Despite early 3D printers costing consumers six-digit fees to purchase, advances in technology and processing power over the last decade have brought the price for good 3D printers to under $1,000 for beginner models. From professionals and students to hobbyists and amateurs, 3D printing has become a skill that anyone can pick up and try.
When considering the five best 3D printers for our list, we considered several different metrics to judge exactly what made a specific 3D printer better than the rest. First, the two main types of 3D printers: FDM and SLA printers. Each use a different technique for creating their 3D models when printing. FDM, or fused filament manufacturing printers, use an actual printhead to manually create the model, similar to older paper printers that used ink cartridges melted on metal print heads to slowly create your printout.
SLA printers aren’t just newer than classic FDM printers—they’re also far more similar to the digital printers we see today. SLA, or stereolithography printers, use an ultraviolet laser (like those seen in DVD or Blu Ray players) to create a physical model of your three-dimensional design. Much like traditional 2D printers, FDM printers are typically cheaper than what we’ve seen in the SLA camp, and are easier to use, clean, and operate.
A 3D printer will have varying degrees of speed, quality, and volume as to the size and shape of objects. No 3D printer is going to be able to create you a physical object in seconds, or even minutes, but there are variations in how long each print will take. We’ve considered all of these factors when trying to find our favorite affordable 3D printers. The good news is, while nothing in the budget 3D printer category will be the best money can buy, anyone shopping for a great 3D printer this summer will want to make sure they pay attention to all five units on this list.
Whether you’re looking for a creative gift for the young inventory in your life, or you’re just diving into the world of 3D printing for the first time yourself, these are the best entry points into 3D printing this spring.