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3D Printer Systems
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The Additive Fabrication Spy THERE IS NO strict definition of a price below which a rapid prototyping or additive manufacturing machine becomes a 3D printer. Some individuals include any machine that sells for below US$60,000, and others US$40,000.

Considering that a large fraction of customers at present are in educational institutions, small companies or even single proprietorships and individuals, for whom price is of primary importance, we've decided to compile all the more interesting choices below about US$20,000.

Here's what available today and its general qualities in the order of increasing price. To widen your choices beyond this, explore the commercial listings by technology.


BUTN Compare the specifications of the 3D printers
listed on this page in our very complete chart...






Listings Color Key...
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Open-source Hobbyist & Do-It-Yourself Systems
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Fully-Assembled or Commercial Systems Available
Limited Availability
BUTNDo-It-Yourself & Open-source 3D Printers
Vendors of parts, kits and systems based on open-source hardware and software are sprouting like mushrooms after the rain. It is hoped they will not disappear quite as quickly. There are now about one hundred (100) companies worldwide selling systems at the present time. Since much of the hardware is off-the-shelf, and some of it can even be made by the machines themselves, obsolescence or dead vendors shouldn't be too much of a problem. Nearly all systems have similar specifications and are thermoplastic extrusion-based, although the mechanical implementations and materials capabilities may differ considerably.

A kit is the way to go if you wish to satisfy that deep-seated need for a 3D printer of your own at minimum cost with maximum learning. It helps to be a tinkerer, however. Many vendors that used to exclusively sell kits now supply assembled and tested systems. Both open source and proprietery systems are available. An assembled machine will cost you more, but your nerves will be less frayed. If what you want is to start printing stuff quickly, that's the way to go.


BUTN RepRap RepRap is short for replicating rapid-prototyper, an open-source 3D printer design project started at the University of Bath (UK). RepRap uses robotic thermoplastic extrusion at present, but ceramic, metal and other materials may also be possible at some point. The ultimate intent of the project is to eventually produce a machine which can make copies of itself. Darwin was the first version of the machine which has now morphed into Mendel, an improved version. RepStrap is a term describing a version of the machine capable of making parts for other machines, but not necessarily self-reproduction. Many of the outgrowths of the project available from vendors are actually RepStraps. Parts kits and individual items are now available from dozens of sources.

BUTN There are a several open-source vendors that have become popular, and most of those are listed on this page. Click here for a wider selection of the better-known and more organized open-source vendors, as well as those that are notable for one reason or another. A more complete listing can be found in the RepRap wiki.


BUTN Learn About RepRap History and Development...


BUTN Low-cost Machines, Acessories and Related Equipment and Companies in Development...
In addition to those machines on this page that are indicated by a grey background as being in development, there are a number of additional vendors which are either in the process of being crowd-funded, or expected to make products available soon. Many of these have been in the development or crowd-funding stage for a year or more. Also covered are accessories such as filament extruders, finishing systems and inexpensive 3D Scanners.

RepRap's Mendel

 

BUTN QU-BD. The company's name is pronounced "cubed," but that actually stands for the mouthful quintessentialuniversalbuildingdevice.com, so let's just call it QU-BD. It was originally a successful Kickstarter effort to provide an open-source dual extruder, but subsequently the company started making their own printers and now has several open-source machines competing in the arena. Their latest Kickstarter effort breaks new ground, however, providing a bare-bones, rock-bottom priced kit for just US$199. The OneUp obtained more than US$400,000 in backing and the company is now fulfilling orders by backers, albeit with some bumps. Nevertheless, if you've been thinking about a 3D printer the OneUp, and its slightly larger build volume brother, the TwoUp, at US$279 will get you going with typical specs and at a very low price. You should have some mechanical ability and some free time, however.
Learn about the technology...



QU-BD OneUp
BUTN Solidoodle. A US vendor selling 3D printers based on open-source technology, but designed into a more attractive package. At US$499, it is the least expensive, fully-assembled 3D printer available at the moment, considerably cheaper than many kits. You can get a heated build platform, interior lighting, enclosure and door, and a larger power supply with upgrade packages. The machine is Plug and Play and operates from a USB interface. A third generation version with a larger build volume of 8 x 8 x 8 inches started shipping in January, 2013 at a price of US$799. Solidoodle's new fourth generation retains that same build volume of an 8 inch cube, but provides a more attractive design and several ease-of-use improvements at a price of US$999.
Learn about the technology...
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Solidoodle SD-3DP-2B
3D Systems' Cube™


BUTN 3D Systems. First unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, 2012, the Cube™ printer was updated for 2013 for what the company says is much faster operation and the capability of using ABS as well as PLA. It uses thermoplastic extrusion technology and at US$1,299 is the lowest priced, fully-assembled machine available from a major manufacturer. The machine is a cornerstone of the company's Cubify™ consumer community. Also new for 2013 was the CubeX™, shown immediately to the right, a machine with a much larger build volume and which can be equipped with up to three deposition heads. The CubeX™ price starts at US$2,499 for a single head to US$3,999 for the three head version.

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The company unveiled updates for both of these products at the 2014 CES which will start shipping in June, 2014. The new Cube® 3 is priced at US$999 and is said to offer dual heads, improved speed, slightly better resolution, easy material loading and kid-safety features. The new Cube® Pro will offer similar improvements with a basketball-sized printing volume. The price of the Pro version starts at US$2,799.
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3D Systems' Cube™
BUTN MakerBot Industries. MakerBot was purchased by Stratasys in June, 2013. The Replicator™ Mini is a fully-assembled fifth generation machine that sells for US$1,375 with a single extruder and uses PLA exclusively. It offers a layer thickness of 200 microns (0.008 inches), a steel frame, WiFi connectivity, an on-board TV camera for build monitoring, and a smallish build volume of 3.9 x 3.9 x 4.9 inches. This machine is the company's attempt to reconnect with its original hobbyist customer-base after its more recent pursuit of professional and small business applications. The machine started shipping in May, 2014.
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More about the company can be found in the listing below.
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MakerBot Replicator™ Mini
BUTN PP3DP Company (China). [aka Delta Micro Factory, a division of Beijing TierTime Technology Co. Ltd.] Introduced the fully-assembled UP! Personal Portable 3D Printer at the end of July, 2010. The machine is based on thermoplastic extrusion and is extraordinarily small and light, weighing just 11 pounds. The selling price is US$1,499 and while the device is somewhat based on open-source efforts, it's mainly a closed proprietary system. The latest version of the machine, the UP! plus, is capable of using both ABS and PLA. The company also sells the UP! Mini for US$899. This is also an assembled unit, having a slightly smaller build envelope and slightly poorer resolution. In June, 2013 the UP! plus 2 was introduced. Similar in specs to the UP! plus, it has the added convenience of automatic platform height and level calibration and sells for US$1,699. Distributors are listed here.
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PP3PD
BUTN LeapFrog. A Netherlands-based company, it started sales of an extrusion-based machine in May, 2012. The Creatr™ is a bare-bones, but fully-assembled machine that costs €1,250 (US$1,588). Recently the company came out with a much taller version of the machine called the Creatr™ XL having a Z-axis height of nearly 2 feet and selling for €3,999 (US$5,479). The Creatr™ can be equipped with a second extruder for about US$250. Unlike some other machines, adding the second extruder doesn't decrease the build envelope volume.
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The Xeed™, is a professional-level, dual extruder machine. It has higher resolution and thinner layers, as well as a large build chamber of 13.7 x 10.6 x 8.6 inches. It sells for €7,000 (US$9,600) and comes with a built-in tablet computer to which you can simply WiFi a file for printing.
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From the customer's point of view, an added advantage of LeapFrog in general is that it is a venture of AV Flexologic bv, a small, but 45 year old manufacturing company making professional 2D printing products rather than an inexperienced start-up.
Learn about the technology...



