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3D printing seems like science fiction. But, it’s a technology that lets you create anything in 3D.

3D printers used to be reserved for professionals only, but times have changed. Nowadays, 3D printers are affordable, so even amateurs can buy them. It is not a surprise to find one in a classroom as well as in a design shop. Every creator seems to have a thing for 3D printing thanks to the influence of open-source 3D printing.

With a creative mind, a kindergarten teacher is now able to print props for their class. A trendsetter can define their style with uniquely designed earrings, and inventors can print 3D prototypes. Basically, anyone who wants to bring something in their imagination to life can do so with a 3D printer.

In the consumer world, 3D printers are in two categories; FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) and SLA (Stereolithography). FDM printers use a heated thermoplastic filament to produce molten plastic. It is an effective way to create products in a small business or a classroom.

SLA printers, on the other hand, work using a UV Laser beam to harden an exposed layer of photosensitive liquid resin. The process is repeated, and the end product has to be rinsed using a solvent. This method of 3D printing produces exceptional results, especially if you are in the jewelry industry where every detail matters.

SLA 3D printers are much more expensive and thus ideal for professional designers and large businesses.

We looked at different models, compared real-life performance, and consulted experts. The best 3D printer is the ease to assemble and only require finishing touches. Before you make a choice, remember to evaluate features like the build size, print quality, and filament support. Don’t forget to check out the customer support and their efficiency.

And if you want to know the nitty-gritty stuff of a 3D printer, a DIY kit will work for you. It gives you the opportunity to learn about every bolt and puts you ahead of the pack in troubleshooting problems.

In Short

If you are not up to reading our reviews, LulzBot Mini 2 comes highly recommended for you. It prints fast, uses powerful software, and supports different types of filaments.

If you want a budget model, Creality Ender 3 is just the right model. It is an entry-level 3D printer designed to give you a smooth time especially if you are just starting.

1. LulzBot Mini 2 - Desktop 3D Printer: Best Portable 3D Printer

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  • Offers automatic bed leveling
  • Self-cleaning nozzle so you don’t have to remove filaments
  • Portable design is easy to take to different locations
  • SD card reader and LCD control panel offer straightforward controls
  • Open filament system
  • Reaches printing temperatures fast
  • It has a small print volume so it won’t be a good fit for commercial applications
  • It is pricier than printers offering similar features
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LulzBot Mini 2 looks much like the original Mini. But, it comes with functional upgrades that make it a must-have for designers and homeowners. Those trying out 3D printing may want to steer away from this one as it is priced way higher than entry-level models, clocking at around $1000-$2000.

Design Features

This printer comes in a portable size. It is ideal if you are always on the go and don’t want to go looking for 3D printing shops. It uses a genuine E3D Titan Aero extruder with a redesigned feeding mechanism to handle a wide array of materials. You can expect it to print from PLA, PET-G, and ABS to more industrial materials like elastic TPU and nylon.

Working with a 0.5mm nozzle produces such intricate and outstanding details that it is easy to use it with delicate items. The prints feel smooth in that you make a presentation without worries about the impression you leave on your clients.

LulzBot Mini 2 comes with a reversible PEI/glass heated print bed. It explores automatic bed leveling together with a self-cleaning system. Since it has two print surfaces, you will be able to choose which materials should print on which side.

The print bed is quite large with a print area of 7 x 6.3 x 6.3 inches. It gives you a print volume of 281 cubic inches, which is enough for most things like jewelry, toys, household items, and many others.

Its exterior design follows a robust aluminum frame with all the buttons, switches, and toggles easily accessible. You will not find an oddly-placed LCD panel, and the SD card reader is of superior quality so it will continue to work for as long as the machine is working.

Set Up and Controls

LulzBot Mini 2 is perhaps the easiest 3D printer to install and start using. It comes fully assembled in a plug-and-play design. After that, it is a matter of installing the Cura software, which should be easy if you are familiar with 3D printing.  You can also install the open source Cura software for an easier way of loading models in OBJ, and STL formats.

Another thing we like is that this printer does not need to be tethered to a computer. It gives you a full-color LCD control panel and an SD card reader. The control panel allows you to load filament, and set temperatures. It also allows you to print directly from an SD card as a standalone 3D printer.

Stuff to Consider

LulzBot Mini 2’s open source Cura has a couple of bugs since it is not on par with the standard open source Cura. As such, instead of simplifying your work, it may make it complicated.

Summary

LulzBot Mini 2 is an excellent printer that meets our expectations considering it is aimed at intermediates. With no DIY stuff getting in the way, this printer comes with good features to save you time and produce beautiful prints.

2. Creality Ender 3 - Fully Open Source Printer: Best Affordable 3D Printer

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  • Very affordable
  • It has a Resume Print function
  • Uses advanced MK-8 extruders
  • High accuracy ball bearing wheels
  • It has 24/7 customer care support
  • Can be used without a computer
  • It has issues with bed leveling
  • It does not self-clean
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Creality Ender 3 is a favorite in the 3D printing world. This is because you don’t have to think twice about the price as it is truly affordable. It is a fully open source product allowing you to know all about the software and hardware such that you can lay out improvements.

Design Features

Keeping in mind that Creality Ender 3 has been tweaked after input by its users, we have a lot of expectations. This model has a build volume of 220 x 220 x 250mm. It fits in with the needs of the beginner.

Looking at the quality, you will find that it comes with a redefined power supply that consists of two fuses. It is protected from power surges, and it can resume printing from where it left off, even after a power outage.

This is an FDM printer, which is why it is inexpensive. It allows 100 microns of minimum layer height, meaning it can also take on some detailed printing. It uses the POM V-Slot wheel design, which results in low friction making the machine less noisy.

With the detachable Buildtak-like bed surface, it is easy to pop prints off as it is flexible. Being detachable also means that it is replaceable with glass.

Set Up and Controls

Creality Ender 3 comes partially assembled. The rest of the assembly requires plugging in of the pre-soldered wires into their plugs. The printer needs manual calibration with the help of the enlarged bed leveling knobs. The only problem that we’ve noticed is the uneven base that can cause the printer to wobble.

The next step is installing of Cura Slicer software, which comes on the SD card. It comes with the Cura 3.0.2 version, but there’s a more current version Cura 3.4.1, which is downloadable online for free. For printing without a computer, Cura allows you to save a Gcode into an SD card or use a USB interface to print directly.

Stuff to Consider

This printer does not go out of the box to a socket. It can take three hours, perhaps more, to assemble. If you don’t want to tinker with any parts, you’ll want to stay clear of this printer.

Summary

If you don’t mind the work before you get to use the Creality Ender 3, then you will be happy with the results. It has impressive print quality for an FDM which compares to 3D printers that cost twice more.

3. Anycubic Full Metal i3 Mega - Touchscreen 3D Printer

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  • It has a semi-automatic leveling system
  • Body frame is fully metallic
  • Assembles in under 20 minutes
  • Comes with a touchscreen control panel
  • Supports a wide array of filaments
  • Ultrabase print bed prevents objects from sticking to the surface
  • Comes with outdated Cura software
  • It comes with poor quality filament
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Anycubic Full Metal i3 Mega is another affordable model that is full of value. From the printing space to the print speeds, and the print quality, there’s more than meets the eye with this printer.

Design Features

This printer is small enough to be used on a desktop. It has a print build of 210 x 210 x 205mm. The printer boasts an all-aluminum construction to improve on its longevity.

Anycubic Full Metal i3 Mega aims at giving you smooth finishes that’s why it uses an ultrabase print bed. It has quality adhesion that helps to quickly remove all kinds of filaments. Without filaments sticking, you will no longer be repeating prints because of a botched object.

You get to work with different filaments from PLA to ABS, and flexible materials. What we like most is that it features filament detection, which makes it stop printing when it runs out of filament. It resumes printing right after you reload with just a simple click.

Assembly

Like the LulzBot Mini 2, this printer comes fully assembled. The installing process involves screwing the base over the frame using only four screws. You are then required to connect the three wire harnesses on to the color-coded connectors at the base.

After installing the base, you need to ensure that the power voltage is set to your location since it has a default setting of 220V. If your area pulls 110V, you need to push the power switch to read 110V.

Anycubic Full Metal i3 Mega comes with an intuitive touchscreen.  It allows you to install software, as well as control settings for the bed temperature, turn off motors, change the language, and more. You will like that it comes with Cura software on the SD card so you can start printing right away. This model also supports Simplify 3D and Repetier-Host software.

