Only the best 3D printers can bring your imaginative creations to life whether you happen to be working from home, the office, or your studio. 3D printing is no longer a technology exclusively used by scientists and cutting edge creatives, these days it's an ever-present part of many creative industries.
From intricately detailed toys or miniatures to trendy fashion, vital machine components to medical supplies, 3D printing is more useful than ever before. Now that there are a plethora of printers that can produce materials such as metal, rubber and biodegradable filament, 3D printed creations are as tough and long-lasting as any other manufactured item.
The prevalence of 3D printing in everyday life means there’s a wider variety of printers than ever before. To help you find the right one for your needs, we’ve put together this helpful guide to the very best 3D printers. Below you’ll find options for every ability level, budget, creative discipline or preferred material. Beneath our picks, you'll also find our guide to everything you need to know about 3D printers before buying one.
Getting the best out of your 3D printer isn't all about the printer itself though, you'll want to make sure you're using the right tools to design your prints. Thankfully, we've put together guides to the best 3D modelling software and the best laptops for 3D modelling that will help you ensure you're creations are as good as they can be.
The best 3D printers you can buy today
When it comes to FDM printers the Anycubic Vyper is our pick of the bunch. It's not as pricey as some Anycubic printers but comes equipped with features you won't find on some of those more expensive options. This printer produces prints with detail and clarity, all with minimum noise or fuss. The heated, self-levelling print bed is a great feature but add to that the spring steel magnetic sheet that helps you to remove the print and you are on to an absolute winner. You can read more about why we rate this printer so highly in our AnyCubic Vyper review.
Ultimaker printers come in a range of sizes and all have different capabilities but the Ultimaker 3 is the one we've chosen for this list of the best 3D printers. It has most of the desirable features of its bigger siblings including dual extruders and a choice of various nozzle sizes. This means you can print models that are otherwise problematic, using a PVA support print, that washes off in water. Genius! It also has a progress camera, a wonderful touch screen interface, and is solidly built. If you need a bigger build volume go for the extended version, which is only slightly more expensive.
Elegoo is a relatively new name on the 3D printing scene but the original Mars printer made a great impression on the creative community. The Mars 2 Pro builds on this success by making it bigger and faster. The new 6-inch screen bakes a layer in less than two seconds, without losing clarity or blurring layers, making it one of the fastest resin printers money can buy. For quick prototypes you can’t beat it, so long as you don’t need larger objects, as the only real downside to the Mars 2 Pro is the smaller build volume and a hint of smelly fumes, which is common with this type of printer.
Makerbot has been around for a long time and is probably the best-known creator of consumer 3D printers. Eagle-eyed creatives may have even spotted one being used by Anna Kendrick in space in the film Stowaway. Makerbot’s experience has allowed its printers to retain a similar footprint but with enlarged build volume, reduced noise and a good number of connection options, including wifi. The Makerbot Replicator+ (opens in new tab) even has a camera so you can keep an eye on things remotely. Print results are good, with fine details, although being an FDM printer, some strata are visible from the print process. The Replicator+ is a great option though. It runs quietly and reliably, making it ideal for home offices, schools and workshops.
Anycubic's Photo Mono SE is a great choice if you are into making custom toys, collectables or figures as the detail and surface quality it produces are fantastic. Like other mono screened printers the Photo is also fast, taking just a second or so for each layer. The resin can be a bit stinky but you can always print yourself an extraction adapter and use a length of tumble dryer hose. All in all, the smell is a small sacrifice for the output of this machine which really is quite something for the price.
The Ender line of 3D printers are known for their excellent performance at a comparatively low cost and the Ender 3 is a fine example of this. At less than £200 you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s Black Friday all year round. Creality has somehow managed to get some top quality components into the Ender 3 too. They now come in kit form as well, which might be off putting for some but in actually gives you a solid understanding of how the printer works and can help with troubleshooting, if any issues do arise.
Anycubic's Mono X 6K is designed to help you print bigger without compromising on quality. The build quality of this printer is excellent, with a replaceable screen protector on the exposure screen that isn’t seen on many resin printers but suggests it’ll keep working for a long time. It’s easy to use and the prints themselves are more detailed and accurate than previous models thanks to numerous hardware improvements. The fact that you get all of this for around $659 makes this 3D printer great value for money.
One of the biggest restrictions in 3D printing is the limited build volumes of most printers. The 3Doodler is a 3D printing pen, which allows you to work on projects of any size. The price of refills might make that prohibitive if you’re trying to model a 1:1 scale car but it can be done. What’s more, it is fantastic fun taking a pen from the surface of your table and drawing lines of plastic ink into the air. Filament comes in many colours too, so you could consider this to be a pretty exciting prospect, assuming you are happy with the less than precise accuracy as the extruder lies solely in your hands, not on rails. There are a few different options available, including the 3Doodler Start (for smaller people) and the Pro, too.
It’s hard not to love the EasythreeD K5, with its appealing design and simplicity. Costing not much more than a couple of weeks worth of takeaway coffee, this entry into our list of the best 3D printers is a super-accessible introduction to 3D printing, so can be forgiven for its tiny build area and lack of fine detail. It’s also incredibly intuitive to use so, combined with the fully enclosed print volume, it could make a fantastic introduction to 3D printing for kids.
What do you need to know about the best 3D printers?
Firstly, you should keep in mind that not all of the best 3D printers work the same way. Some use spools of filament that get heated a bit like a glue gun, then laid out in a print bed. The quality can be great with this method but it often needs some manual finishing to eliminate layer lines. Different models use an LCD screen to expose light to a pool of resin, while others use a laser to cure the liquid resin. Because of this, we have separated the best 3D printers into various categories so you can choose which is most suited to your needs.
Don't fancy modelling your own design? A wealth of 3D model marketplaces means that you don’t need to understand 3D modelling to get good results. Thingiverse (opens in new tab), CG Trader (opens in new tab) and many other sites offer all manner of .stl files you can print in just a few clicks, often for free.