3D printing has exploded, and with the surge of new businesses trying their hands in the industry, the costs for 3D printers keep falling. This is excellent news for people who wish to print out 3D objects at home, or for those of you looking for an inexpensive method of prototyping.
In this review, we will take a look at a few of the best affordable 3D printers available in the marketplace. The purpose of this guide is to assist newbies, or anyone working within a budget to find the best 3D printer under $1000.
Now, remember that 3D printing used to be an industrial activity, and home 3D printing is still a technology that is in its infancy. You might be tempted to start off by going for one of the cheaper 3D printers, such as the ones we reviewed in our best 3d printers under $500 review, but we at Pen and Plastic believe that the sweet spot for price vs performance currently lies in the sub-$1000 range.
You can find quite a few entirely enclosed 3D printers under $1,000 that will make it possible for you to begin 3D printing and produce quality prints.
Let’s get to it! Below you will see a table with the top 5 3D printers under $1000.
In the table below you will find the four 3D printers we reviewed. The 4 printers you see below are the only ones we would consider buying in this price range.
Where to Buy
Robo 3D C2
4.5 out of 5
Excellent print quality, great connectivity
Up! Plus 2
4 out of 5
Good all-rounder, very easy to set up, prints all materials
Flashforge Creator Pro
3.5 out of 5
Dual extruders, dated design, average performer
Dremel Idea Builder 3D20
3 out of 5
Easy to setup, a bit overpriced, can only print PLA
These are some of the better, but more expensive 3D printers available, if you want to take a look at all of the price categories we've reviewed, then head over to our 3D printing resources page and select the category which best suits your budget.
The four listed below are, in my opinion, four of the best 3D printers available under $1000, but before we jump into the review, lets take a look at our scoring catergories.
Here’s a list of the categories which we used to evaluate the pens in this review:
Quality & Print Speed:
Features & Versatility:
Ease of use:
Value for Money:
For each printer you will see an overall score out of 10. Click on "view all scoring categories" in the drop-down box to see how each pen fared for the categories listed above.
And now without further ado, let’s take a look at Pen&Plastic’s round-up of best 3D printers currently on the market.
Very user friendly
Heated printing bed
Robo 3D is well-known for their flagship 3D printer, the R2 ($1,500), but the C2 is a cheaper midrange version which will appeal to those who appreciate print quality over speed, like artists or modelers.
The Robo 3D C2 delivers a good deal of features for its relatively inexpensive price (check the lowest price here), including Wi-Fi, accurate standalone printing and fantastic print quality using PLA filament.
The Robo C2 has an appealing, functional design that it shares with other Robo 3D printers. The softly curved white plastic case with blue highlights seems clean and contemporary, hiding the motors and drive belts which does the work behind the scenes. The case will not stop prying fingers from discovering the heated printhead, however, so this is not a printer which ought to be used unsupervised by children.
The C2 has a print volume of 5 x 5 x 6 inches, for a total of 150 cubic inches. That’s significantly more compact than some of the more expensive models, but it is about average for smaller, mid-range printers of this kind; it is also large enough to print your typical 3D models such as cars, small building models, and figurines.
A nonstick plastic which may be removed and replaced covers the printing bed and three spare sheets of plastic are bundled with the C2.
The Robo 3D comes with a 1 year warranty, that can be extended up to 3 years at extra cost.
The Robo C2 has amazing connectivity with WiFi, a iOS supported mobile app and an excellent IPS 3.5 inch touch screen, making it great for beginners.
|VOLUME||5″ x 6″ x 6″|
|TYPE||PLA/Nylon/PET and all others except ABS|
|DISPLAY||3.5 inch IPS Touchscreen|
We were impressed with the print quality of the C2. It generated excellent-quality prints, with layers which blended well. Even especially tough prints such as the geometric sculpture which we use were well-printed, with clean, sharp points on the sculpture once we removed the supports.
It is possible to detach the C2’s print bed which makes removing a 3D print from printer that much easier. The bed is held in place with four magnets which lock onto metal knobs on the bottom so that it will not shift during printing.
