Whilst 3D printing is a new technology which has really only been available to the public for the last few years, it can still be very expensive to get into. The latest 3D Printers can set you back thousands of dollars even for a simple desktop model which up until recently has meant that this hobby is really only confined to the rich or those that can get some commercial value out of their 3D printers.
Over the last year of so this has rapidly changed with the introduction of new cheaper, more basic models on the market and some of the older first generation 3D printers now becoming available at a price that make 3D printing more of a hobby.
Best 3D Printer Under $500 in 2016
XYZprinting Da Vinci Jr. 1.0 3D Printer
Below we have reviewed a selection of 3D printers across the market that are all under $500 but they both have problems that you need to be aware of. The XYZ Da Vinci 1 is a first generation printer that whilst a fantastic printer in 2013/14, today it's not very fast, and more importantly, not very accurate. The Printrbot Simple Maker is a kit 3D printer which whilst we do really like it comes as a kit meaning that you have to spend the first few days putting it together and then when you come to printing, it only has a 4 x 4 x 4 inch print bed which is really not big enough for hobbyist printing.
This has all changed with the introduction of the XYZprinting Da Vinci Jr. 1.0 3D Printer which is a cheap, printer that does not come with all the thrills on a high definition printer, but offers a fantastic cheap 3D printer that can get you up and running quickly. The XYZ Junior comes in a semi-complete design meaning that you need to unbox the unit, complete building which really takes no more than 15 minutes and is a simple case of attaching the plastic panels to the aluminium skeleton, adding the quick release extruder and some simple calibration which is really only the level of your print bed as the rest is fixed. One you have set up your printer, installed the free software and designed or downloaded your model, you're ready to print. Performance is fantastic with the only real problem that we found being the limitation to only being able to print in PLA which is perfect for an introduction to printing, but you will find yourself getting bored quickly. Overall a brilliant printer that if you're looking for a cheap printer, you need to take seriously.
Printer Under $500 in 2015
Below we have reviewed what we think are the top two cheap 3D printers priced at under 500USD. We have tried numerous printers over the years and have found that these two unit, are good enough to print good models whilst at the same time being cheap enough that you can buy and run as a hobby. Unless your really rich buying a $2,000 3D printer to simply use for a hobby is really not an option, however spending less that $500 means that actually this has now become a realistic option for your new hobby.
When you’re buying a cheaper 3D printer, you have two options. Firstly you can choose a simply designed printer that is both basic in design and features or you could choose a first generation printer that has recently been replaced with a newer model meaning that the price for the first generation model is drastically reduced.
Below are our two favorite 3D printers being the Printrbot Simple Maker and Da Vinci Model 1.0.
Top Two Cheap 3D Printer Models
XYZprinting Da Vinci 1.0
- Desktop Model
- Not Enclosed Design
- ABS & PLA
- 8 X 8 X 8 Inch Design
Printrbot Simple Maker's
- Desktop Model
- Not Enclosed Design
- PLA Only
- 4 X 4 X 4 Inch Design
Top Cheap 3D Printer Reviews
Printrbot Simple Maker's Kit Model 1405 3D Printer
The Printrbot is one of the best introductory 3D printers on the market right now. It offers good performance at a very realistic price, but you do need to understand that you’re not going to be able to print in-depth 3d models as this is a cheap no-frills introduction to 3d printing.
The Printrbot comes as both in kit formatting (i.e. you will need to put it together yourself) or in an assembled version for an extra 100USD. Out personal feeling is if you’re going to get yourself a cheap 3d printer then you might as well get it in kit formation and learn how it all fits together. Also its really not very difficult to put together as long as you can read instructions.
The printer is small, and has a printing size of just over 4 X 4 X 4 inches meaning that you can only small models such as figurines or household objects however as an introduction to 3d printing, its all you need. One annoying thing about the printer’s size is that its just too small to print a iphone case which is something that I really wanted to use my machine for.
Printrbot has kept the cost reduce by building the printer with cheap material such as plywood and only allowing you to print using PLA as it does not have a heated print bed. PLA is a light material that is easy to work with however it does have its limitations.
Controlling your printer is done by using the computer that you have connected to your device through a USB cord and whilst it does not come with any software included, it is recommended that you use the free Repetier 3D Printing software which is free and works on both a PC and Mac. Repetier 3d printing software is a free open source printing software which is both easy to use and install due to its fantastic setup guide. Another set of instructions that are both easy to use and follow.
Once you have connected your 3D printer to your computer, the software automatically shows you a preview and allow you to control the print. If you need to pause your printing to add more filament you can easily do this through the software, however it does mean that you need to leave your computer running whilst your printing. Printing directly from a SD card is possible, however I have no idea how, as you’re going to need to your computer to control your printer.
The printing process is actually very good and for a 3.5inch statue, the printer took around 4 hours to complete in good quality. It is possible to speed this process up a little, however the minute that you do, the quality disappears and you end up with models either with jagged edges that need filing down or gaps in between the layers. The other problem that we found with this model is that the extruder often became clogged on the logger prints which cause the filament to jam up meaning that you have to remove the whole feed mechanism to be cleaned. Its not difficult or time consuming, but is a bit annoying.
Overall, a cracking cheap 3D printing for less than 500USD which up until a couple of years ago was simply not possible to even think of. This type of model brings 3D printing to children and Christmas presents.
XYZprinting Da Vinci 1.0 3D Printer
The Da Vinci 1.0 3D printer is a first generation printer that has been drastically reduced in price because there has recently been a second generation model released to the open market. My thoughts are that this should not put you off as you are getting a fulling working 3d printer at a price that is value for money and will allow you to complete your 3d Printing. If you’re an experience 3d printing pro, then possible this model is not for you, however if you’re just starting out in the arena and want a decent 3 printer, then take this model into consideration.
The printer has a large build volume of 7.8 X 7.8 X 7.8 inches which means that you can print out your iphone case which the printrbot above cannot. It also allows you to print using both ABS and PLA meaning that your 3d prints will actually be able to be used in everyday life. The model comes fully assembled in neat well designed unit with both an LCD screen and print button located on your unit meaning that unlike the printrbot machine above you don’t have to leave your computer on whilst your printer is printing.
Print speed is actually really good and it took me just over 4 hours to print out a full iphone 5 case, however one thing to note is that the filament cartridges are single use and cannot simply be replaced meaning that you will need to buy replacement cartridges over time. The good news is that changing your filament cartridges is very easy to do and only takes a couple of minutes. Given the printer can take both the 300 grams cartridges and 600 gram cartridges, make sure that you buy the large cartridges when you replace them.
The Da Vinci comes with software, however its pretty basic and you would do far better to download the use the reptailer software above, learn how to use this and then use this for your printing. Whilst the reptiler software is free to use, its open-source meaning that it will be continually updated over time. Unless you decided that you want to take your 3d printing inot more than a hobby, its really all the software that you’re going to need.
Overall, this is a great first generation 3D printer that comes with all the bells and whistles that you need to get yourself into 3D printing. Yes it’s a first generation model and the more recently models work better and faster, but then they also cost three times as much and are far more complicated to use.