10 Best 3D Printers | March 2017

We spent 24 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. No longer confined to the realm of the super-rich, 3D printers are poised to disrupt the global economy, as they bring small-scale rapid prototyping and manufacturing capabilities within the reach of individuals and small businesses. From open-source DIY kits to production-ready proprietary systems, units like these can help you develop cost-effective models, spare parts and much more. Skip to the best 3d printer on Amazon.
10 Best 3D Printers | March 2017


Overall Rank: 4
Best Mid-Range
★★★★
Overall Rank: 3
Best High-End
★★★★
Overall Rank: 9
Best Inexpensive
★★★
10
The preassembled Eris by SeeMeCNC makes the singular experience of working with a delta system inexpensive and portable enough to compete with the Cartesian devices that generally dominate the marketplace, but its open frame and unheated bed won't work with ABS filaments.
9
The iconic Prusa i3 is the torchbearer for the RepRap movement that's driven desktop prototyping innovation for more than a decade. In the years since it was originally developed, the classic DIY kit has continued to inspire makers to try out new ideas and designs at home.
8
Although all-in-one desktop prototyping technology has a long way to go, XYZPrinting's Da Vinci Pro bundles scanning, engraving and reproduction capabilities into a single machine, offering a package solution that's accessible and affordable, albeit imperfect.
7
The compact and portable Robo 3D C2 squeezes a generous build area and advanced features, like mobile app integration, a touchscreen interface, and layer resolution as high as 20 microns into a fully enclosed device that fits right on your desktop.
  • 300mm-per-second print speed
  • supports more than 20 materials
  • calibration may take some effort
Brand ROBO 3D
Model C2
Weight 30.1 pounds
6
Tiertime's Up Mini 2 bucks the open-source trend with a proprietary system that's sleek, compact and portable. For a very reasonable price, its plug-and-play usability, Wi-Fi connectivity and user-friendly touchscreen interface make it an excellent choice for novice users.
  • includes hepa filtration
  • automatic nozzle height detection
  • low noise level
Brand Tiertime
Model 1900
Weight 28.7 pounds
5
Readily customizable with all of the latest advances in desktop prototyping technology, the LulzBot Taz 6 by Aleph Objects is a virtuous homage to libre innovation, featuring a generous build area and modular design that's versatile and easy to use right out of the box.
  • superb build quality and reliability
  • 50-micron maximum layer resolution
  • uses experimental materials
Brand LulzBot
Model 817752017954
Weight 43.2 pounds
4
The Wiiboox One Mini is one of the first 3D printers to offer an innovative, ultra-fine particulate air filtration system for protecting users from airborne contaminants, and its enclosed build area also features 4-way access for easy calibration.
  • one-key start functionality
  • multi-platform compatibility
  • 100-micron print layer resolution
Brand Wiiboox
Model Wiiboox One Mini
Weight pending
3
From one of the best-known names in rapid prototyping comes the Ultimaker 3, an open-source prosumer-level device with dual extruders, automatic bed leveling, remote viewing camera, intelligent material detection and optimization, and layer resolution of up to 20 microns.
  • uses non-proprietary filaments
  • works with various exotic materials
  • multi-platform software integration
Brand Ultimaker
Model pending
Weight 34 pounds
2
With dual extruders, an enclosed chamber and 10-millimeter guide rod to prevent warping and deformation, the FlashForge Creator Pro is well known in the open-source community for its build accuracy, quality and overall performance with a variety of filament materials.
  • works particularly well with abs
  • quiet enough for home office use
  • replacement parts readily available
Brand FlashForge
Model Flashforge Creator Pro
Weight 46.9 pounds
1
The delightfully hackable Makergear M2 is a workhorse of a machine, beloved by makers for its exceptional precision, reliability and ease of maintenance. Its solid metal chassis with heated build platform provides ample room for creating and replicating your designs.
  • 10 x 8 x 10-inch build area
  • open-source technology
  • interchangeable extruder nozzles
Brand MakerGear
Model M2-ASM-001
Weight 36.6 pounds

Creating Depth And Innovation

Printing has made keeping records and two-dimensional visualizations possible. It also removes the difficulty experienced when trying to interpret a person's handwriting. Printing allows for the transfer of photographs and documents from a computer screen to a sheet of paper for archiving and presenting. With the exception of the small amount of toner transferred to paper, a two-dimensional printer cannot create depth or height to whatever is being represented. Depending on your profession, what if you require a printer to do more than just transfer text to paper? A 3D printer gives you the ability to construct a 3D model based on a design concept through the use of different materials, which is something your traditional laser printer cannot accomplish on its own. Think of a 3D printer as a form of technology that brings ideas as well as digital prototypes and models into tangible form.

