Jun 8, 2016 | By Kira

We’ll soon be entering the second half of 2016, and if you’re still-unfulfilled New Year’s resolution happened to be “buy a new 3D printer,” well, you’d better get on it.

But, as we know all-too-well from reporting on the dozens of new 3D printers that hit the market every few months, selecting and buying the best desktop 3D printer is never a one-size-fits-all process. That’s because there is no ‘best 3D printer’—no matter how highly reviewed or how many awards a particular model has picked up, every 3D printer comes with its own pros and cons depending on how it will be used.

If you want to buy a 3D printer but don’t know where to start, or maybe you’ve been eyeing a few models online but can’t bring yourself to hit ‘checkout’, we’ve assembled a 2016 3D Printer Buyer’s Guide to help clear through some of the clutter and help you decide which model, technology, build size, and price point is best for you.

Tips for choosing your 3D printer

Before starting, it’s important to know what features and properties are most important for your making needs. A schoolteacher wanting to introduce their classroom to the principles of STEM will probably prioritize safety, plug’n’play, and low-cost, whereas a mechanical engineer needing custom 3D printed prototypes will look for higher resolution, speed, and even multi-material capabilities.

For this reason, we’ve divided the list into a few broad categories, and included key technical specs. The list will also focus on 3D printers below $5,000. Below are some of the most important things to consider:

3D Printer Technology: The majority of consumer 3D printers can be divided into two main categories: FDM (fused deposition modeling, also known as FFF) technology, and SLA (sterelithography). With FDM, plastic filament is heated and passed through an extruder, which deposits it layer by layer into a 3D shape that hardens as it cools. FDM technology is generally quite affordable, and allows for a range of materials (we’ll talk more about that later).

SLA 3D printing involves focusing a light source (UV lamp or laser) into a vat of photopolymer resin. The light hardens the resin into precise, predetermined patterns, building up the 3D object. Though not as common as FDM (due mainly to its higher cost, maintenance and post-processing needs), SLA has the advantage of creating much more precise and professionally finished 3D printed objects, and is therefore becoming more sought after for prototyping and end-use needs. In our 2016 3D Printer Buyer’s Guide, the SLA 3D printers are in a separate category at the end.

Build Volume: Most desktop 3D printers are quite limited in their size, but for household projects, this usually isn’t a problem. Some models, such as the Rostock MAX, are prized for their larger build volume. Keep in mind, however, that it is also quite common to 3D print multiple small parts of a design and assemble or glue them together afterwards.

3D Printing Materials: FMD 3D printers most commonly use PLA or ABS filaments. PLA is biodegradable and generally quite affordable, but it can be brittle and break easily. On the flipside, ABS is more flexible, yet requires a heated bed to print. Other FDM-friendly materials include nylon, bronze and copper composites, wood-based filaments, and more, most of which are available in a wide variety of colors. Keep in mind that some 3D printer companies require users to buy their proprietary filaments, which can drive up costs.

For SLA resins, color choices are more limited, and they can be more expensive, but for some designers, the smoother, higher-resolution finish is worth it.

Speed and Resolution: Consumer 3D printers are notorious for being slow. The majority range from around 50-100mm/s, but as the technology advances, so too will the speed. At the same time, many 3D printers are capable of achieving quite high resolutions, from 200 down to as little as 20 (keep in mind that the lower the actual number, the higher and better the resolution will be). Some 3D printer models give users the option of increasing the speed by producing thicker layers, thereby reducing the resolution. The acceptable trade-off between speed and resolution will entirely depend on your needs as a maker, so keep that in mind when choosing your 3D printer.

Others: Multiple extruders, heated beds, closed frames, USB or WiFi, DIY Kits…There is so much more to take into consideration before you buy a 3D printer. Do you want to print in multiple colors or materials? Then you’ll need a dual-extruder model. 3D printing with ABS or other specialty materials often requires a heated and/or enclosed print bed, both for consistency and safety. For classrooms or shared workspaces, WiFi connectivity can be considered a bonus, but USB remains the standard. And then there are the questions of software (open source or proprietary?), add-ons, and the option of buying a DIY Kit so you can build and customize the 3D printer yourself.

