Looking for a cheap 3D printer? Look no further…
It may seem like something out of a science fiction movie, but 3D printing is very real.
So real in fact, that it’s redefining the way we look at the world: the best products have some incredible applications including creating custom prosthetics, tools and machine parts, textiles, and sculpture.
But 3D printing isn’t just for big businesses with bottomless budgets: there are some truly cheap 3D printers for home use too.
We’ve compiled this complete guide to the phenomena and how to choose the best cheap 3D printer for you.
Let’s take it away…
- 1 What is 3D Printing?
- 2 How does 3D Printing Work?
- 3 How to Choose the Best Cheap 3D Printer
- 4 The Best Cheap 3D Printers
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
Unlike normal printing which prints a flat image onto a flat surface, 3D digital images are printed from the bottom up using fine layers of thermoplastic or other material until a completely 3 dimensional physical item is formed.
How does 3D Printing Work?
The process of 3D printing starts with a 3 dimensional digital image file as a model.
These 3D models can either be downloaded from an online source, or if you want to achieve something truly original (and you’re willing to learn how to use the software) you can create your own 3D digital CAD files using a specialist modeling program.
If you have the funds you could invest in a 3D scanner which can scan an existing 3D object (such as something you have sculpted yourself) and turn it into a CAD file which can then be used for printing on your 3D printer.
The design process can take time and patience, but the results can be amazing. If you’re using a 3D modeling program, you’ll need to export your CAD file as an STL file into a different modeling program (known as a ‘slicing’ software) which will slice your 3D design into 2D layers which can then be printed on top of each other to create your final 3D design.
Once you get to the printing stage, the 3D printer will heat your printing material in filament form — usually plastic but it’s also possible to print with other materials such as rubber, metals, food, or wood depending on the capabilities of your printer.
The printing material is then squeezed out of a very fine nozzle on the machine which follows the pattern of each 2D slice of your 3D design, building it up until your solid object is fully formed.
How to Choose the Best Cheap 3D Printer
There are plenty of 3D printers on the market for under $300, making them ideal for home and hobbyist use.
But they are not all made equal. And you should be aware that there’s been some value engineering at work to produce a low cost, revolutionary machine like this — they’re not going to be as flash as their more expensive counterparts.
Generally, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for with 3D printers.
Cheap ones are likely to restrict you in some way.
Most of the time, they’re on the small side, so this will restrict the build size of whatever you want to create.
Often, they’ll be limited in the number of different filament types they can work with, or they’ll only have one extruder so you can only work with one color.
Sometimes, corners may have been cut on the construction of the printer itself: perhaps it’s difficult to calibrate and stabilize. This can be tricky and frustrating to work with.
The best thing is to simply be aware of all the advantages and disadvantages of the cheap 3D printer before you buy: then you can decide beforehand if you’re happy with the necessary compromises or if you’d prefer to spend a little more for something more reliable.
We’ve listed all the things we love and don’t like so much with the following cheap 3D printers, to help you make the best possible buying decision.
The Best Cheap 3D Printers
3D printing is constantly evolving and getting better and better as time goes on.
Here are the best cheap 3D printers for home use available right now…
Ready to use right out of the box, the Monoprice 115365 Select Mini 3D Printer produces surprisingly high quality prints, despite its small size.
It benefits from a heated build plate which keeps the extruded plastic (or whatever other filament you choose) heated as your 3D print builds, which results in much better print quality than a printer without the heated plate.
With a 0.4 mm diameter, the extruder nozzle on this 3D printer is super fine for great detail work, and is both removable and replaceable.
This cheap 3D printer supports both Micro USB and MicroSD cards for connectivity and can be used either with a PC or a Mac, and is compatible with multiple different software.
