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Published May 17, 2023 5:00 PM
While it would be fun to deck out your home like a true factory full of $100,000 rapid prototype machines, it’s not as logistically simple as it is to find a fantastic 3D printer under $1,000. These machines run the gamut from simple to advanced and can make everything from essential replacement parts to fun gaming miniatures. The models in this article are all priced under a grand. However, since prices have continued to drop over the past several years, you’ll find better-performing models in this segment with more versatile features, which are also more reliable and easier to use than previous models. Here are five of the best 3D printers under $1,000 that we recommend for all of your rapid prototyping and silly manufacturing needs.
How we chose the best 3D printers under $1,000
We considered several factors to compile the list of 3D printers we recommend for this guide. First of all, the model needed to be available (you’d think that went without saying, but 3D printing is hot and more approachable than ever, so you’d be surprised how quickly these go out of stock). We also looked to see if the 3D printer was well constructed for a home 3D model and easy to use, with intuitive controls and features. Additionally, we ensured that the 3D printer came with compatible software to develop and create the digital design yourself, which your print would be based on. Lastly, we considered price. Although you can spend as much as $2,000 to $10,000 (or more) on professional- or commercial-grade 3D printers, we chose printers for this guide that were less than $1,000.
The best 3D printers under $1,000: Reviews & Recommendations
In the past 12 years, 3D printers have not just come down in price, but they’ve also become easier to use for several reasons. The most notable motivation comes from the RepRap movement, which helped forge the way for the 3D-printing industry to create products that were more affordable, easy to use, and based on open-source technology. The movement also helped standardize many aspects of 3D-printing technology, which benefits all consumers and businesses. The following list includes our choices for the best model to buy if you’re looking for a 3D printer that’s less than $1,000.
Best overall: Original Prusa i3 MK3S+
Why it made the cut: This very versatile and reliable 3D printer is for those experienced in 3D printing and those just learning.
- Materials Supported: PLA, ABS, PETG, ASA,
- Print Volume (HWD): 9.8 x 8.3 x 8.3 inches
- Connectivity: USB, SD Card
- Dimension: 19.6 x 21.6 x 15.7 inches
- Weight: 15.4 lbs.
- Produces excellent quality prints
- Very versatile
- Easy to Use
This well-built Prusa 3D printer is for just about any user, from 3D printing beginners to those who’ve been at it for years. That’s because the i3 MK3S+ reliably delivers high-quality results for most typical home users. It produces excellent quality prints with lots of detail, partly due to the 3D printer’s solid build quality, which ensures those details will render properly. Also, the i3 MK3S+ has fewer errors during the printing process than other models in its class.
It’s not a perfect 3D printer, though. I had a few minor quibbles with the i3 MK3S+: For instance, it has a decent-sized 3.4-inch display, but it is monochrome and not a touchscreen (other models have color touchscreens). You can connect using an SD card to add your project to the machine easily enough. However, if you want to connect via WiFi, you’ll need a Raspberry Pi Zero W accessory.
But those quibbles aside, it’s an excellent performing 3D printer overall. For instance, it’s compatible with Ultimaker Cura, an open-source slicing application for 3D printers, and Prusa’s own software, PrusaSlicer. What’s also nice about this model is you can automatically calibrate it or use the Mesh Bed Leveling process to compensate for microscopic imperfections of the print sheet. Plus, it prints pretty quietly, so it won’t disturb others around you.
This printer has a nearly unassailable reputation among the 3D printing community, and, in our eyes, it’s very well-deserved.
Best for fast printing: Bambu Lab P1P
Why it made the cut: It has very fast printing speed without reducing print quality.
- Materials Supported: PLA, ABS, PETG
- Print Volume (HWD): 10 x 10 x 10 inches
- Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, SD Card
- Dimension (HWD): 15.2 x 15.3 x 18 inches
- Weight: 21.3 lbs.
- Very fast printing speed
- Excellent print quality
- Easy to set up
- Can print in multiple colors
This model consistently clocks faster print speeds than many other consumer 3D printers. While most 3D printers produce PLA objects at a speed of 60mm/s (different materials will quicken or slow down the speed), the Lab P1P’s toolhead promises up to 500 mm/s.
But what’s also important to note is that even though this model has a much faster printing speed, the quality of the 3D printing isn’t reduced. Such an increase in speed can be incredibly important if you’re using the Lab P1P for a small business. It also comes with a number of other advanced features, including the ability to print in different colors, vibration compensation, and a camera. Plus, it has Bambu Lab’s Automatic Material System (AMS), which communicates with the toolhead to ensure a smooth filament feed. Plus, the whole thing sets up in less than a half-hour, which isn’t true for many cheaper models that require in-depth assembly.
