I'm back with the second post in the 3D printing series. This post will talk about various available printers in different budgets and where you can get them. I know you must be thinking that you can just google this, but I wanted to lay out the options I consider best in each price range, and more importantly, where you can get them from(especially outside the US and Europe).
This post again will be focused only on FDM printers as that is what I'm familiar with and I will be a pretty bad source for any other type of printer :).
3D printers are available in various shapes, sizes and prices. The important considerations here are material capabilities and build area.
The other major consideration, is if you want a kit or an assembled printers. Usually kits are available only in the lower price ranges and require some technical know how and ALOT of calibration, but they are great for learning everything about 3D printers and how they work, and they are usually 10-20% cheaper than their assembled versions. I will try and include a kit and an assembled printer in each price range wherever possible. A point to note, is that a kit will usually be better than an assembled printer that costs the same IF you assemble it right.
All the printers I recommend should be able to print in at least PLA and ABS, and they should have a minimum build area of 15cm x 15cm x15cm.
This post will be focused only on FDM printers as that is what I'm familiar with and I will be a pretty bad source for any other type of printer :).
I'm going to tell you which printer you should get based on different budgets, I will cover the following budgets(All prices in USD):
- < $400
- $400 - $800
- $800 - $1500
I know there are printers more expensive than that, but this series is aimed at people who are looking to get started with 3D printing as a hobby and I don't know too many people who would spend more than $1500 up front for a hobby.
For this price range, I would not recommend an assembled printer, as the assembled ones in this price range usually have a really small build area or very limited materials to print with.
The 3D printer I would recommend in this range is without a doubt the Prusa i3. Technically, the Prusa i3 is not just a single printer, it is a set of open source designs for a 3D printer. These designs were created by Josef Prusa of the RepRap foundation, which is well known for its awesome open source and replicatable printers. Yes you read that right, in fact most of the parts of the Prusa i3 can be 3d printed!
The prusa i3 is awesome because it can be easily upgraded from a budget printer to a top of the line printer whenever you please. In fact it has a great community that shares all their upgrades on websites like Thingiverse.
If you are living in the US or Europe it might be easy to get your hands on a kit, but for people like me in Asia it's a little harder. I would recommend this site, which has a variety of Prusa's available from different suppliers. Though I would like to warn you that these are mostly Chinese suppliers and some parts may not be of great quality. I personally bought a great printer from here but the Hotend was really bad, so I had to change it before I got even one print out of it. For your reference the one I picked up was this($300). It is now a great printer that I absolutely love but it did come with a few teething issues.
$400 - $800
For this budget I would recommend the Printrbot Simple, available as both a kit($689) and in fully assembled($749) form. I would highly recommend the heated bed option so that you can print a larger variety of materials(especially ABS).
It's a great printer, and tit is slightly more advanced than the Prusa i3. It comes with a few conveniences missing in a base i3. It also has a great community and they offer support in case you are stuck.
You can order these using the links above, which are basically the Printrbot website as they offer reasonably priced worldwide shipping.
$800 - $1500
This is the price point where there is alot of difference in accuracy, these printers are accurate up to 20 Microns, whereas anything cheaper is usually accurate up to around 100 microns. While this may not matter to the average user(like me) it is something to consider when purchasing a 3D printer.
The kit I would recommend for this price range is the Ultimaker Original+(~$1300), this the original open source printer has amazing hacking capabilities. Even out of the box it is a great printer that is easy for anyone to get set up and started.
The assembled printer I would recommend is the Solidoodle Workbench(~$1300) which is just a great printer that comes with the advantage of having dual extrusion out of the box. I know there is a wait to get your hands on these, but it is worth it. While it may have a lower 100 micron resolution, it has a huge build area and the Solitouch automatic calibration makes life MUCH easier and makes this a true Plug-N-Play printer.
The next post in this series is going to focus on my 3D printer and my first experiences with 3D printing.