Best 3D printers 2016/2017; the choice of the editors
By Site editors - - Price update: 2023 December 10 -
If you are looking for a 3D printer, this is a real challenge nowadays. The choice today is huge and you have to take into account a lot of different techniques, qualities and capabilities. This is not an easy task for a layman...
3D printers are increasingly improving and are becoming more affordable and more accessible for the general public. Where in the past it was reserved for a few technology-oriented enthusiasts, 3D printing has now more and more gotten within reach of even larger groups of people. In addition, with the improvement of technology and the increase in print material types (you can now, for example, print with glass), more and more nice and certainly useful applications for 3D printing are becoming available.
The question that remains is what 3D printer is best suited for getting started? To help you a little bit, below we present our top four 3D printers that are widely available at the moment.
We have defined a few conditions beforehand that we would like to keep in mind. For example, we think it is very important that a printer is ready to use and does not require you to assemble and adjust it yourself. Due to that we will disregard all DIY models in our choices. Also in terms of prices we make the following requirement: only 3D printers with a price of less than € 5,000 will be considered; thus, really expensive, professional 3D printers are also disregarded.
The main points that we are taking into account in our review are print size, resolution/layer thickness, heatable printbed, number of printheads (extruders) and lastly build quality. Of course, we also take into account other characteristics of the printers, but even if they are often neat features, they are significantly less essential. You can think here of a camera on the build platfrom or an app for your telephone in order to print via the 'cloud'. Finally, we have looked at what local and foreign experts think of the printers by studying their reviews.
In the last months of 2016, almost all known manufacturers have put new models on the market. Naturally, these have been taken into account as much as possible in the making of our choices. For our Top 4 printers, we list the most important specifications and a number of pros and cons. For a complete overview of the specifications of a printer, we refer you to the individual product pages on our website. For this, click on the link at the bottom of each printer description.
Enough in advance; time for the protagonists in our choices for the best consumer 3D printers of 2016 and 2017:
Ultimaker 3 (Extended)
In September 2016, the Dutch Ultimaker has brought two new 3D printers onto the market; the Ultimaker 3 and the Ultimaker 3 Extended. These are technically similar to one another, but the Extended version is larger and offers a larger build volume of 8.5 x 8.5 x 11.8 inches (215 x 215 x 300) mm instead of the 8.5 x 8.5 x 7.9 inches (215 x 215 x 200 mm) of the 'normal' Ultimaker. Ultimaker's new printers can print with a layer thickness of 20 micron, which places them in the absolute top for 3D print resolution.
The Ultimaker 3 has a double printhead and together with soluble PVA support material, the number of possibilities are significantly increased. Also in terms of connectivity, the Ultimaker 3 does not disappoint: The printer can be accessed via USB, WIFI and also Ethernet. Important is also that the open filament system by Ultimaker greatly increases the range of usable print materials (also those from other brands aside from Ultimaker). The heatable printbed ensures that also warp-sensitive print materials, like ABS, are printable.
- Price: around € 3,600
- Link: Click on our Ultimaker 3 product page for all specifications, more information, pictures and videos.
The American MakerBot Replicator series are perhaps some of the best known 3D printers on the market. And in October, MakerBot just released its new sixth generation Replicators onto the market; the Replicator+.
The Replicator+ is a solidly built single extruder 3D printer that looks really amazing and can be used as an asset in any office, workplace or classroom. The printer has a build volume of 11.6 x 7.7 x 6.5 inches (295 x 195 x 165) mm and a resolution of 100 micron. That is the average on the market, but it is also the worst resolution of the for printers in this list.
The newest 3D printer of MakerBot comes with a flexible printbed, making it easier for you to extract prints. However, the absence of a heatable printbed combined with the closed filament system that MakerBot uses, strongly limit its possibilities.
Finally, the Replicator+ has a few other nice features that you will only sparsely encounter in other 3D printers, but that will surely be added to many models in the future. For example, you can operate the Replicator+ via the 'cloud' and an app on your phone. Also a camera is built in, so that you don't need to be around the printer to see how the printing is progressing.
- Price: around € 3,000, being the cheapest on this list
- Link: Click on our MakerBot Replicator+ product page for all specifications, more information, pictures and videos.
Formlabs Form 2
The Formlabs Form 2 is the only 3D printer in our Top 4 that uses Stereolithography (SLA) print technology. While most desktop 3D printers make use of the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) print technology, where an object is built up from stacked up layers of molten thermal plastic wire, SLA makes use of liquid resin that is solidified layer by layer with a laser.
SLA usually provides better resolution and surface quality than FDM with a print quality of 25 micron, securing its place at the very top next to the Ultimaker 3.
The Form 2 has a 40% larger build volume (5.7 x 5.7 x 6.9 inches - 145x145x175 mm) than its predecessor, but that still is a little bit smaller than its competitors on this list.
- Price: around € 4,000
- Link: Click on our Formlabs Form 2 product page for all specifications, more information, pictures and videos.
The Zortrax M300 is a very well built single extruder 3D printer with a heatable printbed. The M300 has a maximum build volume of 11.8 x 11.8 x 11.8 inches (300 x 300 x 300 mm); the largest of the for printers in this overview.
Zortrax makes use of a closed filament system, thus, making the use of filaments by third parties not possible. On the other hand, the company excels in the continuous development of ever new types of filaments and now has many materials available, each with their own application area.
The Zortrax M300 prints with a layer thickness of 90 micron; fairly average on the market, but in stark contrast to the 20 micron of the Ultimaker 3.
- Price: around € 4.800,- and the most expensive in this list
- Link: Click on our Zortrax M300 product page for all specifications, more information, pictures and videos.
First of all: We actually liked all four of the 3D printers mentioned above. However, if we had to buy one, it would have to be Ultimaker 3. Because even though the SLA print technology of the Formlabs Form 2 really appeals to us, the enormously high resolution, the excellent print quality and the larger build volume of the Ultimaker 3 become the decisive factors in our choice.
For the complete specification and a price comparison of the Ultimaker 3: