characteristics, and price points. Ultimately, a good print starts with good bed adhesion.
The build bed's main purpose is to hold the print in place while the printer finishes all the layers. Here are the top options:
Printing on glass
It's easy, flat, and doesn't warp over time. The longer it heats up so it spreads the heat more evenly around the build area to reduce the first layer issues.
Typically glue, painter's tape, and hairspray are used to stick it nicely and not delaminate during a print.
PEI Sheets (Polyetherimide) can be used for all types of filament on a heated or unheated print bed. No adhesives such as glue or painter's tape are required.
PEI sheets don't require any prep before use except for bed re-leveling to ensure accuracy, and it makes it very convenient to work with, and it eliminates the need for a raft or brim.