Read on to see some of the top 3D printer picks for 2016:

Category 1: Budget/Entry-Level 3D Printers ($300-$800)

1. M3D Micro 3D printer ($349)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, PLA, Nylon
  • Build Volume: 116 x 109 x 113 mm
  • Max Resolution: 50 microns
  • Open Source: No
  • Connectivity: USB
  • Best for: Beginners, Educators

The first 3D printer on our list is the M3D Micro, which also made it to our Cheapest 3D Printers of 2016 roundup for one obvious reason: excellent value for money. This Kickstarter success story offers a relatively small build volume, but good quality resolution for simple prints, making it ideal for beginners, educators, or anyone looking to get their first taste of desktop 3D printing. It has received some negative comments regarding its software and slow build-times, but overall, it’s a great entry-level choice.

One final bonus is how good it looks—the colorful, cube-shaped frame is sleek, playful, and would look great in a classroom or workspace.

2. XYZPrinting da Vinci Jr. 1.0w ($399)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: PLA Jr. (proprietary XYZPrinting filament)
  • Build Volume: 150 x 150 x 150 mm
  • Max Resolution: 100 microns
  • Open Source: No
  • Connectivity: USB, SD or Wifi
  • Best for: Beginners, Educators

Taiwan’s XYZPrinting is the leading manufacturing of desktop 3D printers worldwide thanks in large part to their line of affordable, plug’n’play da Vinci 3D printer models, which are primarily targeted at the education market.

Marketed as the #1 3D printer for homes and schools, the da Vinci Jr. 1.0w (the w stands for WiFi; a USB-only da Vinci Jr. is available for just $349) was built for ease-of-use, featuring auto-leveling and Z-offset calibration via touch-screen LCD. It also has a closed door for classroom safety, is lightweight and eco-friendly, and offers a 12-month warranty. Like the M3D, it doesn’t score very high for resolution, but if used for simple models that shouldn’t be a problem.

3. RepRap Prusa i3 3D Printer ($369)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, PLA
  • Build Volume: 200 x 200 x 180 mm
  • Max Resolution: 50 microns
  • Open Source: Hardware and Software
  • Connectivity: USB
  • Best for: Beginner-to-intermediate, makers, designers, engineers

The Prusa is one of the most popular 3D printers in the RepRap universe. First and foremost, buyers must know that this is a DIY Kit, meaning they’ll have to assemble the parts themselves. That being said, building your own 3D printer is a great way to get to know each part and how it works, and the Prusa i3 is known for being relatively easy to assemble and calibrate. It also comes with a huge support community, so beginners shouldn’t be intimidated.

For more advanced users, another relatively budget option is the recently-released $699 Prusa i3 MK2, which boasts a 31% larger build volume of 250 x 210 x 200 mm, a new HeatBed MK42 print bed, 40% faster printing speeds, and other key improvements.

4. PrintrBot Play 1505 3D Printer ($399)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: PLA/Flexible filament (ABS available with heated bed upgrade)
  • Build Volume: 100 x 100 x 130 mm
  • Max Resolution: 50 microns
  • Open Source: No
  • Connectivity:  USB or SD card
  • Best for: Beginners, Educators

The PrintrBot Play, available in both pre-assembled or kit form, is one of the few desktop 3D printers that offers an all-metal steel frame, which is lightweight yet extraordinarily sturdy. It’s 50 micron resolution is remarkable—not only when compared to other 3D printers in the same category, but even when compared to much more expensive ones.

What it lacks in build volume and software (third-party software is required), the PrintrBot play makes up for in resolution, speed, ease-of-use, and of course, affordability. Proving its worth to educators, this budget 3D printer recently received the “Best for Schools” award in Make: Magazine’s 2016 Buyer’s Guide.

It is, of course, also worth mentioning the extremely popular PrintrBot Metal Simple, which for just $599 offers the same sturdy metal frame, heated-bed upgrade, and 50 micron resolution. For an extra $200, users receive a larger build volume (150 x 150 x 150), auto-leveling, and an even higher degree of reliability. The PrintrBot Metal Simple comes assembled and is fully portable.

