As the 3D printing industry has hit the big time—grabbing worldwide interest of makers of all ages and levels of expertise—the marketplace has become quite expansive. While many of us are just incredibly curious as to which machines are rising in the ranks and what it is that actually makes them special, thousands of people are currently shopping for their own desktop printers. Many have an interest sparked due to a background in design and fabrication and are technologically savvy, while some future makers just ran into a 3D printer while shopping at a national retailer like Sam’s Club or Best Buy, and they are thinking about buying one for themselves or maybe the whole family. With so many choices and such a wide range of features and prices, there’s just no way around it if you want to buy a 3D printer the right way: You really need to read up on the subject—and you need help.
That’s where Aniwaa comes in. Drawing from none other than Make: and 3D Hubs, leaders whose information we greatly enjoying checking out on a continual basis, the Aniwaa team points out quite adroitly that while creating a list of the most popular 3D printers seems to be a growing practice, the information must be ‘put in perspective and challenged against several other information sources such as in-depth product reviews.’ They also suggest, quite correctly, that one should examine comments from first-hand users in forums and on social media—and undoubtedly this is where you will find the most uncensored, full information from ‘real people’ with ‘real opinions.’
The whole idea for the list came about as Aniwaa realized how popular searches for ‘best 3D printers’ were becoming, and continuing to grown in numbers. They also realized that more quality in information and data was needed for users perusing articles online.
“We were overwhelmed by the number of ‘best 3D printers’ articles out there, and frankly we thought the data often looked suspicious,” Martin Lansard, Aniwaa co-founder, told 3DPrint.com. “So as we always strive to do on Aniwaa, we collected and crunched a lot of data to produce something useful for 3D printing users worldwide.”
“In addition to the sheer number of products available, you have to take into account that 3D printers are complex machines,” says the Aniwaa team in their latest blog. “Many technical characteristics and external factors (testing environment, use cases, 3D model used…) must be taken into account and currently there are no standardized testing protocols which would allow for a fair performance comparison of 3D printers…this information must always be taken with a grain of salt.”
Not a listicle and not meant just for ‘content-snacking,’ the 2016 Best 3D Printers List is not a compilation of subjective ideas and opinions from the Aniwaa team either.
“We decided to follow our core principle on Aniwaa: curate, aggregate and normalize the data available and make it actionable for our users.”
They also state that this is the only list you will find concerning desktop printers for sale in the under $4500 range. Examining over twenty ‘best of’ lists, the team decided to use five of these for pertinent information, deeming them credible in that they contain ‘granular ratings’ and information about the products that most everyone will find relevant.
Unsurprisingly, the Aniwaa team found data from both Make: and 3D Hubs to be most reliable, as do we on a continual basis, and we especially enjoy the 3D printing Monthly Trends reports that they send us. The other three expert companies that they referred to were PC Mag, Tom’s Guide, and TopTenReviews.
Their results I found to be right on target, considering the number of innovations and new processes we write about on a daily basis, and then look to the hardware sources.
Since I live in Colorado, I always perk up when I hear about the LulzBot (a product of Aleph Objects, Inc. and headquartered in Loveland) and see the growing evidence of its true popularity. I was also glad to see number two on the list as well since we currently have a Zortrax M200 at home, on loan from this Polish company—and we simply couldn’t be more impressed or be enjoying a more user-friendly experience. We’ve written about the Bukito before in terms of it being an inspiration to other makers as well. Nearly every 3D printer on the list is one we’ve followed, but there are a couple of surprises off the beaten path too. There may also be some you are interested to see absent from the list—such as MakerBot.
“It’s interesting to note the diversity in the manufacturers countries of origin: you have of course US manufacturers in the Top 10 but also companies from Poland, Portugal, China, Netherlands. 3D printing is a global and fragmented industry, and a strong leader in desktop 3D printers has yet to emerge,” Pierre-Antoine Arrighi, Aniwaa co-founder, told 3DPrint.com.
The team reached their data by calculating an average between the ratings supplied by Make: and 3D Hubs.
“Make uses a standardized 3D printer testing protocol–they use nine test models and rate each print results on a scale of 0 to 5 or 0 to 2,” states the Aniwaa team on their blog. “Then these scores are added together to obtain an overall rating (max is 39). We have normalized these ratings to obtain a rating out of 10, thus making it easy to compare to 3D Hubs and other sources. 3D Hubs gathers accurate ratings on 10 criteria covering the machine from all angles, from print quality to ease-of-sue, reliability, customer service etc.”
Also, before you purchase or continue to shop for a 3D printer, you should ask yourself the following:
- What’s the methodology used to create this list of best 3D printers? Is it clearly explained?
- What’s the source of the data presented? Did the writers actually test the machines?
- What 3D printers were considered for the article?
If you are looking toward some even more thorough and raw data, as well as real life input, likely without filter, check out these two social media forums on Reddit and Facebook. Is this information that you’ve been seeking recently? How did this help you? Discuss in the 2016 Best 3D Printers forum over at 3DPB.com.