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Consumer Peripherals

Five Great 3D Printers You Can Buy for Under $1000

06 August 2015

As growing demand for 3D printers encourages manufacturers to up their game, they are delivering machines with greater usability, more innovative features and greater value than ever before. This trend is most apparent in a new class of moderately-priced consumer-oriented machines, many of which cost $1000 or less.

Whether you have been thinking about getting your first 3D printer, or want a second, low cost second unit to free up your industrial-grade machine for the jobs it does best, you will be pleasantly-surprised at the great options available to you. This sampling of printers has been selected from dozens of contenders because they represent what I believe to be the best combinations of versatility, reliability, user-friendliness, and overall value available on the market today.

Get your feet wet

Who says that a 3D printer that costs less than $500 is just a toy? Whatever these diminutive units lack in size, they make up in functionality and ease of use. Both of these printers are simple and affordable enough to give beginners a great way to get started in 3D printing while offering enough capability that many 3D experts use them for making smaller objects.

The M3D Micro

M3D Micro - $349 (for a limited time)

Pros: low cost, easy to use, self-leveling/self-calibrating, quiet operation, delivers surprisingly high precision, prints PLA and ABS. Attractive styling adds a cool look to any office, hackerspace or Evil Scientist Lab.

Cons: limited print volume, slicer/staging software is not open and has limited flexibility. Internal filament feed does not work well, best served by external spool which is easily rigged.

Comments: One of the most hassle-free printers on the market – even if it has a few limitations. Works best when you bypass the internal filament feed mechanism with an external spool.

Specs:

Layer resolution: 50-350 microns
Print height: 116mm (4.6")
Base Print Area: 109mm x 113mm (approx. 4.3"x4.5")

Print Area Above 74mm: 91mm x 84mm
Printer Dimensions: It's a cube, 7.3 in (185 mm) per side.
Printer weight: 1kg (2.2 lbs)

The PrintrBot Play

PrintrBot Play - $399

Pros: Rugged, high resolution (100 micron), auto-leveling simplifies operation, open-source software, advanced print heads resist clogging and provide more consistent printing.

Cons: Unheated bed, only prints PLA, small build volume. Printrbot does not provide software, but recommends Cura and/or Repetier (Both are available for free download).

Specs:

Build Volume: 4″ x 4″ x 5″ / 100mm x 100mm x 130mm / 80 cubic inches

Print Resolution: 100 Microns

Print Speed: 80mm/sec max recommended

Filament: 1.75mm PLA

Print Bed: Not heated

Electronics: Printrbot Rev F Printrboard with micro-USB connection (cable included) and micro SD card slot for untethered printing

Software: Printrbot does not provide software, but recommends Cura. Available for free download.

Overall Footprint: 14″ x 11″ x 12″ (D x W x H)

Get Serious

If it is time to take a step up— here are three great options. Whether you are a serious beginner or a seasoned 3DIY-er, count on these machines to deliver pro-grade results on an amateur's budget.

The PrintrBot Simple

PrintrBot Simple - $599-$749

Pros: Rugged, high resolution (100 micron), auto-leveling simplifies operation, open-source software, advanced print heads resist clogging and provide more consistent printing.

Cons: Only prints PLA unless you opt for a heated bed, Printrbot does not provide software, but recommends Cura and/or Repetier. Both are available for free download.

Comments: The Simple's Big Brother offers a much larger build volume, higher print speed and the option of printing PLA for only a few bucks more than the Play.

Specs:

Build Volume: 6″ x 6″ x 6″ / 150mm x 150mm x 150mm / 216 cubic inches

Print Resolution: 100 Microns

Print Speed: 80mm/sec max recommended

Filament: 1.75mm PLA & ABS

Print Bed: Heated. Max temperature: 80C

Electronics: Printrbot Rev F Printrboard with micro-USB connection (cable included) and micro SD card slot for untethered printing

Overall Footprint: 18″ x 17″ x 13″ (L x W x H)

The Bukobot Bukito

Bukobot Bukito - $899

Pros: High-quality components, rugged design, Rigid frame ensures precision and repeatability, Tatsu drive gear filament feed, Synchromesh cable drive for X, Y and Z stages is rugged and precise, Can print ABS, PLA, nylon and other materials, Open-source hardware and software, excellent manufacturer support, active user forum.

Cons: DIY kit requires some assembly using simple tools, moderate build volume (5" x 6" x5"), heated bed is optional.

Comments: Made by Makers for Makers. Bukobot uses Marlin firmware which enables it to run faster than most printers. Bukobot does require assembly but it can take just a few hours to build using simple tools (allen keys, screwdrivers, utility knives, and needle nose pliers).

Specs:

Build volume: 5" x 6" x5"

Resolution: 50-400 microns (depends on build speed)

Power: 120V AC/12V DC

Weight: 6.2 lb

The SeeMeCNC Rostok MaxV2

SeeMe CNC Rostok MaxV2 Kit - Currently on sale for $999, but worth it even at its $1299 everyday price.

Pros: Designed and manufactured by industry pros, made with high-quality mechanical and electronic components, Delta print mechanism offers high precision printing, rapid print speeds, very quiet operation, open source hardware and software are solid but hack-friendly, Huge print 1300+ cubic inch build volume (almost 15" H x 11 diameter), excellent customer support and active user forums.

Cons: Moderate skills required to assemble this DIY kit.

Comments:

Kit is based on high quality, laser cut, injection molded and CNC machined parts – all made in the U.S.

ATX power supply for safety and easy upgrades.

Tinker-friendly design includes extra places to add your own mods to both electronics and hardware.

Specs:

Build volume: 1300+ cubic inches (11" Diameter by over 14 3/4" height)

Filament: 1.75mm with standard .5mm nozzle (Easily changeable to other available sizes)

Electronics: RAMBo by UltiMachine

Questions or comments on this story? Contact engineering360editors@ihs.com



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