Setup was straightforward, with some manual effort required
The C2 is a rather easy printer to set up. All you will need to do is to unpack the printer, remove the many retaining clips that held the printhead in place during transport, turn on the device and load the printing filament. You feed filament to the feeder tube along with the printhead, then wait until the melted filament comes from the printhead.
The Robo C2 can print with a wide variety of plastics, but not ABS due to it not having a heated printing bed.
Beneath the printer’s bed is a 3.5-inch touchscreen that you use to control the C2. The screen is large and bright enough, and the touch controls worked well. However, the display moved and bent rather alarmingly when we pressed a button with anything more than average force, which is likely why Robo 3D contains a tiny touch-screen stylus to use. A finger works just as well, though.
On the rear of the printer, you will find Ethernet, USB and power sockets. The C2 also contains an 802.11g Wi-Fi link, giving you plenty of options to connect it to your computer.
There is also a mobile app which allows you to control every printer setting right from your iPhone (it currently only works with iOS).
The bed is not heated: It depends upon the PLA sticking to the plastic for adhesion. We did not have any difficulties with prints peeling lifting or away from this printer, though: Our test prints stayed attached to the bed without problems.
The Robo 3D C2 isn’t a fast printer either. Our Thinker test version took between 10 hours (at reduced quality) and 23 hours at high quality print settings. That is much slower than comparable printers such as the UP! Plus 2 , which required from 5 hours to a bit more than 9 hours to finish the same-size print at comparable high-quality settings.
Nitpicking aside, there is a lot we liked about the Robo 3D C2. It generates excellent-quality prints using PLA filament, and the interface and software (including the Mobile App) are flexible and straightforward to use. The ability to print directly from 3D models is a nice touch, although you typically will have this printer standing at home connected to your PC.
Slowness aside, the C2 generates better-quality prints compared to all of the other 3D printers in this test. That makes it an appealing alternative if you’re searching for a high-quality printer targeted at beginners and do not mind waiting a while for your prints.
The Robo C2 is a high-quality printer that produces excellent prints at an affordable price.
If you need speed and a heated printing bed, and are willing to sacrifice some quality then go for the Up! Plus 2 which sells for roughly the same price.
Prints with any type of plastic
Heated printing bed
The UP! Plus 2 3D Desktop Printer is an alternative for everyone who’s looking for a 3D printer that’s easy to set up, calibrate, and use. See their 30 min setup time promise.
With its auto nozzle height detection and auto platform leveling, setting it up to print high-quality objects is significantly easier than other 3D printers on the market.
Additionally, the UP! Plus 2 includes a 1-year guarantee, which is way above the industry standard (which beats out the 90-day warranty typically offered in 3D printers like the Flashforge Creator Pro).
Another cool feature of the UP! Plus 2 is that it has a heat shield covering the extruder to help avoid burns and injuries.
The UP! Plus 2 uses MEM (Melted Extrusion Modeling) printing technology and therefore can print with a wide variety of plastics, not just PLA or ABS.
The printer has a 150 micron resolution, which is slightly sub-standard in this category. But unless you plan to do very small prints, this should not bother you.
The only other thing we could fault the Up! Plus 2 on is that it has only one extruder head, so bear that in mind if you need overhangs with supporting filament.
|PRINT VOLUME||~5.5″ x 5.5″ x 5.3″|
|TYPE||ABS/PLA/Nylon and all other types|
Overall, the UP! Plus 2 is the perfect 3D printer for novices and professionals alike. It’s ease-of-use will take a few of the headaches that come with 3D printing away and provide you with a reliable machine.
Truth be told, the reason why it is the top 3D printer is due to its ability to print with almost any type of plastic. This along with the heated bed, extended warranty and mobile app makes this "a-bang-for-your-buck" 3D printer.
If you do choose to buy it, please leave a comment if it, in fact, did take you a mere 30 mins to set up and start printing!
