Roundup Review: Best 3D Printers under $500

3D printing has exploded, and with the surge of new businesses trying their hands at the industry, the costs for 3D printers keep falling. That is excellent news for people who wish to print three-dimensional objects in your home, or who want an inexpensive method of prototyping.

In this review, I will have a look at a few of the best affordable 3D printers available in the marketplace. I have created this guide to assist first-timers and anyone working within a budget to find the best cheap 3D printer.

Hopefully, one that will enable them to explore the new technology without breaking the bank.

Now, remember that 3D printing is still in its infancy and the less you spend on a 3D printer, the more unreliable and inaccurate of a printer you'll get. That does not mean that if you are on a budget, you're unable to jump right into the world of 3D printing.

You can find quite a few entirely enclosed 3D printers under $500 that will make it possible for you to begin 3D printing and produce quality prints, like the wine rack I printed below.

3d printed wine rack

Below, we will explore the best cheap 3D printers on the market, in addition to their various advantages and disadvantages, to help make sure that you're ready to have an educated opinion.

Best 3D Printers under $500 for 2017


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.

Robo 3D R1+

robo 3d R1

The best 3D printer under $500, large printing area


Flashforge Finder

flashforge finder

Great for kids and beginners, has WiFi and an LED screen 


HICTOP
Prusa i3

HICOP creality

The best DIY kit for under $500. Good size and speed


ZYX
printing da Vinci Jr.

ZYXprinting da Vinci Jr.

Ok for kids, Not recommended for professional users


What to expect from a 3D printer costing $500 or less?

So let's talk about the price. A couple of years back, an reasonably spec'd mid-range 3D printer would set you back well over $2 000.

However, with the massive increase in 3D printer choices, the costs have come down, and there are now some high-quality 3D printers under $500.

Or, in other words, if you're looking to find the ideal balance between 3D printer price and performance, then the choices in this price range should be at the top of your list.

No, these aren't the best 3D printers available, but their cost is appealing for what they offer. If you are looking for something with a bit more muscle, then we recommend you read our round up of the best 3D printers under $1000. (coming soon)

The four listed below are, in my opinion, four of the best 3D printers available under $500, but before we jump into the review, lets take a look at our scoring catergories.

How we reviewed


Here’s a list of the categories which we used to evaluate the pens in this review:

Quality & Print Speed:

  • Layer height and resolution: One of the main factors of accuracy, lower is better
  • XYZ Accuracy: Very important for small details
  • Printing Speed: lighter, smaller pens are easier to paint with

Features & Versatility:

  • Printing bed size: Bigger is better
  • No. of extruders: Does it support dual extrusion?
  • Does it have a heated bed: Important for printing with ABS and some other plastic
  • Auto-leveling: Ensures that the correct height between the nozzle extruder and bed 
Ease of use:

  • Is it easy to setup and operate: Some printers claim to have a setup time of 30 min, others you need an engineering degree to get going
  • Does it support open source software: The best things in life are free, and when it comes to 3D printing, the best software on the market all happens to be open source

Value for Money

  • Price: Total cost was one of the key metrics in this review
  • Customer Support: Does the manufacturer have a good reputation for support?
  • Reviews: Product reviews on Amazon.com say a lot about quality

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.

1: ROBO 3D R1 PLUS

Notable Features:
Large print area
Heated printing bed
Auto-leveling feature

ROBO R1 PLus
Overall - 9/10

View all scoring categories

Overview

Another terrific option you have if you're searching for an exceptional, affordable 3D printer under $500 is the ROBO 3D R1+. This printer used to sell for a lot more, but Robo has recently reduced the price for 800 to $499. It almost feels unfair that this printer is now competing with in the sub $500 class.

There is a lot to like about the ROBO 3D R1 Plus.

For starters, it's a reasonably large print area compared to the other printers in the sub $500 price range. And, it includes a heated print bed and an auto-leveling feature.

Furthermore, ROBO 3D is based on America and, as such, provides faster and better support to its clients.