Stuff to Consider

There are a few complaints about Anycubic’s poor customer support. Some have received broken printers and reaching out to customer services seems like a dead end. It is something we hope Anycubic would improve.

Summary

It is intriguing to work with the Anycubic Full Metal i3 Mega 3D printer. It handles filament like a pro even with PETG, which is more sensitive than most 3D printing materials. The printer is easy to assemble, cheap, and pretty easy to use.

4. Monoprice Maker Select Plus - Best for the Money

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  • It uses stable USB and SD card connectivity
  • Supports all types of filaments
  • Assembles in a few minutes
  • It can handle sustained heating for an extended period without the need for MOSFET mod
  • The touchscreen is simple to use
  • Heated glass bed
  • Compatible with different printing software
  • It has a steep learning curve
  • It is noisy
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It is easy to dismiss a 3D printer that costs under $500. But, Monoprice Maker Select Plus produces impressive results on par with more expensive models.

Design Features

This model has a large 7.9 x 7.1 x 7.1 inches build surface. It lets you have all the fun since most DIY products can fit on the bed of this printer. Since it has a heated bed, you will not be dealing with warped products after waiting for hours to have a complete product.

Monoprice Maker Select Plus has 100 microns resolution. It is not top of its class and can produce grainy textures, which is not a surprise at this price range. Luckily, you are not stuck with one type of filament as it can print with PLA, ABS, dissolvable PVA, wood, and even metal composites.

With a 0.4mm brass nozzle, this printer accepts materials that are 1.75mm in diameter. It comes with a direct drive filament feeding mechanism, and the spool holder is placed neatly on top of the printer. Coupled with the decent cable management system, it has a nice overall design.

Assembly and Software

Monoprice Maker Select Plus comes mostly assembled. It requires attaching the base to the frame using four screws and using two screws to install the filament holder. On the touchscreen, you will find a simple menu that makes it easy to navigate the settings.

When it comes to software, Monoprice gives you their customized Cura software with four test print G-codes. Even if Cura is perhaps the best slicing software, you may still opt for different software. That’s why this printer is open source. It is compatible with Simplify3D, ReplicatorG, and any slicing software that generates a G-code.

Stuff to Consider

Because of the manual leveling, you may find it takes more than a few tweaks to get it right. Beginners will not like how it bends easily. You will either have to learn how to level it or install a leveling sensor.

Summary

Monoprice Maker Select Plus has exceptional print quality with a large print volume. Except for having to level the bed manually, it has real value. This printer is suitable as a low volume printer and will excel in the classroom and small DIY projects.

5. Creality CR-10 - 3D Printer for Large Prints

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  • Large build volume
  • Heated glass bed is removable
  • USB and SD connectivity
  • High precision bearings
  • Prints with many different types of filaments
  • Needs only three parts to assemble
  • Manual leveling is tedious
  • It requires a thorough inspection of loose screws that can cause problems
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Creality CR-10 3D printer has a massive build volume – a clear indicator of who should get it. If you want a simple but realistic 3D printer that won’t stretch your budget, you better get on the Creality CR-10 wagon.

Design Features

Made by a Chinese tech company Shenzhen Creality 3D Technology, it is a budget model that is competitive thanks to its unique features. The printer has a 300 x 300 mm heated glass bed in an open aluminum frame design.

You will find that it needs considerable space to function well. The control box and the filament holder must sit a few inches away from the printer for it to feed into the extruder correctly. The LCD is knob-operated, and it houses the SD card and USB slots. It also has a nice cable management system so you won’t be dealing with a messy desk.

Creality CR-10 has an open filament system. It means you can use your filament of choice to create different objects. Also, it has a filament detection function which makes sure you will never start over a print job if the thread runs out in the middle of printing.

On the same note, it will also resume printing after power loss.

Assembly and Software

For the size, you would think there’s a lot to be done with this printer, but that’s not the case. It comes with the tools and instructions that you won’t need since they are incomprehensible. Fortunately, there are better instructions online, and the control box is well-labeled to make the process easier.

Bed leveling is manual on this printer. It is always a tricky process for newbies, and if you choose to change the bed to a different one, leveling is going to be even harder.

As always with Creality, you will need to inspect the whole printer for loose screws since it is not known for quality control.

