Best Cheap 3D Printer Models

Electronics & Computers

To some people, 3D printing is seen as a potential start to the third industrial revolution. The printers we look at here are somewhat more modest in their ambitions. Using plastics, 3D printers have only recently become affordable for home use.

One of the keys to moving the field forward is the acceptance of the technology to the point that consumers are not only aware of the capabilities of 3D printing, but also drive applications, through demand or through their own innovation. Either way, this means 3D printers deserve a place in every home like the modern “personal computer.”

Best Cheap 3D Printer

Evaluating affordability of the best cheap 3D printer is always a tricky question with newer technology, since the value proposition varies widely between users. The printers chosen for this buying guide started with a $1,000 cap, largely to make sure there was a range of capability that accurately represented what home-sized 3D printing could do. The surprising find was that models priced as low as almost $200 could produce results in much the same quality as the higher priced units.

All units represented here use plastic filaments, either ABS or PLA (more on those below). These aren’t the only ways to print in 3D. They are, however, the easiest and most reliable for consumers. Some printers can use any compatible filament stock while others recommend their own proprietary products. As with inkjet printers, the real cost of use may ultimately be the price of the printing medium.

The chart below summarizes our findings, while each review elaborates on the strengths and weaknesses of each model. These early 3D printers are almost reminiscent of the early 2D printers, with wildly varying features and specifications. Today, of course, even the cheapest 2D printers come with a level of performance that, at one point, only the priciest models offered. Since it’s the early days for home-based 3D printing, one should expect to see improved features, better performance and lower prices over the next few years.

Should you wait until the price/value equation improves further? A strong case for a “no” answer points to the long learning curve that accompanies working in three dimensions. While it’s likely applications will ease this moving forward, designing 3D objects can be challenging for many. Staying ahead of the curve may well mean taking a dive into the deep end now.

QIDI Tech I – Editor’s Choice

QIDI Technology Dual Extruder Desktop 3D Printer QIDI TECH I, Fully...
  • FDM technology;dual extruder;obtained CE,FCC,ROHS certificates;QIDI TECHNOLOGY is registered Trademark by Edify...
  • Aviation level aluminum plate guarantee its surface is completely flat and will not warp during heating process
  • Easy to use software for simple customization of 3D models

Pros

  • USB and SD card connectivity
  • Dual filaments for two-color printing
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • No warranty
  • Minimal documentation

Even in the early stages of 3D printing, it is still obvious that some products seem nearly identical between manufacturers. The QIDI Tech I owes much to the tech that MakerBot primarily uses. Several other manufacturers borrow from MakerBot as well, but in the end, QIDI Tech offers the best price. Therefore, this printer review earns the top spot with its combination of price and performance.

The big advantage of the QIDI Tech I is its dual filament feed, a comparative rarity in the under $1,000 bracket. Using both ABS and PLA filament, you can produce fine results with little difference save for the characteristics of the plastics themselves.

Though topping the buying guide, there’s still room for improvement. The native documentation for the device is thin. This is countered by solid support through email, phone, and Skype, usually within 24 hours. The knowledge of QIDI Tech’s support seems to excel among others, so it’s a shame they haven’t converted this into more expansive docs.

There are setup and calibration procedures that are critical to operation, but they are under-supported in the docs. Thankfully, none of them are particularly difficult. In our experience, every 3D printer requires setup, calibration, and then fine-tuning through trial and error. User reviews indicate a good level of out-of-box satisfaction.

The print bed is another source of contention. The supplied plate really likes to hold on to its creations. Many otherwise satisfied users comment on the difficulty of removing prints from the base plate in their printer review. Adjusting the temperature and preparing the plate in your preferred manner may minimize removal issues, but this design would benefit from a removable printing bed.

In terms of features for the price, the QIDI Tech I delivers. While printed support is weak, live customer support certainly is not.