LeapFrog Creatr™
BUTN Aleph Objects, Inc. Aleph Objects' LulzBot TAZ 3 may be a good choice for small businesses looking for a sturdier and more business-like alternative in a low-cost 3D printer. The machine has only a single extruder, but a large build volume of 11.7 x 10.8 x 9.8 inches. The unit can use a wide range of materials including ABS, PLA, PVA, high-impact polystyrene, and wood filament. Nylon and additional materials can also be accommodated using accessories. The TAZ 3 has a built-in graphic LCD controller to operate basic machine functions and allowing it to print directly from an SD card . The unit sells for US$2,195 fully-assembled. The company also supplies Mendel and Prusa part kits, hot ends, etc.
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LulzBot TAZ 3
BUTN Mauk Custom Creations (Netherlands). For those seeking more flexibility and easier expandibility to larger build volumes MaukCC offers the CartesioM. Built with robust mechanical components, this RepRap-based machine can be changed into an engraver, miller, plotter, etc., with an easy tool change. Larger sizes can be accommodated by changing just a few components and the machine can print its own upgrades. The basic thermoplastic extrusion machine kit sells for €1,699 (US$2,328) and an assembled version can be had for €3,499 (US$4,794). Also available is the CartesioW kit with a larger build volume of 7.9 x 15.8 x 7.9 inches €2,099.
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CartesioM
BUTN MakerBot Industries. MakerBot was purchased by Stratasys in June, 2013. The Replicator™ 2 is a fully-assembled machine that sells for US$2,199 with a single extruder and uses PLA exclusively. This represents the company's fourth generation machine and its current flagship. It offers a layer thickness of 100 microns (0.004 inches), a steel frame, a larger build volume for making multiple items at once, and faster, more powerful software. Unlike all the company's preceding machines, including the original Replicator™ that preceded it, this machine and its software are no longer fully open-source.
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A more capable version of the Replicator™ 2 is also available. Called the Replicator™ 2X Experimental 3D Printer, it comes with two heads, a heated build platform, and is capable of using both PLA or ABS. The price is US$2,799.
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The fifth generation of machines from the company will be available in the Spring of 2014. First to appear will be the Replicator™ Mini, described above, aimed at the hobbyist market. The New Replicator™ will offer an improved extruder, on-board TV camera and assisted leveling. It will be priced at US$2,899, but it doesn't have some of the capabilities of the Replicator™ 2X such as the use of ABS material. Also to be introduced is the Replicator™ Z18 whose main claim to fame is a build chamber of 12 x 12 x 18 inches (LxWxH). That machine will sell for US$6499.
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The company also has a web-site for users to exchange designs called the Thingiverse. It's open-source, however, so anyone can use it, not just MakerBot customers. Thousands of designs are available for free.
Learn about the technology...
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MakerBot Replicator™ 2
MBot Cube BUTN Magicfirm LLC (China). There are several Chinese companies that have cloned MakerBot's original Replicator™ design. Magicfirm LLC is representative of this group. It was founded in 2009 and has been selling a fully-assembled clones since 2011. They started with MakerBot's first machine, the CupCake, eventually producing a second machine derived from MakerBot's Replicator™. It isn't an exact copy according to the company. The fully-assembled Cube 3D Printer's specs are basically very similar to the Replicator's, but the build volume is larger - nearly 8x8x8 inches compared with 8.9x5.7x5.9 inches. The price of the Cube is US$1,199 with a single head and US$1,399 with twin extruders.
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Their latest effort is the Mbot Cube II based on the MakerBot Replicator™ 2, shown at the far right. This US$1,399 machine has a steel frame similar to that machine, but here again sports a considerably larger build envelope of 10.2x9x7.9 inches. Deliveries commence in June, 2013. Other Chinese clone manufacturers can be found by searching Alibaba.
Learn about the technology...
MBot Cube II
BUTN Fab@Home. An open-source project to design, develop and manufacture an inexpensive syringe-based additive fabrication machine and related software. The components to build the device can be had for as little as US$2,500, and a variety of materials can be used for building, from silicone to chocolate. The project is led from Cornell University, but there are participants from all over the world. A good choice for real pioneers and do-it-yourself fans who may be satisfied with parts and models that will not achieve a high level of precision, durability or speed of fabrication for some time to come. Syringe-based deposition does, however, provide the ability to use materials that might be impossible otherwise, an important consideration in many fields such as biology.
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Learn about Fab@Home...
Fab@Home Model 1
BUTN Ultimaking Ltd. (Netherlands). The company's latest version is the Ultimaker 2, a fully-assembled machine selling for €1,895 (US$2,600). Like the company's original Ultimaker, this machine moves the deposition head rather than the build platform. This is said to enable higher speed operation while depositing layers as thin as 20 microns. This also permits a large build volume of approximately 9 x 9 x 8 inches while retaining reasonable outer dimensions. The original Ultimaker is still available as a kit.
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Ultimaker 2
BUTN Formlabs. This start-up company's first 3D printer product, the Form 1, is a low-cost laser-based stereolithography system. The device builds from the bottom up the way many machines in this class do, but replaces the typically-used deformable mirror light modulator with a diode laser and a pair of galvanometers to expose the photopolymer resin from below. The machine design permits very fine control of exposure resulting in a layer thickness of 25 microns (0.001 inches), a minimum feature size of 0.012 inches with a roughly 5 x 5 x 6.5 inch build envelope. These specifications are similar to professional level stereolithography machines.
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The Form 1 was introduced on Kickstarter and funding reached US$1 million in just two days, perhaps the fastest Kickstarter take-off in history. When it was all over, Formlabs' project had garnered an astonishing total of nearly $3 million. Formlabs has a direct sales price of the Form 1 at US$3,299 and deliveries started in 2013 after the 1,000+ sales in the Kickstarter queue were satisfied.
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Formlabs' Form 1
BUTN 3D Systems. The company's answer to the Form 1 and other machines in this class is the ProJet 1200 Micro-SLA which began shipping in March, 2014. No bigger than a coffee-maker and aimed at high resolution applications such as jewelry and dental labs, the machine sells for US$4,900. The build volume is small at 1.69 x 1.06 x 5.90 inches, but that's adequate for its intended purpose. Photopolymer exposure is by means of a deformable mirror device and resolution is specified at 585 dpi, or 56 microns which is a little more than 0.002 in. Layer thickness appear to be a fixed 30 microns and build speed is specified at 0.55 in/hour.
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The machine includes a built-in UV curing chamber and material is supplied from proprietary, 10 gram cartridges. There is only one material available at present, but it's said to be capable of burning out for casting applications without a residue. Material costs are extremely high.
Learn about the technology...
ProJet 1200 Micro-SLA


