aNewDomain — 3D printers are awesome. The possibilities of this future-tech reality are endless, and in time they will disrupt large aspects of our manufacture-based society. For now, 3D printers are tremendous tools for makers everywhere. You just have to get the right one. To make your buying process easier, I’ve rounded up five of the best printers on the market today. Check out my best of class 3D printer reviews, below.
What sort of 3D printer do you need?
There’re a lot of factors to consider when buying a 3D printer, so it’s important to find a balance between cost, speed and precision. You want to make sure you get your money’s worth, and that it can perform the kind of tasks you desire.
On the technical side of things, you’ll want to decide whether your printer prints with PLA, ABS or both. Likewise, determining the level of “tolerance” your printer has and making sure the printer can connect to your computer are essential.
A 3D printed wish list
Ultimaker 2 ($2,499)
The Ultimaker 2 was named that for a reason. It blends speedy printing with excellent precision and handles large prints with ease. From beginners to experts, the Ultimaker is easily usable and versatile — oh, and it looks cool, too. For those in the industry, this model comes with Cura open source software for easy modification. The only flaw of this machine is that it’s not Wi-Fi compatible, so you’ll need to hook it up to your computer.
Cubify CubePro ($2,799)
This 3D printer is well-designed and easy to use, especially for those new to the industry. There’s an interactive LCD touchscreen and built-in intuitive software, which makes the sometimes-complex process simple.
The CubePro also has the ability to print in multiple colors, which is a bit more complex but looks excellent. It does large prints well, does not skimp on precision and is Wi-Fi enabled, so you can set it up anywhere in the house or studio. The only flaw is that replacement filament cartridges — those things you need to print anything — have to be bought from the manufacturer. Otherwise, this one’s a beauty.
Airwolf AW3D HD ($2,995)
This printer is the most expensive on this list, and that’s almost entirely due to speed. The Airwolf AW3D HD can print up to 400 mm per second, which makes it the Speed Racer of 3D printing. It has an easy-to-use LCD screen, and Airwolf puts a number of cool project models on its website for you to use. It’s a great printer for those who need to finish large printing jobs quickly, and thus is more apt for a business. The downside? You can only print in a single color, and you have to purchase the ABS supply from Airwolf.
Type A Series 1 2014 ($2,749)
If size is your primary concern, go for the Type A Series 1 2014 — you can print up to 12″ x 12″ x 12″ on this machine. With all that size you might think there would be a loss of precision, but there’s not. Very impressive. The printer is Wi-Fi enabled as well, which is always nice. The downsides to this one are no support for ABS and the lack of an LCD screen.
Mbot Grid II+ ($1,099)
The Mbot Grid II+ is the most recent upgrade of the Mbot Grid II, and the company outdid itself. This model was always budget oriented, and now with a price of just around $1,100, it’s by far the cheapest machine on this list. The Grid II+ has a durable steel chassis, a better warranty than other printers in this price range and a comprehensive tool kit. Even the filament options are affordable.
The machine has dual-color capability and is compatible with all desktop operating systems. But the low price does mean a few tradeoffs — like the small print plate that makes large projects out of the question. The plate also is not heated, so while the Grid II+ can technically print in ABS or PLA, you shouldn’t use it for ABS printing. Still, it’s an impressive machine that is very affordable.
There you have it — five great 3D printers for the aspiring craftsman or artist. If you’re not satisfied with the above list, make sure to do your own research. It’s an ever-changing field, so keep up to date as well.
All 3D printer images are courtesy of their respective manufacturers
Feature/Header image: 3D print of Yoda by Creative Tools via Flickr