Recommended 3D PRinters of 2019
*** 🚧 This article is under construction 🚧 Pardon the mess.***
By David Florian
Hey everyone! Dr. D-Flo here. In case you stumbled upon my page via a search engine, I am a huge 3D printer enthusiast. I have 3D printed well over 100 kilos worth of knickknacks and prototypes. I even 3D printed a 3D printer. This post will only include 3D printers that I have laid my hands on (may not be the current revision), so there is a chance I have not experienced the ultimate 3D printer. If there is a glaring omission please let me know over on the forum! This roundup will only include Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printers.
Please note: Amazon and MatterHackers links provide a small kickback to keep the lights on in Dr. D-Flo’s laboratory. Thanks for understanding!
Overall pick: Makergear M3
To preface this section, each person and project have different requirements and budgets. Therefore, my pick for the “best” 3D printer could be ill suited for your needs. The reason I am including this section is because I am often asked: If money is no object, then what 3D printer is the best? Now I can point those questions to this article.
This will come as no surprise to my YouTube viewers, but the MakerGear M3 takes the crown for the best overall 3D printer. The M3 adds increased connectivity and auto bed leveling over its M2 predecessor (my current printer). The M3 comes in two flavors: Single Extruder (SE) and Independent Dual eXtruders (abbreviated as IDX)
Print quality is dependent on the rigidity of the frame. Small deflections in the frame during printing will be translated to the printed part in the form of blobs and scars. While large deflections will result in layer shifting and failed prints. The bottomline is that no matter how much you tweak your extruder settings the frame will always be the bottleneck for print quality. The frame is often the difference between a cheap and expensive printer. The M3’s steel frame is stiff and square.
It's a fact: 3D printers will break. When 3D printers go down or need to be re-calibrated the quicker you can get your printer up and running the less frustrated you will be. MakerGear has implemented tidy wire management that does not impede the ability to switch out an extruder, fan, or heated build platform. In addition, MakerGear offers a no questions asked one year warranty, which I can vouch for. There is a reason the MakerGear has been labeled as a workhorse because it prints and prints without problems.
The independent dual extruders doubles the productivity of this printer, allowing the user to simultaneously print two parts or increase the quality of multi-material parts by moving the second extruder out of the way when not in use.
For homeowners and parents, the idea of a 3D printer extruding molten filament is often associated with fires. The M3 offers connectivity that allows you to monitor the printer wherever internet access is available. The most likely source of a 3D printer catching fire is surprisingly not the hot end but instead a bad connection or poor quality component on the motherboard. MakerGear’s printers are manufactured in Ohio and are wired inhouse.
If you have never heard of the MakerGear M3 you may be thinking: "Hey this is a hidden gem!" Similar to a gem, the M3 carries a hefty price tag with the SE model costing $2,550 and the IDX variant costing $3,299. After hearing that price tag you may need more convincing. I print a kilogram of filament a week, and it has been months since I have had to do any sort of repair or calibration of my M2. If you are serious about 3D printing and want consistent, fast, and high quality prints I recommend the MakerGear M3.
Reliable but also quickly repairable
Aluminum and steel frame is robust
Uniform heating of the build platform
Capable of independent dual extruders
The V4 extruder is capable of printing almost any commercial filament
The cost $$$$
Some may consider 203 x 254 x 203 mm print area to be inadequate
Noisy without an enclosure
Best Value: Flashforge Creator Pro
The new trend of 3D printing is multi-material parts and soluble supports. These prints cannot be done on a single extruder. Therefore, for the best value printer I have chosen the FlashForge Creator Pro, a dual extrusion printer costing $899. Dual extrusion is a difficult task for a 3D printer and requires more engineering than simply strapping a second extruder to the print head. A sturdy frame and near perfect linear motion is needed so that the printer can accurately switch between extruders. While there are cheaper printers that exist claiming dual extrusion they often cut too many corners to allow for consistent prints. FlashForge's aluminum case and dual bearing z-axis creates a stiff environment for clean prints.
With handles on both side, the Creator Pro's form factor allows the printer to be moved easily without fear of damage. My old workplace ordered 10 Creator Pros and they all arrived in working condition, which was aided by the protective design. By adding a small acrylic "hat" to the printer the build space can be enclosed, which is preferable when prints with ABS filament. The enclosure also muffles the vibration of the stepper motors.