BUTN Asiga. Start-up Asiga unveiled a photopolymer-based machine for less than US$7,000 in December, 2011. Dubbed the Freeform Pico™, the unit boasts a better than 38 micron (0.0015 in) pixel size and z-axis increments as small as 1 micron (0.00004 in). It's accuracy is specified at 50 microns (0.002 in). The machine uses a deformable mirror device to expose a complete layer using LED illumination, and the unit weighs less than 25 pounds. It's about the size of a large loaf of bread standing on-end. That's the good news. The bad news is that its build envelope is only a maximum of 30 X 40 X 100 mm. While this is quite small, there are plenty of applications that don't require a large volume. The company mentions dentistry, jewelry and medical applications. There are probably many more, as well.

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The original unit has been supplemented by three machines with extended capabilities. The Pico Plus39 has a slightly larger build envelope, the Plus33 and Plus27, respectively have 33 and 27 micron (0.000106 in) pixel sizes. These variants sell for just under US$9,000.
Learn about the technology...


Freeform Pico™
BUTN rdGizmo For You LTD (Cyprus). The open-source Ilios 3D printer is a photopolymer resin-based system that uses a digital light projector (DLP) for exposure. This Indiegogo-funded project was initiated because the owner of an open-source remote control company wanted a machine that combined a large build volume with high resolution for his own use. Now you can buy one either as a kit or as a fully-assembled machine. Layers can be as little as 0.0005 inches thick. Using the full build area of 11.8 x 11.8 inches and a high definition 1920 x 1080 pixel projector, the machine is capable of 163 dpi X-Y resolution. Zooming down to a 5 inch envelope that increases to about 385 dpi, nearly as good as many 2D laser printers. At €5,448 including a projector (US$7,464) for an assembled entry-level machine, it's not cheap, but it does have capabilities not available elsewhere. A wide variety of options are available, including laser exposure, larger vat sizes, etc., as well as several photopolymer materials.
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Ilios 3D Printer


BUTN Stratasys Ltd. See the company's separate web-site for the Mojo™ 3D Printer. Stratasys' counterattack to the incursions made by the low-cost producers is the Mojo™, an entry-level professional machine at near-consumer pricing. The US$9,900 price includes not only the machine but a soluble support removal system and starter-packs of consumables. Stratasys has incorporated easy-change features into the material cartridges which also include a replaceable deposition head. The company is also offering leasing alternatives starting as low as US$185 per month in the US. Shipments started June 15, 2012.

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Mojo™
BUTN Beijing TierTime Technology Co. Ltd. (China) The company makes a range of extrusion-based systems starting at approximately US$10,000 and says less expensive machines are in the pipeline. They call their version of the technology MEM (Melted and Extrusion Modeling), and at present only ABS materials are available. The company has been selling in China for many years and began exporting in 2010. Their products are available in Asia and Europe with TierTime seeking representation in other geographic areas. A division of the company produces the UP! 3D printer line described above.
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Inspire S200


BUTN 3D Systems. Introduced in December, 2011 at US$10,900, the ProJet™ 1000, is the latest iteration of its photopolymer film transfer technology which was introduced with the V-Flash™ which is now obsolete. The machine is positioned as a faster alternative to Stratasys and HP offerings, and a less-expensive alternative to the Objet machine below. The ProJet™ 1500, introduced in September, 2011 at US$14,500, can produce parts in several different color materials and also has a high speed mode which sacrifices some resolution.

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3D Systems ProJet 1500
BUTN Stratasys Ltd. Before the introduction of the Mojo™ described above, Stratasys' lowest-priced entry-level system was the uPrint™, Special Edition. Originally introduced in early 2009, it now sells for US$13,900. uPrint™ machines use dissolvable supports, and the uPrint™ Plus is capable of printing as many as eight different colors, although only one at a time. That machine sells for just under US$20,000.
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uPrint
BUTN 3D Systems. The company acquired Z Corporation at the beginning of 2012. A low-cost machine based on the MIT-developed 3DP process selling for less than US$15,000 was introduced in July, 2010 and is now available as the ProJet® 160. The technology also provides the only commercially available true color 3D printing method with prices starting at US$25,000. Parts are not as functional as those produced by other technologies and they require infiltration before they can be handled without danger of breaking. They also have a sandy appearance and lack fine detail. On the other hand, the technology is considerably faster than any other and can give quick feedback and is useful for multiple design iterations.
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ProJet® 160
BUTN Stratasys Ltd. Introduced in December, 2010 the Objet24 and Objet30 start at US$19,900. They're based on the jetted photopolymer technology originally pioneered by Objet and offer excellent resolution and finish combined with good speed. The Model 30 offers a bigger build chamber plus support of several materials compared to just one for the Model 24, but it sells for many thousands more. Objet and Stratasys merged in December, 2012.
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Objet24

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