What Printer should I buy? I see that question a lot. The problem, is that there is not a “best” printer. A lot of people will recommend the 3D Printer they purchased, and while I do that a lot with this guide, I have also tested out several 3D Printers and most of the time, I have printed with the top 2 contenders. This guide is not meant to deeply look into that, but to give you a quick rundown of what I view different 3D Printer categories, and the winner in each. If you want the quick and simple answer, get an Ender 3. Best bang for the buck, at this moment, I think is that 3D Printer.
Most 3D Printers, at least FDM style printers, fall into 3 size categories. Lets call them Small, Medium, and Large. The Creality S4 and S5 are extra large versions, that you would use if you needed a LOT of print volume. If you really want to dive deeper into your choices of 3D Printer, I’d still look at my more in-depth guide to buying the right 3D Printer for you. It gives you further reviews and will help you decide if you are still not sure what to get. This is a much simpler guide.
This is the favorite 3D Printer I own, so tossing it in this list, too. 🙂
Small Print Beds – My Choice: Ender 2
This is the area of th 150 x 150 x 150 mm style beds, or correspondingly small delta styles. When I talk about the small beds, I am talking about the Ender 2, Monoprice Mini, Tevo Michelangelo and that ilk. They have small print beds and all the ones I just mentioned have cantilever designs. These tend to be in the sub $200 cost range. They are great little printers, but be aware, they are LITTLE printers. If you absolutely will never need more than that size, by all means, pick one of these up. If you not sure, look at a medium sized 3D Printer.
This is probably the best 3D Printer for the price. These are beds I’d put in the 200 x 200 x 200 mm or larger range. Many kit printers, like the Anets and Tevo Tarantula fit in this section. But, with the advent of the Ender 3, as of today, I think that all of these medium sized bed 3D Printers are obsolete. The Ender 3 is just a terrific design that is very inexpensive and really does get things right. The bed is large enough that most terrain prints on it, and you have plenty of room to put a few items to print overnight. Also, by Creality, is the CR10 Mini. Some people prefer its design, but you are paying 50% more for that 3D Printer. Finally, the Tevo Flash is coming very soon, and usually, the Tevo clones work well. If you REALLY like to tinker, the Tevo Tarantula in this size is a great 3D Printer, and the one I started with. If you want some extra speed, and don’t mind losing some bed size, the Anycubic Kossel Linear Plus is my vote for a 2nd printer. It’s inexpensive, and being a Kossel style printer, it prints faster than standard “square” 3D Printers. If you have the money, the Prusa i3 MK3 is probably my top choice, but it costs almost 4 times as much as one Ender 3.
The Reason: The Ender 3 is just that magical combitionation of quality and inexpensive. You know the Venn diagram showing pick 2: Price, Quality, Speed? This gives you all 3. It prints incredibly well (Check out this video from 3D Printed Tabletop if you want to see). It is very inexpensive. You can literally pick up 2 of these compared to many other 3D Printers and get 2x the output. It’s just a great meeting point. There are also a great number of upgrades available as well, to get it to print even better.
Large Print Beds – My Choice: Alfawise U20
These beds I’d put at 300 x 300 x 300 mm. In this realm, I am putting the Alfawise U20, CR-10S/CR-10, Tevo Tornado, JGAurora A5, and East 3D Gecko, as well as the Tevo Little Monster. When you need a large bed on a 3D Printer, the Creality 3D Cr-10 was the ruler of that niche. They have done so well, in fact, that the CR-10s came out to address some short comings and it has spawned similar printers like the Alfawise U20 and Tevo Tornado. The Alfawise U20 is a clone of the CR10, but has taken the time to update certain areas. For one, the interface. The touch interface is awesome, and super easy to update the firmware. I know I got a little against the grain here, but I recommend the U20 over the CR-10. You get the full 300mm x 300mm x 400mm build volume at a killer, sub $300 cost.