5. UP! Mini 3D Printer ($599)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, PLA
  • Build Volume: 120 x 120 x 120 mm
  • Max Resolution: 200 microns
  • Open Source: No
  • Connectivity:  USB or SD card
  • Best for: Beginner-to-intermediate makers

The plug’n’play UP! Mini by Beijing TierTime Technologies offers an enclosed print area, ensuring consistency for heated prints. It is also known for reliability and relatively high quality all-around. Though it has received poor reviews for its lack of customer service and support community, the UP! Mini’s ease-of-use arguably balances that out. The UP! Mini 2 is currently available for pre-sale at the same cost as the original.

6. ROBO R1 +Plus 3D Printer ($799)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, PLA, exotic & flexible filaments
  • Build Volume: 254 x 228 x 203 mm
  • Max Resolution: 100 microns
  • Open Source: Hardware
  • Connectivity:  SD card
  • Best for: Beginners, Educators

ROBO 3D, another Kickstarter success story, has built-up quite a loyal fan-following with its plug’n’play ROBO R1 +Plus, an upgraded model with an improved linear motion system, excellent ease-of-use, automatic calibration, and a metal hot-end that allows users to experiment with more specialty materials such as ABS, carbon fiber PLA, wood PLA, and more. The 3D printer comes with a 6-month part-replacement warranty and 24/7 customer support.

Perhaps one of its greatest advantages for entry-level users its is expanded build volume—at 254 x 228 x 203mm, it is the largest 3D printer on our entry-level list. Another key point for buyers? ROBO 3D sells through popular retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, and Staples, making it accessible to a wide range of consumers.

Category 2: Enthusiast/Mid-Range 3D Printers ($800-$2,000)

7. DeezMaker Bukito 3D Printer ($849)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: PLA, PET
  • Build Volume: 125 x 150 x 125 mm
  • Max Resolution: 50 microns
  • Open Source: Hardware & Software
  • Connectivity:  USB or SD card
  • Best for: Beginner-to-intermediate; users who require portability

More “grab’n’go” than “plug’n’play,” the Bukito 3D printer offers two main selling points: professional-quality 3D prints and total portability in a ruggedly built, 6.2lb package. It can also achieve 3D print speeds of 200mm/s if you’re willing to forgo some of that resolution in favor of truly rapid prototypes.

Whether you are a traveling professional, an adventurer in need of custom parts on-the-go, or just want a reliable, high-quality 3D printer at a reasonable price, the DeezMaker Bukito is a solid bet. A DIY kit is also available for $799.

8. Dremel Idea Builder 3D20-01 ($999)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: PLA (proprietary Dremel filament)
  • Build Volume: 230 x 150 x 140 mm
  • Max Resolution: 100 microns
  • Open Source: no
  • Connectivity:  USB, SD card
  • Best for: Beginners, Educators

This plug’n’play 3D printer is widely available from commercial retailers, including Amazon, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, and is primarily targeted at educators, families, and beginners (Dremel has in fact been making a major push for 3D printing and STEM education via its Idea Builder series and Dremel Dreams classroom system).

Though it doesn’t provide the highest print quality, it is known for its excellent ease-of-use, relatively large build volume, professional customer support, and user-friendly features such as onboard controls, an enclosed print bed, and 12-month warranty. At $999 (plus the cost of proprietary filament), it’s not the cheapest educational 3D printer, but it is accessible and reliable.

Dremel also recently released the upgraded 3D40 2.0, which is WiFi enabled, comes with its own smartphone app, and has a 30% larger build volume. It currently retails for roughly $1,300.

9. Rostock MAX v2 Delta 3D Printer Kit ($999)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, PLA, Specialty/Exotics
  • Build Volume: 224 x 224 x 375 mm
  • Max Resolution: 20 microns
  • Open Source: Hardware and Software
  • Connectivity:  USB
  • Best for: Intermediate-to-Professional makers

The Rostock MAX Delta 3D printer (DIY Kit) by SeeMeCNC is something of a cult favorite amongst 3D printing enthusiasts. Offering the largest build volume of any sub-$1000 3D printer, the Rostock MAX can 3D print objects up to 280mm in diameter and 375 mm in height (that’s a print volume of over 1300 cubic inches). But size isn’t everything. This incredibly well-designed machine (assembled from laser-cut and injection molded parts) can reach resolutions as low as 20 microns and speeds of 60mm/s, and its hot-end platform allows for material versatility.

