If you were to ask me today “Hey Pete, what 3D Printer should I get?” and you didn’t really provide me any more info on what you want to print, or what your budget is, I’d rattle off a bunch of my own 2 cents, or maybe even 4 cents. So that’s what I did below.
Consider this my opinion as of February 2014. Oh, I should also note that if you really want a ton more info, maybe too much info, check out what my pals at Make did with their Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014 Edition. (Note: You might even see me on page 17.)
Printrbot – printrbot.com
Printrbot grew from a (very) successful Kickstarter campaign, and the original goal was to get more 3D Printers out into the world, and they’ve definitely done that. Their offerings include kits and fully assembled printers, ranging from a few hundred dollars up to about $1,000. The Printrbot machines have been made with laser-cut wood, but they’ve just announced a new printer with a metal frame, which should help improve quality a bit. The default print volume of the Printrbot machines isn’t too big, but if you want cheap, Printrbot is an option.
Deezmaker – deezmaker.com
Deezmaker also grew from a Kickstarter campaign, and I’ll admit, much of my respect for Deezmaker comes from the super-smart Whosa whatsis and his involvement. If you’ve been around the 3D printing / RepRap community for the last few years, that name may mean something. Did I mention he’s super-smart? I totally trust Diego and Whosa to make high-quality printers and be awesome dudes when they do it. Prices range from $800 to $1,500, a bit more than Printrbot, but I think the price is warranted, as you get a better machine.
LulzBot – lulzbot.com
Moving on up, it’s the LulzBot folks! With the new TAZ 3 they’ve created a damn impressive printer. They’ve had impressive printers before as well, and they’ve had a program that included giving hackerspaces free/discounted printers, which is pretty cool. If you’re looking for a bit of a more established company, LulzBot (despite the name) may be a good choice. You’re now in the $2,200 price range though, and they really only have the one model, but from all I’ve heard, it’s a damn nice machine.
So the three companies mentioned so far all have one great thing in common, they’re open source. They’ve all made a commitment to release the files and documentation needed to build your own version of their printers. Without this sort of commitment you would not see 3D Printing being where it is today. The open sharing of knowledge, tools, software, and best practices is what got us here, and that’s important to remember, because…
Oh yeah, there’s also MakerBot!
MakerBot – makerbot.com
MakerBot was the poster child of 3D printing when I first got into it years ago. They did a lot to bring 3D printing to the people, and then they went closed source, and got acquired by Stratasys, a company which holds a lot of patents, and while they do some amazing things in the world of 3D printing, they also threaten to slow the growth of 3D printing through lawsuits, which I’m not a fan of. If your eyes glazed over reading that last bit, a MakerBot may be right for you. To be honest, they make pretty good machines, and you might consider them the “IBM” of 3D Printers. If you need one for work and you want support and a company to call/blame/etc. MakerBot might be right. You’ll probably spend $2,200 or more, though they did just announce a “mini” at $1,400.
So there ya go, my recommendation for buying a 3D Printer as of February 2014. Now, if you want to build a 3D Printer, that’s an entirely different story!