Best 3D printer

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Initially, 3D printing was utilized for prototyping. However, thanks to advances in technology, it has become a standard for production-ready pieces.

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Which 3D printer is best?

A 3D printer offers the near-limitless potential to create items from your wildest imagination. Whether you’ve dreamed of a simple, custom phone case or an intricate replica of your favorite sci-fi gadget, a 3D printer can make it a reality — if you are willing to put in the time and effort to learn how they work.

There has never been a better time to purchase an affordable 3D printer that can handle all the crafts and designs you could ever want. With this in mind, it is vital to understand how 3D printers work and what they can produce.

What is a 3D printer?

In some ways, a 3D printer operates under principles similar to that of an inkjet or laser printer. But instead of using ink or toner to print text and images, a 3D printer creates a three-dimensional item by building up layer upon layer of molten plastic or powder. Those layers are then bonded together with adhesive or ultraviolet light.

Types of 3D printers

There are three major 3D printer types available today, though only two are currently affordable for the average consumer. These three types are FDM, SLA and SLS printers.

FDM

The most common type of desktop 3D printer employs fused depositional modeling technology or FDM. This type of printer relies on a spool of plastic to weave layers together to create whatever it has been programmed to develop.

FDM printers can work faster than the other printer types while operating at a fraction of the cost. However, they require constant maintenance and cleaning to run at peak efficiency.

SLA

SLA printers (short for stereolithography) don’t rely on melted plastic to create objects. Instead, they use a liquid resin that’s hardened by ultraviolet light in intricate and precise spots, slowly producing layers over time. These printers are great for creating highly specialized designs thanks to their accuracy and the thinness of the layers it makes. However, the liquid resin can be brittle.

SLS

SLS (laser sintering) printers use powdered material to create 3D objects. With a finite laser, the printer heats the powder in precise ways to make it solid. Because of the technology utilized, SLS printers are not currently sold at affordable price points, so it may be difficult finding an SLS printer for recreational use.

Features of 3D printers

Self-leveling

Self-leveling may be the most integral part of 3D design. To create accurate constructions, the print bed on a 3D printer must be perfectly perpendicular to the extruder. On many cheaper printers, leveling is left up to the user, while more expensive printers will employ self-leveling sensors that can save users time in setting up the print bed.

Single or dual extruders

Most 3D printers are single-extruders, meaning that the printer will utilize only one spool of filament at a time, making color customizability difficult. Dual-extruders alleviate this problem by supporting two filaments, allowing you to mix and match colors to your heart’s content.

SD cards and Wi-Fi

Many 3D printers now come equipped with an SD card to allow “G-code files,” the files that store printer designs, to be stored in its memory without using a computer. With an SD card, the printer does not have to remain connected to the laptop or computer with the file, thus making it more convenient to print for long periods without the external connection.

What’s the best 3D printer to buy?

Top 3D printer

Dremel Direct-Driver Filament Extruder 3D Printer

Dremel Direct-Driver Filament Extruder 3D Printer

Users praise the reliability of the Dremel 3D printer, an excellent option for anyone who wants to print both large and detailed models. It can print with four different types of filaments on a large, heated and auto-leveling build plate. However, it will not work well with non-Dremel filaments.

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Top 3D printer for the money

Official Creality Ender 3 3D Printer

Official Creality Ender 3 3D Printer

This is an easy-to-use printer at a great price. It can reach hotbed temperatures of 110 degrees Celsius in five minutes and has a resume printing option that can print even after power outages or filament changes.

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Worth checking out

MakerBot Replicator + 3D Printer

MakerBot Replicator + 3D Printer

This is a solid, midrange 3D printer with wireless connectivity, a simple setup process and user-friendly software. Also great for beginners to 3D printing, it has a large print area and built-in cameras that monitor progress over time. However, users report that the unit can be noisy.

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FlashForge 3D Printer Creator Pro

FlashForge 3D Printer Creator Pro

The FlashForge 3D printer offers stability and high output. It is an excellent choice for a solid 3D printer at a midrange price. Features include class-leading layer height, and buyers praise the company’s website and customer support. It has been reported that this printer can get noisy and can be challenging to set up.

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ELEGOO Saturn MSLA 3D Printer

ELEGOO Saturn MSLA 3D Printer

ELEGOO’s 3D printer is the company’s first 3D printer with 8.9 inches of 4K mono display, enabling larger models and a faster printing speed. This printer can work with greater precision and more reliably than others at similar prices, thanks to its UV LED matrix. Some users have reported that standard maintenance for this printer could be more straightforward.

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Jared Lindsay writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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