Truly Customizable DIY kit
Auto-leveling heated bed
Large build platform
The FlashForge Creator Pro stands out from the pack as the only model in this review with dual extruders. This means that you can print with two different colors or plastic filaments simultaneously.
Additionally, we discovered that we had less bed adhesion problems with this version than many others. However, the print quality was not anything to write home about, and the suggested software is awful.
A bit of a dinosaur which has not kept up with the rest of the market, the FlashForge Creator Pro is nothing more than an average printer for an average price.
|VOLUME||8.9″ x 5.8″ x 5.9″|
To put the Flashforge Creator Pro through its paces we performed some sample prints.
The test print — the 3D Benchy tugboat — this is a standard 3D printing torture test, commonly used to test 3D printers. The Creator Pro did a superb job at printing the tugboat in PLA — producing a practically perfect model with just a tiny bit of asymmetry noticeable. The ABS version was substantially worse, with the top section being a bit off and fair windows.
The PLA Benchy was terrific, the ABS version not so much. The performance improved in another trio of prints. However the same pattern emerged:
The Creator Pro was able to print accurately with PLA, and quite poorly with ABS. We, therefore, recommend you stick to PLA projects with this printer.
The Creator Pro was about average to install from the box, requiring some effort to build the instrument head, adjust the fan, and set up the filament guides and bolt holders. Attaching the instrument head was especially annoying, as locating the fastener holes was difficult.
There was some assembly needed to get this printer up and running.
This printer does have an SD card slot for standalone printing as well as the ability to immediately connect to a computer through USB.
Next up are the features and versatility. The build volume is fairly large, but the print surface certainly needed hairspray or a glue stick to maintain ABS prints set up.
This printer can use a generic 1.75 mm filament, with the dual extruders being able to reach a maximum temperature of 280°C, giving it a decently broad assortment of acceptable filaments to print with.
This version also has one layer fan to cool the print. While the guide recommends using ReplicatorG for a slicer, this printer can be used with both FlashPrint and Simplify3D. Simplify3D is available for purchase from a 3rd party but FlashPrint is a free program available right from FlashForge.
The Creator Pro comes with a 3-month standard guarantee, with the choice to upgrade to an extended one.
The Dual-extruding mind of the Creator Pro allows you to print in two colors simultaneously.
The FlashForge had a reasonable build volume, measuring at 8.9 X 5.8 X 5.9 in. We were not the biggest fans of this build surface itself — aluminum, coated with something similar to painter’s tape.
We found it easy to swap filaments with the “Utility” section of this menu. The printer will preheat the nozzle and begin the motor automatically to load or unload.
It has a simple screen to show temperature and printing progress, inferior to the IPS touchscreens of the other printers in this review.
Flashforge recommends ReplicatorG as the suggested slicer software for the Creator Pro…much to our dismay. Us and a large part of the 3D printing community, in general, find this to be a dreadful piece of software, far inferior to Slic3r or Cura.
We found FlashPrint to be much better than ReplicatorG and are not sure why it’s not the recommended slicer program.
We found it to be rather frustrating to level this printer with the prompts, as you don’t have any control over the nozzle motion, which makes backtracking impossible.
The FlashForge Creator Pro is an unimpressive but capable machine. It is not the nicest out there, but it works well, is relatively simple to use — provided you switch to something aside from ReplicatorG — and has lots of potential.
It is not the most turnkey solution available — buyers shouldn’t be scared of a little tinkering and troubleshooting, on account of the setup procedure and manual filament changes and bed leveling.
However, it is a decent printer that get's the job done, but with the impressive Robo 3D C2 and Up! Plus 2 competing in the same price-range, we recommend you pick one of these printers instead.
Decent print volume
Child Friendly - Closed PLA printer
Next up we have the Dremel Idea Builder 3D20. Dremel is an 85-year old American brand, primarily known for its manufacturer of power tools. They have partnered with Digilab to tackle the 3D printing industry.