Best with dual extruders: Flashforge Creator Pro 2
Why it made the cut: A reasonably priced 3D printer that includes dual extruders
- Materials Supported: PLA, ABS, PETG
- Print Volume (HWD): 7.9. x 5.9 x 5.8 inches
- Connectivity: SD card, USB
- Dimension: 20.7 x 14.2 x 15.9 inches
- Weight: 33.1 lbs.
- Dual extruders
- Anti-scrape design to prevent cross-contamination
- Safe closed design
- Easy to use
- Slicer software could be improved
What sets this 3D printer apart from many models is that it comes with two independent dual extruders (IDEX). It relies on two nozzles that work simultaneously and independently, allowing you to print two colors or materials in the same piece.
That kind of flexibility opens the door to improvements in both creativity and productivity. The 3D printer even lets you print two models simultaneously or mirror them. If you’re only printing one object, it can go up to 200mm x 148mm x 150mm. If you’re printing two objects, they’re limited to 80mm x 148mm x 150mm in mirror mode. That’s still quite a bit of space in the printing chamber.
Plus, it has an anti-scrape design to prevent cross-contamination when working in mirror or parallel modes. It’s not perfect, though: its slicer software, Flashprint, could be improved. It’s also noisy. Setup can also be tricky, but there is a ton of support information on the internet in the form of documents and videos to help with every part of the Flashforge 3D printing process.
Best easy-to-use: Anycubic Vyper
Why it made the cut: A well-constructed, easy-to-use 3D printer that’s fast and sets up quickly
- Materials Supported: PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, Wood
- Print Volume (HWD): 9.6 x 9.6 x 10.2 inches
- Connectivity: Trans-flash Card; USB (expert mode)
- Dimension: 20 x 18 x 20.3 inches
- Weight: 22 lbs.
- Easy to use
- Prints quietly and quickly
- Large 4.3-inch LCD
The Anycubic Vyper isn’t overly basic, but it is very simple to use for a few crucial reasons. For starters, you can quickly assemble the 3D printer, so you’re up and running in less than 30 minutes. Use auto leveling, too, to avoid spending time manually adjusting the 3D printer. Plus, it comes with a large 4.3-inch touchscreen, making it easy to operate. This printer does its best to maintain advanced features without
Its dual-cooling fan system allows it to cool down rapidly, and its double-gear extrusion system reduces the chances of filament tangle. This model also prints quickly without losing any quality or detail. It also comes with its Z-axis gap elimination module, which can avoid print layer marks and ensure printing precision.
Best for kids: Toybox 3D Printer
Why it made the cut: This inexpensive and kid-friendly 3D printer is easy to use and small enough to fit almost anywhere
- Materials Supported: PLA
- Print Volume (HWD): 3.5 x 2.8 x 3.1 inches
- Connectivity: WiFi
- Dimension: 9.1 x 7.4 x 7.4 inches
- Weight: 6.6 lbs.
- Easy to use
- Quick set-up time
- Relatively inexpensive
- Comes with lots of projects
- Print volume is small
- Not as versatile as other 3D printers
- Open frame means adult supervision
This relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use 3D printer is ideal for kids, beginners, or those simply looking for a streamlined 3D printing process. Setting up generally takes just a few minutes, and then you’re ready to go. You can connect to the 3D printer’s app to browse the various projects, which you can customize and print out. You can also develop your own projects from scratch. The Toybox catalog includes access to thousands of toys, and the company expands the available selection weekly to keep things interesting.
The printer might not be for all kids, though. For example, it has a tiny print volume, so you’ll be limited to printing only small toys or parts. And although it’s targeted largely toward children, the 3D printer has an open-frame design, which means it’s not enclosed or sealed off with glass. So, if you intend to have your children use it, you’ll want to supervise to prevent them from putting their hands near the device while it’s printing. Nevertheless, it’s easy to use and fun, so if your children are creative and like to create things, this 3D printer might be a great gift for them.
Part of the reason that 3D printers come in all different sizes, with vastly different feature sets, and an even great variety of price points, is that many different types of people use 3D printers: For example, a designer might use it for creating a prototype, while an educator might develop a print to replicate an artifact to use in his history class, while an artist might use a 3D printer to explore the potential of working in a new medium. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. That’s why you need to take some time to consider the following features and capabilities before you buy your 3D printer.
