Whether you’re a hobbyist or a pro designing large-scale models, the things you can create with the best 3D printers are virtually limitless. 3D printing is an innovative technology that eliminates the need for traditional molding, forging, and sculpting techniques by using a process called additive manufacturing. Instead, 3D models are constructed very similarly to how an inkjet printer works by building up one two-dimensional, cross-sectional layer at a time, starting from the bottom and working upward. This method is known as fused depositional modeling, which can build models at approximately 10 times the speed and a fifth of the cost.
But rather than traditional ink, which could never create thick enough layers for a model, 3D printers use molten plastics or resins to create the layers, which are fused together with adhesives or ultraviolet light. The small plastic pellets or filament materials are fed through tiny nozzles that precision-print each layer, wait for it to dry, and then print the next layer on top.
These types of plastics are typically chosen because they stay solid at room temperature and won’t melt from, say, being exposed to the sun. Yet, they have a low enough melting threshold at around 220 degrees Fahrenheit that they can melt inside the printer without exuding too much heat, which makes 3D printers relatively safe for personal and home use. Though the technology has been around for decades, these machines have been available for retail sale only recently. So if you’ve been intrigued by 3D printing, you’ll want to check out these picks with a range of budgets and features to get started.
— Best Overall: Dremel DigiLab 3D45 3D Printer
— Best for Beginners: Creality Ender 3 V2 3D Printer
— Best for Miniatures: ELEGOO Mars 2 Pro Mono MSLA 3D Printer
— Best Resin: ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X 3D Printer
— Best for Home: Robo E3 3D Printer
— Most Versatile: ANYCUBIC Vyper 3D Printer
How We Picked the Best 3D Printers
Let’s face it, with prices that can quickly exceed hundreds or even thousands of dollars, a 3D printer is not a purchase you should take lightly. As with many relatively new consumer products that have suddenly become the rage, looking for a 3D printer that will deliver precision models time and time again can seem like an exhausting endeavor—especially when you consider the hundreds of products on the market. So we scrutinized dozens of the top-rated models for this guide before deciding on the handful that made the cut.
For example, 3D printers essentially operate by extruding molten plastic through a tiny nozzle that moves around under precision control to print each layer, wait for it to dry, and then print the next layer on top. So depending on the printer quality, your finished piece may resemble a stunning 3D model or simply a bunch of plastic 2D lines sitting awkwardly on top of one another, resembling a slightly askew deck of cards.
Customer service was another critical factor to consider because of the delicacy of operation and that even the best models tend to occasionally malfunction. However, all of the products we ultimately selected had positive customer reviews regarding customer service, specifically, so if purchasing any of these products, you can rest assured that any malfunctioning parts or issues will be swiftly replaced or troubleshot. Get started with the best 3D printing software.
The Best 3D Printers: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Dremel DigiLab 3D45 3D Printer
Why It Made The Cut: Go from unboxing to your first print in under 15 minutes using the printer’s large full-color touch screen with intuitive icons for easy setup and operation.
— Build volume: 7 inches L x 10 inches W x 6 inches H
— Weight: 42.8 pounds
— Compatible materials: ECO ABS, Nylon, PETG, and PLA filament
— Price: $1,999
— Extra-large build volume
— Built-in HD camera for remote monitoring
— Five-inch full-color touch screen
— Doesn’t work well with aftermarket filament
— Pause button causes the entire printing process to stop
For perfect 3D printed models every time, there’s a reason the Dremel DigiLab 3D45 3D Printer regularly tops editor’s pick lists as best 3D printer overall. The five-inch, full-color touch screen makes for simple setup and operation—within 15 minutes, even right out of the box! And not only does the fully enclosed sturdy plastic design and large build volume provide better prints and optimal safety, but it also ensures a quiet operation. You could even have this 3D printer running while teaching a lab class because it runs so silently and smoothly.
Other features include WiFi connectivity with a built-in HD camera and included remote printing software so that you can print and monitor the progress from anywhere. In addition, the removable glass heated build plate heats up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit so you can print with a variety of plastic materials, including PLA, PETG, ECO-ABS, and nylon—as well as ensuring easy removal and cleaning. This device also features an automated nine-point leveling sensor that detects any variation in the print bed and automatically accounts for it.
One of the few gripes some users have is that the printer was designed primarily to use proprietary Dremel filaments, which come in a limited selection of colors and tend to be pricier than aftermarket filaments. To use off-brand filaments, you may have to buy a spool stand or make adapters to pipe through larger rolls. A handful of users also noted a Firmware bug which renders the pause button kind of useless, as you can’t simply pause and resume without the machine coming to a complete stop.
Best for Beginners: Creality Ender 3 V2 3D Printer
Why It Made the Cut: Featuring a super-simple setup and operation, this budget-friendly option is the perfect starting point for anyone interested in learning the art of 3D printing.
