Best budget 3D printer 2022: 6 great printers at a price you’ll love

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It costs less than ever to get into 3D printing, with printers available for less than $200. The catch is that these budget machines usually require a few tweaks to work well. You’ll save money, but it’s a tough way to start.

3D printing – or additive manufacturing to give it its scientific name – has been around for a long time. It’s a fun way to create patterns that can be practical or just plain fun. You can print giant pieces of cosplay armor or small statues to give as gifts. You can even buy a few printers, open your own Etsy shop, and make a nice profit.

These budget 3D printers all cost under $500 (although prices can vary a bit from month to month), and some are more suitable for beginners than others. Our list of selects the best 3D printer overall covers a much wider range of choices, but they’re great for getting started or buying several at once!

Dan Ackerman/CNET

The Anycubic Vyper is by far the best budget 3D printer available today. Unlike many other low-cost printers, the Vyper includes premium features that enhance the overall experience. There is a filament end sensor and a power loss detector. Automatic bed leveling helps produce a worry-free finished product.

Creality

The Ender 3 is one of the best-selling 3D printers of all time. Its sub-$200 price tag removes a huge barrier to entry for those looking to spend as little as possible on their first machine.

Its popularity means that there is a huge community of people out there to help you get it set up and running, as it’s not exactly plug-and-play and you might have to spend a lot of time tweaking it. ‘Ender 3 to print it as well. .

Prusa Research

The Mini Plus is one of the best small footprint printers you can buy. It has everything you’d expect from a Prusa machine: automatic bed leveling, collision detection, and excellent print quality, all for less than $450. Building it with my son gave us lots of great ideas on how a 3D printer works and possibly how to fix one.

James Bricknell/CBS

The Elegoo is one of my favorite ultra cheap printers. When testing, I expected it to fail and it just didn’t. It produced amazing results for the price and continues to do so every time I use it. It doesn’t have an automatic bed leveler, but the Elegoo was easy to set up. And because it’s based on the popular Ender 3, it has plenty of mods to make it even better.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Creality Ender 3 S1

Direct drive with advanced features

As Dan Ackerman said in his review of the Creality Ender 3 S1 “At $399, the S1 version of the Ender-3 is about $100 more than older versions, but includes so many upgrades and features of quality of life that it is considered an excellent beginner-friendly and ready-to-use printer.”

It’s also a great budget-friendly Direct Drive printer, making it easier to use for materials like TPU.

Resin 3D printers for beginners

Most entry-level printers use plastic filament to create models, but there are plenty of affordable resin 3D printers out there as well. Liquid resin is a little more difficult to use than standard 3D printing material and requires safety equipment. But it also produces incredibly detailed results.

Elegoo

This small resin printer is Elegoo’s latest model in its popular Mars range. Thanks to the 4K monochrome LCD screen (these printers use light from an LCD screen to cure liquid resin), they can print much faster than older printers. The level of detail in the models is something that standard 3D printing simply cannot replicate. At this price, the Elegoo Mars 3 is the best resin printer for its price.

James Bricknell/CNET

It’s pricey for a budget printer, but worth it if you want a large enough print area to do something special. I use it as my main resin printer and it can handle anything I throw at it, from a miniature D&D army to highly detailed sculpts.

Different patterns printed on the Max

James Bricknell/CBS

Frequently Asked Questions

What material should I use to print with?

Most home 3D printers use PLA or ABS plastic. Professional printers can use all kinds of materials, from metal to organic filament. Some printers use liquid resin, which is much harder to handle but offers sharper detail. As a beginner, use PLA. It is non-toxic, made primarily from corn starch and sugar cane, is easy to handle, and is inexpensive. However, it is more sensitive to heat, so don’t leave your 3D prints on a car dashboard on a hot day.

What settings should I use?

Most 3D printers include or are bundled with recommended software, which can handle converting 3D STL files or other files into formats supported by the printer. Stick to the suggested presets to start with, with one exception. I’ve started adding a raft, or bottom layer of filament, to almost everything I print. It has dramatically reduced prints not adhering properly to the bed, which is a common problem. If you continue to have problems, rub a standard glue stick on the print bed just before printing.

Your 3D models probably need help printing properly, as these printers don’t work well with large overhangs – for example, an arm sticking out of a figure. Your 3D printing software can usually automatically calculate and add supports, i.e. small supports that hold any parts that protrude from the model. After the print is complete, cut the supports with micro cutters and file any bumps or rough edges with hobby files.

How we test

Testing 3D printers is a thorough process. Printers often don’t use the same materials, or even the same process to create models. I test SLAs, 3D printers that use resin and light to print, and FDMs, printers that melt plastic on a plate. Each has a unique methodology. The basic qualifiers I look at include:

  • Material quality
  • Ease of installation
  • Software provided
  • Print Appearance and Accuracy
  • Repairability
  • Business and community support

A key test print, depicting the (now defunct) CNET logo, is used to assess how well a printer fills in gaps, creates precise shapes, and handles overhangs. It even has small towers to help gauge how well the 3D printer handles temperature ranges.

Four 3D printed models that show 3D printing errors

James Bricknell/CNET

Testing resin requires different criteria, so I use Amerilabs standard test – print a small resin model that looks like a small town. This helps determine the accuracy of the printer, how it handles small parts, and the quality of UV exposure at different points in the model.

Many other anecdotal print tests, using different 3D models, are also run on each printer.

For other criteria, I research the company to see how well they respond to customer support requests and how easy it is to order replacement parts and install them yourself. Kits (printers that only come semi-assembled) are judged on the length and difficulty of the assembly process.

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