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Comparison Chart of
3D Printer Choices for
Approximately $5,000 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.

If you need very high resolution parts, look over the photopolymer-based machines listed here. Applications such jewelry or small, detailed medical parts can take advantage of this capability. If what you need are parts that can be used directly in end-applications and are durable, consider the thermoplastic extrusion-based machines. There are now hundreds of different producers of this equipment worldwide. Below we've listed those that are more conservative and, we believe, more reliable choices.

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 one or two preliminary choices, get your hands on some real parts made by those machines. That will tell you more than anything you'll ever read.

   BUTN Learn More About 3D Printer Choices Below US$5,000...
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   BUTN What is a 3D Printer?...
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   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...

The Additive Fabrication Spy


arrowExtrusion-based Systemsarrow
Manufacturer
Model
Technology
Price / Warranty
Size & Wt.
Build Envelope
Materials
Material Cost
Speed
Accuracy
Finish
Strengths
Weaknesses
3D Systems
Cube®

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$999
/ 90 days parts and labor
13.2 x 13.5 x 18 in
WxDxH

17 lbs.

6x6x6 in
PLA, ABS in many colors; Material cartridge cost $49, which amounts to an estimated $71/lb
Expensive compared to other suppliers in this class.
slow
(no spec available)
layer thickness 70 microns; 200 microns in fast mode
(accuracy specs not available)
fair to good
BUTNLow-cost
Space
BUTNUses 2 cartridges and dual jetting capability
Space
BUTNEasy-loading material cartridges
Space
BUTNIntegrated with creation community Cubify™
Space
BUTNPrints from WiFi or from supplied USB stick
Space
BUTNSelectable resolution for "draft" prints
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
BUTNA single, expensive, material supplier
3D Systems
CubePro®

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$2,799
One Head

$3,399
Two Heads

$4,399
Three heads

/ 90 days parts and labor

22.75 x 23.25 x 22.75 in
WxHxD

94.3 lbs.
(3 extruders)

11.2 x 9.06 x 10.6 in
WxHxD
(single extruder; max. print sizes decreases with more heads)

7.89 x 9.06 x 10.6 in
WxHxD
(3 extruders)

PLA, ABS, Nylon in many colors; break-away and soluble supports; Material cartridge cost $99, which amounts to an estimated $70 to $100/lb
Expensive compared to other suppliers in this class.
15mm (9/16 in) per second and polymer dependent
Z-axis res: 0.004 in (100 microns); layer thk: 70 microns, 200, 300 microns (fast mode); X & Y axis ± 1% of dim. or greater of ± 0.2mm (0.008 in). Z-axis ± 1/2 processed z res. Shrinkage & warpage can occur, geometry dependent.
fair to good
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
Space
BUTNLarge build volume
Space
BUTNAccuracy well-specified
BUTNA single, expensive, material supplier
Airwolf 3D
HD2x

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$3,995 (lower cost models avail.) /
12 months parts;
6 months tech support
24 x 18 x 18 in

39.6 lbs est.

11 x 8 x 12 in
ABS, PLA, TPA, TPU, PC, Nylon, flexible materials, metal-filled, wood-filled and others for a total of about 22
ABS approx. $18/lb
printing: up to 150 mm/s; travel: up to 400 mm/s
min. layer thickness: 60 microns (0.0024 in); X, Y res: 20 microns (mech. positioning, not part accuracy)
fair to good
BUTNDual extruders
Space
BUTNWide material selection
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNHeated build platform
Space
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
Manufacturer
Model
Technology
Price / Warranty
Size & Wt.
Build Envelope
Materials
Material Cost
Speed
Accuracy
Finish
Strengths
Weaknesses
Aleph Objects, Inc.
LulzBot™
TAZ 5

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$2,200

/ One-year warranty and support

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 filled, Polyester (Tritan), PETT, bronze & copper filled, Polycarbonate, Nylon, PETG, conductive PLA and ABS, UV luminescent, PCTPE, PC-ABS, etc.
ABS approx. $18/lb
Top Print Speed: 200mm/sec (7.9in/sec)
Layer Thickness: 0.003 to 0.0138 in; part accuracy not specified
fair to good
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
Space
BUTNSteel frame
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
BUTNSingle extruder, but another can be added
Space
LeapFrog (Netherlands)
Creatr™ '14

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
€1,249

/ one year limited warranty on hardware

23.6 x 19.7 x 23.6 in

70 lbs est.