ADIMLab Prusa I3

adimlab 3d printer prusa i3

ADIMLab Updated Gantry Pro 3D Printer 24V Power with 310X310X410 Build...
  • 90% pre-assembled 3d printer, dual Z-axis motors and dual Y-axis tracks, supply eccentric nuts to fasten the X/Y/Z...
  • Titan direct extruder and dual fans to cool the hot end, make the extruder system more stable and wear resistant....
  • Lattice glass is on hot end, make it easy to leveling and first layer stick and get off, the connector for the bed...

Pros

  • Open source for freedom of choice
  • Available as a kit or premade
  • Calibrate XYZ
  • Auto bed leveling
  • Heat bed

Cons

  • Reviews of shipping damage

Although this model is a bit pricier than most on this list, it still deserves a place up here. The Prusa i3 is a great printer with high build volume and quality, and it competes well with most desktop 3D printer models in the same price range. The Prusa i3 is one of those printers on the market that is helping revolutionize 3D printing in these dark early days and will help create standards moving forward, for sure.

There really isn’t much bad to say about this printer, simply put. There were a few reviews of shipping damage in the pre-assembled printer kit, but that’s fairly hit or miss. This is truly a high quality yet affordable 3D printer, and it has definitely earned its place in the top 10. Although the price might look a bit daunting for those just getting into printing, it is definitely one of the best cheap 3D printers in the price range.

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Monoprice Select Mini 3D V2 / Malyan M200

Pros

  • Good size, not too big, not too small
  • Easy out-of-box setup
  • WiFi and mobile support

Cons

  • No automatic bed leveling

The Monoprice Maker Select Mini (Malyan M200) is a small, affordable tank that would be great for anyone’s introduction to a desktop 3D printer. This powerhouse is the perfect size in that it can easily fit the role of a desktop printer without taking up too much space.

Most people have great out-of-box experiences because it requires very little work to finish their first print. Many reviewers remark that you do have to relevel the bed before working as this printer does not have an automatic leveling, unlike some others on this list.

Due to its combination of price and power, this budget 3D printer is a perfect printer for first-time 3D printing hobbyists.

Dremel 3D20

Dremel Digilab 3D20 3D Printer, Idea Builder for Brand New Hobbyists...
  • Countless hours of high quality printing with the most reliable low-cost 3D printer
  • Quickly and easily make your 1st print out of the box with completely pre-assembled printer, included 0.5kg spool of...
  • Far superior safety compared to competition with fully enclosed design, non-heated build plate, PLA-only printing and...

Pros

  • Excellent and prompt technical support
  • Wi-Fi and mobile support available in the 3D40 model
  • Easy setup, assembled for out-of-box use, with large, removable build plates

Cons

  • Uses PLA filament exclusively, Dremel recommends their own products
  • Dremel’s proprietary filament is sub-par

Popular with educational applications, the Dremel 3D20 is a self-contained, safe unit with an enclosed build area. This makes it so you do not have to worry about little fingers getting into dangerous places. The Dremel name carries a great reputation with hobbyists and a corporate infrastructure that provides great support, even for the emerging 3D technology.

However, a misplaced dependence on upselling holds the Idea Builder line of budget 3D printers back. These printers use PLA filament only, having no heated print platform. Dremel insists upon the use of their own proprietary PLA filament on a hub that locks into the printer. Okay, that’s a great idea, but the filament isn’t up to snuff. It’s stringy and doesn’t extrude with the precision required for proper build volume. What’s worse is that use of third-party filament voids the user’s warranty.

Testing this budget 3D printer with *gasp* outlaw PLA filament shows very clearly that the problem rests with the filament and not the printer. All build issues disappeared with the OEM filament. While this throws the warranty issue into play, the output of the machine with the supplied filament made the printer unusable.

While that in itself is rather condemning, the availability of PLA stock from other makers during testing proved one specific thing conclusively. This is a very good, easy to use device once you resolve the filament issue. It’s no wonder that the Dremel printers have a strong presence in schools. With its own software on board, the Dremel 3D20 prints projects already loaded right out of the box.