Let’s take a closer look at their latest model, the Dremel 3D20. On opening the box, you will find it is very nicely packaged for safe delivery and pretty much ready to go straight out of the box. You will also see it has a pre-loaded SD card, a spatula-like instrument for loosening your prints off the printing bed, a few adhesive build surfaces and a bed leveling instrument.
Everything you will need to begin printing right from the box including one white reel of PLA filament.
Dremel has also built a miniature ‘Thingiverse’ database of models and lots of teaching aids and jobs to get you started. On Dremels site there are numerous resources which you should look at if you choose to buy this printer.
Dremel is apparently targeting the educational or college teaching aid audience and is constructing online infrastructure to support this.
Dremel also has the more extensive and more expensive 3D40, although unless you are in particular need of the slightly larger printing area, we see no reason to spend an extra 500 dollars for this slight improvement.
The Dremel is quite simple to set up and allows the user to start printing straight away.
When booting up the printer that your first introduced with a beautiful touchscreen UI that is easy is to browse and overall well designed. Plug it in, follow the UI instructions and start printing.
I enjoyed the crystal clear 3.5 inch IPS touchscreen; it proves excellent user experience for this stand-alone printer.
Everything is simple to use with this printer, and your specified prompts on the way to level the bed, load the filament and begin printing. It appears to be geared toward the novice and has adequate print results with little to no effort. That being said it has some flaws also.
The Dremel 3D20 only prints with PLA, and although you are probably going to use PLA for 80% of your 3D printing projects, this limitation will prevent you from more advanced 3D printing projects that require stronger or more flexible materials such as ABS, Nylon or Flex (TPE). Read more about these plastic filaments here.
As soon as you load the small spool of filament they give you, you will notice it is quite loud when printing and the plastic casing itself helps amplify that.
Dremel only provides 250g (1/4 of Kg) spool with the printer, and if you purchase PLA plastic from them, then they feel it’s appropriate to charge you similar cost as full-sized (1 kg) spools which you can buy from Amazon.
They also make it awkward to use full-sized spools since it won’t fit in the designated spool holding area. A neat little trick to make you use the small, expensive spools they sell.
This printer also has no heated bed and the build area is average, coming in at 9″ x 5.9″ x 5.5″.
Overall it is a decent printer, but I do feel it is a bit overpriced for just being able to print PLA without a heated bed and has a fairly small build area. That being said I know that Dremel as a big company has particular margins to strike however you get more bang for your buck with the smaller grassroots companies out there making printers.
Dremels advantage is they can draw big box retailers to take the product making it easy to support and supply the end user.
If your not that tech savvy and only need to print with small headaches or a little learning curve then perhaps the Dremel is for you. Not everyone is expected to become an “expert” in 3D printing, and it’s great to see more companies targeting the mainstream people to become involved with 3D printing.
Although if you are a beginner, you might be better off going for a slightly cheaper 3D printer, instead of spending 800 dollars on the Dremel 3D20.
Finally, if your already adept or intend on getting into more advanced printing then the frequent user then we recommend you look elsewhere. The printer just doesn’t offer enough bang for your buck.
My favorite thing about the EDU range of Dremel 3D printers (3D40-EDU and 3D45-EDU) is that they’re developing many educational tools including teaching aids and internet resources.
This is what we believe is giving Dremel a large edge especially in the Academic market. Educators from different backgrounds and technical degrees will have the ability to download versions and teaching aids to help out with classroom learning experiences which are focused on the classroom topic rather than 3D printing itself.
Well there you have it, our four favorite 3D printers in the sub $1000 price-range. We highly recommend the Robo 3D C2 if you have patience and want quality, or the UP! Plus 2 if you are looking to get up and running with the least effort possible.
Remember to choose the correct plastic, if you are uncertain about the properties of different plastics and what they can be used for then go to our 3D printer materials review.
If you have any thoughts or suggestions, leave us a comment below and remember to share this post with your friends by clicking one of the handy social media sharing buttons, or simply head back to our 3D printing resource page for more printer reviews.
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