In the technical sense, a 3D printer leverages a computer-controlled process for synthesizing and constructing an object using multiple layers of different materials to do so. This process is also referred to as additive manufacturing, meaning that material layers are added successively by the printer. These layers are thinly-sliced, horizontal cross-sections of the intended object.

In order to create a 3D object, one needs a blueprint or virtual design of the object. A virtual design takes the form of a computer-aided design file (CAD). The CAD file is created by using 3D modeling software to generate a structural model of the object you want the printer to create. In other words, think of this modeling software as a digital road map that your printer will follow to produce your object. A 3D scanner can also be used to analyze a real object, convert it into an image, and turn that image into a 3D model to be interpreted by your printer.

Once the model is complete, it must then be prepared for your printer. This preparation process is called slicing because the model is being divided (or sliced) into thousands of horizontal, two-dimensional layers that the printer will assemble to create the 3D object that you're after. Once the model has been sliced, its data can then be fed into your printer for construction using a USB stick, SD card, or through your wireless network connection.

Depending on the specific printer you have, several different types of construction methods may be used to produce a 3D object. The difference between these methods is determined by the way in which the individual layers of material are assembled. For example, some production methods use melting or softening of materials to produce these layers, such as fused deposition modeling (FDM). Fused deposition modeling is one of the most common printing methods. Through this method, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or another type of thermoplastic material is melted and deposited in layers through a heated extrusion nozzle to build a 3D object. By contrast, the stereolithography method does not melt materials. Instead, this process focuses an ultraviolet (UV) laser onto a vat of photopolymer resin using a computer-aided design (CAD) file as a guide.

A photopolymer is a large molecule whose properties change when exposed to light. The UV laser is used to draw a pre-programmed design onto the surface of the photopolymer vat. The photopolymer then solidifies wherever the UV light beam touches it, allowing the light to print an object layer by layer. The construction methods and materials used depend on the type of printer you've chosen. Thermoplastics and metal alloys are the most common materials used by 3D printers to produce objects.

A Brief History Of 3D Printers

The earliest 3D printing apparatuses were introduced in the 1980s during a time when this technology was referred to as rapid prototyping. Charles W. Hull invented the first 3D printer in 1986 using the stereolithography method of object creation. Hull also co-founded 3D Systems Corporation, which still innovates and distributes professional 3D printer technology today.

By the middle of the 1990s, new techniques for material deposition by these printers were invented, including micro casting and spraying materials. Throughout the 2000s, additive manufacturing processes continued to mature with a growing focus on the home consumer market and lower costs for the printer technology. Since 2010, the average cost of a 3D printer has decreased considerably, allowing hobbyists to fulfill their dreams of owning the technology. The RepRap project has also encouraged the placement of this technology into more hands with personal interests instead of being restricted to just industrial or medical applications.

Possibilities Abound

Aside from rapid prototyping and quickly turning ideas into tangible objects, 3D printers offer a huge number of advantages across a variety of industries. The medical industry is definitely a big one, considering that medical professionals can use this technology to develop prosthetic devices. For the budding artist or architect, the printer can produce concept models for buildings and sculptures. For the automotive industry, this technology can be used to fabricate extra parts. Even if you're an archaeologist, this type of printer can be a big help to you for reconstructing fossils and artifacts.

On a practical level, things to consider when making this investment include the size of objects you'll need. A printer with a large building space will be necessary, particularly if you need concept models of a certain height for presentations.

Some of the best 3D printers offer compatibility across various operating systems and come with their own software for developing 3D models.

One must be sure to invest in a printer with parts that are relatively easy to replace or service. After all, the technology is a substantial investment with many moving parts.



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Last updated: 03/25/2017 | Authorship Information

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