- Comes fully assembled and ready to use straight out the box
- Compact design with a small footprint
- Easy to use
- Can be used with many different filament materials, including PLA, ABS, XT Copolyester, PET, TPU, TPC, FPE, PVA, HIPS, Jelly, Foam and Felty
- Excellent print quality
- WiFi enabled
- The thermostat on the build plate needs regular monitoring as it can sometimes malfunction
- Can only be used to print small objects
This is definitely one of our favorite 3D printers on the market right now, sporting a low price tag but delivering time and time again on reliability and quality. Plus, it’s super easy to use.
The closed frame of the XYZprinting da Vinci Jr. 1.0 ensures that the extruded material remains stable during printing — making for more accurate prints.
It features an auto-loading filament system for ease of use and a warning system to let you know when the filament needs reloading. This 3D printer uses a natural, non toxic PLA filament and comes supplied with its own printing software suite.
Compatible with both Windows and Mac, 4 printing speeds are available to enable rapid printing or fine quality slow printing. The footprint design is compact and easy to move around and store.
- Excellent print quality
- Safe to use thanks to closed frame
- Durable construction
- Auto-calibration is reasonably reliable
- Easy to setup and use
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Runs quietly
- Connects to WiFi
- You can only use XYZprinting approved filament brands
- The included software can be on the slow side
Even though it requires some self-assembly, we still consider this LESHP 3D printer easy to use and install.
It’s capable of supporting a wide variety of filaments including plastics, wood, and nylon, and prints quickly and accurately. The extruder sports a 0.4 mm diameter nozzle for fine detail that’s rarely seen at this price point.
Equipped with a handy LCD screen, this 3D printer also benefits from a heated build plate to ensure objects stay stable as they print. Prints can be uploaded via USB or SD card, and the printer is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.
- Good performance for the price
- Versatile and compatible with plenty of filaments
- Reasonably sized printing area
- Produces high quality prints
- Good for beginners and easy to use
- Build plate may sometimes warp over time
- Can take time to assemble
This is one of the most popular 3D printers for home use and definitely one of our favorites too.
Fully assembled and already calibrated, the X-one 2 New Generation 3D Printer from QIDI Technology is a breeze to set up.
The sturdy metal frame and enclosed design of this 3D printer keeps temperatures inside the machine regulated at all times, and together with the heated aluminum build plate help keep objects stable during the printing process.
The machine is operated via the full color touch screen interface and is compatible with both PLA and ABS filaments, printing objects with a maximum size of 140 x 140 x 140 mm. Complete with its own dedicated slicing software and with the option of either USB or SD connectivity, this 3D printer is compatible with both PC and Mac.
- Simple set up
- Very easy to use
- Fast printing speed
- High quality detailed prints
- Quality construction
- Ideal for beginners
- Good customer service
- Great value for money
- Noisy when operating
- Large footprint and quite heavy
Delivered in kit form for minimum self assembly, the Mikki Kmaxx 101Hero Pylon 3D printer is capable of printing ABS and other plastic filaments.
3D designs can be loaded into a memory card which slots into the machine, which then only requires the touch of a button to start printing. Documentation and helpful tutorials are available online.
Here’s a look at how quickly you can get it set up:
The Mikki Kmaxx 101 Hero has a nozzle diameter of 0.4 mm and prints layers of 0.1 mm thickness.
- Very inexpensive
- Takes up very little space
- Ideal for small, basic designs
- Very easy to use
- No need to connect to a computer
- Can be slow to print and jerky
- Can be tricky to calibrate
The small size of the iNSTONE Easier is one of the best features of this pint sized 3D printer, as it takes up very little room and is lightweight.
Despite these small dimensions, it can nevertheless print objects up to a respectable 110 x 110 x 120mm in size.
The kit includes Windows compatible slicing software and both USB and SD slots, and comes ready supplied with PLA filament. This 3D printer is delivered assembled and ready to calibrate.
- Intuitive and easy to use
- Comes with slicing software
- Surprising print accuracy for such a small, cheap 3D printer
- Simple to set up
- Small and portable
- Runs quietly
- No heated build plate so prints can be unstable
- Only suitable for printing basic designs
- Software not compatible with Macs
And there’s our guide! Which is your favorite cheap 3D printer?