The main downside of the Creator pro is its reliability and serviceability. I was in charge of keeping the aforementioned 10 creator pros running, and a common problem was a jammed extruder. Inside of the extruder assembly was a nylon tube that helped guide the filament to the nozzle. This nylon tube could deform or become clogged, and while easily to replace, it was a problem that occurred a frustrating amount of times (keep in mind I was working with 10 printers). If an extruder failed both extruders would have to be replaced because the two extruders were connected. Adding to my maintenance woes, replacing a fan or any component on the print head required undoing all of the Creator Pro's wire management.
Even though the FlashForge Creator Pro has these issues it is surrounded by an awesome community. If you want a 3D printer that does not break the bank and won't keep you from experiencing the multi-material revolution I recommend the Creator Pro.
Capable dual extrusion on a budget
Can be fully enclosed
LCD for computer independence
Study case and build platform
Build volume of 227 x 148 x 150 mm is not capable of large scale prints
Hard to service
Extruders are not as reliable
Top Budget Printer: Prusia I3 MK3S (kit)
You may argue that spending $749 is way too much to be classified as a budget printer. However, I am hard-pressed to find any printer under $750 that I would ever use or recommend to a friend. All printers under this price make huge sacrifices on either the build volume, extruder, warranty or electrical components. These issues will become clear if you read my “recommended” cheap (<$500) printers section. 3D printing is an addictive hobby, and you do not want to buy a sub $500 3D printer just to have to buy another one down the road due to inadequacies.
One way to get a quality 3D printer for less is by sourcing the parts and building it. The Prusa i3 MK3S kit saves you $200 over the assembled printer. If you have the patience and time, then building your 3D printer will give you a deeper understanding of its inner workings and allow you to better troubleshoot future problems. It takes about 5 hours for assembly, but those who have little experience with CNC motion should allot more time for troubleshooting.
The online community has an obsession with Prusia i3, especially r/3Dprinting, and for good reason. Every part of the Prusa i3 is open source even down to the Marlin firmware, making this printer an ever-evolving project. I find the open source community to be much more responsive and helpful than talking to a company's technical support.
The Prusia i3 MK3S produces some of the best prints out of any 3D printer on the market, beating out printers over $2000. The secret to its flawless prints is a full mesh bed auto leveling system. An un-leveled bed can have deleterious effects on your print, including poor first layer adhesion. Manually perfecting the leveling of a bed is time consuming and a bit awkward. The leveling system of the Prusia can compensate for warps in the heated bed and slopes. It amazes me how this technology is absent from many prosumer 3D printers.
The main drawback of the Prusia i3 MK3S is its single extruder. For such a great printer its single extruder is a real let down. To address this problem, the Prusia team has designed an upgrade ($299) that allows 4 different spools of material to feed into a single extruder. Their approach seemingly overcomes many of the issues associated with multi-material printing with dual extruders (info here), but my experiences with this approach have been underwhelming. While you don’t have to worry about the offset between two distinct extruders, an important parameter in dual extruder setups, I found dialing in the retraction settings to be a headache.
While the assembly can be a little daunting, the Prusa i3 MK3S is a great first printer with a print quality that far surpasses its cost.
250 x 210 x 200 mm build volume (for the price)
Many counterfeit printers and parts exist
May have to scavenge around the interwebs for help
Open print bed
Cheap 3D Printers (<$500)
I am aware that the word “cheap” usually has a negative connotation compared to say “budget friendly.” I chose this section title because fully assembled 3D printers that cost less than $500, usually cut a lot of corners. Some of these cost saving measures can be more dangerous than others, such as including electrical components and heating elements without safety features or proper certifications. 3D printers have burned down houses, and it is important to keep in mind that the extruder reaches temperatures in excess of 200°C (twice the boiling temperature of water). At this price point you will have more luck finding quality components when purchasing a 3D printer kit where you save money by assembling the 3D printer.
<$500 Number ONE: PrintrBot's Simple Pro
This printer just missed out on being the top budget printer, and it even comes assembled at a similar price point to the Prusia i3 kit.
With a slightly unusual but appealing cantilevered print arm, the Simple Pro makes 3D printing look more elegant than it really is. Overall, the frame is sturdy even with the extruder assembly jutting out. The auto-leveling bed allows for a uniform first layer crucial to successful prints. The bed size is a little constrictive at 150 x 150 x 150 mm, but an upgrade to 250 x 250 x 150 mm is available.
The main problems with this machine are not with the design but with quality control and customer service. First, Printrbot only offers a 60 day warranty, which is very little time to discover any defects. I recommend running this printer continuously from day 1. Unfortunately, if you do have an issue with your printer Printrbot's customer service is lackluster and slow. I included the Amazon link because it is easier to make returns that way. Finally, their included 3D printer software, Printrbot.cloud, is garbage, but this is not a huge issue because there are many free alternatives available. Simplify3D is my favorite 3D printer software.
A couple of years ago the Simple Pro used to be the most popular 3D printer under <$750. However, recently it has fallen from grace. If you are willing to roll the dice you may end up a great 3D printer or a quality control nightmare. This printer is number 1 on my list because generally quality control is an issue at this price point, and I enjoyed my experience with the Simple Pro.
Aesthetically pleasing from an industrial standpoint
Automatic bed leveling
Small form factor
High quality prints
Questionable quality control
Poor customer service
Small initial build volume (but upgradable)
<$500 Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer V2
At $220, the recommendation of the preassembled Monoprice Select Mini V2 printer may seem to go against my warning at the beginning of this section. This clean and sleek printer produces parts that are comparable with that produced by printers ten times the price. Monoprice’s profit margins must be razor-thin because I cannot figure out how they can keep manufacturing costs under their advertised price.
While the printer may look reliable, a slew of modificaitions are required to
<$750 Number Two: Robo C2
If you have been reading sequentially you will notice that the Robo C2 is the first 3D printer listed to look like a toy. The white body with blue accents adds a little fashion to this printer. At this price point, fashion comes at a cost. We will discuss this more later.
The Robo C2 is what I would describe as a family printer. The filament run out detection and automatic bed leveling keeps 3D printing simple. The printer uses Octoprint to allow the user to control the printer on an app or through a browser. Octoprint is the wireless connectivity standard for 3D printing, so Robo C2 can be controlled by more apps than just the native one. I appreciate Robo's use of non-proprietary software (in case the company ever goes under). The Robo C2's encased sides keep the printer's noise levels to a whisper. This was a very quiet printer.
So what was lost for the modern appearance? Build Volume, heated plate, and build material! When I first saw this printer I thought it was weird that all the sides were enclosed except the front because if it had a door it would be able to print ABS like a pro. However, this printer lacks a heated plate, which means ABS cannot adhere to it. People like to claim that PLA sticks just fine without a heated build material, which may be true for objects with large bases but is certainly not for every other type of filament. Personally, I find the presence of a heated bed a nonnegotiable specification because even PLA adheres better with a little bit of heat. The actual build platform is made out of an indiscernible plastic that I would assume could be melted with by the nozzle if the two ever come into contact.
The Robo C2 has a lot of flaws in my eyes, but it takes the number 2 spot because it is aimed at the family and not the enthusiast, and it has plenty of features to keep the kids and parents busy.
Automatic bed leveling
Filament run out detection
No heated bed
Weird plastic build material
Small build volume - 127 x 127 x 150 mm
The app recommends buying very overpriced filament
<$750 Number Three: Any Prusa Clone
Please take this broad recommendation lightly because I would be remiss if I did not notify/warn you of 3D printer clones. Many 3D printers like the Prusa i3 are open source and part of the RepRap community, where the inventors make all designs freely available. Some companies then take these plans and build copies or "clones" using the cheapest parts. These printers are remarkably inexpensive ranging from $200 to $500.
Once you receive a clone you are generally on your own with very little if any technical support. These printers often arrived damaged because a company paying the least amount for components is definitely not going to pay for comprehensive packaging. Even if you are ordering a clone off of Amazon it still had to be shipped from the manufacturer to one of Amazon's warehouses. It will be your responsibility to return it or find a new part, which requires experience. If you are looking up top 10 3D printers and reading a post like this unfortunately you are probably in your early phases of learning about 3D printers, so I would stay clear of clones.
