Worldwide Guide to Rapid Prototyping
Printing the Future
 
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Comparison Chart of
All 3D Printer Choices for
Approximately $20,000 or Less

 

Which is the best 3D printer?

There's no such thing. The best 3D printer or rapid prototyping system is the one that meets more of your criteria than the others. All additive fabrication machines come with limitations and unknowns - some more than others. This is especially true of the low-cost market segment where many entries are new and the producers inexperienced.

The most important thing is to first ask yourself what you will be doing with the machine.

BUTN If what you need is very fast form or fit models, you might first look at 3D Systems' entries based on three dimensional printing technology (3DP). These machines were formerly products of Z Corporation. If you need very high quality output, look over Stratasys Ltd.'s inkjet technology, formerly produced by Objet. You can also approach that quality of output with photopolymer-based machines such as the Form 1 from Formlabs. If sufficient for your application, it could save you a lot of money.

BUTN If what you need are parts that can be used directly in end-applications and are durable, you might consider thermoplastic extrusion-based machines. Depending on your application, your need for customer support and accuracy, you might get away with using one of the numerous low-cost thermoplastic extrusion machines and save a lot of money. There are now at least 100 (yes, one hundred) different producers of this equipment worldwide. Below we've listed those that are more mature or whose specifications stand out or are unique in some way.

The important point is that no additive manufacturing machine or 3D printer does it all. You'll need to trade-off what you need and want with what you can afford. Look over the related information presented on this site. That will save you a lot of time. But once you have made two or three preliminary choices, get your hands on some real parts or models made by those machines. That will tell you more than anything you'll ever read.

   BUTN Learn More About 3D Printer Choices Below US$20,000...
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   BUTN What is a 3D Printer?...
Space
   BUTN Low-cost 3D Printers Explained...
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   BUTN Low-cost Equipment in Development...
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   BUTN BRIEF Tutorial Section...
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   BUTN DETAILED Tutorial Section...
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   BUTN RP Terminology Unraveled...
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   BUTN Basic RP Technologies Comparison Chart...

LulzBot TAZ Desktop
3D Printers
BUTN

Large Print Area -
professional basketball-sized prints.

BUTN
More Materials - including
rubber-like, wood, stone, and more.

BUTN
Open Source Hardware -
freedom to upgrade, modify and copy.
LulzBot

Learn more! ...
www.LulzBot.com


Listings Color Key...
Space
Open-source Hobbyist & Do-It-Yourself Systems
Space
Fully-Assembled or Commercial Systems Available
Limited Availability
Manufacturer
Model
Technology
Price
Size & Wt.
Build Envelope
Materials
Material Cost
Speed
Accuracy
Finish
Strengths
Weaknesses
RepRap Project
(Self-replicating RP Machine)
Mendel
(second generation)

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion

[Most machines based on RepRap have very similar specs.]

$300
[Minimum price for a complete kit, with average about $500.]
20x16x14 in
WxDxH approx.

16 lbs

8x8x5.5 in WxDxH approx.
PLA, HDPE, ABS & more. Uses 0.125" dia filament
$7 to $14 per lb
slow, equivalent to 0.92 cu in per hour deposition rate
nozzle resolution 0.020 in;
0.080 in min. feature size;
0.004 in positioning accuracy;
layer thk 0.012 in
fair to poor
BUTNLowest-cost
Space
BUTNHighly-adaptable: allows customization for specific applications
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNDo-It-Yourself from top to bottom. - Not appropriate for the mechanically, electronically, software-ally disinclined
Space
BUTNOnly fair quality parts and models so far
QU-BD
OneUp

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$199
[kit]

TwoUp with approx. 7x7x5 in build volume available at $279

OneUp:
12 x 10 x 9 in;
TwoUp:
12 x 13 x 12

HxWxD

approx. 4x4x5 in

[Larger volume available]

PLA, HIPS, Carbon PLA, Laywoo; ABS possible with optional heated bed
Low
max travel speed: 150mm/s; max print speed: 100mm/s
min. layer height: 0.002 in, accuracy: not specified
fair to poor
BUTNVery low-cost
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNHeated build platform available with an upgrade package
Space
BUTNOpen-source and modifiable by user
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNOnly one extruder so no support material or multi-material operation possible
Solidoodle
SD-3DP-2B

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$499
[fully-assembled]

Version 3 with 8x8x8 in build volume available at $799

11.75 x 11.5 x 11.75 in
WxDxH

17 lbs.

6x6x6 in

[Larger volume available]

ABS; PLA; other plastics possible
Low, includes small roll of ABS.

$22 per lb for ABS

slow
Diameter of nozzle 0.014"; typical layer height: 0.012 in, but 0.004 in possible; X-Y accuracy: + - 0.004
fair to poor
BUTNVery low-cost for an assembled unit
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNHeated build platform available with an upgrade package
Space
BUTNLighting, other amenities available with upgrade packages.
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNOnly one extruder so no support material or multi-material operation possible
Space
BUTNNot easily modifiable by user for special requirements
3D Systems
Cube™

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$1,299
[fully-assembled]
14x14x18 in
WxDxH

9 lbs.

5.5x5.5x5.5 in
PLA and ABS in many colors; Material cartridge cost $49, which amounts to an estimated $71/lb
Expensive compared to other suppliers in this class. Purchase includes one cartridge of ABS.
slow
(no spec available)
layer thickness 0.008
(accuracy specs not available)
fair to poor
BUTNLow-cost
Space
BUTNSeveral colors of material available, but only prints one at a time
Space
BUTNEasy-loading material cartridges
Space
BUTNIntegrated with creation community Cubify™
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNSomewhat Lower resolution
Space
BUTNOne extrusion head, cannot be expanded for a second or soluble support material
Space
BUTNNot modifiable by user for special requirements
Space
BUTNA single, expensive, material supplier
MakerBot Industries
[Purchased by Stratasys]
Replicator™ Mini

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$1,375
[assembled]
11.6 x 12.2 x 15.0 in
WxDxH
weight: 18 lbs
3.9 x 3.9 x 4.9 in
LxWxH
PLA only; $22 to $25 per lb
Low
Speed:
not specified
Positioning Accuracy:
2.5 microns on Z-axis;
11 micron on X&Y-axes; actual part res. not spec'd; typ. z-layer ht. is 0.008 in
fair to good
BUTNLow-cost
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNSteel frame
Space
BUTNImproved and faster software
Space
BUTNWeb-site for users to exchange designs, but that's open-source so anyone can use it
Space
BUTNOn-board TV camera for build monitoring
Space
BUTNImproved extruder monitors its status
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNPLA material only; no second material for supports or additional colors
Space
BUTNNo heated build platform, but not required for PLA only
Space
BUTNNot open-source hardware or software, users can't easily modify machine
Space
BUTNSmallish build volume
PP3DP Company (China)
UP! plus Personal Portable 3D Printer

Details here...

Space
thermoplastic extrusion
$1,499
[assembled]
9.5x10.5x14 in
WxDxH

11 lbs.

5.5x5.5x5.3 in
WxDxH
ABS, PLA
$22/lb.
poor
0.006 to 0.016 in layer thickness
fair to poor
BUTNLow-cost
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNQuiet, clean operation
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNOne extrusion head, cannot be expanded for a second or soluble support material
Space
BUTNNot modifiable by user for special requirements
LeapFrog
Creatr™

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$1,588
[fully-assembled]
15.75 x 23.6 x 19.7 in
DxWxH

70 lbs

11.8 x 9.8 x 10.2 in
ABS, PLA, PVA, Laybrick, Nylon
ABS approx. $18/lb
Speed X & Y axes: up to 350 mmm/sec;
Extrusion speed: 60 mm/sec
layer thickness 0.002 to 0.014 in
Positioning accuracy: 0.002 in; Extruder nozzle: 0.014 in
fair to good
BUTNLow-cost, assembled machine from an experienced manufacturer
Space
BUTNLow cost materials
Space
BUTNWi-fi computer connection
Space
BUTNSecond extruder available for +$250
Space
BUTNLarge print volume
Space
BUTNHeated build platform
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNSomewhat lower resolution
Space
BUTNNot modifiable by user for special requirements
Space
Manufacturer
Model
Technology
Price
Size & Wt.
Build Envelope
Materials
Material Cost
Speed
Accuracy
Finish
Strengths
Weaknesses
Aleph Objects, Inc.
LulzBot™
TAZ 3

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$2,195
[fully-assembled]
26.8 x 20.5 x 20.3 in

weight: 24.2 lbs

11.7 x 10.8 x 9.8 in
ABS, PLA, HIPS, PVA, wood filament; nylon & add'l materials with add-ons
ABS approx. $18/lb
Top Print Speed: 200mm/sec (7.9in/sec)
Layer Thickness: 0.003 to 0.0138 in
fair to good
BUTNLow-cost, assembled machine from an established manufacturer
Space
BUTNLow cost materials
Space
BUTNWide material selection
Space
BUTNHeated build platform
Space
BUTNSupports open-source initiatives
Space
BUTNModifiable by user for special requirements
Space
BUTNLarge build volume
Space
BUTNBuilt-in LCD controller
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNSingle extruder, but can be customized by DIY user for dual extruders
Space
Mauk Custom Creations (Netherlands)
CartesioM

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
€1,699
(US$2,328)
[kit]

[Assembled: US$4,794]

CartesioW kit with build volume of 7.9 x 15.8 x 7.9 in available at €2,099

20 x 20.5 x 20.8 in

40 lbs.

7.9 x 7.9 x 7.9 in
(X,Y,Z)

[Larger volume available]

PLA, HDPE, ABS & more
Approximately $17/lb, any supplier may be used.
X/Y axis 42,000 mm/min; Z axis 1200 mm/min
X/Y/Z: 0.004 inches; layer thickness 0.004 to 0.016 inches
fair to good
BUTNCapable of mounting choice of several tool heads
Space
BUTNFast operation relative to similar machines
Space
BUTNClaims very quiet operation
Space
BUTNHeated platform
Space
BUTNLow-cost
Space
BUTNHighly-adaptable: allows customization for specific applications
Space
BUTNGood material selection
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNQuiet, clean operation
Space
BUTNAdd a second head for + €150
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNDo-It-Yourself - Not appropriate for the mechanically disinclined
Space
BUTNHand finishing and post-processing of parts required
Space
MakerBot Industries
[Purchased by Stratasys]
Replicator™ 2

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$2,199
[assembled]

Replicator 2X
with second extruder, ABS capability $2,799.
See listing below.

19.1 x 12.8 x 14.7
weight: 25.4 lbs
11.2 x 6.1 x 6 in
LxWxH
PLA only; $22 to $25 per lb
Low
Speed:
not specified
Positioning Accuracy:
2.5 microns on Z-axis;
11 micron on X&Y-axes; actual part res. not spec'd; typ. z-layer ht. is 0.004 in
fair to good
BUTNLow-cost
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNImproved steel frame
Space
BUTNImproved and faster software
Space
BUTNWeb-site for users to exchange designs, but that's open-source so anyone can use it
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNKit version not available for lower cost
Space
BUTNPLA material only; no second material for supports or additional colors
Space
BUTNNo heated build platform, but not required for PLA only
Space
BUTNNot open-source hardware or software, users can't easily modify machine
3D Systems
CubeX™

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$2,499
One Head

$3,249
Two Heads

$3,999
Three heads

[all fully-assembled]

20 x 20 x 23 in
WxLxH

84 lbs.
(3 extruders)

10.8 x 10.45 x 9.5 in
(single extruder; max. print sizes decreases with more heads)

7.3 x 10.75 x 9.5 in
(3 extruders)

