When you think about the organization 3D Hubs, you likely focus on the 3D printing service platform aspect. The Amsterdam-based company helps people throughout the world find access to localized 3D printing services that can provide the necessary technology for almost any project imaginable. But 3D Hubs does more than connect everyday people with the proper 3D printing service. The service platform also conducts a massive amount of research to provide users with compiled data to help decide what 3D printer they should purchase or utilize.
Nothing is more exemplary of their research prowess and comprehensive data than their annual 3D Printer Guide. Whether you’re looking to purchase a prosumer 3D printer or shopping on a budget, 3D Hubs has a thoughtful answer to the difficult question, “which 3D printer should I buy?” Even more extensive than the 2016 3D Printer Guide, this year’s companion was comprised of the following data:
- Over 8,624 reviews from verified 3D printer owners
- 4,982 years of 3D printing experience
- 1.14 million 3D prints
- 513 different 3D printer models
Working with the globally vast 3D Hubs community, the following parameters were investigated to help rank the range of 3D printers:
- Print quality
- Build quality
- Ease of use
- Print failure rate
- Customer service
- Running cost
In order to satisfy the requirements of the wide range of consumers on the 3D printing market, the 3D Hubs 2017 3D Printer Guide takes into account five individual categories for 3D printer type: Prosumer, Workhorse, Budget, Plug ’N’ Play, and SLS. This year’s guide includes 14 3D printer models, each of which has an average of 50 in-depth reviews from experienced 3D printer owners.
Printers in the “Prosumer” category are ideal for professional designers and small businesses looking for an exceptionally reliable 3D printer capable of producing high quality parts. The following printers are considered to be advanced desktop machines that can be used for a variety of applications. Judged on a scale of 1-10, the highest rated printer in this section was the Ultimaker 2+ with a score of 9.1. With an improved PT100 printhead, an upgraded heater cartridge, and the ability to use different nozzle sizes, the Ultimaker 2+ has leaped over its predecessor (the Ultimaker 2) to become one of the top all-around 3D printers out there.
This category followed with two other options for the prosumer:
Form 2 – Rated 9.0. As the only SLA desktop 3D printer to make the cut on the 2017 3D Printer Guide, the Formlabs Form 2 is an excellent printer for the prospective buyer looking to produce high resolution 3D models or functional parts. Though the resin-based 3D printer is on the pricier side of the consumer market, the reliability and precision of the prints make it well worth the cost.
Zortrax M200 – Rated 8.9. Already featured on the previous three guides released by 3D Hubs, the Polish manufacturer Zortrax has won itself a spot in the new Prosumer category. Their M200 3D printer is a sturdy and professional-grade machine that is extremely accessible and jam-packed with user-friendly features.
The “Workhorse” category was developed for those searching for a robust 3D printer capable of non-stop printing without failure. Know for reliability and generally open to modifications and tinkering, these printers are for those looking to maximize their creative and commercial output. This section was led by the MakerGear M2, which received a commendable rating of 9.2. With a solid steel frame and sturdy aluminum construction, the M2 was praised for offering precise printing quality and relatively easy “hackability.” Featured on 3D Hubs’ annual guide for three years straight, the MakerGear M2 is compatible with a wide range of materials, including common thermoplastics, Flexibles, Nylons, Polycarbonate, and much more.
This category followed with three other options for those seeking a workhorse.
LulzBot TAZ 6 – Rated 9.1. Manufactured by the experienced team at Aleph Objects, the LulzBot TAZ 6 is an exceptionally well built 3D printer that scored incredibly high for build quality and reliability. Described by one reviewer as being “built like a tank,” the TAZ 6 is also equipped with state-of-the-art components, from the new v2 Hot End to self-cleaning mechanisms.
BCN3D Sigma – Rated 8.9. Not only does the BCN3D Sigma offer users high build quality, reliability, and print quality, it also includes the Independent Dual Extruder (IDEX), which provides the ability to print in multiple materials or colors. Manufactured in Spain, the printer is relatively large (210 × 297 × 210mm) and noisy, but its lack of limitations makes it one of the most valuable printers on the consumer market.
