Just like with any piece of technology, knowing what you plan to use your 3D printer for will go a long way in helping you make the right purchase. The strength, smoothness, and overall quality of the final printed products are determined by the type of printer and materials used in making them. If you plan to use the printer as a hobby, budget filament-based devices may be perfect. Or, perhaps, you need the 3D printer for your business to replace machine parts or create objects that will see daily use. In that case, a more expensive resin or powder material printer may be necessary. There are hundreds if not thousands of uses for 3D printers, so make sure to consider all your possible creations before making a purchase.
The two most common types of entry-level 3D printers are SLA and FDM. These devices are fundamentally different in how they operate and the materials they use. Thus, knowing the differences between them is essential when considering buying a 3D printer.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers function by using heat to melt filament and feed it through a tube to create various shapes. Objects are created by adding materials on the X, Y, and Z-axis. FDM printers are relatively standard for hobby 3D printing and typically come in two types of frame construction: Cartesian and Delta.
Stereolithography (SLA) printers use a chemical treatment process known as photo-solidification to form the different layers of the final print product from liquid resin. An ultraviolet laser hardens the desired print pattern into the material one layer of resin at a time. These printers are capable of some of the highest quality prints with incredible detail. Unlike FDM, the final products from SLA printers are smooth and require little post-print work.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) printers work similar to SLA but use a laser and powder materials to create 3D objects. The laser points at specified areas within the powder, which hardens, creating detailed yet sturdy final products.
SLS printers are common for printing machine parts or objects that need to be durable yet complex and intricate. SLS printing materials can be rather hard to come by, however, so SLA printers tend to be more favored.
Digital Light Processing (DLP) printers are also similar to SLA printers, with one significant difference. While SLA printers use ultraviolet light, DLP printers use more conventional light sources, like an arc lamp. DLP is the oldest form of 3D printing but is still considered high-quality by today's standards. That said, they are somewhat rare in availability and often steep in cost, so DLP printers do not see much use in the consumer market.
Selective Laser Melting (SLM) printers use a high-powered laser beam to form 3D objects out of powdered metals. These printers are not typically found in homes but are rather commonplace in universities and the medical field. SLM printers are ideal for creating machine parts with complex geometry that must be both incredibly thin and detailed.
FDM printers use plastic filaments to print objects layer by layer. Different material types can have significant effects on the final printed product. Filament materials come in many different variations that can have specific use cases. There are, however, two plastic print materials that are far more common than others:
Unlike with screens, the smaller the resolution of a 3D printer, the better quality of the finished product. The three dimensions of printing can make the quantifying of resolution somewhat intricate and confusing. However, all you need to remember is the lower, the better.
When it comes to printing, being fast is not always the most desirable trait. Often, 3D printers with high print speeds sacrifice quality to get to the final product faster. Slower devices take so much time because they are capable of creating much more complex final prints. No matter what you are printing, it will take a substantial amount of time, so it is worth it to get a slower device with better final print quality.
Knowing what types of materials you can use in your specific 3D printer is crucial in determining the regular costs of using the device. Some materials such as powders for SLM printers can be scarce in availability and steep in price. Knowing how often you plan to print and the type of objects you intend to create can help you determine which types of materials you should use in your 3D printer.
This can also be referred to as the build area. This specification tells you the maximum size of printable objects for your device. This is important to consider, because larger printers quickly rice in base price and cost of printing materials.
Keep in mind that smaller printers can also print some items in parts that can later be assembled into a larger object. Hence, a massive build area is not always needed. Conversely, sometimes a single large part may need to be printed for use in a professional setting. In that case, a 3D printer with a large print capacity is a must.
3D printers have quickly become commonplace at work and home. From small toys to machine parts, 3D printers can create impressive objects from a wide variety of materials. Buying a 3D printer can be a daunting task due to the many types of devices and complicated printing methods. The best place to start is to decide what you are going to print and how often you will be printing it. These factors are crucial in finding the best machine for you and can go a long way in understanding the many different specifications of 3D printers. Remember, no matter what choice you make, getting a 3D printer has many benefits, and this guide is available to help you find the best machine at any time!