Explore methods of 3D printing
There are a number of different processes that can be used in 3D printing. But today, the most commonly used method on consumer 3D printers is fused deposition modeling (FDM)—and all the 3D printers in this review use FDM technology: An FDM printer sends a filament of plastic (most often from a spool within the printer) through a small, heated nozzle, which then precisely lays down the thin layers of plastic on the surface of the base to construct the object. (In the 3D printer industry, FDM is also referred to as “fused filament fabrication,” or “FFF.”) An FDM 3D printer is pretty flexible, but if you’re looking for different results, you’ll want to research some other processes, such as stereolithography (SLA), which uses a resin-based method to print, or other methods.
Learn about 3D printing materials
It’s important to learn what materials you can use with your 3D printer. The filaments used in FDM 3D printers can be made of different types of material, too. Two of the most popular are polylactic acid (PLA) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABD), but there are others. You can buy spools of replacement filament, but just be sure the material and size are compatible with your model. Most 3D printers print in just one color, but some select models have dual extruders so that you can print with two colors.
Analyze your 3D printing needs
When it comes to 3D printers, you’ll also want to closely examine and evaluate the features, specifications, and capabilities you think you’ll need. For example, if you’re looking to print objects that are a bit larger, you’ll want to go with a model with a larger print volume that can handle larger prints. Or maybe you’re looking to produce a lot of objects quickly. Then pay close attention to the printer’s speed. Additionally, ensure it has the connectivity options, like WiFi or Bluetooth, that allow you to work in the manner you’re expecting.
What is the top resolution on your 3D printer? Resolution is measured in microns (a lower number is more detailed), with the default on many printers being 200 microns. However, some can print at 100 or 50 microns. Higher resolution generally translates into smoother prints.
Is it an open frame or close frame?
3D printers that are closed are safer, but open-frame 3D printers are generally larger in size. Closed printers are ideal if you have kids or pets who might get curious during your print and reach into the printing area. Closed printers also prevent particulates and other environmental pollutants from creeping into your prints.
Are there any automated features?
More and more 3D printers are including automated features, such as auto-leveling the print bed, in order to speed up the process and to make the 3D printer easier to use. However, it’s worth checking reviews about how well these automated functions work. You may do some of the work yourself and waste time re-doing things that the automated system failed to do successfully.
Are you interested in designing your 3D print yourself? If so, you’ll need software known as a “slicer” to create it. Some popular choices are PrusaSlicer, from Prucer, and Cura, from Ultimaker. Access to common and open-source utilities makes printers more versatile but can sometimes run into compatibility issues, especially after a software update.
Q: Are 3D printers expensive to buy and to use?
Although you can still find 3D printers that are very pricey, those models are generally targeted at commercial markets. By and large, most 3D printers for home use have come down in price, and you can find some very capable models for less than $1,000, even as low as $200. But to get a clearer picture of your cost of ownership of the 3D printer, you’ll want to factor in how you’ll actually be using it. You’ll want to assess how much you’ll be printing, which means you’ll also need to find the price of replacement filament spools or other additional materials for your 3D printer.
Q: What are 3D printers used for?
Today, 3D printers are used in many different industries across the globe, including healthcare, automotive, construction, manufacturing, the food industry, education, and in the production of different consumer products. At home, 3D printers can produce various hardware items, like hooks, hangers, coasters, clips, various types of desk organizers, etc. Or they can be used for more artistic pursuits, like cosplay.
Q: Is 3D printing safe?
While the 3D printing industry as a whole has taken steps to make consumer-grade 3D printers safer for everyone using them, some health experts still express concern. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website says, “3D printing hazards vary depending on the type of printer and materials used.” It also points out that some methods used in 3D printing can cause you to breathe in harmful materials: “3D printing can release particulates and other harmful chemicals into the air.” Some materials can also be harmful if they come into contact with the skin, such as “metal powders, solvents, and other chemicals.” And some materials can also be flammable or combustible. For more, see the CDC’s “3D Printing Safety at Work” webpage.
Final thoughts on the best 3D printers under $1,000
Some scientists and environmentalists have long considered 3D printers a “greener choice.” However, like conventional inkjet and laser printers, 3D printers produce waste, mainly due to the various processes used in printing 3D objects, which are most often plastic. And adding more plastic into the environment is never a good thing. However, how sustainable your 3D printer is for the environment depends upon many factors, including the materials you use: For instance, PLA plastic is considered relatively easy to recycle and is only more biodegradable than other materials used for filaments.
Additionally, some experts in the 3D printer industry believe some fundamental aspects of 3D printing should benefit the Earth and its environment. For example, one of the projects of the RepRap movement, which made 3D printers and technology more accessible over the past 10 years, was to create self-replicating 3D printers. In doing so, the group predicted that such self-replicating machines could benefit society overall by producing less waste in our global ecosystem. Whether you are more concerned with long-term outcomes or short-term projects, the best 3D printers under $1,000 deliver creative and consumer value.
Why trust us
Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.
Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.