While a clone could save you a lot of money, it could also burn your house down. One option is using the mechanical components from a clone and sourcing your own electrical components to make sure the wiring and power supply are up to code. Pictured in this section is the CR-10, a Prusa clone that has been experiencing a lot of hype recently. In the near future, I will make a top clones list for the experienced tinkerer.
Product quality extremely variable
Budget Printers ($750 to $1500)
This a tricky price range to navigate because some companies increase the price of their 3D printers to make people think they are more premium. If a printer is lacking a heated plate or has a build volume under 150 x 150 x 150 mm then this is a red flag.
<$1500 Number one: LulzBot Mini
The LulzBot Mini is the perfect 3D printer for a beginner. It is better engineered than competing printers at its price point. Here is an example: for auto bed leveling other 3D printers are using inductive proximity switch to locate the bed, but in this setup the z distance difference between the nozzle and switch must remain constant. Bumping the inductive switch will completely throw off the printer's ability to level. LulzBot did away with the inductive switch and used the extruder tip as the probe, simplifying the print head. When the nozzle touches each washer in the four corners of the build platform it will notify the computer that the distance is close to zero. Sorry for geeking out about that, but it was a good way to show how thoughtful the designers were. The LulzBot also includes a nozzle cleaners, which is a nice touch to prevent a bead of filament from ruining the first layer. Lulzbot has a great track record for customer support.
The reason I do not own the LulzBot Mini even after my raving review is because of its small build platform and single extruder. You need to look at your needs. A lot of my prototypes require larger printer volumes and specialized support material, but I live on the fringe of 3D printing. The LulzBot Mini is fully capable of creating the average DIYer's dreams.
Small and rigid form factor
Heated bed with infallible bed leveling system
Nozzel cleaning apparatus
Great bed adhesion
Warranty and customer support
Printer always has to be tethered to computer
Small build volume 152 x 152 x 158 mm
Non-upgradable to dual extruder
<$1500 Number Two: Sindoh 3DWOX DP200 3D Printer
Sindoh 3DWOX DP200 printer has all the bells and whistles. All it needs is a more marketable name! I kid. The DP200 features wireless connectivity, a webcam to monitor prints from afar, a fully enclosed work space and something we have not seen before real time filament monitoring. With the hole in the middle of the filament spool it can be difficult to judge if you have enough filament to finish a print. Other printers can notify you when you are out of filament, but the DP200 was one of the first printers to know exactly how much filament is on the spool at any time. The DP200 is able to accomplish this feat through a proprietary cartridge. Replacing filament on this printer is reminiscent of changing cartridge on an inkjet.
Proprietary usually means expensive, and Sindoh's cartridges are no exception. Fortunately, Sindoh made it possible to just buy a refill for the cartridge for a much more reasonable price, but having to refill the cartridges takes away from the original simplicity of the design.
Sindoh has bundled the perfect technology to complement 3D printing, but have they gone too far with the filament cartridges? I think it is a quirk that some people will appreciate.
Technology: webcam, wireless connectivity and real time monitoring of filament levels
Adequate build volume: 200 x 200 x 195
Enclosed - great for ABS printing
Heated Bed with auto leveling
No options for upgrade
<$1500 Number Three: D300VS (kit)
The D300VS is the first and only Delta printer to make the roundup at any price point. Unlike many Cartesian printers (any other printer on this list) Deltas move only the print head through three arms that independently move up and down the vertical axis. Each arm acts as a hypotenuse of a triangle and because the arm length never changes movement in the vertical axis will cause a change in the coordinate plane. Restricting movement only to the print head keeps the build platform still, promoting bed adhesion.
The D300VS checks all the boxes. It has a sturdy frame, tried and tested E3D V6 hot end, massive build volume, and wireless connectivity. Unlike its competitors, the spool feeds directly into the extruder, which sidesteps the need for long runs of filament guide tube. This increases the responsiveness of the hot end's ability to extrude and retract.
The D300VS unbeatable price point is a result of the printer being sold as a kit. This kit requires more technical skills than a beginner may be comfortable with. Soldering and wiring crimping are needed for full assembly. A full days work should be expected to erect this 3D printer.
The D300VS will probably be the next 3D printer that I own. Its tall cylindrical build volume is perfect for a lot of niche projects I have in mind. Its third place ranking was a result of its overwhelming assembly requirements.