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know before buying a 3D printer for Black Friday, and be sure to check out our Black Friday 3D printer deals hub for all the best offers (we've also collected some of our favorite deals at the bottom of this page too).
Resin 3D printers use a liquid photopolymer (commonly referred to as resin) that is hardened, layer by layer, to create detailed 3D prints. Resin is messy and can be dangerous to handle, so specialized equipment is necessary to wash and cure printed parts so they can be safely handled. Parts made on a resin printer can be highly detailed (like the models made on the Anycubic Photon Mono X 6K), but are often brittle and delicate.
Filament 3D printers use a heated nozzle to deposit filament onto a build platform, almost like a hot glue gun that is moving in three dimensions. This style of printer can create strong, durable parts that require little post-processing, but the dimensional accuracy and resolution are usually lower than comparably priced resin printers.
Inexpensive desktop resin 3D printers can be found for as low as $149, while models with higher resolution and a larger build volume are typically in the $499 to $699 price range. The Elegoo Mars range of resin printers are great, and the company are currently offering the best price on Elegoo resin 3D printers (opens in new tab). The larger build volume and higher resolution Anycubic Mono X 6K is a larger printer with a retail price of $529 but was recently put on sale for just $309, making it a printer worth keeping an eye on when Black Friday deals kick off.
Resin printers with smaller build volumes typically are capable of higher resolution, while larger build volumes offer a slightly lower resolution in exchange for the increase in available size. Filament printers with a large build volume tend to print more slowly than smaller volumes, as the build platform and other parts of the machine are typically larger and heavier.
Save $150 on this huge resin 3d printer. It has a 7K screen, 11.8 x 11.7 x 6.46 inch print bed and an auto-refilling resin tank. We reviewed the Anycubic M3 Plus, the Max's smaller (but still pretty big) cousin and we were super impressed - this is just am even bigger version.
There's never been a better time to join the world of 3D printing or, for experienced makers, to upgrade to a new model. With the right 3D printer, you can make toys, table-top models, stands, hooks, replacement parts for plastic devices or a new case for your Raspberry Pi. You can get one of the best 3D printers and plenty of material for less than $250 (sometimes even less than $200) or you could spend a bit more for special features such a larger build volume, higher resolution or faster output.
The two most common types of home 3D printers are resin MSLA (Masked Stereolithography) and filament FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling). The best 3D printers for beginners or those with children, FDM printers use reels full of plastic filament that is fed into a hot nozzle and extruded out layer-by-layer to form a solid model. MSLA printers use a UV-cured resin material to form a model layer-by-layer as it rises from a vat of toxic liquid that requires very careful handling and post-processing.
High-speed 3D printers are the new hotness, with the AnkerMake M5 leading the way. Launched as a Kickstarter campaign in April, the machine is now available for retail with a price of $799. The printer has a standard speed of 250 mm/s, which is five times faster than the average 50 mm/s recommended for Cartesian type printers.
Its smaller build volume is perfect for gaming miniatures and trinkets but not larger models. And though its 2k resolution may not be the most detailed among resin printers, it is miles ahead of the quality you can achieve with a filament-based machine.
We have a bone to pick with so-called experts who recommend cheap, unassembled kit printers to raw beginners. The theory is that building a printer from scratch is the only way to learn about their new machine. The truth is that kits can be frustrating to build, and bare-boned machines are a pain to get working correctly.
Whether we were working with PLA or PETG filament, the Neptune 3 Pro delivered gorgeous, detailed prints. Where other 3D printers in the sub-$300 price range, including the original Neptune 3, have a hard time handling flexible filament, the Neptune 3 Pro and its 260-degree hotend had no problem with TPU in our tests, outputting a beautiful TPU Christmas tree model in just under 5 hours. 59ce067264