It has a large print volume for the cost (bigger, in reality, that a most $1,000-$2,000 printers), a heated print bed so that you can print in ABS, and an auto-leveling feature.

The Robo 3D R1 also supports HIPS and Nylon filament, which sets it apart from the other printers in this review.

The printer has a 100 micron resolution, which is standard in this category. One downside is it has only one extruder head, so bear that in mind if you need overhangs with supporting filament.

Technical Specifications

RESOLUTION
100 microns
VOLUME
~8″ x 9″ x 10″
FILAMENT
1.75mm
TYPE
PLA/ABS/
HIPS/NYLON
WEIGHT
~31lbs.
CONNECT
USB
HEATED BED
Yes

Pros

  • Best in class performance 
  • Prints almost any material,not just limited to ABS and PLA
  • Huge printing bed
  • Great customer support

Cons

  • Only one extruder
  • Not suitable for children

Verdict

The ROBO 3D R1 Plus does not have any extraordinary features, and it does not stand out as being exceptional in any one area, except printing size. What it does do well is its good in nearly every area that matters for a 3D printer, and it's highly versatile.

The ROBO 3D R1 Plus is our no.1 3D printer under $500 and, as such, should be strongly considered by anyone shopping in this price range.

2: Flashforge Finder

Notable Features:
Very user friendly
Heated printing bed
Auto-leveling feature

Finder-Features
Overall - 8/10

View all scoring categories

Overview

FlashForge hit it big if MakerBot switched into a closed-source version and ceased making their first Replicator. FlashForge's biggest success came in their MakerBot replica, the Creator.

Since FlashForge introduced their Creator as a means to fill the emptiness the Replicator left behind, they've produced a handful of other printers also. One of the latest printers is their budget-friendly Finder.

While the FlashForge Finder does not have the largest build platform, nor does it come with a heated print mattress, but it markets itself as a very easy-to-use and dependable option that will make 3D printing a breeze for first-timers. It has a cool touch screen and LCD for extra simplicity.

Flashforge's focus on ease-of-use means that this fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printer only accepts 1.75 mm PLA plastic filament. This simplifies things, as you don't need a heated print bed to work with more difficult (and toxic) materials like ABS — but of course the downside is you are now limited to only one type of printing material.

The Flashforge Finder is is very easy to use and has WiFi functionality built in, it is a 3D printer that is suitable for kids and beginners.

Although, for the purchase price of about $400, you're sacrificing a bit for the extreme ease of use , as there are different choices available which offer a larger build volume and a heated printing bed.

Finally, Flashforge is one of the strongest brands in the printing industry, and if you're looking for something that's simple to use and you would like to purchase something by a proven brand which you can depend on, then the Finder is a worthy choice.

Technical Specifications

RESOLUTION
100 microns
VOLUME
6″ x 6″ x 6″
FILAMENT
1.75mm
TYPE
PLA only
WEIGHT
~35lbs.
CONNECT
USB/SD Card
HEATED BED
No


Pros

  • Easy to use
  • WiFi Connectivity
  • Closed printer
  • Clever LCD screen
  • Excellent customer support and product reputation

Cons

  • Can only print PLA
  • Single Extruder

Our Verdict

While I would like to see that the Finder have a larger print area and a heated print mattress, but it's still easily one of the best starter 3D printers.

It is easy to use and also costs only $400, and the sacrifices of giving up a larger build volume and the capacity to print in ABS is minor

The Flashforge Finder carves out its place as being the second best 3D printer in this price range thanks to how easy it is to operate and how accurately it prints.

3: HICTOP Prusa i3

Notable Features:
Truly Customizable DIY kit
Auto-leveling heated bed
Large build platform

HICOP creality
Overall - 8/10

View all scoring categories

Overview

Something for the DIYers, here is your HICTOP Prusa i3. Where the Reprap Guru Prusa i3 includes a fairly large build volume (8″ x 8″ x 7″), the HICTOP Prusa i3 trumps it with an 11″ x 8″ x 7″ build platform.