— Build volume: 8.7 inches L x 8.7 inches W x 9.8 inches H
— Weight: 21.1 pounds
— Compatible materials: ABS plastic, metal
— Price: $279
- Semi-assembled kit for simple setup
- Heats within five minutes and maintains its temperature
- Quiet printing
- No auto-leveling
- Instructions may be difficult to follow
For those looking to dip their toe into the world of 3D printing, Creality's Ender 3 V2 3D Printer makes the best 3D printer for beginners. Creality recently updated its popular Ender 3 with an updated user interface that makes this printer easier to use, a toolbox to hold all of its accessories, and a custom-built motherboard that ensures its motor doesn't make too much noise when printing.
The Ender 3 V2 is compatible with the most common filaments, but won't work with more delicate ones, like glass. It also lacks an auto-leveling function, which means your prints may come out a little lopsided if you don't make sure its glass platform is perfectly flat. Still, this isn't a dealbreaker given the Ender 3 V2's entry-level price point, and it's easy to avoid problems if you take a couple of extra minutes to inspect the printer before making a print.
We consider this printer's resume function to be its best feature, because it gives you some flexibility if something happens in the middle of your print. If you feel uncomfortable leaving the printer running while you're asleep or out of the house, the Ender V2 can accommodate your needs. We can confidently recommend Creality's Ender 3 V2 to anyone who's been curious about 3D printing, but hasn't taken the leap because of price. Here are more of the best 3D printers for beginners.
Best for Miniatures: ELEGOO Mars 2 Pro Mono MSLA 3D Printer
Why It Made The Cut: This 3D printer’s compact yet surprisingly spacious build volume is ideal for printing anything from board game miniatures and jewelry to small industrial parts.
— Build volume: 5.1 inches L x 3.1 inches W x 6.3 inches H
— Weight: 13.67 pounds
— Compatible materials: Resin, plastic
— Price: $299.99
— Machined-aluminum construction
— Monochrome LCD screen with 2K HD resolution
— UV LED light source
— LCD screen does not have protective glass
—Resin tray may leak or spill
Significantly enhance your 3D printing efficiency with the best 3D printer for miniatures, the ELEGOO Mars 2 Pro Mono MSLA 3D Printer, which takes just two seconds per layer exposure to cure resin so you can watch your miniature creations come to life even faster. With a lifespan up to four times longer than comparable printers, you can also expect an overall more stable performance and less maintenance. In other words, leveling will be the least of your problems with this model.
Constructed of CNC-machined aluminum from the build platform to the resin vat, this printer boasts high durability and solid quality that reliably gets the job done. Likewise, the COB UV LED light source provides optimal heat dissipation with a high luminous maintenance rate and uniform light emission to ensure an even print every time.
As a few customer reviews have noted, however, you have to be really careful with the resin vat to avoid spills or leaks, leading to resin getting into your machine and corroding the parts. In addition, though the monochrome LCD screen is a nice touch, some users felt that it would have been better with a protective glass covering in the event of resin splashes. If you don't want to spend a lot, here are the best budget 3D printers.
Best Resin: ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X 3D Printer
Why It Made The Cut: This high-volume 3D printer can crank out flawless resin models at three times the speed, with impressive 3840-by-2400 pixel resolution.
— Build volume: 7.55 inches L x 4.7 inches W x 9.6 inches H
— Weight: 24.25 pounds
— Compatible materials: Resin
— Highly detailed resolution
— Power adjustment function
— Brushed aluminum platform
—Touchscreen could have better responsiveness
— Resin can be messy to work with
If you’ve tried filament 3D printers and get frustrated with clogged nozzles and stuck filaments, then ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X 3D Printer, the best resin 3D printer, might be just the trick. With printing that’s three times faster than traditional 3D printers, a single layer only takes one to two seconds for exposure—even when you factor in the large capacity print volume—for an impressively high resolution of 3840 by 2400 pixels.
Other valuable features include a power adjustment function, which can adjust between 30 percent and 100 percent exposure, making it compatible with special resins such as dentistry and high temperature. Likewise, the brushed aluminum platform significantly enhances the adhesion between the platform and printers. Finally, the high precision, high transmittance UV light uses quartz lamp beads to ensure a more uniform light source.
However, while avoiding the issues with filament 3D printing, resin can be a challenging material to work with. Everything must be thoroughly cleaned with alcohol, and changing the resin bath can be very expensive, as the brand uses only its proprietary sheets. Another minor gripe among some users is that the touchscreen is outdated and not tremendously responsive, using bubble-style buttons instead of a digital display. Here are more options for the best resin 3D printers.
Best for Home: Robo E3
Why It Made The Cut: Robo's E3 is the perfect 3D printer to get if you want to jump into making complex projects right away. It's compatible with over 20 materials, ranging from wood to metal to glass.
— Build Volume: 5.9 inches L x 5.9 inches W x 5.9 inches H
— Weight: 19.8 pounds
— Compatible Materials: ABS, PLA, wood fill, copper fill, steel fill, brass fill, carbon fiber fill, magnetic iron, glass fill, bronze fill filaments, and more.