Sturdy frame which is important for this highrise printer
Massive build height: 290 mm cylindrical x 445 mm Peak Z
Great print quality
Expert assembly required
3D Printers Over $1500
At this price point the 3D printer has to be capable of multi-material extrusion to make the list. There are just too many single extruder models capable of production level quality below this price point. Don’t forget that the MakerGear M3 would fall under this category. Independent dual extruders are the preferable way to deliver multiple materials.
>>$1500 Number One: LulzBot TAZ, WorkHorse Edition
People loved the Lulzbot Taz 6. The vibrant 3D printed extruder gear just seemed to draw you in. Enter its successor: the Taz Workhorse. The Workhorse has a couple improvement over the Taz 6, including a 14% larger build volume and a strengthened frame. These additions resulted in two casualties: the aforementioned vibrant gear and my savings account. With a sticker price of nearly $3k ,the Workhorse checks in at almost $500 more than the Taz6. However, this added price allows the Workhorse to natively support exotic filament by coming equipped with a hardened steel nozzle. The sand, wood, and metal filler in composite filaments will quickly abrade a brass nozzle. The Workhorse’s steel nozzle will last much longer when routinely printing these composite filaments.
My main gripe about this beautiful machine is that at $3k you are stuck with a single extruder, and it is uncertain if the dual extruder upgrade kit for the Taz 6 will be compatible with the Workhorse. It seems that Lulzbot is directing customers to the Taz Pro if they want dual extrusion. The Taz Pro did not make this list because at $5k the extruders are neither independent nor capable of reaching temperatures above 300 degrees and the pro is an open air design. Lulzbot’s trend of asking for increasingly higher premiums for features that come standard on competitors’ printers is alarming, but back on topic to the Workhorse. My last negative about this printer is that it is marketed as being highly accurate with its belt-driven Z axis which eliminates "Z wobble" and its ability to compensate for backlash in all the axes, BUT this printer comes with only a 0.5mm nozzle. Inclusion of a 0.35mm or even 0.25mm nozzle would allow customers to test this claimed accuracy out of the box.
At higher price points its much easier to be critical, but I want to end with a couple of positives for this printer. With a build area of 280 mm x 280 mm x 250 mm, the Workhorse has the largest build area featured in this lineup. For me, reliability is priceless and that is what you get with the Workhorse. If 3D printing is not only a hobby but also a source of income, then I highly recommend the Workhorse.
Best in class for build volume
Great print quality
Heated bed with infallible bed leveling system
Superb bed adhesion
Single extruder fitted with 0.5mm nozzle
No wireless capabilities
Missing an enclosure
>>$1500 Number Two: BCN3D Sigma R19
At this price point a little style will not result in any trade offs. BCN3D's Sigma R19 features an aggressive design with LED mood lighting creating a futuristic appearance. The Sigma looks about as much as it cost ($3200).
After turning the printer on the user is met with an intuitive calibration process including auto bed leveling. The printer will extrude a couple of lines, and you select which layer height looks appropriate. The sleek touch screen is a warm welcome over the cheap LCD screens and plastic knobs that so many other printers use.
When printing in multi-materials, the independent dual extruders stay out of each other's ways preventing color and material contamination. There was no need for an ooze shield that could fall into the print. The extruders each have a small waste bin to purge their nozzles before printing. This waste bin keeps the bottom of the printer free from scraps.
With all of Sigma's futuristic features you may wonder if it was released too soon after witnessing the print quality. While the print quality is definitely acceptable the small hoops and blemishes are uncharacteristic of a printer costing over $3000. The bed experiencing a large unsupported overhand and poor calibration of the two extruders could be at fault.
Fortunately, the Sigma is completely open source with all the files located conveniently online, so adjustments can be made. Sigma also regularly releases firmware updates that should help tune the printer. The next iteration of this printer will give the M3 a run for its money.
Independent extruders keep multi-material prints clean
Spools are contained in the machine
Heated bed with leveling system
Intuitive calibration system
Responsive touch screen
Adequate build volume 210mm x 297mm x 210mm
Print quality is not perfection
Bed could be stiffer
Seperation between the glass and heating pcb takes the bed a long time to reach temperature