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.
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 2022
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
4 out of 5
Great for kids and beginners, has WiFi and an LED screen
4 out of 5
The best DIY kit for under $500. Good size and speed
3.5 out of 5
Works with multiple filament types; very reliable
3 out of 5
A 3D printer and a laser-engraver packed into one
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.
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
- 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. Flashforge Finder
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, 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.
|VOLUME||6″ x 6″ x 6″|
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 best 3D printer in this price range thanks to how easy it is to operate and how accurately it prints.
2. Dremel Digilab 3D20 - Upgrade Pick
The Dremel Digilab 3D20 is a printer that was designed for begginer, casual 3D printer enthusiasts and learning institutions in mind.
One of the features that make it a great printer for newbies or teachers is the great online support.
The customer service and tech support is very reliable but with the amount of resources available online odds are you won't need it.
For example, the printer has no auto-calibration, however with how easy it is to use and the resources available to you, calibrating this printer yourself will be a walk in the park.
This printer is jam packed with many exciting features that make it a perfect choice for beginners and casual 3D Printer enthusiasts. For starters, the printer is ready to use right out of the box.
The LCD Touch Screen display that the 3D20 features is really easy to use, you need almost no prior experience with 3D Printers to easily get the hang of it.
The printing process itself is also very simple, you just select a model you want printed, begin printing and simply wait for it to be finished. This saves you lots of time otherwise spent in configuration.
Even though its bit above the $500 price range, we chose to include this printer as our upgrade pick because it's just that good.
If you're not yet sold on it you can check out our Dremel Digilab 3D20 Review where we take a deeper look at some of the specs and features of this printer.
|VOLUME||230 x 150 x 140 mm|
|TYPE||PLA and ABS|
|CONNECT||USB, SD Card|
The Dremel Digilab offers ease-of-use but more importantly, it offers consistent quality.
The tech support is very responsive, there's lots of resources available online and on top of that it comes
with a 1-year warranty.
It's a bit over $500 but we feel like the value you get for the price of this printer was a good enough
reason to include it.
3. HICTOP Prusa i3
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.
|VOLUME||~11″ x 8″ x 7″|
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. If you are looking for a cheap 3d printer, look no further.
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. Creality CR-10 V3
The Creality CR-10 V3 is the long-awaited successor to 2017’s CR-10. Creality is a well-known name in the community - and, needless to say, the expectations were very high.
As you would expect with the CR-10 series, this 3D printer has a big vertical frame design. The frame is now supported by two rods connecting the top to the bottom. Creality refers to it as the “golden triangle,” responsible for the printer’s stability.
Sturdier frame aside, the V3 also comes with a direct drive extruder. That is an excellent feature that we’re seeing in an increasing number of 3D printer models. Direct drive extruders help with handling flexible filaments, provide consistency, and more effortless filament loading.
CR-10 V3’s printing bed is made from ceramic coated glass. Though good quality, it’s sensitive to sharp objects.
On the upside, filaments quickly stick to the heated bed when printing, and finished models easily separate from it when they cool off. Hence, you won’t have to pry your models off with tools.
The control unit hasn’t seen much of an upgrade. As with the CR-10, you get a monochrome LCD screen with a single control knob.
However, we’ve seen a significant motherboard upgrade:
The TMC 2208 ultra-silent stepper drivers make the printing process more bearable. This printer produces a lot less noise than most of its competitors. The only noise you will hear is the cooling fans - but they don’t distract you at all.
Of course, this printer also has the “resume after power loss” feature - yet another improvement we ought to see implemented in more printer models. Should your power run out during printing, the CR-10 V3 will continue where it stopped once it comes back.
|VOLUME ||300 x 300 x 400 mm|
Creality doesn’t shy away from showing off their new printer models. If you have a base CR-10, this model isn’t for you. However, if you’re thinking of trying Creality’s products, we absolutely recommend the CR-10.
It has an excellent surface area, it’s reliable, and provides quality prints from various materials.
The relatively minimal control unit makes the CR-10 V3 more approachable to beginners. There are no convoluted controls, and you control everything with a knob.
It’s a fantastic upgrade to the CR-10, and everyone who decides to trust Creality won’t regret it.
5. ANYCUBIC Mega Pro
ANYCUBIC is well-known for its mid-range printers, providing outstanding quality at affordable prices. Overall, their Mega series has been well-received by the community for its exceptional “upgradeability.”
With Mega Pro being released for Anycubic's 5th anniversary, they continue to impress.
The most impactful thing about the Anycubic Mega Pro is that it’s not just a printer. It also boasts laser-engraving features.
Yes, you read that correctly:
The Mega Pro is a 3D printing and laser engraving machine packed into one. That’s not to be taken lightly; these two-in-one machines are hard to find for under $500. The Mega Pro can engrave leather, wood, and even paper, giving users lots of room for play and experimentation.
The printer’s dual gear extruder keeps the filament pressed from two sides, which keeps the filament stable. The extruder itself is also made to work with multiple filaments.
Speaking of multiple filaments, you also have the option to print in multiple colors. Granted, not at the same time - but the printer does allow you to pause between different layers.
You can then switch between filaments of different colors to decorate your project.
Like Creality CR-10 V3, the Anycubic Mega Pro comes with TMC 2208 stepper motors. In other words, the printer is very reliable, silent, and will withstand frequent use.
Finally, there’s not much to say about the 3.5-inch touchscreen. It’s responsive, dependable, and does its job. But that’s it. Given all the fantastic features this model is equipped with, the screen feels somewhat underwhelming.
|VOLUME ||210 × 210 × 205 mm|
|CONNECT||SD Card, USB|
Anycubic keeps dominating the mid-range printing competition. If you’re wondering whether the Mega Pro is worth your money, ask yourself:
Where else can you find a 3D printer with laser engraving options that works with multiple materials - all for $500?
Anycubic’s Mega Pro deserves its place on every ranking list of affordable 3D printers. We can forgive the outdated touchscreen look since this model brings so much to the table. And we are excited to see what Anycubic comes up with next.
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.
Last update on 2022-09-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API