How do you all do it?

Hey Everyone,

Am I missing something or are all of the good inexpensive 3D printers hiding under rocks?

I see so many people out there that own one but if I even thought about buying the ones I have seen my wallet would tell me to F___ Off!

Any advice?


“Good” is a matter of opinion. All printers available on the market require some tweaking to get them to print well. “Inexpensive an good” depends on what bells and whistles you are looking for. In addition to the printer itself, software can play a factor into creating quality of prints.

When looking for a printer evaluate what you want most out of the printer; resolution, bed size, material variety, budget, etc. Try this site to compare printers based on your requirements:

I have found that when buying a 3D printer, there are three things you need decide. Two of those decisions directly convert the 3rd item on the list into a consequence of choosing the other two.

Choice #1 - Inexpensive - Low cost machine
Choice #2 - Printer Quality - product of design and setup requirements
Choice#3 - Out of the box setup - basically how much time and energy it takes to properly setup your machine

basically if you choose low cost and high printer quality, you are going to need to do a lot of setup (probably assemble the entire machine). the Folgertech FT-5 or the Rostock Delta are good examples of this.

If you choose a high quality printer with very little setup time, you will pay a high price. Think FormLabs Form2 or Makerbot or E3D big box assembled.

At the end of the day, quality 3D prints are a combination of understanding design strengths and limitations of your machine, taking the time to set up your slicer to print the model successfully, and good maintenance habits.

Hope this helps you.

Its one of the things that makes suggesting a printer so hard.

There are some excellent low cost printers out there, but all of them requiring a fair amount of fiddling and tuning before you’re going to get good prints out of them. It comes down to how much technical knowledge you have and how much patience. I know personally I have very little patience if I can’t see an end in sight. That’s why I saved up and bought an Ultimaker 2 as my first printer. After a year I bought an FT-5, and boy am I glad I started with the Ultimaker. I would have given up in a heart beat if I’d gone the other way around.

One thing I’ve been learning is that this is a journey requiring patience and fortitude. I can’t recommend a printer, but if you decide to take this road, be prepared for some bumps.

I totally agree with the 3 choices you mentioned, but I would add 4 more.

Choice #4 - High speed or slow.
Choice #5 - Extremely precise details you get with high quality print output or accepting less precise, lower quality output. (This may be the same as your #2, but I wasn’t sure.)
Choice #7 - Size of the print volume. What is the maximum sized object your printer can print in one piece?
Choice #8 - Level of customer support you are willing to endure/accept.

If you want high speed, it generally costs a bit more and can sacrifice print quality. If you’re ok with medium to low speed, you can get higher print quality (potentially.) If you want both speed and print quality, you will pay more than the price of your car to get it (think Carbon3D or NewPro3D). If you want a company with great customer support, you will also pay extra for it, in most cases.

Build volume size also changes the final price you can expect to pay. My current printer can print a 305x305x305mm cube. (1 cu.ft.) I’m always on the lookout for another printer with even bigger build size, with similar reliability, print quality, etc. I’m worried at the same time, that I might have to trade something else I need (print quality? speed?) to get a bigger build size for reasonable coinage.

I’ve owned 4 printers ranging from a $2k build it yourself kit, up to a plug-n-print professional level machine at $4.5k. Can you guess which one I’m still using after donating the others to a local maker space? Yeah, it’s the pricey one. I kick myself thinking, “if only I had bought that printer first, I would have saved about $10 grand spent during the 4 year learning process.” The pricey one requires far less fiddling to keep it running. I run 24-48 hour prints on it regularly, without fails. The company still honors the warranty even if you have modified the machine. They sell an add-on device which let’s you do multiple color printing using a single nozzle. I even run the printer faster than normal without problems, after putting tighter, stronger belts on it. I spend far more time designing and printing rather than working on this printer. That said, there is ALWAYS regular maintenance to be done on any mechanical machine, so you WILL need to do some fiddling with just about any printer.

Despite all of these seemingly scary things to keep in mind, there are some really fine printers out there for a moderate amount of money these days. There are more quality choices now, than ever before. Personally, I would steer around most of the under $800 printers, if you can. You can get something pretty exceptional for $1000-1500 these days.

I wish we could afford one like that BillDem, but unfortunately the less expensive one was all we could afford. Someday.