The Dremel 3D40 model adds Wi-Fi and mobile support, but it falls outside the under $1,000 criteria for this buying guide. The 3D20 model is the Dremel entry level. If the company gets its filament formula into the right place, this is potentially an outstanding purchase. Currently, it’s a great printer, but with an asterisk. If you’re okay with risking the warranty issue, by all means, purchase a third party filament and enjoy your heightened print quality.

Wanhao Duplicator i3 V2.1

Pros

  • Pre-assembled for easy out-of-box experience
  • Open source software for freedom of choice
  • Great community support

Cons

  • Extruder reportedly difficult to feed filament
  • Some people consider noisy

The Duplicator i3 has great value for the price, which is why we include it on our list of the best cheap 3D printer models. Not only does it have very high build volume and quality, but the pure capability of the printer will absolutely blow many of its competitors in the same price range out of the water.

Not to mention, there is a great community surrounding the Duplicator i3. For many hobbyists, this should be crucial. Any time you have a question or need some sort of very niche support, the community around this best 3D printer is likely able to help.

Some reports mention that it can be difficult to learn how to change the filament in the extruder, but you can overcome and overlook this with practice and time. There are also varying reviews on noise levels coming from the power supply fan. While some think it’s too loud, others don’t even notice it, so your opinion may vary.

Makerfarm Pegasus 8”

Maker Farm 8" Pegasus 3D Printer
  • 7.5"x8"x7" Build Envelope
  • 50 micron layer height
  • LCD Interface (print without a PC)

Pros

  • Auto bed leveling
  • Heated print bed
  • Comes as a printer kit, so it requires user assembly
  • Reviewers mention good service to customers

Cons

  • Approximately 3-hour start to print time

Most users and reviews place the Makerfarm Pegasus 8” as a pretty solid option for printer kits. The Pegasus 8” has a good print area of 8”x8”x8” (hence the name). It has many useful features, like the automatic leveling and heated beds which help toward the overall user experience.

The biggest complaint that stops the Pegasus from placing higher up is simply the fact that it needs to be built. For some, this isn’t an issue at all and is, in fact, a plus-side! Getting to mess around with this cool, futuristic toy and see it going from parts to printing is fun and interesting. However, others just want to use their printer as soon as they buy it and not have to deal with the hassle of putting it together. Neither type of person is right or wrong, but this printer is definitely better off for those who prefer putting together printer kits.

Overall, the affordable price in conjunction with all of the great features and excellent usability makes the Pegasus 8” one of the best cheap 3D printer models available. It is a solid choice for anybody as their first or second printer.

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Flashforge Finder

FlashForge Finder 3D Printers with Cloud, Wi-Fi, USB cable and Flash...
  • Slide-in build plate allows printed objects to be easily removed
  • 3.5-Inch full color touchscreen with intuitive icons makes for easy operation
  • Sturdy, plastic alloy construction ensures stable prints

Pros

  • User-friendly LCD screen for ease of operation
  • Pre-assembled for out-of-box use
  • Good service to customers

Cons

  • Varying responses on shipping conditions and broken parts
  • Some users report not working after some time of usage

Unlike most of the budget 3D printers that companies are making in this “early age” of 3D printing, Flashforge designed and built the Finder around delivering great user experiences. They do this by creating a printer that is easy to use and includes a very helpful and responsive customer service center. One way that the Finder achieves its great user experience is by providing a small screen on the face of the printer to help the user navigate through its various functions. This easy to use budget 3D printer is great for beginners because of these design considerations.

Although the Finder is a great printer in most aspects, there are a few things that keep it from being further up this list. First of all, at 16.5” x 16.5” x 16.5” the Finder has a large build. It definitely won’t be sitting on most people’s desktops.

Some users also report varying issues with the printer after repeated usage. Most of the time, you can solve these problems fairly easily by contacting the helpful customer support. However, there are other times when one might end up having to replace the printer, which is less than optimal in most cases.
Despite these few issues, the Finder is definitely one of the best cheap 3D printer models and has earned its place on this list.

