Best 3D printer under $400?

advice
printer
diy

#1

I’m looking for the best 3D printer available for under $400 for home use. I know there are a lot of Prusa i3’s available out there with varying options…but are those the best choice? I know that’s a very small price window, but hey…this is a personal machine and I’m broke. I expect that if everything with the cheap machine goes well, I’ll be able to upgrade next year to a better machine.

I’m looking to print everything from PLA, ABS, Nylon and also woodfill. So I’ll need a good hot-end and heated bed. I’d prefer a build area of at least 200mm³, but I can go slightly smaller. I’m most familiar with cartesian style printers but would be ok with a delta for the right price/options. Pre-built would be nice, but a kit is probably what I’ll get for my price range…that’s ok.

I’ve found some pretty decent looking prices over at 3dprinteronlinestore with free shipping. Is there anywhere that offers better/cheaper deals that you know of?

I’m not interested in funding any Kickstarter/Indigogo projects. I want something I can buy right now.

With all of that in mind, do any of you have suggestions? Thanks everyone!


#2

Hey Jory, I strongly recommend checking out the 3D Printer Guide, we put together based on our Hubs experiences. But make sure to also check @derKarsten new acquisition which he seems to like a lot: https://www.3dhubs.com/talk/thread/i-am-arnoldas-and-i-am-addicted-3d-printing. Good luck!


#3

Thanks for the references! The guide needs to include sub-$500 printers for those of us on an SUPER tight budget. I’ve seen the Turnigy Fabricator before and it doesn’t look too bad other than the small build area.


#4

I would not buy a “cheap” printer kit that is sub par. Save for a little bit and look into the original Prusa i3, or something that is not a copy. There is a lot of junk out there. Be careful of the Chinese copy’s. 3D printing in not easy and a cheap printer won’t help. Support from the company is very important! The 3D printer guild will help but do your own research too! Good luck!


#5

Does anyone know if the kits offered by Folger Tech are worth anything other than being decent aluminum frames? Made in the US, good customer service too by most accounts. The Delta machine looks cool.


#6

FYI, I got a bit more information from the Folger Tech service dept.:

Max hotend temp: We do not suggest going above 280-290c when printing

Motors: We buy our motors in surplus and no not have any spec sheets on hand. We have received good feedback with the life our motors provide, and to avoid melting the plastics if they do over heat we have replaced the plastic corners with anodized aluminum.

Max travel/print speed: ~120mm/sec

W__e do not currently make custom kits, but we are trying to get some upgrade kits available for separate purchase.

I’m a little scared to take on a delta as a first printer…and a kit at that. But I love the build size and the hotend looks to be decent enough to not warrant an immediate upgrade.


#7

Surplus parts? Boy I don’t know if I would spend my hard saved money there? Thanks for the heads up, I will check on the one I,m thinking of! Thanks!


#8

Motors are pretty cheap though, so I don’t know if I’m going to stress too much about that part.


#9

If they are using surplus parts on just the motors? That’s one thing, but what about the rest of the parts? You can do the same thing on line with sub grade parts and start your own 3D printer company! Thank you for the good conversation my friend.


#10

This seems to be a very hit-or-miss area in the market. Are there any bundles out there that are worth anything to use that includes steppers, control boards, extruders/hotends, hotbeds, etc.? I see a bunch out there, and it’s a little difficult to decipher which are worth the money.


#11

I just built a Makerfarm Pegasus and it a pretty solid unit for $375 with no upgrades. I built a Rostock Max V2 also and it is a PITA compared to the Pegasus, but it does print quite a bit bigger parts. The Pegasus still prints better quality than the Rostock with no major tweaking. I had weeks of tweaking on the Rostock to get it fine tuned.


#12

I’ve had my eye on those too. I’m continuing to look for good options, and there are several out there. Here are a few others:

1) Velleman K8200 - $299 at Frys - One of the fastest machines machines I’ve seen under $400 but has some layer height limitations. Quite a few mods out there to improve the machine though.

2) Replikeo i3 - $250 - Frame options for steel or aluminum, but cheap enough to make immediate upgrades possible.

3) Replikeo Omerod - $319 - Uses Duet board which is decent for printing at higher speeds with higher quality. Upgrade the hotend and could be decent…maybe.

4) WanhaoUSA Duplicator i3 - $399 - Comes assembled, steel frame…has been somewhat highly recommended for decent quality out of box.

5) Geeetech i3X - $308 - Looks fairly quick, but I’ve heard the rods often aren’t straight and I’m not sold on using an acrylic frame at this point.

Let me know if you guys find any others that look good.


#13

With all of the hype about which printer is best, a large elephant in the room keeps getting overlooked… The skill and knowledge of the operator. An expensive machine is not needed to produce high quality prints, and it definitely does not guarantee high quality results either.

As proof of this, I have a scratch built Kossel design that easily prints on par with the best that I have seen from Ultimaker 2 machines. Of course, those Ultimaker 2 prints were made by someone who also knew their machine. One big difference is that the Ultimaker 2 costs about $2500, while I built my Kossel for around $400.

I’m not saying that the design of the machine is not a factor in print quality. It is. For someone who is on a quest to produce the highest quality parts achievable with an FDM type machine, you need to start with a machine that has certain characteristics.

Foremost would be a rigid frame and gantry which is capable of accurate and repeatable results.

Next would be a machine with low moving mass, such as a Delta, coreXY or perhaps an H-bot.

Also very important is an extruder system which has a small thermal transition zone which is highly resistant to jamming and uneven extrusion rates.

Lastly, your print quality really can benefit from a high performance controller (such as a 32 bit board running Smoothieware) and high quality stepper motor drivers which are properly adjusted. The ultimate stepper motor drivers would be one of the newest generation of DSP digital drivers that are silky smooth and silent across the entire operating range. They exhibit no detectable resonance behavior and when coupled with a low mass extruder system, the speed and quality can be very high.

With all of these advantages, the operator still plays an even bigger role. They must have a very good working knowledge of how to slice parts (a good slicer also helps a lot). They must constantly be aware of little things that can have an adverse impact on print quality - such as how to detect and correct a slightly clogged extruder nozzle which is not pumping filament straight out with absolutely no curling. The operator also needs to know when and how much to use a layer cooling fan. The overhang areas of a part can be enormously improved by someone who can setup their slicer to give just the right amount of cooling in the critical areas of the part. Printing speeds and directions, infill patterns and densities, extruder and bed temperatures are all just a small number of variables that have to be skillfully managed. The knowledge of how to do these things normally only comes with many long hours of trial and error.


#14

KDan - Fantastic reply! I agree with everything you’ve said. A really good machine in the hands of a novice operator will most likely never give nearly as good of results as the same machine with someone with lots of experience. That same highly experienced user can take a really crappy machine and get the best the machine can offer, but the novice will REALLY struggle to get even decent results. I would like to make sure the machine is as solid of a performer as I can get, so most of the mistakes made will not be solely the fault of the machine, but rather my fault for setting up a print incorrectly.

While I’m fairly experienced, but I’m also looking for to avoid a machine that is obviously plagued by issues right off the bat. Reading horror stories of bent rods, frames that have too much flex, flawed hotends that give endless problems, weak heatbeds that never reach needed temps, underpowered steppers that cause missed steps, extruders that are too weak or allow the filament to slip, smoking electronics or electronics that are buggy, beds that aren’t flat, etc, it’s a little scary to buy a machine that could potentially give me the same problems. I understand that uber-budget machines those within this price limit are almost always going to have faults…usually several. What I’m trying to find is something that is the best “bang for the buck” within this price range. Without having my hands on any of these machines…all I have to go off of is reviews (if any) or forum posts.