PLA and ABS in many colors; Material cartridge cost $99, which amounts to an estimated $70 to $100/lb
Expensive compared to other suppliers in this class. Purchase includes three cartridges.
slow
(no spec available, claims to be up to 2X faster than similar machines)
layer thickness: selectable from 0.005 to 0.020 in

x & y axes: greater of +/- 1% of object dimension or +/- 0.008 in;
z axis: +/- half the z resolution

fair to good
BUTNLow-cost for a very large print volume
Space
BUTNNumerous colors of material available, able to print up to three colors in a build
Space
BUTNEasy-loading material cartridges
Space
BUTNIntegrated with creation community Cubify™
Space
BUTNSelectable resolution for "draft" prints
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNNot modifiable by user for special requirements
Space
BUTNA single, expensive, material supplier
Manufacturer
Model
Technology
Price
Size & Wt.
Build Envelope
Materials
Material Cost
Speed
Accuracy
Finish
Strengths
Weaknesses
Fab@Home
(Your home!)
1

Details here...

syringe deposition
$2,500
[parts only, if purchased by user]
18.5x16x18
WxDxH
8x8x8 in
Anything you can squirt.
Tried so far: silicone, epoxy, cheese, chocolate, frosting, clay, PlayDoh, plaster
very low
poor
+/- 0.004 in
poor
BUTNLow-cost
Space
BUTNHighly-adaptable: allows customization for specific applications
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNCan use materials and be adapted to many applications which are not appropriate for any other technology
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNSlow hardening times for materials tried so far
Space
BUTNDo-It-Yourself - or at least some assembly required - Not appropriate for the mechanically disinclined
Space
BUTNPoor quality parts and models so far
MakerBot Industries
[Purchased by Stratasys]
Replicator™ 2X Experimental

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$2,799
[assembled]
19.1 x 12.8 x 20.9
weight: 27.8 lbs
9.7 x 6.0 x 6.1 in
LxWxH
ABS & PLA; $22 to $25 per lb
Low
Speed:
not specified
Positioning Accuracy:
2.5 microns on Z-axis;
11 micron on X&Y-axes; actual part res. not spec'd; z-layer ht. is adjustable from 0.004 to 0.0133 in
fair to good
BUTNTwo extruder heads
Space
BUTNHeated build platform
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNImproved steel frame
Space
BUTNImproved and faster software
Space
BUTNWeb-site for users to exchange designs, but that's open-source so anyone can use it
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNKit version not available for lower cost
Space
BUTNNot open-source hardware or software, users can't easily modify machine
Ultimaking Ltd. (Netherlands)
Ultimaker 2

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
€1,895 (US$2,600)
[assembled]
13.3x14.1x15.3 in
WxDxH

25 lbs.

9x8.9x8.1 in
PLA (polylactic acid) & ABS
PLA from the company is about $25/lb, but any supplier may be used.
30 to 300 mm / sec while printing
20 microns min. layer thickness
fair to good
BUTNLarge build volume for outside dimensions
Space
BUTNFast operation relative to many similar machines
Space
BUTNImproved finishes relative to similar machines
Space
BUTNOpen-source: allows customization for specific applications
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNQuiet, clean operation
Space
BUTNHeated build platform
Space
BUTNSD-card for off-line printing
Space
BUTNVery fast slicing software
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNHand finishing and post-processing of parts required
Space
BUTNNo second head for a support or additional material
Space
Formlabs
Form 1

Details here...

stereolithography
$3,299
[assembled]
12 x 11 x 18 in
WxDxH
Weight: 18 lbs
4.9 x 4.9 x 6.5 in
proprietary photopolymer
$149/liter; est $68/lb
Speed: slow
typical rate is approx. 15mm of height per hour
minimum layer thickness: 25 microns (0.001 in); minimum feature size: 300 microns (0.012 in)

True part accuracy not specified

excellent
BUTNLow-cost for high resolution
Space
BUTNModerate materials cost
Space
BUTNExcellent detail and surface finish
Space
BUTNQuiet, clean operation
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNKit version not available for lower cost
Space
BUTNVery limited materials and properties may vary over time
Space
BUTNCare must be exercised in handling materials
Space
BUTNNot modifiable by user for special requirements
Manufacturer
Model
Technology
Price
Size & Wt.
Build Envelope
Materials
Material Cost
Speed
Accuracy
Finish
Strengths
Weaknesses
Asiga
Freeform Pico

Details here...

Photopolymer exposed by deformable mirror device (DMD)
$6,990
[assembled]
8.6 x 8.9 x 20 in
WxDxH

33 lbs.

30x40x75 mm
WxDxH
Choice limited to 2 photopolymers
$350 for 500 ml or roughly $320/lb.
good
+/- 0.002 accuracy (50 microns);
38 micron (0.0015 in) pixel size;
Z-axis increments as small as 1 micron (0.00004 in)
excellent
BUTNLow-cost for extremely high resolution
Space
BUTNFast operation
Space
BUTNQuiet, clean operation
Space
BUTNAdditional units available with pixel size down to 27 microns, but at much higher cost
BUTNVery small build envelope
Space
BUTNExpensive materials but small parts so still moderate cost per part
rdGizmo For You LTD
Ilios

Details here...

Photopolymer exposed by standard HD projector
$7,464
[assembled entry-level machine, including projector]
23.6 x 19.7 x 47.2 in
LxWxH

110 lbs. shipping weight with projector; (77 lbs shipping weight w/o projector)

11.8 x 11.8 x 7.9 inches
(X x Y x Z)

Options for larger sizes available

Several photopolymers available
$74/lb. for a general purpose resin
good
Min layer thickness: 0.0005 in;
Using full area, up to 163 dpi X-Y res.; At 5 x 5 in build area res. up to 385 dpi

True part accuracy not specified

excellent
BUTNLow-cost for high resolution
Space
BUTNFast operation
Space
BUTNQuiet, clean operation
Space
BUTNOpen-source, can be modified by user
Space
BUTNLarge build volume
Space
BUTNModerate materials cost
Space
BUTNExcellent detail and surface finish
Space
BUTNVery wide array of options available
BUTNHuge machine - as big as a small armchair
Space
BUTNCare must be exercised in handling materials
Space
BUTNMaterials properties may vary over time
Stratasys
Mojo™

Details here...

Fused Depositon Modeling (FDM)
$9,900
[includes support removal system and starter-kit of consumables. Printer alone is $9,500.]
25×21×18 in WxDxH
60 lbs
5×5×5 in WxDxH
One grade of ABS
$399 for cartridge with 80 cu in of material; equivalent to $133/lb
poor
layer thickness: 0.007 in;
X-Y positional accuracy is not specified
fair
BUTNLow cost for professional-level machine with low-price leasing option
Space
BUTNTurn-key operation compared to hobbyist machines
Space
BUTNStrong, durable parts
Space
BUTNTechnology has reputation for reliability
Space
BUTNQuiet, clean operation
Space
BUTNSoluble support materials and support removal system included
Space
BUTNDeposition heads are replaced with material cartridge
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNLimited material selection; just one type and color of ABS
Space
BUTNMaterial cost very high and only a single supplier
Space
BUTNSmaller build volume than competitors
Beijing TierTime Technology Co. Ltd. (China)
Inspire S200

Details here...

