Additive manufacturing technology has changed the manufacturing world. In the beginning it was only used by industrialists as it cost you thousands of dollars. With advances in technology, it is now available for $500 or even lower with several advanced features.
Demand for low cost 3D printers has grown significantly as they are economical, fast and accurate. They have many uses.
Are there 3D printers under 500?
Nowadays, $500 can do you a lot of good when it comes to desktop 3D printers. Consumers no longer need to spend thousands of dollars on high-quality machines or fiddle hour after hour in the shop upgrading and modifying DIY kits. Well, you can still do it, but 3D printers have become a lot more affordable in recent years, and you can now find high-quality, high-quality, and reliable 3D printers at almost any price point. There are many printers out there now, and narrowing down the list can be tricky, especially if you're new to the industry. But don't worry. We have done all the work for you.
You can start as low as $ 130 (although things start to improve at around $ 200). We present a set of great 3D printers for beginners with which you can create Baby Yoda replicas in no time.
Prusa I3 DXPRO SC-3
Prusa I3 is known for its simple, easy to assemble and powerful 3D printer kits. DXPRO SC 3 is one of his productions. It offers a large build volume, clean design, and various other advanced features.
The printer has a high print speed of 20 mm/sec. and a larger build volume of 300 x 300 x 400 mm. The layer thickness varies between 0.05 and 0.4 mm. The printing accuracy is 0.01 mm.
The printer costs $399.99. The price justifies high quality 3D prints.
Use this 3D printer under $500 for:
- It's aimed at hobbyists, makers, small businesses, and beginners because it's affordable and easy to set up.
- Users can access manual and online videos to assemble the printer within five minutes.
- The printer can be easily used at home and in small offices due to its compact design.
- Thanks to the printer's open frame, you always have an eye on the printing process.
- Larger print space allows users to print large parts.
- It is a workhorse as it can work for 200 hours non-stop. The introduced linear navigation within the printer reduces friction and lowers printing pressure.
- There is a heated bed that allows for better first coat adhesion and minimizes warping.
- There are already connected lines from the company. This makes it easy to set up and minimizes errors when assembling different components.
- The machine's power failure recovery function allows you to save and pause printing in the event of a power failure, and resume printing after power is restored.
- The metal body of the machine ensures stability and minimizes vibration during 3D printing. This makes the printer reliable and offers accurate 3D prints.
- There is a touch screen that provides an intuitive user interface and allows control of the printing process without the need to connect it to a laptop.
Interchangeable nozzles are available which allow you to work with three different nozzle sizes. These include print heads with diameters of 0.4, 0.3 and 0.2 mm. By choosing between them, it is possible to greatly vary the accuracy of the machine.
- High resolution
- Sturdy metal frame
- Power failure recovery
- Heated print bed
- Manual calibration
- It is compatible with PLA only
So, you want to get started with a 3D printer? Congratulations. It's not an overstatement to say that 3D printing changed my life. It opened up the possibility of making custom physical objects to meet my own specific needs. It got me comfortable building in the workshop and helped me create solutions I use every day.
But getting started can be daunting. What printer should you get? How much should you spend? Should you get SLA (resin) or FDM (filament)? This article is designed to break through those questions.
Let's start with the resin vs. filament discussion. I recommend resin printers to people who want to produce small items of fine detail. Miniature gamers are a massive market for these, as are model railroaders and modelers of all kinds. Print quality can be exceptional, but they create more mess, smell a bit more, and require careful post-processing and management of somewhat toxic liquids.
By contrast, I recommend filament printers to those who want to build objects that meet specific functional needs (rather than display needs). I use 3D printers for brackets, mountings, practical projects, and more. You can also make much larger objects with filament printers, so they're a staple in the cosplay world for making masks and greeblies.
As for price, there are budget considerations. All the printers in this list are lower-cost printers. I have another list of pro-level printers you can check out if you're able to spend more. Pro-level printers are more robust and -- unfortunate for beginners on a budget -- often have conveniences like automatic bed leveling that make them easier to use. That said, you can go very far with most of the printers listed here.
One final note before we kick off this list. I've added "Top Pick" indicators to the first few printers. These are the printers I'd feel immediately comfortable recommending to friends who ask about what printer to buy. They're the "can't go wrong" choices. That said, the rest of the list offers better prices or different options, so all on this best-of list are great contenders for newbie 3D printing practitioners.