It’s not exactly a beginner kit, but for experienced 3D print enthusiasts it is a go-to. It also earned Make: Magazine’s ‘Best Value’ 2016 award.

10. Flashforge Creator Pro ($899-$1,199)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, PLA, Specialty/Exotics
  • Build Volume: 225 x 145 x 150 mm
  • Max Resolution: 100 microns
  • Open Source: Hardware and Software
  • Connectivity:  USB or SD Card
  • Best for: Intermediate-to-Professional makers

The Flashforge Creator Pro is a no-nonsense 3D printing workhorse: its sturdy, all-metal frame houses dual extruders and a heated, enclosed print bed that can handle PLA, ABS, and a range of specialty materials. Its structure has been compared to the popular MakerBot Replicator (we’ll get to that one later), yet Flashforge’s model is less than half the price. Though better for intermediate users, ambitious beginners can also benefit from Flashforge’s large and engaged support community.

11. LulzBot Mini 3D Printer ($1,250)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, PLA, PVA, Nylon, PETG, HIPS + specialty/exotics
  • Build Volume: 152 x 152 x 158 mm
  • Max Resolution: 50 microns
  • Open Source: Hardware and Software
  • Connectivity: USB
  • Best for: Beginner-to-Intermediate makers, Educators

Aleph Objects does not mess around when it comes to powerful (if not pretty) desktop 3D printers. The smallest in the LulzBot family, the LulzBot Mini, is no exception. Where to begin? It’s capable of extruding a whole range of specialty materials, including bronze, copper, polycarbonate, conductive PLA and ABS, Alloy 910 and much more (though keep in mind the open-frame could leave users exposed to burns.) The LulzBot Mini can also reach a maximum resolution of 50 microns, offers auto-leveling, and, because it is entirely open source (Libre innovation is a cornerstone of Aleph’s philosophy), there is plenty of room for customization and upgrading.

With just a small learning curve, users can rely on the Lulzbot Mini to offer consistent 3D printed prototypes, educational models, tools, toys and trinkets. It may be considered a tad expensive for such a small machine, but depending on your needs, that may not be a deal-breaker.

12. CEL Robox 3D Printer ($1,399)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, PLA, HIPS, PETG, Nylon
  • Build Volume: 210 x 150 x 100 mm
  • Max Resolution: 20 microns
  • Open Source: No
  • Connectivity:  USB
  • Best for: All levels

UK-based CEL’s Robox 3D printer is small but mighty, and it looks good to boot. Though the build volume is smaller than most other 3D printers in this price range, the Robox comes with a host of exciting features, including a heated build plate, extremely fast set-up, auto-leveling, decent software, and now, a dual-material printing head for multi-material or multi-color 3D prints.

Though using Robox’s propriety filament ecosystem is recommended, it’s not absolutely required. The main benefits are a simplified loading and unloading system, as well as a ‘filament recognition’ software function that loads the cartridge’s exact details and can, for example, catch filament errors before they ruin your print.

13. BEETHEFIRST 3D Printer ($1,699)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: PLA (Proprietary BEEVERYCREATIVE filament)
  • Build Volume: 190 x 135 x 125 mm
  • Max Resolution: 50 microns
  • Open Source: Software
  • Connectivity:  USB
  • Best for: Intermediate-to-professional product designers in need of portability

Created by Portuguese innovators BEEVERYCREATIVE, the BEETHEFIRST’s sleek and attractive exterior houses an award-winning and highly coveted FDM machine that is used by professional architects, product designers and artists who don’t want to waste time calibrating and messing with settings. In fact, BEEVERYCREATIVE claims to be the most user-friendly professional 3D printing experience, able to 3D print for more than 5000 hours without re-calibrating. It’s also fully portable, and comes with its own transportable briefcase, the BEEPACK, which really makes you want to bring it with you wherever you go.