To put that into perspective, that is quite a bit larger than the construct volumes supplied by the Zortrax M200 and the MakerGear M2, each of which cost well over $1,000, which is a major selling point for the HICTOP Prusa i3.

It would be absurd to say that the HICTOP printer is far better than both of these printers based on construct volume since there are quite a lot of different things that determine a 3D printer general quality...

However, how this HICTOP printer provides you such a big build volume for under $400 is pretty astonishing.

Finally, some advice to the aspiring 3d artist reading this review. If you genuinely wish to know about 3D printing and understand the technology behind it, you should begin with a DIY kit.

And, of the DIY kits available for under $400, the HICTOP Prusa i3 is the best balance between price and performance.

Technical Specifications

RESOLUTION
100 microns
VOLUME
~11″ x 8″ x 7″
FILAMENT
1.75mm
TYPE
PLA/ABS
WEIGHT
~18lbs.
CONNECT
SD Card/USB
HEATED BED
Yes


Pros

  • The best DIY 3D Printing kit under $500
  • Best and most accurate nozzle in test
  • Completely customizable and upgradable
  • Comes with a heated bed and auto-leveling

Cons

  • Only two temperature settings
  • No LCD screen
  • Few reported cases of pens malfunctioning after a few hours use

Verdict

Easily one of the better DIY kits now on the marketplace, the HICTOP Prusa i3 is the best entry-level 3D printer. It costs under $400, it's a huge build volume, and it includes a heated bed so that you can print in PLA or ABS filament.

And, while it's brother (the HICTOP Desktop) has a tiny bit larger build volume and can print with a few extra types of filament, this unit remains a solid choice for aspiring 3D artists who want to tinker.

4: ZYXprinting da Vinci Jr.

Notable Features:
Decent print volume
Child Friendly - Closed PLA printer
LCD Screen

ZYXprinting da Vinci Jr.
Overall - 7.0/10

View all scoring categories

Overview

On the lookout for an inexpensive 3D printer which you can give to your children to introduce them to the world of 3D printing? Well, if that's true, then the ZYXprinting da Vinci Jr. might be your best alternative.

Coming in at just under $350, the da Vinci Jr. is among the most inexpensive 3D printers on the market. And, using a 6″ cubed assemble space, it will let you build bigger objects similar in size or larger than more expensive printers, such as the Printrbot Simple Metal, or the UP! Mini.

Additionally, it can hit resolutions as large as 100 microns, which is relatively standard among most consumer 3D printers nowadays.

Take note, however, that while the da Vinci Jr. includes a very reasonable price tag, you should expect the same quality as the price you pay. 3D printing is far from being a technology that is perfected, and the less you spend, the more likely you should encounter errors. This sadly was the case with some of our test prints.

So, provided that you are not expecting the world from the da Vinci Jr. and you're prepared to accept that there could be a few headaches along the way, then this is a feasible option. In the end, the da Vinci Jr. provides an affordable entry-level choice to teach your children how to use a 3D printer.

Technical Specifications

RESOLUTION
100 microns
VOLUME
~6″ x 6″ x 6″
FILAMENT
1.75mm
TYPE
PLA
WEIGHT
~33lbs.
CONNECT
SD Card/USB
HEATED BED
No


Pros

  • Great for kids
  • The most affordable printer in this review
  • Safe, uses a closed printing build

Cons

  • Can only print with PLA
  • Print quality not comparable with the Robo 3D R1 for example
  • No heated bed or auto-leveling feature 

Verdict

The XYZprinting da Vinci Jr. is among the less expensive 3D printers on the market. XYZprinting has quickly become the largest names in the sub-$1,000 market for 3D printers, and they produce relatively good 3D printers.

Still, we feel a little let down by the print quality, and would rather you go with the Flashforge Finder, if you are a beginner, or with the Robo 3D R1 if you want the best in this price range.

Conclusion

Well there you have it, our four favorite 3D printers in the sub $500 price range. We highly recommend the Robo 3D R1 if you are experienced, and the Flashforge Finder if you are new to 3D printing.

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 printing filament 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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