Original Prusa MINI+
Josef Pr?ša is about as close to 3D printing royalty as anyone can get. We talk about his story more in our best 3D printers for pros guide, where we spotlight the $999 Original Prusa i3 MK3S+.
With a build volume of 180x180x180mm (about 7 inches), the MINI+ has a relatively small build volume, but it's probably the most "pro" of the printers we're spotlighting in this guide. It's designed to be a workhorse in design shops and print farms, but at $399, it's also accessible to hobbyists and first-timers. If you want a hassle-free experience, this may well be the printer to choose to begin your 3D printing journey.
- Excellent quality
- Native Prusa slicer
- Mesh bed calibration
- More costly than some competitors
- Not available from Amazon
- Small build volume
Elegoo Mars 3
Resin printers are becoming extremely popular among 3D printing enthusiasts, especially those who want smaller prints with very high detail. Mars 3 is actually the fourth small form factor resin printer from Elegoo.
Mars 3 uses a 4K monochrome LED light source, which means all the pixels on the 6.6-inch display are activated to reveal the print layer. This iteration added a chip-on-board (COB) lens with a free-form surface to improve uniformity of UV light illumination. In addition, Mars 3 comes with a free one-year license for the Chitubox Pro slicer, although you can also use the Lychee slicer.
Keep in mind that the price and availability of this printer fluctuates, so depending on when you look, the price may be higher, or you may need to wait for it to be back in stock.
- High resolution printing
- Monochrome display
- Consistent print quality across the entire bed
- Chitubox Pro - license for an additional fee after a year.
- Relatively small build area
- Support can be a problem
Creality Ender 3 S1
The brand new Creality Ender 3 S1 flies into this update. Best regarded as the next generation of the Ender 3, the S1 brings a few high-quality updates to the world's most popular 3D printer that make it a catcher.
Technically, the headline is the new direct extruder. Dubbed the 'Sprite' by Creality, it's a fantastic, lightweight (210g) dual-gear printhead that delivers great prints and is remarkably easy to load and unload the filament with. With this extruder you can easily process PLA, PETG, ABS and TPU. It can heat up to 260°C, so while you won't print anything exotic, you can still handle most of your "everyday" filaments. This filament is laid down on a flexible PC coated spring steel print sheet that you can peel off the platform and flex to release prints. It works fairly flawlessly and is part of a printing process that is extremely difficult to find fault with.
The Ender 3 S1 makes 3D printing easy. He doesn't make noise and doesn't need you to hold his hand. Automatic bed leveling eliminates the chore of removing a sheet of paper and adjusting the handles under the platform. At the same time, a simple thumb lever makes loading and unloading the filament as easy as can be. It's not revolutionary, but it's a welcome convenience at this price point.
You still have manual leveling knobs under the platform if you need them. In testing, we found that it was enough to automatically level the bed and adjust the z-offset slightly in the user interface.
The UI itself is a bright, portrait screen that, while supposed to be touchscreen, is definitely not a touchscreen no matter how hard you press it. Instead, there is a rotary encoder (knob) that can be turned to navigate the printer's menus.
Anycubic Mono X
In resin printers, objects solidify when exposed to light on the resin. Many printers use color LCDs (basically cheap phone displays) to display light. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of custom monochrome displays that offer higher resolution and brighter light, resulting in faster and cleaner prints.
The Anycubic Mono X is one such printer and is similar in display technology to the Mars 3 that has just been unveiled. Thanks to its 8.9-inch 4K monochrome display, the Mono X has a larger working area, which allows you to build larger models. The Mono X also has an improved gateway for smoother prints and better handling.
Honestly, we see Elegoo and Anycubic going head to head when it comes to high-quality printers. You'd have a great solution with either of these, but ultimately the decision comes down to which features you want the most and whether you want to use a Chitubox or Lychee slicer from Elegoo or Photon from Anycubic. Honestly, both companies have an impressive offering.
- The "just right" construction area fits many models
- Monochrome display
- Perfect resolution
- Proprietary Photon slicer
- Sometimes difficult to get the exposure-to-weight ratio right.
Creality CR-10S Pro
CR 10S Pro is the advanced version of CR 10S and offers a large print area. It is based on FDM technology and is partially assembled. It has a construction volume of 300 x 300 x 400 mm with a nozzle of 0.4 mm diameter. It has a built-in steel build plate and an aluminum frame. You can connect via SD card and USB.
