Dec.6, 2013

Christopher Barnatt -- futurist, academic, and author of 3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution -- has posted another 3D printing video, this time providing his top 10 of consumer-grade 3D printers. The video is embedded below:

3Ders also caught up with Chris to ask him why he created the video, as well as the selection criteria involved.

As Chris explained,

"since my first 3D printing book was published back in May, a lot of people have been asking me which is the best personal 3D printer. And so the video is my current answer to this question! Sadly, I've not been able to perform a hands-on testing of every model, but what I have managed to do this year is to see a great many personal 3D printers in operation, in many different locations, and to look at what they are capable of producing. I've also been able to speak to many users and vendors of personal 3D printers, and of course I've also read of lot of reviews."

"In the end, the Top 10 listing in the video has been based on a three-stage evaluation of price and performance, reliability and ease of use, and each printer's impact and profile in the growing personal 3D printing marketplace. In particular, I've scored highly those printers that offer the closest to true click-and-print, as well as those that offer the best value for money."

"Aside from the stereolithographic Form 1, no personal 3D printer currently offers great surface quality -- well, unless you are prepared to do a little sanding or vapor honing or both! -- and so while some enthusiasts may focus significantly on output quality, it is not strongly reflected in my list. If private individuals really want to 3D print great quality objects, then right now their best bet is to use a bureau like Shapeways, i.materialise or Scultpeo -- and to be honest, this is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future.

"As we head towards 2014, I think we are entering a second phase of on-desk personal 3D printing. By this I mean that, as the market expands, an increasing proportion of purchasers and users will have somewhat different requirements and expectations to the first round of very early adopters. Works-right-out-of-the-box is becoming more important to many potential purchasers than the ability to tweak and tinker, as is the slickness of a printer's design. Value for money and robustness are of course also important concerns -- and especially so for those purchasing personal 3D printers for use in schools and other educational settings."

"In addition to serving as a potential purchasing aid, I additionally hope that my Top 10 list highlights those printers that will leave a lasting legacy. It could be argued that the 'profile and impact' of a particular personal 3D printer is irrelevant to a potential purchaser, and to some extent this is true. But these are still very early days, and hence there remains a safety for consumers in purchasing those printers that are starting to be sold by a wide range of outlets. I hence make no apology for ranking the 3D Systems Cube so highly on my list, as in my opinion what 3D Systems have done in getting a reliable, easy-to-use 3D printer into the mainstream is very much to be applauded. Already there are over 100 personal 3D printers that could have been featured in this list. But there are probably only a handful that people will recall -- let alone recall with fondness -- in a decade's time, and I hope that they are all featured in the video!"

"Finally, I would hope that if nothing else, my list provokes debate. I'm sure that many people will disagree with at least some of the 3D printers that I have selected, not to mention how they are ranked! All such lists -- even those based on rigorous lab tests like the excellent 3D Printing Guide published by MAKE -- are inevitably based to a greater or lesser extent on subjective opinion. And so for me, the really important thing is that more and more people start comparing and using personal 3D printers, and that in the process we arrive at the most sensible set of criteria for evaluating them as future mainstream consumer appliances."

Posted in 3D Printers



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iMacker wrote at 6/24/2014 1:25:31 AM:

I bought my 3-D printer from amazon for 440 with free shipping and a roll or refill plastic. Source:

Marcus wrote at 12/8/2013 2:13:17 AM:

Cube better then UP? What did I miss? The whole print-from-USB? Overrated. Also, regarding value, the UP Mini is a great deal for home use. I agree with the Printrbot simple, amazing kit for the money.

jzatopa wrote at 12/6/2013 9:45:06 PM:

How are the rostock max and mendelmax not on this list? I know more people with those printers then any other.

Christopher Barnatt wrote at 12/6/2013 8:08:03 PM:

Sorry for my error on the Up Plus 2 / Afinia H Series. I thought that Afinia had implemented the upgrade (we don't get to see their printers in person in the UK). My mistake, for which I can only apologise. As for the rest of the list, I stand by my entries -- including the Cube at the top. Does it produce the best prints of any printer on this list? No. But it does print pretty reasonable prints reliably for a decent price. I've seen people repeatedly dump a Cube down on a table, plug in a USB key, and print a perfect object first time. And many other printers on the list simply will not consistently do that, especially for the price. My interview above explains my logic: the list considers value and reliability/ease-of-use and impact/profile -- and the latter does matter and will matter more as the market goes mainstream. Thanks to all who have entered this debate. :) PS: The 3D Builder Dual Extruder would have been my no.11!

1984 wrote at 12/6/2013 6:54:58 PM:

There's noway the cube should have been on this list but it's number one. 3D systems is trying to become the Apple of 3D printers, and I don't want that trash flooding the market. This guys list needs some major fixes, maybe he should ask someone that actually knows about 3D printers.

3DguruGuy wrote at 12/6/2013 12:11:23 PM:

News flash!!! The Afinia is not identical to the UP Plus 2. The UP Plus 2 is the only printer to offer auto calibration and auto levelling.

Sven wrote at 12/6/2013 7:09:03 AM:

Hahaha indeed, I'm also missing the 3D builder dual extruder with single nozzle. The guys from sell it for less than the original shop I believe.

Sean wrote at 12/6/2013 5:49:30 AM:

Also what's with the giant earth globe in the background? I felt like he was going to try to tell me my horoscope.

Sean wrote at 12/6/2013 5:48:05 AM:

Considering how many users are still getting air printing and blown motherboards off their makerbots MB was LUCKY to even be on the list IMHO...

JC wrote at 12/6/2013 5:25:09 AM:

I definitely understand the Afinia topping the makerbot (I have both, and definitely like the Afinia more for quality prints) but the Afinia H series is NOT the same as the Up! Plus 2. The Afinia is the same as the Up! Plus (original). And the 3d systems cube really shouldnt even be in this list, definitely not in 1st place.

Proteus wrote at 12/6/2013 3:06:26 AM:

Why did the Makerbot Replicator, an overpriced mainstream machine with only ONE material, and the Cube, a pretty overpriced printer with the capabilities of a SD for half the price, top Solidoodle and Form1???

sas wrote at 12/6/2013 1:03:41 AM:

Afinia and cube topping ultimaker and makerbot? you got to be kidding me..... this guy is on crack....

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