I get this question a lot, With the schedule that I have I just can’t answer these questions with any real meaningful input anymore. Rather than type this out dozens of times it seems like a good time to get my thoughts on 3D printing out there and the current state of things.
I want to point out that my recommendations are based entirely on my experiences and the printers that I have worked with over the years. Just to give a bit more insight into my background, I have been working with motion systems for over a decade. I started with a company that built CNC machines for manufacturing. My experience shapes the way I see a printer, what I am willing to put up with, and what I will notice as a problem that needs repaired.
My 3D printing journey started with a flat packed acrylic i3 clone from China. First and foremost do not buy a printer with an acrylic frame in 2020, there is absolutely no reason to do so with aluminum extrusion printers getting so cheap today.
Printers that I have owned or operated: (Retired *)
- Sunhokey “Prusa” i3 *
- Flashforge Creator *
- XYZPrinting DaVinci Pro 1.0 *
- FlashForge Creator Pro (2) *
- FlashForge Guider II *
- FlashForge Guider IIs (2) *
- Prusa MK3
- Prusa MK3s (8)
- Prusa MK3s Full Bear Upgrade (3)
- Ender 3 Pro
- Ender 5 Pro (4)
- Prusa Mini (6)
- Tenlog D3 Pro
- Raise 3D Pro 2
- Elite Machine Works Ultimate XL
- WanHao Duplicator 7 *
- AnyCubic Photon S
- Formlabs Form 3
Out of all of those printers which ones are my most used?
Prusa MK3s hands down see the most prints at Laser Bear. Those printers are extremely reliable and come with features that printers outside its price class don’t even come with. For example my Raise 3D Pro 2 cost $4000, and does not have a bed probe, does not detect a print crash. If the Pro 2 hits the bed with the nozzle it will happily drag that nozzle across the bed ruining the bed, the nozzle, possibly the heater block heat break, and the damage could be even worse. The MK3s at $900 will stop the printer if it hits the bed like that.
I won’t say that the only printer I recommend is the MK3s, it is still an expensive printer and may be overkill for most users. Keep in mind it still needs to be tuned to get great prints from it, there isn’t a printer out there that will get perfect prints out of the box.
If you are on a budget get an Ender 3 Pro. The default config comes with the silent board and a magnetic bed. It will need upgrades, but out of the box it is a decent printer for less than $250. I recommend getting an all metal hotend, a textured PEI flex bed, a bed probe, and a SKR Mini e3 after you have been running it for a while. Those upgrades will set you back another $150 or so, but will be worth it.
Have a little more money to spend and want a bigger print area than the Prusa printers? Get something like the CR10 (or variants).
Want a printer that is good to print out of the box with no or little assembly get a FlashForge.
Printers to stay away from:
Anything that does not come pre-configured for thermal runaway protection. Check reviews of printers, this is a test that should be done on any printer that gets reviewed. If thermal runaway protection is not enabled you have a significantly higher chance of a fire occurring than with printers that are protected.
I have not seen much benefit with going towards more expensive printers, My Raise 3D only has the benefit for being larger with dual extrusion, but the Tenlog does that at 1/5th the price, and the Ultimate XL from Elite Machine Works has the same bed volume and prints significantly faster at less than half the price.
Right now I have a problem suggesting the Prusa Mini, I have so many problems with those printers that it makes it really tough to recommend them as a good printer to start with.
I am still very new to resin, there is a lot of things to keep in mind with resin, one of the biggest issues is the mess. Resin printing is extremely messy and some resins have odors that can be hard to work around.
In my resin testing I have discovered that some resins will shrink making it harder to dial in the print settings as you will need to modify the size of the part before slicing. This doesn’t matter when it comes to mini figs, but can be a huge challenge with functional mechanical parts, like my upcoming Saturn power jack repair.
Another thing to consider is the cost associated with resin. A liter of resin can be over $75 sometimes closer to $200, the same amount of filament would cost significantly less.
Resin printing does provide some insane levels of detail that is not possible on FDM type machines.
No matter which printer you choose make sure that particular printer has a strong community behind it. The last thing you want starting out is to get a printer that almost no one uses. With a strong community adoption others will likely already have asked any question you might have and a quick google search should lead you to an answer. Don’t buy a no name brand printer on eBay and expect to get help. Creality, Anycubic, and Prusa, (the real ones not the ones that are called Prusa’s on eBay) all have a strong community following with guides and tutorials on YouTube that will help you get the best prints out of the printer you buy.
3D printing is a hobby that takes time, dedication, and skill to get the best results. If you are serious about getting into the hobby be prepared to fail, be prepared to take your printer to bits and put it back together after a jam, be prepared to lose a print that looked perfect for the first 18 hours only for it to fail in the last 2. If you are not scared away from the hobby knowing that there will be a ton of work involved I welcome you.