The machine costs around $500.
- You can use 3rd party filament and 3D print with PLA, ABS, Flexibles and PETG.
- There is a compact intuitive touch screen to communicate with the machine. You can also control the setting remotely by connecting Raspberry PI to the Octoprint server.
- It has both assisted and automatic bed leveling features. This gives him an advantage over others. You can position the hot end at 16 different points and automatically level the bed.
- The Bowden extruder allows the use of nylon, carbon, PC and ABS.
- The 12 volt power supply amplifies the heating of the hot end and builds up the plate. Another power supply comes from the heated bed's MOSFET and the control board. The control board improves accuracy and step control and reduces noise levels.
- The double gear extrusion mechanism smoothens filament feeding and is reliable.
- Easy leveling
- Resume print feature
- Filament detector
- Three power supplies
- Poor extruder placement
Elegoo Neptune 2
We (and about half the world) are big fans of the Creality Ender 3, which we describe next. But we need to replace the Ender 3 Top Pick slot from our last update with the Elegoo Neptune 2, which is everything the Ender 3 is, but cheaper and with generally smoother prints.
For a budget printer with a build area of 220 x 220 x 250mm, the machine has a few decidedly non-budget features. It has a filament run out sensor, so you can replace the spool and continue printing if you run out of filament. And it has a removable build plate, which makes removing prints much easier and more reliable. All in all a great printer and a favorite for people building small print farms with cheap printers.
- Great price
- End of filament sensor
- Good print quality
- Manual bed leveling
- Inconsistent availability
Entering the guide for this update is the Voxelab Aries, a 3D printer designed specifically for beginners.
Voxelab is a subsidiary of Flashforge, a Chinese prosumer 3D printing manufacturer that started Voxelab as a kind of budget offshoot. So far so good from the brand as we have had very good experiences with the Aquila (an Ender 3 V2 clone) and the Aries a fully assembled beginner friendly machine with nice useful features.
The Aries is an open 3D printing cube, with 200 x 200 x 200mm to create inside. It only takes a few minutes to install as it is already assembled for you. Just plug it in, load a roll of filament, level the bed, and you're ready to 3D print. For newcomers who are not interested in building or DIY, it is extremely attractive.
On its print bed is a sheet of carborundum glass with a textured side and a smooth glass side. You can actually print on both, although the textured side is the one intended for printing. You'll see it go up to 100? if you need it, helping PLA and ABS to bond well, but when using PETG, you may need to resort to a glue stick to make the printing sticks according to your needs. The bed itself is, unfortunately, manually leveled, but uses an efficient three-point leveling system that requires you to adjust just two knobs.
So, with its medium temperatures, Bowden extruder, manual leveling, and small build volume, you might be wondering what the biggest selling point is here. Well, that's the overall user experience. The Aries has Wi-Fi connectivity, which means it can download and install firmware updates over the air, and you can send it sliced files to work with, or play with the panel. control and preheat it, for example.
Qidi Tech X-Maker
A Chinese company, Qidi Technology is known for its mid-priced 3D printers. They are mainly based on FDM or LCD resin technologies and target students and new entrants. Their flagship model, X-maker, is moderately priced and easy to use. It is based on FDM technology.
The printer has a printing space of 170 x 150 x 150 mm and prints with a layer resolution of 100 to 140 microns.
It features a 0.4mm heated nozzle that can withstand 250 degrees Celsius, a removable heated print bed mounted on a 6mm aerospace grade aluminum plate, and a 3 color touch screen. .5 inches for an intuitive user interface. The print speed is 150mm per second.
The machine costs $500 with a one-year warranty.
- It is designed for all types of users, from beginners to professionals. It is good for research, education and home use.
- You can print with a wide range of materials. These include ABS, PLA, TPU, PETG, HIPS, etc.
- The Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to easily connect it with your mobile or computer and control all the settings.
- It enables real-time monitoring of the printing process remotely with the help of an inbuilt 720 HD camera and an ‘iCookyCam’ application that is available on both Android and Apple.
- The magnetic print bed allows you to easily take out the final prints without damaging them. It is also surrounded by turbofans that quickly cool down the printing layers.
