The best 3D printers under $ 500

The 3D printing market has seen quite a few changes in recent years. In just the span of a decade, the barrier to entry has dropped from more than several thousand dollars to less than $ 200 in some cases. However, not all entry-level and mid-level printers are the same. We have some suggestions for potential buyers and other information on alternatives that are not on this list.

For some veterans of the 3D printing scene, this list may seem like it lacks some of the most recommended printers for newcomers. This is by design. Our list only considers printers with proven components from trusted and proven vendors. That’s why we chose the Monoprice MP Mini v2 As our best option, it is reliable and easy to use. We have avoided any printer with a frame made primarily of interlocking acrylic pieces and anything historically unreliable.

Maximum performance for your money: Monoprice MP Mini v2

Pros:

  • Trustworthy
  • Sturdy construction
  • Relatively easy to use for its price
  • Good customer support
  • Huge community

Cons:

  • Small build volume
  • Limited selection of materials
  • Non-viable flexible materials
  • Fully manual calibration

The Monoprice Mini v2 is a ubiquitous entry-level printer these days, and at this price, it’s not hard to see why. While its build volume is among the smallest on this list, the Mini’s stability is not underrated. Equipped with a full metal frame and sturdy base, the MP Mini is rock solid compared to most of the cheaper machines in its price range that tend to make heavier use of plastic frame components. , making it a stellar out of the box. performer. Plus, being from Monoprice gives the owner access to their excellent customer service and warranty.

the Monoprice Mini’s The community is well established. It can offer many tips on simple modifications that increase the longevity of the machine, resources on spare parts and additions. Its low-wattage heat base means it’s restricted to low-strain materials, and its remote extruder means flexible materials would be a big challenge too. However, its main goal is to print with PLA (or polylactic acid), a safe and environmentally friendly material, and in that sense it absolutely shines.

Larger construction area for the price: Creality Ender 3 Pro

Creality Ender 3 Pro
Creality3d

Pros:

  • Relatively large build volume for its size
  • Quick and easy print removal
  • Great community
  • Wide variety of aftermarket upgrades
  • Rather stiff construction

Cons:

  • Must be assembled
  • Bad customer service
  • Quality control is not great
  • Quick and unsuccessful action

The Creality Ender 3 Pro is an update to the popular Ender line of budget printers, with a few changes that improve its reliability and actually make it eligible for this list. The addition of a branded power supply means that this device’s power output has been tested and certified to be stable for home use, offering a bit of peace of mind over its predecessor.

It also adds some welcome stability features and a magnetic build surface that can be removed from the printer for easy removal of the print. However, it’s worth noting that Creality offerings have had quality control issues in the past, such as parts arriving damaged or factory tolerance errors, making assembly difficult.

It is also worth mentioning the fact that it needs to be assembled. While by all accounts it is not a particularly challenging build, the Creality Ender 3 Pro it does not come in a fully assembled state and must be built by the user before use is possible.

Large Build Area and Great Features – Monoprice MP Maker Pro

Monoprice MP Maker Pro
Monoprice

Pros:

  • Massive build volume for the price
  • Touch screen interface
  • Automatic calibration
  • Removable magnetic bed
  • Flexible materials more feasible

Cons:

  • Requires a large dedicated space
  • Relatively small community
  • Maximum print speeds are much slower

The MP Maker Pro is big and feature-rich, no doubt. The leveling probe attached to the printhead means that it can automatically detect the shape of the bed, making leveling much simpler than typical printers. Its magnetic bed allows easy removal of parts and the touch screen offers a much more modern looking interface.

Its extrusion system uses a direct mounted motor, rather than the remote extruders seen on the last two printers, allowing for somewhat more precise plastic control right out of the box. Plus, add options for flexible plastics like TPU and TPE.

Its main disadvantage is that due to its immense size, the Monoprice MP Maker Pro it is a slow printer. There is no getting around the fact that moving a plate over 30cm wide in both forward and backward directions requires a much lower than average rate of speed and acceleration, which means that prints will take much longer to do this. printer than other smaller machines.

Better resolution and surface finish: Anycubic Photon

Anycubic Photon Best 3D Printer 2018

Pros:

  • Surprisingly great detail
  • Easy to use
  • Low maintenance
  • Does not require a host computer for operation
  • Good support from the manufacturer

Cons:

  • Toxic resin fumes and by-products.
  • Complex post-processing
  • Care is needed in handling
  • Resin has a high initial cost

AnyCubic Photon is noticeably different from the other printers on this list. All the other machines listed here belong to the FFF (Fused Filament Manufacturing) 3D printer family, which means they use molten plastic pushed through a heated nozzle. The Photon belongs to the LCD subset of the DLP (Digital Light Projection) category. It uses light projected through an LCD screen to selectively harden a vat of light-sensitive resin.

This allows Anycubic photon for printing at levels of detail four to ten times higher than standard filament-based printers, but this has its downsides. The main one is that liquid resin in its raw state is quite toxic and therefore any photoresin printer requires adequate ventilation (preferably active in the form of a fan duct) at all times. However, if you are looking for a printer for making jewelry, figurines, or other high-detail purposes, the Photon is definitely the best option on this list.

Best for speed and reliability: Monoprice Maker Ultimate

Monoprice Maker Ultimate
Monoprice

Pros:

  • Significantly faster than any other printer on this list
  • Stable calibration
  • It takes up relatively little space
  • Simple initial calibration
  • Material flexibility

Cons:

  • Reduced overall build volume
  • Limited upgrade paths
  • Lacks some comfort features

Yes, this is the third Monoprice printer on this list. To be fair, Monoprice only serves as an intermediary with these printers; in fact, the three devices in this are rebranding of other machines from one of the two Chinese companies. Monoprice features heavily in this article due to its requirements for quality control, customer support, and use of safety-rated power components, unlike many comparable brands.

I must also admit to a personal point of possible bias, namely that the Maker Ultimate is my own personal machine of choice. As of this writing, my personal Maker Ultimate has been running for roughly 590 hours of printing, creating everything from trash cans, greeting cards, phone cases, model airplanes, and most commonly other 3D printers. Although it lacks automatic bed leveling, calibration is accomplished using a simple adjustment protocol. Due to its robust construction, this calibration tends to stay in place longer than most of its competitors in this price range.

furthermore, the Monoprice Maker Ultimate It has one advantage over all the other printers on this list: speed. Due to its design, a so-called “QuadRap”, where a small square head moves on sets of intersecting rails, has a significant edge against the other printers listed here, all of which land on the side bed or “bed-slinger “category.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the options in this price category, but it should serve as a good manual on safe and reliable devices. Whether you’re looking for an affordable first machine to give to a curious child (or a curious adult too), an affordable option to store a lab, or maybe you’re just looking for something new to enhance your own creativity. It would be hard to go wrong with something on this list.

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