For consumer and professional users, this is a common question. 3D Hubs recently created a guide on the best low-cost, desktop, more consumer style printers. Some of these printers, though, may suit professional design engineer needs for initial prototypes.
3D Hubs is a privately held company founded in 2013 by Bram de Zwart and Brian Garret. It is headquartered in Amsterdam, with a second office in New York. It uses a different approach to provide 3D printing services, matching users with a 3D printer with customers who want something 3D printed. 3D Hubs’ online, global 3D printing community consists of more than 20,000 operators (referred to as Hubs) of 3D printers at more than 20,000 locations worldwide. This arrangement, claims company management, typically gives customers access to a 3D printer within 10 miles of their home. The guide the company recently developed is based on 5,350 reviews from this global community.
The 2016 3D Printer Guide includes information on the following parameters: print quality, ease-of-use, build quality, reliability, failure rate, customer service, community, running expenses, software, and value.
It groups the printers into the following categories: Enthusiast, Plug ‘n’ Play, Kit/DIY, Budget, and Resin. Twenty models were evaluated.
Enthusiasts are defined as users looking for a reliable machine that can consistently produce high-quality prints. These are straightforward machines that often allow for flexible upgrades and various modifications. Printers in this category are best suited for hobbyists, designers, and some small businesses.
The Plug ‘n’ Play category includes printers considered to be the easiest to use pretty much straight out of the box. These printers deliver reliable print qualities and low failure rates. It is suited to quality-conscious beginners and those with light 3D printing needs.
For those interested in tinkering, there’s the Kit / DIY category. These printers are best for those who like to put things together. Plus, users can add upgrades or make modifications.
The 3D printers in the Budget category are best suited to cost-conscious users.
The Resin category printers are more expensive and require additional post-processing work for creating models, but the print quality and precision are unmatched when compared to other desktop 3D printers. Resin-based 3D printers are suitable for professionals and serious hobbyists who need high-resolution parts for accurate prototyping needs or model making purposes.
A Printer Index includes 126 3D printers that didn’t make it to the top of the categories. Only printers with five reviews or more were added to the Index.