Flashforge Creator Pro

FlashForge 3D Printer Creator Pro, Metal Frame Structure, Acrylic...
  • Full manufacturer's warranty fulfilled by Flashforge, and free email support provided by expert FlashForge technicians
  • A sturdy metal frame that is substantially more stable than the Creator's original wood frame.Build volume 8.9 X 5.8 X...
  • Aviation level aluminum plate with a thickness of 6.3mm guarantee its surface is completely flat and will not warp...

Pros

  • An automatch power supply adjusts to local voltages
  • Less assembly required compared with earlier versions
  • Improved FlashPrint software reduces the need for expensive 3D design software

Cons

  • Adhesive print bed does not perform well
  • Design is somewhat prone to filament jamming

Another design based on MakerBot technology, the Creator Pro represents an upgrade to Flashforge’s entry-level Creator. With dual extruders and an enclosed metal frame, this is a printer with a pro look and feel to it. While out-of-box printing is often hit or miss, even with models designed for this, the test Creator Pro was up and running in under 30 minutes. Though based on the MakerBot Replicator, this Flashforge printer includes many of the refinements that the 3D community introduced for the Replicator. On top of this, they deliver it at a price point below the MakerBot machine.

This is another one of best cheap 3D printer models that handles exotic filaments as well as ABS and PLA. The output can create a superior print quality, though it takes a number of adjustments in most cases to fine-tune some elements. The new version has a three-point print bed leveler that’s much more natural than the previous design. Some supports are beefier, and overall, there’s just a feeling of improved solidity.

There are some annoying things, however, that keep all these pluses from scoring the Creator Pro higher on the list of the best cheap 3D printers. One is an irritating issue with print heads hitting the printed work, usually the left extruder. You can adjust it, but this is something that should be a no-brainer for a dual extruder machine.

Also, the print bed level seems critical for first layer adhesion. This may be a matter that other configuration settings could address, but online user reviews indicate this is a common problem. It seems to be a bigger issue with ABS than PLA, but the test unit had problems with both.

Flashforge has retained the old open source nature of early MakerBot machines, thus the Creator Pro is likely a tweaker’s delight. There’s also a good community online for MakerBot tech that applies to the Creator Pro. Overall, be prepared to wrestle with a few basic printing issues before knocking out consistent prints. Also, note that the users who are happy with the Creator Pro are really happy with it.

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UP! Plus 2

UP Plus 2 3D Printer
  • Capable of producing finely detailed prints
  • Works well without cooling fan Good bonding with Acrylic
  • More flexible, resilient and durable

Pros

  • An auto-leveling platform method that really works
  • Open frame design promotes quick cooling to ambient temperatures
  • Auto extruder height detection method is also excellent

Cons

  • Low horizontal print resolution
  • Small build platform for a printer at this price point
  • Requires some work to make PLA filament play nice

It’s immediately obvious that the build of the Plus 2 is a step above the norm for this guide. It’s the only desktop 3D printer on our list of the best cheap 3D printers that approaches a solid manufacturing feel. The construction is on the minimalistic side, but it’s easy to picture a row of these happily outputting 3D all day long. With some research, it is easy to find one of the Plus 2’s for much lower than the manufacturing price.

However, the minimum vertical resolution of the Plus 2 is 150 microns, the coarsest of our best 3D printer models. The moving build plate design–the extruder is stationary–is also a mere 5.5 inches in all three axes.

There is also one naggy detail to this printer review. The software does not come included in the package, but it does include the fully assembled Plus 2. The software requires a trip to the website and a download. For a machine that otherwise has a better chance than most of being a true out of box 3D unit, downloading software is something of a contrary point. This is where one can see the “early ages” of 3D printing coming out. Likewise, while the Plus 2 connects via USB, it does not include an SD slot. It’s for this reason that the otherwise excellent 3D printer places in the middle of the pack. Nonetheless, it’s definitely worthy of a place in the top ten best cheap 3D printer models.