9 x 10.7 x 7.8 in
ABS, PLA, PVA, Laybrick,
ABS approx. $18/lb
Travel: X & Y axes, up to 350 mmm/sec;
Extrusion speed: 60 mm/sec
Positioning accuracy: X & Y: 16.9 microns;
Z: 20 microns; Extruder nozzle: 0.014 in; part accuracy not specified
fair to good
BUTNLow-cost machine from an experienced manufacturer
Space
BUTNLow cost materials
Space
BUTNMetal frame
Space
BUTNSecond extruder available
Space
BUTNLarge print volume
Space
BUTNHeated build platform Space
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
MakerBot Industries
[Owned by Stratasys]
Replicator™ Mini

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$1,375

/ 6 months parts; extruder: 90 days

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
BUTNOn-board TV camera for build monitoring
Space
BUTNImproved extruder monitors its status
Space
BUTNWiFi and USB connectivity
Space
BUTNNo leveling required
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
BUTNPLA material only; no second material for supports or additional colors
Space
BUTNSmall build volume
MakerBot Industries
[Owned by Stratasys]
Replicator™ 5th Generation

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$2,899

/ 6 months parts; extruder: 90 days

20.8 x 17.4 x 16.2
weight: 35.3 lbs
9.9 x 7.8 x 5.9 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 0.004 in
fair to good
BUTNLow-cost
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNSteel frame
Space
BUTNOn-board TV camera for build monitoring
Space
BUTNWifi, USB, USB Stick and Ethernet connectivity
Space
BUTNAssisted leveling
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
BUTNPLA material only; no second material for supports or additional colors
Space
Manufacturer
Model
Technology
Price / Warranty
Size & Wt.
Build Envelope
Materials
Material Cost
Speed
Accuracy
Finish
Strengths
Weaknesses
PP3DP Company (China)
UP! plus 2 Personal Portable 3D Printer

Details here...

Space
thermoplastic extrusion
$1,299
9.6 x 10.2 x 13.7 in
WxDxH

11 lbs.

5.5 x 5.5 x 5.3 in
WxDxH
ABS, PLA
$22/lb.
Speed not specified
0.006 to 0.016 in layer thickness; part accuracy not specified
fair to poor
BUTNLow-cost
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNAutomatic leveling
Space
BUTNMetal frame
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
BUTNOne extrusion head, cannot be expanded for a second or soluble support material
Space
Printrbot
1403

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$599

/ 90 day warranty

18 x 17 x 13 in
LxWxH

16 lbs

6 x 6 x 6 in
PLA
PLA approx. $20/lb
80 mm/sec max recommended
layer thickness: 100 microns (0.004 in); part accuracy not specified
fair to good
BUTNLow-cost
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNAuto-leveling print bed
Space
BUTNMetal frame
Space
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
BUTNOne extrusion head, cannot be expanded for a second or soluble support material
Space
BUTNPLA material only
Space
Solidoodle
4th Generation

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$699

/ 60 day limited warranty

13.5 x 14 x 15 in
LxWxH

17 lbs est

8 x 8 x 8 in
ABS; PLA
$22 per lb for ABS
Speed: not specified
Diameter of nozzle 0.016"; layer thickness selectable from 0.004 in to 0.016; part accuracy not specified
fair to good
BUTNLarge build volume for outside dimensions
Space
BUTNLow-cost with good size print volume
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNSteel frame
Space
BUTNOnly one extruder so no support material or multi-material operation possible
Space
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Type A Machines
Series 1 (S114SA2)

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$2,749

/ one year limited warranty, parts & labor; extruder: 60 days

18.35 x 22.51 x 18.05 in
WxHxD

30 lbs

12 x 12 x 12 in
PLA, polycarbonate PET
PLA approx. $20/lb
print apeed: 50 to 150mm/sec; travel speed: 150-250 mm/sec
layer thickness: selectable, 50 to 250 microns; positioning Accuracy: X & Y: 6.67 microns; Z: 6.25 microns; part accuracy not specified
fair to good
BUTNVery large build volume
Space
BUTNPrint bed leveling without use of tools
Space
BUTNWiFi and USB port for off-line printing
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNOnly one extruder so no support material or multi-material operation possible
Space
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
Ultimaker BV (Netherlands)
Ultimaker 2

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
€1,895

/ one year warranty on parts except for the extruder; very cryptic about it

13.3 x 14.1 x 15.3 in
WxDxH

25 lbs est

8.8 x 8.8 x 8.1 in
PLA, ABS, U-PET
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; nozzle 0.016 in dia; part accuracy not specified
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
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNHeated build platform
Space
BUTNSD-card for off-line printing
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
BUTNNo second head for a support or additional material
Space
XYZprinting (Taiwan)
da Vinci 1.0

Details here...

thermoplastic extrusion
$499 /

one year limited warranty

18.4 x 20 x 22 in
WxHxD

53 lbs

7.8 x 7.8 x 7.8 in
WxHxDin
ABS, PLA
ABS approx. $18/lb from many vendors
300 to 400 microns/sec
layer thickness: 100 to 400 microns (0.004 to 0.016 in); part accuracy not specified
fair to good
BUTNLow-cost for large build volume
Space
BUTNMetal frame, enclosed
Space
BUTNLow-cost materials
Space
BUTNProduct of an experienced, large and high-volume manufacturer
Space
BUTNCartridge loading of material
Space
BUTNHeated print bed
Space
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
BUTNNo second head for a support or additional material
Space
Manufacturer
Model
Technology
Price / Warranty
Size & Wt.
Build Envelope
Materials
Material Cost
Speed
Accuracy
Finish
Strengths
Weaknesses

arrowPhotopolymer-based Systemsarrow
Manufacturer
Model
Technology
Price / Warranty
Size & Wt.
Build Envelope
Materials
Material Cost
Speed
Accuracy
Finish
Strengths
Weaknesses
3D Systems
ProJet 1200 Micro-SLA

Details here...

Photopolymer exposed by deformable mirror device (DMD)
$4,900
9 x 9 x 14 in
WxDxH
Weight: 20 lbs
1.69 x 1.06 x 5.90 in
proprietary photopolymer
$490 for 10 30 gram cartridges ; est $740/lb
Speed: slow
rate is specified at 14mm (0.55 in) of height per hour
layer thickness: 30 microns (0.0012 in); resolution: 585 dpi, or 56 microns (equal to 0.002+ in)

True part accuracy not specified

excellent
BUTNExcellent detail and surface finish
Space
BUTNBuilt-in UV curing chamber
Space
BUTNSmall size
BUTNExtremely high materials cost
Space
BUTNOnly one material available and properties may vary over time
Space
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
Autodesk
Ember

Details here...

Photopolymer exposed by deformable mirror device (DMD)
$5,995

/ one year limited hardware warranty

12.8 x 13.4 x 17 DxWxH

22 lbs

2.5 x 1.6 x 5.3 in XxYxZ
Open-source photopolymer
$120 / liter; approx $55 / lb
15mm/hr at 25 micron layer height
X & Y resolution: 50 microns (0.002 in); Z resolution: 25 microns (0.001 in); min. feature size 150 microns;

True part accuracy not specified

excellent
BUTNExcellent detail and surface finish
Space
BUTNSmall size
Space
BUTNOpen-source hardware and materials
Space
BUTNAccuracy not fully-specified
Space
BUTNPart properties may vary over time
Space
BUTNCare must be exercised in handling materials
Space
Formlabs
Form 1+

Details here...

inverted stereolithography
$3,299

/ one year limited warranty

12 x 11 x 18 in
WxDxH
Weight: 18 lbs
4.9 x 4.9 x 6.5 in
proprietary photopolymer: clear, white, grey & black; also flexible and castable
$149/liter; est $68/lb
rate is approx. 10 to 30 mm of height per hour using 100 micron (0.004 in) layers
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
BUTNExcellent detail and surface finish
Space
BUTNSmall size
Space
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
BUTNLimited materials and properties may vary over time
Space
BUTNCare must be exercised in handling materials
Space
XYZprinting
Nobel 1.0

Details here...

inverted stereolithography
$1,500
11 x 13.2 x 23.2 in
DxWxH

21.2 lbs

5 x 5 x 7.9 in
proprietary photopolymer
Price not yet announced, but expensive
not specified
X & Y resolution: 300 microns (0.012 in); Z axis: 25 to 100 microns (0.001 to 0.004 in)
good to excellent
BUTNVery low-cost for high resolution
Space
BUTNExcellent detail and surface finish, but not quite as good as others in this class
Space
BUTNSmall size
Space
BUTNAutomatic refill for resin
Space
BUTNUses USB stick for off-line printing
Space
BUTNA single, expensive material supplier
Space
BUTNAccuracy not fully specified
Space
BUTNLimited materials and properties may vary over time
Space
BUTNCare must be exercised in handling materials
Space
Manufacturer
Model
Technology
Price / Warranty
Size & Wt.
Build Envelope
Materials
Material Cost
Speed
Accuracy
Finish
Strengths
Weaknesses



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REV 72 - - - 5/11/15