- The filament can be mounted in two ways. When working with ABS, it can be mounted inside the chamber to maintain a consistent temperature, whereas, when working with materials such as PLA, PETG, and TPU, it can be mounted outside.
- The proprietary software, Qidi Print, offers two operating modes: Rookie and Expert. The Rookie model is best for students and new entrants. The expert mode is good for professionals as it enables customized 3D printing with special features.
- You can break your work in between and continue later through breakpoint printing. In case of power failure, it also continues from where it stopped.
- Noiseless printing
- Clear instructions available
- Automatic bed leveling
- Magnetic print bed
- Remote monitoring
- Small print space
- Hard to find its replacement parts
MINGDA Magician X
The MINGDA Magician X ticks many of the boxes for a filament 3D printer. It features a heated build plate, a direct drive extruder (which makes flexible filaments print more reliably), a filament exhaustion sensor, and even automatic bed leveling. With a build area of 230x230x260mm, it can handle a wide variety of medium-sized prints.
Assembly was easy and straightforward. The print quality using PLA was very good. I haven't tested it with ABS (because I'm not a fan of the stench), but this printer is designed to hit 260 degrees C on the hot end. Unfortunately, the hot end isn't all-metal, so you're not popping above 300 degrees, which limits some materials. We'd like to see a removable build plate because some of these prints stuck to the bed like a puppy for mommy during a storm. Our suggestion is to use blue tape, so you can peel off the tape and release the prints. Overall though, the MINGDA Magician X is a definite win.
- Direct-drive extruder
- Automatic bed leveling
- Easy to build
- No removable build plate
- Prints are often very difficult to remove
Flashforge Adventure 3
If you're looking for a compact and lightweight desktop 3D printer, Flashforge's Adventure 3 is a good choice. It was presented at CES 2018 by the company. It is based on FFF/FDM technology and has a closed body.
The printer has a print space of 150 x 150 x 150 mm with layer resolution ranging from 0.1 to 0.4 mm. It has a single 0.4mm diameter nozzle with a print speed of 100mm per second.
The machine is ABS and PLA compatible and runs on FlashPrint software. You can easily connect via Wi-Fi, USB, Ethernet and cloud printing. Adventure 3 costs $399.
- It is primarily designed for creators and educators. It also targets small businesses and enthusiasts.
- You can 3D print faster than with any similar printer as its nozzle heats up to 200 degrees in 50 seconds. This saves production time. The updated nozzle also allows for stable filament loading.
- The Adventure 3 features an impressive extrusion system that comes with a turbofan, air guide and buckle for easy nozzle change. Improves print quality and saves time.
- The responsive 2.8 inch touchscreen allows for an intuitive user interface.
- The machine's simple mechanism offers fast and accurate 3D printing.
- You can easily remove the output due to the flexible print bed without damaging it.
- The filament depletion sensor along with the resume feature stops printing when the filament level is too low and indicates it to the user and then resumes printing after changing the filament.
- Plug and play
- Simple calibration
- High resolution
- Automatic bed leveling
- Supports third party filament
- Multiple connectivity options
- Print bed moves too much
- Confusing instructions
- Wi-Fi connectivity issues while updating the software.
The best 3D printer under 100 - buyer's guide
The author of this post saw the first 3D model printed on a printer about 10 years ago. There was a meeting at a huge Russian advertising agency that was using the power of 3D printing to print demonstrations of a very expensive souvenir - it was to be made from copper, bronze, silver, and very small things from gold.
The commercial director of the then company and I were twisting in our hands the future figurines and badges made of brown-gray-blue plastic, with sloppy burrs, “failures”, etc. It seemed to us the eighth wonder of the world - and when we were given the mock-ups for good, we were happy as children and already in the car joked that it would be cool to print pancakes, cakes and sausages on a printer. We have never been so close to predicting the future.
Although the article is for beginners, it will not be possible to avoid terms - a long journey begins with the first step. Therefore, first of all, you need to ask what kind of printing technology a 3D printer has. Most hobby printers use a technology called "Fused Deposition Modeling" (FDM), aka "Fused Filament Fabrication" (FFF), aka "Plastic Jet Printing" (PJP). The printing technology is simple and straightforward: layers of plastic (rarely other material) are superimposed on each other and form the figure that you have modeled. That is, the product, as it were, is made up of many horizontal sections formed from plastic, which is extruded from a hot nozzle (the plastic thread melts) and freezes immediately after extrusion.