Creality recommends downloading the Cura software from their website for free. You can also use Simplify3D, which performs well with this printer.

Stuff to Consider

You will notice that printing with ABS results in some warping since the heated bed is not consistent in the temperature. It is better to stick to PLA and other filaments that do not rely on consistent heat.

Summary

Creality CR-10 improves on the Ender 3 being bigger and better, but still affordable. It is made with hobbyists in mind and anyone who wants to print large objects. From the assembly process to installing software and the printing process, it is sure to give you a smooth time.

6. Anycubic Photon UV 3D Printer - Best Cheap SLA 3D Printer

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  • Affordable compared to most SLA/DLP 3D printers
  • High-quality prints with incredible details
  • Compact, desktop-sized
  • Comes with the free and straightforward slicer software
  • It is fully assembled
  • It has simple and well-detailed instructions
  • It requires a lot of work for those used to FDM printing
  • Resin is expensive and using low-quality types of resin can produce a messy print job
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Anycubic Photon UV 3D Printer is a cheap DLP printer that is reliable and appealing. It is perhaps the only notable SLA desktop printer that is worth more than its price.

Design Features

Finding a consumer-focused stereolithography printer means saving up since they do not come cheap. But, Anycubic has designed one that is dependable. First, it has a small footprint that can fit on most desktops.

Second, it has a 10-micron resolution. It means it can print some of the most detailed prints beating the quality of upscale FDM printers. Instead of exuding molten plastic, this printer will shine UV onto a photoreactive resin to build onto layer after layer of an object.

This printer is from anodized aluminum. It has few moving parts and is expected to last in good condition for a long time. The only thing you have to bear is the cost of resin, which is usually expensive.

Set up and Software

With SLA/DLP printers, 3D printing is never a complicated process more so in the case of Photon. The first thing you are required to install is the knob to the door. Next, you are supposed to ensure the platform and 2K screen are free of dust. If not, then cleaning is the next logical step.

You are then required to plug in the printer and level the Z-axis and finally attach the resin Vat. If you are moving from the FDM world to SLA, you must read through the instructions and wear a protective mask and gloves when handling resin.

The whole process of SLA printing involves washing the object with a solvent, curing, and cleaning the build plate. It can be messy, which is why we recommend you to wear protective gear and have patience.

After you have everything running, the touchscreen control panel will give you access to the menu. It is effortless to learn and understand what is happening, so there will be no confusion there. Also, the Photon software is minimalistic, adding to the simple process before you complete the first print job.

Stuff to Consider

Anycubic Photon UV 3D Printer is basic as an SLA/DLP printer. It does not offer automatic bed leveling or automatic resin filling. It also requires you to wipe the bed manually. It is a lot of involving work for a beginner.

Summary

Anycubic Photon UV 3D Printer makes it possible to achieve high-resolution prints without spending a lot of money. It is recommended for DIY enthusiast and hobbyists rather than jewelers because of its small build volume.

7. Original Prusa i3 MK3 - 3D Printer: Best for Business

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  • Automatic bed leveling
  • Power panic protects the printed object
  • New EINSY RAMBo motherboard detects skipped steps
  • Accurate thermistors to measure ambient temperature
  • Print bed heats up fast
  • It is super easy to load filament
  • Extremely quiet
  • It needs frequent software updates
  • Filament sensor has trouble working with clear filaments
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Original Prusa i3 MK3 3D Printer brings with it lots of possibilities we hadn’t anticipated in the 3D printing world. You can choose the fully assembled version, or go for the DIY model if you are all about tinkering with machines.

Design Features

The uniqueness of the Original Prusa i3 MK3 3D Printer spans from features such as the MK52 magnetic bed that makes calibration super easy. The bed is held by magnets, and it has nine points of auto-calibration to ensure every print job maintains its high levels of accuracy.

This printer is almost flawless because it anticipates problems before they even happen. It has a power sensor that allows the printer to recover any losses from a power outage. Not to mention, the EINSY RAMbo motherboard that helps it to detect skipped parts. It makes the job thorough and clean each time.

We like the filament filter as it is useful in detecting when the printer is running out of filament. With the E3D V6 nozzle, it can withstand high temperature such that every job is consistent in quality.

