3D Printing has come a long way in a short time. While it is yet to achieve the Star Trek level of immediacy and convenience, “rapid prototyping” has gone from novelty to mainstream, and with it a whole industry has grown.
The UK has a lot of 3d printers to choose from, which should you consider investing in?
We have rounded up the best options for 2017. Let’s dig in!
First, let’s start with the very cheapest of the budget end …
While this Prusa i3 clone is the cheapest of the cheap 3d printer kits, it has a whole community behind it and it has the capability to create surprisingly good output if you build it right and spend some time on it.
It is supplied as acrylic, but free instructions are available to upgrade it to a metal frame using off the shelf aluminium extrusion, that takes it to a whole more solid level. The base kit is great though, and is well-suited to people just starting out and wanting to dip in a toe, or for families looking for a project to build together.
Still considered budget, this machine has an astonishing 300mm x 300mm build plate (with the option to even go bigger, up to 500mm x 500mm!).
Output quality is excellent with the correct settings, it has reliability only beaten by machines double the price, and even more convenient, it comes almost fully assembled. In literally half an hour you can be up and printing to a high quality level.
Prusa i3 Mk2s/Mk3
We are getting into the upper end of the hobbyist price range here, but still as a kit this is affordable to many, and pre-built still comes in at a reasonable cost considering the high quality, branded parts, the technology that makes it much more easy to use and reliable, and the fact this machine is the one many are “inspired” by and compare to.
Output quality is stellar, and with Prusa’s own software, it’s plug and play.
Currently you can only order these direct from Prusa. Prices start at $699 for the DIY kit or pay another $200 for pre-assembled.
Lulzbot Taz 6
If you need a larger build area but still have responsive support, then the next step from the Prusa is the Lulzbot family. These machines are rock solid, industrial strength beasts. While they don’t have the fine details of the Prusa, they have the sheer beast-like construction that makes them robust and ready to take a daily bashing.
You even have the option of the “Moarstruder” to print big, beefy layers in a fraction of the time.
The Taz 6 can be yours for around £2,450 from Amazon.
As all the machines in this list, you can use any 3rd party filament and software, but it really shines when you use all Ultimaker and get the benefit of their end-to-end ecosystem. They provide hardware, software, and materials that all work together to make a “it just works” experience. Even the filament has tech – Ultimaker branded filaments have NFC tags that speak to the printer to tell it which materials you are using to make it absolutely foolproof.
Just like Lulzbot, you can easily swap and change hot-ends, plus this guy comes complete with dual extruders so you can have two colours, or have one dedicated to dissolvable support material.
Quality of output is the best of the bunch due to the way the mechanical aspects are organised (the bed only moves in the Z axis, and the extruders are fixed to the machine rather than the X carriage), and the fact Ultimaker designed the machine from the ground-up rather than picking off the shelf parts.
The best does come at a price. Amazon has the UM2+ for sale at £3,400. You can nab the regular UM3 from official resellars for £3,354.00 inc VAT and UK postage. The Extended version will cost you £4,242.00 inc VAT and delivery.
- If your budget is tight, build your own Anet A8
- Need a big build area but still on a budget, go with the highly respected and reviewed CR-10
- Want something that is high quality but won’t max out your credit card? The Prusa is the world’s best general purpose 3d printer.
- Going for convenience and quality, to heck with the budget? You won’t be disappointed with the Ultimaker.
For hints, tips and more about 3d printing, Maker Hacks is an excellent resource.
Disagree? Agree? Let us know in the comments!