There are also SLA printers, in which printing occurs due to the fact that the resin interacts with a laser and hardens as the shape is created. These printers print ultra-precise and detailed products.
The main material for amateur DIY home printing is colored plastic, which is most often sold in the form of threads on spools (rarely in short lengths). But, as we remember from the school chemistry course, plastic is also different and each type of material has its own properties of strength, brittleness, transparency, plasticity, etc. Most often, the material is called ABS filament or PLA filament. And these are not just acronyms.
ABS plastic is quite impact-resistant and durable, does not break on bends. It is called by the first letters of the components: acrylonitrile (up to 35%), butadiene (up to 30%), styrene (up to 60%). It is a non-toxic and safe material that can be handled in the presence of children. However, in the open sun and frost, plastic can lose its appearance.
PLA (polylactide) is an extremely thermoplastic polyester that is more brittle and less durable than ABS. Completely environmentally friendly and biodegradable. PLA is made from corn or sugar cane. This type of plastic holds its shape very well and has good friction, so if you're building something with moving parts, look into PLA.
If we divide it very roughly, then ABS is more for professionals, and PLA is for beginners.
What other materials are available?
- Stainless steel is an alloy of stainless steel and bronze. Very cool material, but not used in amateur 3D printers.
- Wood is a mixture of recycled wood and polymer. Products from a good, expensive thread of this kind look like wood and are pleasant in the hands. Printing with such a thread is no more difficult than the others.
- Resin is an expensive material with a high degree of smoothness, precision, and excellent texture. Products may become cloudy from sunlight.
- Nylon is a popular material for 3D printing, but is more commonly used in industry and medicine.
When choosing materials, pay attention to the size of the spool and the diameter of the filament - they must meet the specifications of your printer.
What to look for when choosing the best 3D printer under $500
Printable area - in other words, the volume of a figure that can be printed on a 3D printer. This value is usually specified in cubic centimeters or as a ratio of depth, height and width in mm.
Print speed is an important parameter that determines how quickly the nozzle gives off the molten filament (mm per second). Good speed is not always worth rejoicing at - sometimes it comes at the expense of print resolution. Also, the speed is affected by the print material and the structure of the model itself that you are trying to make.
Layer resolution - in fact, the thickness of the layer: high resolution - thin layers, almost imperceptible relief, smooth product; low resolution - rough work with thicker layers. Often, 3D printers provide the user with the option to choose a resolution.
The extruder is the part of the printer that heats up and ejects the material. The material is melted in the nozzle and extruded from it (printed). In addition to the nozzle, the extruder includes a filament feed mechanism, a temperature sensor and a cooling system (in normal models). If the printer has one extruder, then the print is pretty monotonous - one color at a time. But two or more extruders allow you to combine colors and materials. Printers with a dual nozzle per extruder are rare, expensive - at home this is an overkill.
Memory Device Support - Printers can support memory cards, USB, smartphones, Wi-Fi devices, and more. An external PC for 3D printing is not always needed.
3D printer software usually comes with the hardware itself. Its main task is to be able to open and process STL files (used for printing models and passing some parameters). But do not forget that for 3D modeling you will need specialized software such as Sketchup, Autodesk Inventors Fusion, etc. It is these programs that will help you design the model and generate the STL file.
Options - beautiful display, function buttons, material recognition, etc. - this is already a matter of taste and convenience, which, nevertheless, affects the price.
Budget. 3D printers cost anywhere from $150 to several thousand dollars. Accordingly, decide how much you are willing to spend, how much consumables you will have to purchase. Choose a printer according to your goals, but do not try to save money at any cost - if you decide to take 3D printing seriously, some important functions may not be enough in an inexpensive model.
Required materials and their properties - ask about materials and consumables, make a list and calculate the amount of threads you will need. If your project involves some kind of commercial component, consider the fact that the delivery of materials will take some time. Be sure to check if the selected printer supports the required types of plastic.
Multi-color printing - if you need multiple colors, you need a printer with multiple extruders, which is another price point.
Printing goals usually determine the size of the printer you need. If you are just going to "play around" or buy a toy for a child, then it is better not to bother and choose a compact printer with a small working volume. This will be quite enough for just for fun.