Robo 3D R1 Plus

No products found.

Pros

  • Great automatic leveling bed
  • Open source, so you can use whichever software you prefer
  • Good documentation and excellent online community

Cons

  • You may need access to the documentation—plug-and-play out of the box widely varies between users
  • Circular extrusions could be smoother
  • On the noisy side

The Robo 3D R1 Plus is another 3D design that’s almost, but not quite, version 2 of an earlier build. One user’s printer review called the R1 Plus the “Mr. Fusion” of 3D printers, referencing “Back to the Future” and Doc’s from-the-future DeLorean power supply. That look is both playful and professional.

With one of the bigger print areas in our buying guide, the R1 Plus has a big following in the engineering field as a desktop printer. However, the fans and open-sided design make for a cacophonous print experience. So, maybe it will not be your main desktop, you know?

The selection of filaments for the R1 Plus is extensive. In particular, there’s a PLA filament called “magnetic iron” that really evokes a cast metal look to the build’s print quality. The R1 Plus handles ABS, PLA, and exotic filaments without issue, for the most part.

What drops the Robo printer down the list of the best cheap 3D printers is the recurring number of online user review problems. There seems to be a greater than average occurrence of damaged units in shipping. Combining this with a widely disparate out of box experience, these signs point to weak quality control prior to shipping. Some users experienced a very good plug and play performance, while others did not. The test unit had some loose and out of adjustment components, but these were obvious and easy to correct.

One interesting thing occurred without notice until after the first few prints. The X axis, which should be parallel to the print surface, was out of adjustment. However, the R1 Plus’s auto-leveling bed corrected for the error and the print went as intended. Once the axis was fixed and the jobs printed again, the resulting prints seemed identical to the initial runs. Say what you want about the R1 Plus, but this automatic feature works.

3D Printer Basics

It’s not difficult to foresee a time when manufacturers send a 3D printing file via email rather than stocking and shipping replacement parts. However, that doesn’t become practical until 3D printers have the same home presence as 2D inkjet and laser printers currently enjoy. In the meantime, costs and technology may well place 3D printers in regional service centers, once printing robust spare parts becomes practical. Introducing budget 3D printers to individuals’ homes can move us in the right direction.

While it’s not there yet, it’s definitely on its way. With the movement to enhance STEM learning in schools (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), the idea of 3D printing in general and familiarity with how they work crosses these disciplines in precisely the way STEM advocates want to see. The secret is, of course, exposing oneself and one’s children to new and exciting ways to use this knowledge and skill. This can motivate users with what the technology can do, perhaps even more so than what it already does.
h2>Fused Deposition Modeling

Printers that serve the consumer 3D market use a method of printing called “fused deposition modeling,” or FDM for short. It’s not really a hard process to grasp since it has much that’s comparable to regular 2D computer printers than many already own. Tell a person that a 3D print head simply retraces its steps and adds more ink on top of previous layers and presto–they have the concept.

While simple in essence, 3D FDM printers solve a number of problems to achieve this. First of all, the technology depends on a medium that it can melt, extrude and harden in a precise manner. While FDM printers can accomplish amazing detail, printing tolerances don’t reach a level of precision that’s fine enough for many uses.

Then, of course, come the limits of the print media itself. Plastics are the material of choice here, due to common availability and the characteristics that lend themselves to heated extrusion.

3D Printer Filaments

When choosing the best cheap 3D printer for yourself, you need to consider the types of filaments it can use. Whether you purchase an already assembled machine or a DIY 3D printer styled printer kit, make sure it can use the filaments you want. There are several kinds, but we cannot cover all of them here.

ABS

ABS, or Acrylonitrile-Butadiene Styrene, is an oil-based polymer common in everything from car plastics to children’s toys. Well-suited to extrusion, it’s a natural choice for your best budget 3D printing applications. One drawback, however, is its chemical odor. While not toxic at levels common with 3D printing, it may be irritating to some. Because of this, a well-ventilated room is a good idea.