MEM (Melted and Extrusion Modeling)
$10,000
24.8×26×37.8 in WxDxH
140 lbs
5.91×7.87×7.87 in WxDxH
ABS
$79/lb
poor
layer thickness: Adjustable 0.010 to 0.014 in;
accuracy: 0.008 in over 4 inches,
0.040 min feature size
fair
BUTNStrong, durable parts
Space
BUTNTechnology has reputation for reliability
Space
BUTNQuiet, clean operation
Space
BUTNDual nozzle head for dispensing support materials
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNLimited material selection
Space
BUTNMaterial cost somewhat high
Manufacturer
Model
Technology
Price
Size & Wt.
Build Envelope
Materials
Material Cost
Speed
Accuracy
Finish
Strengths
Weaknesses
3D Systems
ProJet™ 1000 and ProJet™ 1500

Details here...

film transfer of photopolymer
ProJet™ 1000: $10,900

ProJet™ 1500:$14,500

22x36x29
in WxDxH;
122 lbs
ProJet™ 1000: 6.75x8x7 in

ProJet™ 1500: 6.75x9x8 in
WxDxH

photopolymer
Estimate $120/lb. or approx. $4 to $5 / cubic inch
0.5 in/hr;
0.8 in/hr high speed mode (Z-Axis) for ProJet™ 1500
layer thickness: 0.004 in; 0.008 in high speed mode for ProJet™ 1500
resolution: 1024x768 DPI (xy) ;
min. vert. wall thickness 0.025 in (0.64mm); min. feat. size 0.010 in (0.254mm)
excellent
BUTNLow cost for stereolithography-like quality
Space
BUTN Accuracy, resolution & finish
Space
BUTN Speed
Space
BUTN Choice of color materials
Space
BUTNLimited material selection
Space
BUTNMaterials mechanical properties & durability
Space
BUTNHigh-cost materials
Space
BUTNRequires accessory washing and curing equipment which costs thousands of additional dollars for useable parts
Space
Stratasys Ltd.
uPrint™ SE
Space
Details here...
Fused Depositon Modeling (FDM)
$13,900
26x26x30 in
WxDxH;
132 lbs
8x6x6 in
ABS plastic with soluble supports
$115 to $185 per lb
poor
0.010 in layer thickness
fair
BUTNStrong, durable parts
Space
BUTNFDM reputation for reliability
Space
BUTNQuiet, clean operation
BUTNSlow process
Space
BUTNMaterial cost is relatively high
uPrint™ Plus SE
$18,900
8x8x6 in
ABS plastic in several colors with soluble supports
Space
0.010 or 0.013 in layer thickness
3D Systems [Formerly a product of
Z Corp.]
ProJet® 160

Details here...

three dimensional printing (3DP)
$14,900

[64 color-capable version $24,900.]

29x31x55 in;
365 lbs
9.3x7.3x5 in
plaster composite,
direct casting,
investment casting
plaster: $0.60 per cubic in
excellent
[0.8 inches/hour]
300x450 dpi;
layer thickness 0.004 in; min. feature size: 0.016 in
fair
BUTNFastest of all available technologies
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
BUTNLimited material selection
Space
BUTNRemoving parts from machine and cleaning them can be messy
Space
BUTNPoor material mechanical properties
Space
BUTNFinishes not as attractive as other technologies
Stratasys Ltd.
[Objet merged with Stratasys Dec., 2012]
Objet24 / Objet30

Details here...

jetted photopolymers
starts at $19,900
(Objet24)
32x24x23 in;
205 lbs
9.22 x 7.58 x 5.85 in (Objet24)

11.58 x 7.58 x 5.85 in (Objet30)

VeroWhitePlus Opaque material,
(Objet24)
Space
Blue, Black Grey & polypropylene-like materials offered with Objet30, which sells for many thousands more
$130 to $175 per lb; Support material $57 per lb
good
600x600x900 dpi;
layer thickness 0.0011 in; positional accuracy:
+/- 0.0039 in typical
excellent
BUTNLow cost for stereolithography-like quality
Space
BUTN Accuracy, resolution & finish
Space
BUTN Speed
Space
BUTNLimited material selection
Space
BUTNMaterials mechanical properties & durability
Space
BUTNSecondary Finishing Operations, (although less onerous than some competing technologies)
Space
BUTNHigh-cost Materials
Manufacturer
Model
Technology
Price
Size & Wt.
Build Envelope
Materials
Material Cost
Speed
Accuracy
Finish
Strengths
Weaknesses



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REV 69 - - - 3/12/14