— Price: $999.99
— Auto-calibrated print bed
— Can store up to 1,000 models on its internal storage
— Includes two spools of PLA filament.
If you're serious about getting into 3D printing at home, but don't want to make the giant investment required for our top pick, Robo's E3 is the one to get. It's roughly the same size and weight as our other 3D printer recommendations, but it can work with a lot more materials than most.
This gives you the freedom to create 3D prints that wouldn't be possible otherwise, especially if you're making objects that require different elements, like glass and metal. If you plan on printing the same objects over and over again, the E3's built-in storage will come in handy. That's doubly true if you accidentally delete a model on your computer.
While these features add to the E3's cost, it's designed with an auto-calibrating print bed, which improves the odds of you ending up with a satisfying print rather than one that's lopsided. By reducing the number of prints you have to discard due to quality issues, the Robo E3 is great 3D printer for new and experienced users. Plus, it's a lot less wasteful because you won't throw away sub-par prints on your way to perfection. The Robo E3 is so capable relative to most 3D printers it should be the only one you'll ever need unless you start using one for commercial purposes.
Most Versatile: ANYCUBIC Vyper 3D Printer
— Build Volume: 9.6 (L) x 9.6 (W) x 10.2 (H) inches
— Weight: 22 pounds
— Compatible Materials: PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU filaments
— Price: $429.99
— Operates quickly
— Incredibly versatile
— Difficult to change up filaments
ANYCUBIC Vyper is massive, but it's one of the most user-friendly 3D printers available. Despite not having an enclosure, there are plenty of features here to make this one of the smarter buys for folks new to 3D printing.
There's little to no setup out of the box, and you can start printing everything from miniatures to cookie cutters in as little as one hour. Once it's up and running, expect things to move really quick. It's incredibly versatile and compatible with PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU filaments. However, swapping filament when you've paused a print job is not as intuitive as it could be, and cannot be done with the "unload filament / load filament" commands via the touchscreen. You have to manually release the stepper motor, pull the filament out and then feed the new filament in with force before resuming. That said, once the project is resumed, sailing is more often, very smooth. The build plate is also amazing. When printing, it holds onto objects incredibly well. For a 3D printer in its price range, ANYCUBIC Vyper 3D Printer is unbeatable. Read a full review of the Anycubic Vyper 3D Printer.
Things to Consider Before Buying 3D Printers
There are a few primary considerations you should examine when shopping for a 3D printer. First, ask yourself how you plan to use the printer. Are you a basic hobbyist or a professional looking to do some large-scale modeling? One of the most significant features that differentiate 3D printers is the print volume area, which determines how large your models can be. To create large-scale industrial parts, you’ll probably want a more high-capacity print bed than someone looking only to model small figurines or trinkets.
Another major consideration is what types of materials you’re planning to print. Although some commercial 3D printers can now even print with metals or foods like chocolate, most home models for purchase print using either plastic filaments or resin—the latter of which tends to be slightly softer than filament and is typically used on a smaller scale.
So, if you plan to make massive 3D-printed models or you want to finish your prints with paint or other coatings, then a filament printer is probably the best choice. On the other hand, if the production quality is your priority or you want to print small models with a high level of detail, then a resin printer is probably the best option. When it comes to printing materials, it’s also a good idea to research which types of materials various 3D printers can accept. Many brands use proprietary filaments or spools, which can quickly add up without a compatible aftermarket or generic option.
Q: Can a 3D printer print anything?
The short answer is that yes, a 3D printer can print virtually anything. The only practical limitations are the build volumes, which is essentially the maximum space in which a printer can print. So, in other words, the sky is the limit—as well as your imagination, of course.
Q: Do you need a good computer for a 3D printer?
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need any special computer or software, necessarily, to use a 3D printer. These types of printers use data called STL files that tell the machine what to print. Most STL files tend to be smaller and are recommended to be below 15MB, so almost any functioning computer can handle the files. That said, while most models are simple, some high-resolution models can have much larger files.
Q: Can you use a 3D printer with a phone?
Depending on what features your 3D printer has, you can likely use it even with your smartphone. There are plenty of 3D-printing apps that are compatible with the best Android and iOS devices. And some of these apps don’t even require a download! You can view files or print progress remotely, design from anywhere, convert images files, and more using these apps.
Final Thoughts on the Best 3D Printers
If we had to choose our ultimate dream 3D printer, the Dremel DigiLab 3D45 would be our number-one pick. The extra-large print volume, ease of use, and next-level features such as WiFi connectivity and the high definition camera take this printer above and beyond the competition. However, with a hefty price tag, the Dremel DigiLab may not fit into everyone’s budgets, which is why our second pick is the Ender 3 Pro 3D Printer. Not only is the Ender 3 Pro affordable for most households, but it’s also an excellent choice for beginners looking for a 3D printer that’s easy to use with a fantastic output.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.