Its optimal printing temperature of 230 to 250 degrees Celsius makes it a good choice for objects that you may use in warm areas or sunlit areas. This is because it doesn’t start to melt until about 210 to 240 degrees Celsius. Even its slumping temperature–the point at which ABS products start to deform–is around 110 Celsius or 230 degrees Fahrenheit. ABS is the most durable and common FDM 3D printing medium.

PLA

Polylactic Acid, or PLA, is a biopolymer. That means that it consists of plant-based sources, such as corn and sugarcane. Because of this, its fumes are not only not irritating, but in fact, they’re a bit sweet. This is a far cry from the chemical smell of ABS, making it ideal for those with sensitive noses.

However, PLA is not as robust or permanent as ABS. Part of that comes from the biodegradability of the materials companies use to make it. The other is from its lower temperature tolerances. PLA prints at 190 to 220 degrees Celsius, melts at 160 to 190 degrees Celsius, and slumps at about 70 degrees Celsius. That is a mere 158 degrees Fahrenheit. A figurine made of PLA sitting on the dash of a car parked in Albuquerque in August will probably be a sweet-smelling sticky medallion in 30 minutes. However, not everything you print is meant to last forever, and some users like the idea of working with an environmentally friendly, best budget 3D printing medium.

Exotic Filaments

Over 30 other formulations of filament exist. While some of the best 3D printer manufacturers try to limit you to products they distribute, most do not and encourage experimentation. While we can’t review all filament types in this article, here are five you should try when expanding the scope of your 3D printing operations, large build volume or not.

Wood: Particles of wood saturated in filament resin give a natural material look to 3D builds. Because the particles have already soaked up the resin, staining isn’t an effective option. However, when you need a plastic that doesn’t look like plastic, this may be the answer.

Nylon: This is a tricky material to use for 3D printing since it naturally doesn’t stick to much and requires very high extruder temperatures. However, there are special nylon hybrids available that act more like conventional best budget 3D filaments, so the option is out there.

Bronze: Mixing bronze particles with filament resin gives a convincing metal effect that even tarnishes over time. It is heavier than average, but you can polish it to give it a glamor beyond the usual plastic look of 3D builds.

Iron: Adding iron to filaments works in much the same way as bronze, but it has different visual effects, including rust. Are you building a dystopian city diorama? The gunmetal gray of this filament may give the perfect look. Since it’s iron, magnets will interact with it and make it a fun DIY 3D printer project. Be prepared to replace nozzles, though. This filament is more abrasive and will wear down printer tips.

Carbon Black: While not ready to print circuit boards, as its conductivity is limited, filaments made with carbon black do exhibit some electrical properties. What’s more, these adhere to regular PLA filaments. This makes it so those with dual extruders could mix and match layers, offering some conductivity between insulating layers.

Get the Best Cheap 3D Printer Now

Each of the best cheap 3D printer models has their own unique flair to add to your designs, as you can see from each printer review. Some require specific filaments and others allow you to experiment, so it really depends on what you want. You get to make the decision, and we have provided all the information you need. They are great for both first-time 3D printer hobbyists and expert enthusiasts. Do you have a favorite 3D printer model that comes at a great price? Let us know all about it in the comments.

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One response to “Best Cheap 3D Printer Models”

  1. Kscannon says:

    The ranking of these printers make no sense and the information is wrong. Con of the makerfarm is that it is a kit and needs assembly but at $700 for the prusa, you get the kit but its not mentioned. Also best Cheap printer and 6/10 are over $700
    Edit: QIDI is $700 at number 1, Prusa first line is that the printer is on the pricier side at $700. Same as QIDI yet not mentioned. QIDI does not have auto leveling but not listed as a con, the $220 select mini at #3 has the only con of no auto-leveling.
    Picking and choosing things per printer to knit pick on is not a way to create a list.

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