This is a pretty rigid printer that comes with a redesigned aluminum frame and a reworked Y-axis. It comes with a Bondtech extruder and dual fans to support the use of different filaments. Most importantly, it is open source, and you can find out more about the design on Prusa’s website.

Set up and Software

As we said, Original Prusa i3 MK3 can come pre-assembled or in a DIY kit. The pre-assembled model is significantly more expensive than the DIY kit, but it saves you hours of soldering and screwing. For those who want to know the inner mechanics of their printer, the DIY kit is a definite recommendation as it puts you in the know.

The Original Prusa i3 MK3 is compatible with Cura and Simplify3D, which is ideal for beginners. But, if you are a professional, you will love working with the Slic3r Prusa edition or PrusaControl.

Stuff to Consider

The filament sensor is a bit buggy and does not work correctly 100% every time. That said, you may want to turn it off when working with transparent filaments as it keeps detecting a clogged nozzle.

Summary

Original Prusa i3 MK3 is beyond incredible in so many ways. It is well-detailed, defined, and guarantees a smooth and safe operation. With the capability to recover from power loss and being adaptable to different software, it is exciting to use it on a day to day basis.

8. MakerGear M2 - Best 3D Printer for Intermediate Users

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  • Solid aluminum and steel construction
  • Comes with a heated bed
  • Can print using a broad range of materials
  • LCD user interface for standalone controls
  • Open-source design
  • MakerGear is prompt in answering questions
  • It still needs bed leveling even if it comes leveled
  • It needs to be used by someone who can troubleshoot potential problems
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MakerGear M2 3D Printer is made for intermediates who don’t mind tinkering with parts. It is a printer that teachers, students, and designers will love because of the opportunity to learn.

Design Features

This printer comes in an open frame design such that it can print large objects. Though it comes with one extruder, you can add another extruder when you want to print a two-colored item.

You will like the overall steel build as it gives you durable performance and a build volume of 200 x 200 x 250mm.

MakerGear M2 3D Printer comes with the bed already leveled. You can always reset it using the four-point system and included software. What’s more, the X/Y motions are driven by Kevlar reinforced belts and are independent of one another.

You will receive a 0.35 brass nozzle with this mode. But, there are different sized nozzles, ranging from 0.5mm to 0.75mm available on the MakerGear website. We like that it also follows an open filament system such that you can print with third-party filaments.

It supports printing with just about any type of filament as long as it is 1.75mm. From PLA to wood, ABS, HIPS, PET, and many others.

Set up and Software

MakerGear M2 3D Printer is also available in a pre-assembled or DIY kit. The pre-assembled version requires ensuring that every screw is in its place. You need to plug it in, connect it to a computer, install the spool holder, and load the filament. The printer supports USB and SD connections. We would have excepted Wi-Fi support since it is not the cheapest of models.

Software compatibility is perhaps the best thing with this printer. It works with open-source and commercially available slicing software such that you can choose the one that works best for you.

Stuff to Consider

This machine is tailored to those who want to learn and professionals. It requires some level of tuning and a steep learning curve that is not for everyone.

Summary

Professional designers looking to print large objects will love working with the MakerGear M2 3D Printer. It has remarkable value regarding build quality and build volume so you can operate it with the least hassle. The print quality has been praised as well-detailed, adding up to its good points.

9. LulzBot TAZ 6 - Best for Professional Designers

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  • It’s a plug-and-play machine
  • LulzBot version of Cura is well-detailed
  • Perfect for professional use
  • Rugged aluminum frame
  • Heated print bed with automatic leveling
  • Can reach 3000F temperatures for the hot end
  • It takes a long time to print high-quality objects
  • It is noisy for the price
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LulzBot TAZ 6 ticks all the right boxes of an incredible 3D printer. It has a large build volume, excellent print quality, and has automatic bed leveling for simple setup.

Design Features

LulzBot TAZ 6 is a high-end machine featuring an open framework. It is built from extruded aluminum and a heated PEI print surface. It is undoubtedly dependable thanks to the coated metal and smooth steel rods. It comes with self-lubricating bushings to ease on the maintenance so that you can print more and worry less.

The automatic leveling system uses four metallic discs located at the corner of the bed. With the extruder touching on these discs, it becomes an automatic process of identifying where the print bed touches on the discs.

Another exciting feature is the self-cleaning extruder, which ensures it doesn’t get bogged up. Every print comes off clean and smooth, making it ideal to create objects that need close attention to the end.

With the user interface on the left-hand side of this printer, it is easy to access the menu, so it doesn’t have to be connected to a computer at all times.

Set up and Software

LulzBot TAZ 6 comes pre-assembled. It has tools and spare parts to accompany the printer. You only need to complete the assembly by snapping the base and the print head together. Fortunately, LulzBot has detailed instructions in their booklets such that you can’t miss a thing.

After you have plugged it in, you will be required to install the free Cura software that comes with this machine. It works with all operating systems and is compatible with OBJ, STL, X3D, and 3MF files.

Apart from the LCD user interface, you will also be able to control the LulzBot TAZ 6 over a USB connection or print directly from the SD card.

Stuff to Consider

Due to its versatile features, this model comes at a high price tag. It is not the type you pick as a beginner. Professionals looking to upgrade from an old model will, however, like to use a machine like LulzBot TAZ 6.

Summary

LulzBot TAZ 6 is a solid 3D printer for professional designers and commercial use. Its large print volume is evident to the kind of work you can achieve with this model. It eliminates the hassle that comes with bed leveling and inconsistent temperature to produce perfect prints in FDM 3D printing.

10. Formlabs Form 2 - SLA 3D Printer

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  • Includes a finishing kit
  • It can wirelessly upload prints
  • Touchscreen and app controls
  • It has an auto-heating system
  • Short installation process
  • Comes with a plastic base for easy removal of objects
  • It is messier than using an FDM printer
  • It comes with thick support structures
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Formlabs Form 2 basks in the glory of being one of the most sought after SLA printers. It is pricey, but it comes with the assurance of creating stunning prints appealing to client and business partners.

Design Features

The Formlabs Form 2 3D printer has seen some significant changes from the Form 1 printer. It has a large build area of 224 cubic inches, and it prints 40% faster than the Form 1 version. With its much more powerful laser, it cuts the time it needs to solidify photopolymer resin.

Form 2 does not tilt the tray to peel of a print. Instead, it slides the tray, lifts the print head, and wipes traces of bubbles and bits before lowering the print head again. You will also be impressed by the automatic resin refilling system.

Formlabs Form 2 allows you to choose from a variety of resins to use with it. It can work with photoinitiators, methacrylic acid esters, and proprietary pigment. It can also use tough, flexible, dental, and castable resin.

Set up and Software

Formlabs Form 2 has a simple installation process. First, you need to attach the build platform, which is usually upside-down, then you have to install the resin tank, and finally plug in the printer. As soon as you have the printer running, the resin tank fills automatically with resin without the need for any calibration.

This printer will connect to a network over Wi-Fi or directly to a router using an Ethernet cable. It also supports a tethered USB connection.

Formlabs offers control using the touchscreen panel and PreForm app. The app allows you to perform simple operations like shifting and scaling 3D models. It also gives you important details about the material it will use and how long it will take to print.

Stuff to Consider

Owning and operating this 3D printer comes at a high cost. Being priced at over $3000 and resin costing over $150, most people are better off with an FDM 3D printer. You should use this machine if you don’t mind the cost, or if you need it for business.

Summary

Formlabs Form 2 3D printer can be a precious addition in any business premises or an inventor’s lab. If you are into creating prototypes, Form 2 gives the exact details of a product eliminating any doubts and blurred lines in defining a product.

3D Printer Buyer’s Guide

3D printing technology has come a long way. 3D printers used to be a tool that only scientists and engineers could use. Nowadays, as the prices continue to drop, 3D printers have become affordable to hobbyists and small entrepreneurs.

Before you can buy a 3D printer that will satisfy your needs, you need to be aware of a couple of facts. Fortunately, we have spent countless hours researching the subject of 3D printers, so you don’t have to. It doesn’t matter if you want to purchase a 3D printer now, or in the near future. What matters is that the following information will make you an educated consumer.

3D Printing Technologies

At the moment, there are nine major printing technologies: stereolithography (SLA), fused deposition modeling (FDM), digital light processing (DLP), selective laser sintering (SLS), selective laser melting (SLM), laminated object manufacturing (LOM), material jetting (MJ), and binder jetting (BJ).