Cons to consider: no heated build platform, proprietary filament required, and a smaller-than-average build volume. For consumers, it may seem expensive, but for a professional, plug’n’play experience, some would argue it pays for itself. The BEETHEFIRST+, which features a new extruder, is currently only available in Europe.

14. Makergear M2 3D Printer ($1,825)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, PLA
  • Build Volume: 254 x 203 x 203 mm
  • Max Resolution: 25 microns
  • Open Source: Hardware and Software
  • Connectivity:  USB or Ethernet cable
  • Best for: Intermediate-to-Professional makers

Makergear’s M Series 3D printers were built on the philosophy that “better parts make better 3D printers.” Having experimented with a plywood frame on the M1, the developers switched to a black powder coated rigid steel frame for the M2, paired with CNC machined aluminum components and plastic parts that were 3D printed in-house on production M2 machines. The result? An extremely sturdy and precise machine that truly holds its own without constant tweaking and maintenance.

Though not a beginner 3D printer to set-up, once calibrated, the M2 consistently produces professional-quality 3D prints. The included platform heater allows users to 3D print with ABS, and there’s plenty of room for upgrades and customization.

All-around, this is one of the most highly reviewed sub-$2000 3D printers for consumers who want to get serious about 3D printing.

15. Zortrax M200 3D Printer ($1,900)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, HIPS, ULTRAT (Zortrax ecosystem recommended but not required)
  • Build Volume: 200 x 200 x 185 mm
  • Max Resolution: 90 microns
  • Open Source: No
  • Connectivity:  USB or SD Card
  • Best for: Intermediate-to-Professionals, Educators, Designers

There would be no way to write this guide without including the Zortrax M200. It is praised for its plug-n-play ease-of-use, reliability (it boasts an extremely low fail rate), and ability to 3D print high-temperature materials with a high level of detail. Sold to hobbyists, educators, graduate students, engineers, prosumers and professional designers, the Zortrax M200 is an industry standby and priced just below $2,000, it’s still considered a very reasonable investment.

Two things to consider: Poland-based Zortrax sells its own ecosystem of filaments (Z-ABS, Z-GLASS and Z-HIPS) and it is not open source, meaning there’s not as much freedom as with other machines. That being said, the M200 has made its way into the 3D printing hall of fame, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Category 3: Enthusiast-to-Prosumer Premium 3D Printers ($2,000+)

16. LulzBot TAZ 6 ($2,500)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, PLA, HIPs, Nylon, PVA, Flex, Specialty/Exotic
  • Build Volume: 280 x 280 x 250 mm
  • Max Resolution: 50 microns
  • Open Source: Hardware and Software
  • Connectivity:  SD Card
  • Best for: Ambitious beginners, enthusiasts, professional makers

As we enter the $2,000+ category of 3D printers, the overall quality and reliability jumps quite a bit. From this point on, if you’re willing to spend the money, you’re sure to get an amazing 3D printer for a wide variety of projects. We’ll start with the Lulzbot Taz 6, Aleph Objects’ follow-up to the award winning Taz 5.

Described as the “single best out of the box experience of any 3D printer” for home-users, the re-engineered, self-replicating and built-to-last Taz 6 is suitable for ambitious beginners to professional makers. In addition to major improvements, such as self-leveling, self-cleaning, and a fully-integrated power supply, the fully open-source Taz 6 also features community-driven improvements, such as improved firmware, more reliable components,  support for new filament materials and an extended warranty.

Speaking of materials, the Taz 6 can handle a huge range of 3D printing filaments, from PLA and ABS to nylon, polycarbonate, wood and metal composites, and just about any other specialty material on the market. Dual extruder tool head upgrades are available for multi-material 3D printing, and the larger-than-average build size can accommodate a variety of projects.

The Lulzbot Taz 5 is still considered one of the absolute best 3D printers in its class, and, though it’s only been on the market for a few months, the Taz 6 doesn’t fall far from the tree.