FlashForge Creator Pro – Rated 8.6. The FlashForge Creator Pro rounds out the “Workhorse” category for its stability and print quality. Offering a sturdy metal frame and an enclosed chassis, the Creator Pro includes new features like an upgraded platform leveling system, dual extruder system, metal build plate, and a guide rod component to promote stabilization and durability.
There’s no shame in using frugality as a measure for which 3D printer is right for you, especially when there are so many affordable machines on the market that can perform above their price point. Not only do the following price efficient 3D printers offer adequate print quality, they also come accompanied by a supportive community as well as the ability to be modified and tinkered with. The “Budget” category was put together with an emphasis on value for money, only including 3D printers sold by manufacturers for less than $1,000. To no surprise, the leader in this section was the 9.1-rated Original Prusa i3 MK2, an open-source printer that offers valuable features for the low price of $845.79 in kit form. With its cleverly designed MK42 heated bed, simple calibration setup, and ease of use and assembly, there’s a good reason that one reviewer called the Prusa i3 MK2 the “best value for money.”
This category followed with two other options for those on a budget.
Rostock MAX – Rated 8.8. As the only delta style 3D printer to make it onto 3D Hubs’ guide, the Rostock MAX 3D printer operates differently from most traditional desktop 3D printers. The delta style robot system offers increased print speed and positioning accuracy, which results in 3D prints with smoother curves. This intricate machine kit is a bit more difficult to build and calibrate, but its modular capabilities, almost 21,000 cubic centimeters of build space (224 x 224 x 375mm), and low price point of $799 make this printer perfect for experienced shoppers on a budget.
Printrbot Simple Metal – Rated 8.5. Honored in the “Budget” category for the third year in a row now, the Printrbot Simple Metal is an incredibly affordable printer geared towards those who want a cheap but high quality introduction to open source 3D printing. The active community behind the 3D printer offers troubleshooting information and quality support from the vast forum and guides on Printrbot’s website.
The “Plug ’n’ Play” category was created for desktop 3D printers that are ready to create almost right out of the box. Primarily tailored for beginners, these machines are considered by the 3D Hubs community to be the simplest to use, while also offering consistent print quality and top-notch customer support. Though these “Plug ’n’ Play” printers are usually limited in terms of “hackability,” they were rated with an emphasis on reliability and ease of use. The top rated printer for this category was the CraftUnique CraftBot PLUS, gaining the respectable rating of 9.1. Not only is this printer well built and easy to use, it also delivers consistent and reliable prints. The CraftBot PLUS also provides convenience in the form of its proprietary slicing software CraftWare, making the entire process —from model preparation to removing the finished print— a breeze.
This category followed with two other Plug ‘n’ Play options.
LulzBot Mini – Rated 9.1. Claiming a spot in the “Plug ’n’ Play” category for the second straight year, the LulzBot Mini is a 3D printer that Aleph Objects created for the introductory market. Not only is the $1,250 3D printer ready to go out of the box, it also includes those beloved intelligent LulzBot features, such as an auto-leveling bed, a self-cleaning nozzle, and an all metal hot-end.
CEL Robox – Rated 9.0. After almost tripling their £100,000 Kickstarter goal, the UK-based company CEL surely delivered with their award-winning Robox 3D printer. The CEL Robox is more than just an affordable “Plug ’n’ Play” option, it also has first-rate customer support, as well as dual nozzles and a proprietary extrusion system, which provides consistent print quality.
The final category, “SLS,” which covers the most used industrial 3D printing technology available on 3D Hubs, points to one printer and one printer alone, the German engineered EOS P 396. With an 8.2 rating, this medium-sized industrial machine has a sizable build size of 340 × 340 × 600mm. Equipped with a new 70W CO₂ laser, the P 396 prints 32% faster and consumes 38% less energy than the previous EOS model. The machine itself costs upwards of $250,000, and it requires experience and expense to operate properly. This machine is best utilized by 3D printing service bureaus and professionals in the aerospace, automotive, and industrial sectors, but can also help you print your own object with the help of 3D Hubs. Discuss in the 3D Hubs forum at 3DPB.com.