This comes up a lot with people saying they save time by filling up a build plate. While this is a good theory, the reality is that it can be wasteful. If a print works fine, it is great, and pulling a large bed full of stuff off after 24 hours is VERY rewarding. The problem, is with failures. The longer a print runs, the more chance it has of failing. While I have done long print runs on my 3D Printers, I have had some work, and some fail. I try to “optimize” my print times by timing prints to finish about when I wake up, so I can swap them before I go to work, and then end some time after work. That way, if I have a failure, I don’t waste as much time or filament.
I find the larger beds are better for cosplay props. They often require a much larger build area for 1 model, which means the Creality CR-10 S4 or S5 become more worth while.
This next section looks at Resin based 3D Printers.
Printing Small – Resin Based 3D Printing (SLA/DLP)- My Choice: Anycubic Photon
Unlike the previous 3D Printers, where the race is really to getting larger, these 3D Printers concentrate on the lower end. These printers use photo responsive (UV) resin that hardens with the application of light. Whether the light comes from a laser (SLA) or from a panel of UV lights (DLP) it is essentially the same concept. When you are 3D Printing miniatures, and other small items, these printers are the way to go. They have a MUCH higher resolution than the FDM printers above, and produce nearly imperceptible layer lines. (I generally “see” them through clear resins, vs feel them on the surface). I only own an Anycubic Photon, so I am biased on this one. But, my bias comes from quite a few prints as well as an amazing community that helps with it. Other DLP 3D Printers like this are the Creality LD-001, Micromake L2, FLSUN -S Complete, and Wanhao D7. On the SLA side is the Peopoly Moai.
One major drawback for these 3D Printers, is the print resin. It smells, it isn’t really safe, it’s messy, and it’s expensive. That is the “cost of entry” to be able to print spectacularly small items that still look good. Safety glasses, Nitrile gloves, masks and UV curing stations as well as an IPA bath are all part of 3D Printing with resin.
There are a number of 3D Printers out there. They pretty much boil down to preference. While there is one pretty obvious winner, the Ender 3 for $200, there are other great 3D Printers out there. Pretty much the Creality CR-10s and CR-10 compete directly with the JGAurora A5. I recommend any of those, and if you need to save more money, and still need the large platform, the Tevo Tornado is a good recommendation as well (Just remember, most Tevo 3D Printers require a little more tinkering to get up to speed, that is the tradeoff on price). You will find, much of the time, 3D Printing is about trade-offs. Cheaper usually means more work on your end. Cheaper means smaller build area. Larger build areas mean larger potential failures. The list goes on. The recommendations I make above are solid 3D Printers I have used, and recommend. Some are kits, others are pretty much plug and play. Most fall some where in between, especially once you reach the mid point and larger. The JGAurora A5 ships flat, but just requires 4 bolts in the bottom to affix it to the base, and 3 on the back to attach the filament holder. From there, it is 3 plugs on the side, and 1 plug for power, and it is ready to go.
If you are looking to shop around, I still highly recommend my buying guide, but it is more involved with finding the best 3D Printer for you. This guide is more meant to give you a quick look at a number of different 3D Printers and give you my opinion on the best 3D Printer. As time goes on, this will change. Before the Ender 3 arrived a bit over a month ago, I’d have said the CR-10, or closer to that cost, the Tevo Tornado. This list will probably be updated as time goes on and new 3D Printers reach the top of my list.
Again, I do want to stress, 3D Printers come down to personal circumstances. If you don’t know anyone that owns a 3D Printer, check out the Facebook groups dedicated to them. Find a friendly, welcoming group. If you have a friend that owns one, it is probably worth going to that 3D Printer to learn from them. It could be a great deal knocks the price of a 3D Printer way down (I see great sales on the Anycubic i3 Mega from time to time, for example). This really is a generic snapshot of the state of 3D printers today (first of June, 2018) and what my recommendations are after having tested a number of these, and watched videos and on many others.