17. MakerBot Replicator 2X 3D Printer ($2,500)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS
  • Build Volume: 250 x 160 x 150 mm
  • Max Resolution: 90 microns
  • Open Source: No
  • Connectivity:  USB or SD card
  • Best for: Intermediate-to-Professional ‘Experimentors’

For better or for worse, MakerBot is considered the company that made 3D printing a household term. While the company’s flagship desktop 3D printer, the Replicator 5th Gen, has gotten mixed reviews, its newer ‘experimental’ model, the Replicator 2X could be an interesting option for those who are committed to the MakerBot brand, and are looking to make more professionally-oriented designs.

The main difference between the two is that the 2X comes with a dual-extruder and is optimized for ABS 3D printing. Both the Replicator 5th Gen and 2X have comparable print quality, build volumes, and are sold for the same price. Again, which one is ‘better’ comes down to what you plan on using it for.

18. Ultimaker 2+ 3D Printer ($2,500)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, PLA, CPE
  • Build Volume: 223 x 223 x 225 mm
  • Max Resolution: 20 microns
  • Open Source: Hardware and Software
  • Connectivity:  USB or SD card
  • Best for: All levels

Rounding out our quartet of the consumer 3D printer hall-of-famers is Ultimaker, with their new-and-improved Ultimaker 2+. While the original Ultimaker 2 was already an award-winning model, the 2+ boasts significant improvements, including interchangeable nozzles, a geared feeder, and optimized airflow, which, taken together, enable faster and easier 3D printing across a wide range of 3D printing projects and needs.

There’s very little to critique about this well-built, open-source, community-loved machine, except for its price tag, which isn’t exactly entry-level. Still, the Ultimaker 2+ is truly hard to beat when it comes to the best 3D printers available in 2016.

Rounding out the Ultimaker family of top-notch consumer 3D printers is the Ultimaker 2 Extended+ (build volume: 223 x 223 x 305mm, retailing at $3,030) and the Ultimaker Original+ (only $995), which is an excellent bargain option for users familiar with DIY 3D printer kits.

19. BCN3D Sigma 3D Printer ($2,500)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, HIPs PLA, PVA
  • Build Volume: 210 x 297 x 210 mm
  • Max Resolution: 50 microns
  • Open Source: Hardware and Software
  • Connectivity:  USB or SD Card
  • Best for: Intermediate-to-professional makers

The BCN3D Sigma’s key selling point is its IDEX system, which stands for Independent Dual Extruder. This novel system allows users to combine multiple materials or colors, and to 3D print complex shapes without geometric limitations. Targeted at professional designers, the Sigma also offers reliably high print quality, a heated bed for material versatility, and is fully open source.

20. DeltaWASP 20 40 3D Printer ($2,799)

  • Tech: FDM
  • Materials: ABS, PLA, Nylon, Specialty/Exotic
  • Build Volume:  200 x 200 x 400 mm
  • Max Resolution: 50 microns
  • Open Source: Hardware and Software
  • Connectivity:  SD Card
  • Best for: Intermediate-to-professional makers

Italian innovator Massimo Moretti founded the World’s Advanced Saving Project, or WASP, with the vision of manufacturing reliable, high-quality 3D printers that encourage sustainable development. From the world’s largest Delta 3D printer, capable of building sustainable housing, to state-of-the-art ceramic 3D printing labs, WASP is at the forefront of truly useful 3D printing innovation.

While the DeltaWASP 20 40 cannot 3D print houses, its 400 mm tall build space is significantly larger than most at-home machines. As a ‘prosumer’-level 3D printer, it can also 3D print a wide range of materials thanks to its heated and enclosed build plate. It has been reviewed as easy-to-use, reliable, and all-around quite professional.

Finally, although the 300mm/s build speed may already seem quite fast, WASP has also released the DeltaWASP 20 40 Turbo, which can reach the insane maximum speed of 600mm/s.

Category 4: SLA / DLP Resin 3D printers

21. XYZPrinting Nobel 1.0 ($1,499)

  • Tech: SLA
  • Materials: Resin
  • Build Volume:  128 x 128 x 200 mm
  • Max Resolution: 25 microns
  • Open Source: No
  • Connectivity:  USB
  • Best for: Educators, Enthusiasts

Within the category of SLA/DLP 3D printers, even the ‘budget’ options may seem like an investment. This is because the technology and materials for resin-based 3D printing are more advanced and more expensive overall—but for users who absolutely prize smooth, detailed, professional finishes, it could be worth taking the plunge.