It might seem daunting at first, but don’t fret. Most of the home users will be satisfied with the two most popular options – stereolithography (SLA) and fused deposition modeling (FDM).

Stereolithography (SLA)

SLA technology is very versatile. It exposes photosensitive resins to an ultraviolet laser beam, thus creating 3D parts. Basically, the process starts with plastic being melted. The melted plastic is left to cool down until it is solid and forms a 3D object. Each printed cycle forms a new layer on top of the previous layer until the 3D model is complete.

When you print using SLA, you need to use support structures on objects with an overhang. Finally, the end product needs to be rinsed, and sometimes even baked in a UV oven.

SLA 3D printers can be a good choice if you need high precision and a smooth finish. Bear in mind that the price of SLA printers can be quite steep.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

FDM technology is very common in 3D printing. It has been around since the late 1980s, and it has received many innovations up to today.

They work by heating up a thermoplastic filament before it is extruded to create one layer of the final product. The process repeats itself until all of the layers have been placed and the final 3D product is complete.

When you print using the FDM technology, you need support structures for materials with overhangs.

FDM 3D printers are very affordable, which is why so many hobbyists are purchasing them today.

Features You Should Consider

Before you can go out and spend your money on a 3D printer, you need to familiarize yourself with some of the features.

  • Build area: This represents the maximum size of the object that your 3D printer can build. You will notice that it is measured in XYZ dimensions. X represents the width, Y represents the depth, and Z represents the height of a 3D object. While a small build area limits your work, it is good to know that many print jobs can be split into small parts. Later on, you can combine the small parts together. Don’t go below 5x5x5 inches, since it won’t be enough.
  • Print speed: A faster print speed means that you can print parts quick. But, there are some exceptions to the rule. If you try to print a complex model, you will notice that the speed of printing slows down. The material that you use to print can also influence the print speed. Try to find a 3D printer with a speed of 20mm per second, don’t go lower.
  • Printing material:  You should pay close attention to the material which your 3D printer uses. Most of the time, you will be using polylactide (PLA) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Those two materials are soft and moldable, but they become solid and durable when cooled. Some 3D printers allow you to use wood, metal, plaster, titanium alloys, laminate composites, and more. Some companies will allow you to only use the materials that are compatible with their 3D printers. This can limit your options, so make sure that your new 3D printer allows the use of a wide variety of printing material.
  • Extruders: Most of the 3D printers have a single extruder, which can print in only one color. But, there are some models that come with two extruders that allow you to print in two colors, or two materials. The best 3D printers have a triple-extruder configuration, which allows you to combine three colors. Obviously, the models with multiple extruders are more expensive.
  • Feature resolution: The feature resolution, also known as horizontal and XY resolution, tells you how small is the smallest movement that the extruder or a print head can make within a printed layer. Always go for a smaller number when checking out the feature resolution. The feature resolution plays a big part in creating fine details in prints. So, go for a feature resolution of at least 0.01 inches.
  • Layer thickness: Layer thickness, otherwise known as vertical and Z resolution, represents the minimum thickness of a layer that the 3D printer can create in one pass. A large number will leave you with thick and obvious layers. On the other hand, a small number will give you smooth and realistic layers. 3D printers with a small Z resolution create smooth and realistic prints, but the process tends to be slow. The layer thickness of 0.2mm or 0.3mm is a standard, but some 3D printers can create layers that are only 0.1mm thick.
  • Automatic bed leveling: Before you can start printing a 3D object, you need to assure that the build platform is leveled at all points. New 3D printers level the build platform for you. The result is a precise 3D object. The process takes around five minutes to complete. But, it is a necessity, since it leaves you with a better-looking product.

Is Printing Speed Important?

Printing speed is important. But, some 3D printers that claim to print fast don’t mention an important caveat – the quality of the end product.

You should understand that 3D printing isn’t a hobby for those who can’t wait. Once you fire up the printer, you are supposed to leave it be. The waiting period can last for 12 hours and more, so be sure to train your patience.

The size and complexity of your object play an important role in the speed of printing. So, if a product claims to work at 150mm/s, you can bet that it won’t have the same speed with complex objects.

In the end, printing speed is an important factor, but not when it sacrifices the quality of the 3D print. If you want to create high-quality objects, you need to ignore the promises of insane printing speeds. The longer the printing process, the better the overall quality and smoothness of the object.