Skip to main content

The best 3D printers in 2021

Best 3D printers
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Thinking of investing in one of the best 3D printers? We're not surprised. 3D printing has now moved beyond the initial geek’s plaything it once was, and is a truly useful device for all creatives. 

Not only can they be used to make parts for all manner of design projects, but they also make printing useful parts around the house a possibility. Plus, the ability to print metal, rubber, or even biodegradable filaments means parts have resilience and longevity.

If you are a seasoned 3D artist or designer then you can really get the most out of your skills and printer. Check out our guides to the best 3D modelling software and the best laptops for 3D modelling to ensure you have the best tools for the job.

What do you need to know about the best 3D printers?

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. Quality can be good but 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, CG Trader and many other sites offer all manner of .stl files you can print in just a few clicks, often for free.

Best 3D printers: Ultimaker

(Image credit: Ultimaker)

01. Ultimaker S3

The best for all round general 3D printing duties

Price: From £3215/$$4080 | Build volume: 230 x 190 x 200 mm | Layer thickness: 20-0600 microns

Dual extruders make life easy
Excellent, heated, self-levelling build platform
Not the cheapest option
Louder than some other printers

Ultimaker printers come in a range of sizes and capabilities but the Ultimaker 3 is the one we've chosen for our list of the best 3D printers. It has most of the features you want from its bigger siblings including the dual extruders and 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 a little more expensive.

Best 3D printers: Elegoo

(Image credit: Elegoo)

02. Elegoo Mars 2 Pro

The best for printing with resin

Price: £279/$329.99 | Build Volume: 129 x 80 x 160 mm | Layer thickness: 50 microns

Excellent print quality for cost
Fast at 1-2 seconds per layer
Small build volume
Fumes can be unpleasant

Elegoo is relatively new to the scene but the original Mars made a great impression on the 3D printing community. The Mars 2 Pro takes this success and runs with it, making it bigger and faster. The new 6-inch screen bakes a layer in under 2 seconds, without loss of clarity or blurring of layers, making it one of the fastest resin printers around. 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 is the smaller build volume and a hint of fumes, which is common with this type of printer.

Best 3D printers: Makerbot

(Image credit: Makerbot)

03. Makerbot replicator+

Best all round fdm 3D printer

Price: £3470/$4,500 | Build volume: 295 X 195 X 165mm | Layer thickness: 100 microns

Flexible build platform aids removal
Excellent connection option
Larger footprint than much of the competition
Not a cheap option

Makerbot have been around for a long time and are probably the best known consumer 3D printers, even being seen used by Anna Kendrick in space in the film Stowaway. Makerbot’s experience has allowed them to retain a similar footprint but with enlarged build volume, reduced noise and a good number of connection options, including wifi. The Makerbot Replicator+ 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, running quietly and reliably and suited to home office, school or workshop.

Best 3D printers: Anycubic

(Image credit: Anycubic)

04. Anycubic Photon mono SE

The best for printing 3D miniatures

Price: £349/$449.89 | Build volume: 130 x 78 x 160 mm | Layer thickness: 100 microns

Excellent levels of detail
Smooth surface finish
Heady fumes can be overpowering
Resin isn't cheap

The Photo Mono SE, from Anycubic is a great choice if you are into custom toys, collectibles or wargames figures as the detail is fantastic and the surface quality is very good, too. Like other mono screened printers the Photo is also fast, at just a second or so per layer. The resin can be a bit stinky but you can always print yourself an extraction adapter and get a length of tumble dryer hose. It’s a small sacrifice for the output of the machine which is really quite something at this price point.

Best 3D printers: Markforged

(Image credit: Markforged)

05. Markforged Onyx One

The best printer for metal grade printing

Price: £4794/$4794 | Build volume: 320 x 132 x 154mm | Layer thickness: 100 - 200 microns

Strong, durable prints
All in one desktop enclosure
Expensive
Filament spools are pricey

The Onyx One produces prints of metal strength but, in actual fact, the parts are carbon fibre. The main reason to opt for this is that, although powdered metal filaments are available, they destroy extruder nozzles in no time, making production of metal objects prohibitively expensive. Markforged counters this issue with a best in class desktop solution, so if you need hardwearing strong and reliable parts, this should be high on your list. Just remember that a spool of filament can set you back over a grand!

Best 3D printers: Creality

(Image credit: Creality)

06. Creality Ender 3

Best budget FDM 3D printer

Price: £194/$223 | Build volume: 220 x 220 x 250 | Layer thickness: 100 microns

High quality components
Easy to work with
Open chassis 
Can be loud

The Ender line of 3D printers are known for their excellent performance for cost and the Ender 3 is a fine example of this. At a sub £200 price point 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. They gnarly come in kit form too, which might be off putting for some but in reality gives you a solid understanding of how the printer works and can help with troubleshooting, if a niggle arises.

Best 3D printers: FormLabs

(Image credit: FormLabs)

07. Formlabs Form 3

The best SLA printer

Price: £3958/$3,499 | Build volume: 145 × 145 × 185 mm | Layer thickness: 15 microns

Easy swapping of material cartridges
No layer visibility
Expensive
Extra cost to get medical grade version

The Original Form and its successor, the Form 2 set the benchmark for SLA printers and the FormLabs Form 3 is the best yet. It’s not cheap but the quality of results speaks for itself, with invisible print layers and a support system that you can snap off without the need for cutters. Other than the undeniable print quality, the big selling point here is the ease of use. Swapping materials is as simple as replacing a cartridge, with minimal waste. Pay a little more and you get access to bio grade materials for use in dental and medical applications. Oh, and the PreForm prep software is simple and intuitive too.

Best 3d printers: 3Doodler

(Image credit: 3Doodler)

08. 3Doodler

Best portable 3d printer

Price: £60+/$49.99+ | Build volume: n/a | Layer thickness: n/a

Take it anywhere
No build size restrictions
Filament is expensive
Accuracy is dictated by eyesight

One of the biggest restrictions to 3D printing is the limited build volumes. The 3Doodler is a 3D printing pen, which counters this by opening up 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.

3d printer: EasythreeD K5

(Image credit: EasythreeD )

09. EasythreeD K5

The best kid-safe budget option

Price: £95/$99.99 | Build volume: 80 X 80 X 100 mm | Layer thickness: 100 - 400 microns

Cheap entry point to 3D printing
Fun and safe for children
Tiny build platform
Average print quality

It’s hard not to love the EasythreeD K5, with its appealing looks 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 palatable introduction to 3D printing, so can be forgiven for the tiny build area and lack of fine detail. It’s also simplicity itself to use so, combined with the fully enclosed print volume, it could make a fantastic introduction to 3D printing for kids, too.

Read more: