So – you’ve decided to take the leap and purchase a 3D printer. But which one is right for you? Thankfully, there are all sorts of 3D Printer Buying Guides out there to help guide you in this important and potentially confusing decision-making process. 3D Hubs published its 2017 guide to 3D printers in November, while 3DPrint.com posted our 3D Printer Buying Guide 2017 last month. In December, 3D printing community, marketplace, and design repository Pinshape released a guide for 3D desktop printing materials, and has just released its own 3D Printer Guide 2017, based on over 900 reviews from its community 3D printer pages.
The Pinshape 3D printer pages list over 500 3D printers, which are split into three separate categories: Professional, Prosumer, and Hobbyist, though some of the printers do cross over into multiple categories. The new guide only used the top reviewed 3D printers from these pages.
Lauren Watkins, the Team Lead at Pinshape, said, “When we surveyed our users, the number one question on their mind was ‘which 3D printer [should] I buy?’ Although the answer will vary from person to person, the goal of this guide is to make 3D printer reviews and information easily accessible so they can make an informed decision before purchasing.”
Pinshape put together its guide, which displays models from each of the top printers that were 3D printed by community members, in order to help the 3D community decide which of the many available options is best for them. In addition to the displayed models, Pinshape’s 3D printer guide also includes a brief description of each 3D printer’s benefits and features, as well as a short list of pros and cons and some of the top reviews for each listed printer. Most of the listed 3D printers are FDM machines.
The Professional category is targeted toward users in office, lab, or classroom settings, who are looking for reliable machines that provide high-quality prints. However, quality isn’t free, so these 3D printers are more expensive than the ones in the other two categories; just to save you time, the cost is listed as a con for all four printers listed in the Professional category. The desktop Formlabs Form 2 3D printer, which is the company’s flagship product, offers the high level of quality that professional users are looking for, rivaling industrial-grade SLA printers. Reviewers say that the $3,499 Form 2, which is the only SLA 3D printer listed in Pinshape’s guide, is reliable and has easy-to-use software, but its smaller build volume is listed as a con.
In contrast, the FDM Zortrax M200 has a higher build volume and only costs $1,600. The plug and play M200 offers automatic bed leveling and ‘amazing’ print quality in multiple materials, but Pinshape mentions that it does have “difficulty using 3rd party materials.”
The Ultimaker 3 makes professional FDM 3D printing accessible to more people with dual extrusion, so users can print with two different materials at the same time; in addition, the nozzles retract to prevent print failures. The modular design of the printer, which costs $3,495, allows for easy component changes, and one reviewer said it offered a “seamless” experience for users. However, users wish it offered better print finish quality.
Speaking of dual extruders, the FDM BCN3D Sigma, which will set you back €2,655.95, was one of the first printers to offer this feature. The dual extruders, along with the printer’s construction and size, are all listed as pros, but the printer’s noise level is mentioned as a con. But the description does mention that these levels have improved since the printer’s February update.
Good prosumer 3D printers need an optimal combination of value, print quality, and running expenses, and typically fall between $1,000 – $2,000. As they are often used in homes and schools, or for prototyping purposes, a high resolution is not always the most important thing. The open source LulzBot Mini is one of the more affordable options in this category, costing only $1,250, and is listed as a “great entry level 3D printer.” It comes with a heated bed and auto bed leveling system, but reviewers wish it had a bigger build volume.
One of the best features listed for the Craftunique Craftbot PLUS, which comes in many different colors, is its USB printing, and the easy calibration was also noted. The $1,099 printer is reliable and comes with free Craftware slicing software, but it’s not open source, which Pinshape lists as the only con. The $1,825 Makergear M2 is listed as a workhorse with high quality and reliability, but doesn’t have automatic bed leveling.
The open source TAZ 6 by LulzBot is geared towards the more experienced prosumer, and is the most updated printer in the whole TAZ family. One reviewer said that the printer was easy to set up, and while its $2,500 price tag was listed as a con, Pinshape said that many users said the price was worth it. The dual extruder CEL Robox has a heated bed, and its HeadLock system makes it easy for users to exchange the single material head for the dual material head. But while the inexpensive $999 printer is listed as easy to set up, the fact that it’s not open source is a con.
Hobbyist 3D printers typically offer a lower price point, and all of the printers listed in Pinshape’s Hobbyist section “come with large communities that help you to continue discovering, learning, and troubleshoot any issues you might run into.”
The Original Prusa i3 MK2 comes with powerful software and offers “excellent print quality,” but the con is that assembly is required for the $699 kit.
When the Monoprice Select Mini was released at a price of just $200, it was one of the most inexpensive 3D printers to hit the market, and though it has a smaller build volume, it does print parts with pretty good quality.
The Robo R1+ is the updated version of the original Robo R1, and features a build size that’s bigger than a lot of other entry level printers, which allows users to print larger designs. Its auto bed leveling and $727 price point were also listed as pros, but Pinshape notes that it will take some adjusting once it’s out of the box.
Rounding out Pinshape’s 3D printer guide is the last entry in its Hobbyist category, the Flashforge Finder. The $457 printer has a smaller bed size than the others in this category, but it’s USB-equipped and only requires minimal setup. However, it doesn’t have a heated bed, and the printer only works with PLA material.
What do you think of these recommendations? Share your thoughts in the Pinshape forum at 3DPB.com.