We’ll start with the most affordable SLA 3D printer on the market, XYZPrinting’s Nobel 1.0. Designed for educators, tinkerers and intermediate makers, the Nobel can create highly detailed, complex 3D printed objects with relatively little set up. The main set backs are the price (both of the 3D printer and its consumables) and slow printing time, but if you’ve never tried SLA 3D printing, this is probably the best entry-level option before committing to any larger or higher-end models.

22. B9 Creator Kit v1.2 ($3,689)

  • Tech: DLP
  • Materials: Resin
  • Build Volume:  104 x 75 x 203 mm
  • Max Resolution: 30 microns
  • Open Source: Hardware & Software
  • Connectivity:  USB
  • Best for: Professional jewelers, enthusiasts

A step up in terms of both price and quality, the B9 Creator is a favorite in the 3D printing community. Rather than a UV laser, the B9 uses a digital light projector (DLP) to cure and harden the resin. Though an assembled version is available for $4,595, many users have commented that going for the DIY kit is worth it, since, although it does take time, it allows them to set it up to their exact specifications, therefore resulting in more tailored and high-quality 3D prints.

It is also important to note that the max build volume of the machine is 107 x 75 x 203 mm when printing at 70 micron x/y pixels setting, however if you want a higher resolution, say 30 microns, the build volume goes down to 57.6 x 32.4 x 203 mm. Ideal for jewelry, replicas, or other finely-detailed prints. Third party resin is available, or B9 sells its own brand in either Black, Emerald, Cherry, Red, or Yellow.

23. Formlabs Form 2 3D Printer ($3,499)

  • Tech: SLA
  • Materials: Resin (proprietary Formlabs resin recommended but not required)
  • Build Volume:  145 x 145 x 175 mm
  • Max Resolution: 25 microns
  • Open Source: No
  • Connectivity:  USB, WiFi or Ethernet
  • Best for: Professional designers, engineers, product designers, medical industry

Back in 2012, Formlabs introduced the first-ever desktop resin 3D printer, the Form 1. Three generations later, the Form 2 has been hailed as “the most advanced desktop SLA 3D printer” yet. A bigger build volume, 50% more powerful laser, an automatic resin-feed system, touchscreen display, WiFi-connectivity, and several other features enhance both the user experience and finished product. From 3D jewelry designers to dental professionals, the Form 2 is an industry go-to.

As far as materials go, Formlabs does offer a library of its own proprietary resins, including Clear, Tough, White, Grey, Black, Flexible and Castable to cover most bases. The main benefit of using Formlabs’ resins is that they come in a specially designed tank that slots right into the back of the machine. The integrated resin system can detect the resin levels and automatically fill it as required, meaning less work for you. The downside, of course, is higher running costs. Third party resins can be used as long as you are willing to manually fill the tanks yourself.


There are many other 3D printers on the market that could have made it to this list, but the ones mentioned above are a great place to start for anyone who is considering buying a 3D printer.

Have you bought a 3D printer in 2016? Are there any you would add--or remove--from our roundup? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

You can also check out some of our other 3D printer roundups, including:

 

 

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V van de dronker wrote at 6/30/2016 8:01:00 PM:

What about wanhao i3. Super be value for money

WavePro wrote at 6/16/2016 10:29:43 PM:

Where is the Upplus, the PP3dplus that is commonly use at school (in France) and that is very friendly to use !! Very quick printer, can be used by everybody and understood by everybody even kids and make nive printing ?? A little sad about this

Feign wrote at 6/8/2016 8:06:45 PM:

No love for the NewMatter MOD-t? Their firmware and software was buggy at launch, but they've vastly improved both of these as well as adding full support for Cura rather than funneling all the slicing through their web store. 50% of the problems with the MOD-t get fixed by simply putting blue tape on the print bed anyway, even back when the software was buggy.



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