3D printing is evolving.
Over the last five years, 3D printers have become better, and they have become more accessible for everyone. From engineers to designers, and from home users to office users, everybody can now bag themselves a 3D printer that can print detailed models and parts – and without having to rob a bank to fund their purchase.
Indeed, 3D printers have gone almost mainstream, and although most people don’t need one, most people want one. To celebrate the progress that’s being made, we’ve provided our thoughts on all the latest 3D printers below; 3D printers which we believe are a cut above the rest in terms of the performance and features on offer. Enjoy!
MakerBot Replicator+ / Mini+
Makerbot’s ‘+’ range of 3D printers are faster and more powerful, with extreme reliability and in-built webcams for remote monitoring.
Makerbot is one of the go-to brands when it comes to desktop 3D printers, and their latest range is the best yet. The MakerBot Replicator+ has a spacious 295 mm x 195 mm x 165 mm build volume, while the MakerBot Replicator Mini+ is a compact 3D printer with a 101 mm x 126 mm x 126 mm build volume. Both 3D printers feature Makerbot’s Smart Extruder+, which can automatically pause prints and send you alerts when it detects low filament levels, and both models have an on-board webcam and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Makerbot’s ‘+’ range has been tested over 380,000+ hours for reliability, and the 3D printers in this range have Makerbot’s new ‘Grip Surface’ build plate, which has been designed to support prints better through greater adhesion.
The Leapfrog Bolt is an advanced FFF desktop 3D printer with a complement of features and outstanding print quality.
If we had the sum up the Leapfrog Bolt in one sentence, we’d say that “the Leapfrog Bolt ticks a lot of boxes”. That might sound elementary, but we can think of no better way to describe a 3D printer that offers an enclosed chamber, dual print heads, a large build volume, a HEPA filter and enormous material support. And in addition to all of that, it looks the part too, with a sleek silhouette and an excellent control panel.
One of the most interesting features of the Bolt is the ‘replicator mode’, which lets you print two identical parts at the same time. This effectively doubles the print speed. Another interesting feature is the ‘mirror mode’, which 3D prints an identical but mirrored copy of a part. This 3D printer also boasts a webcam for live streaming and Wi-Fi, and it can print with ABS, PLA, Nylon, HIPS and other materials, to suit a wide range of applications.
The Zortrax M300 is a seriously impressive 3D printer, with an enormous build volume and an extruder that can reach a temperature of up to 380°C.
With its 300 mm x 300 mm x 300 mm build volume, the M300 is the biggest 3D printer Zortrax has ever made – and it’s also the most capable, with smoked side covers to maintain a constant temperature in the build chamber, and an advanced single extruder that can reach temperatures of up to 380°C. This means you can print with Z-ULTRAT, Z-HIPS, Z-GLASS and Z-PETG, four high-performance technical materials which can create anything from packing prototypes to end-use parts for mechanical assemblies.
The key selling point of the Zortrax M300, though, is the consistency and reliability it offers. This is one of the most reliable 3D printers we have ever used and its quality output is always excellent. It is also perfectly suited to printing detailed models, thanks to its 90-300 micron resolution range. We recommend the Zortrax M300 for rapid prototyping, rapid redesign, tooling, mould making, functional testing and for low-volume production runs. You can find out more about this 3D printer in our Zortrax M300 guide.
The Flashforge Finder is one of the most affordable desktop FFF 3D printers on the market, yet it’s loaded with features and has excellent print quality.
With its 140 mm x 140 mm x 140 mm build volume, enclosed chamber, powerful extrusion mechanism that’ll print at a resolution of 100-500 microns and its touchscreen interface, you’re not going to be found wanting for features with the Flashforge Finder. It’s even got Wi-Fi, filament run-out detection and a super-quiet cooling system that keeps the operating noise under 50db. It’s also supremely easy to use, thanks to a 3.5″ touchscreen interface and Flashprint, a simple and intuitive software with loads of printing presets, so you can get 3D printing right away.
The only caveat, if it is one, is that the Finder can only print PLA, since it does not have a heated build plate. However, it makes the most of this, by keeping all heated elements encased for safety. This makes the Finder an excellent choice for families, schools and novice users, since PLA is non-toxic and there’s no risk of children hurting themselves on any of the printer’s components.
Markforged Mark X
The Markforged Mark X is the most powerful composite 3D printer ever made, with the ability to print Kevlar, high-temp fibreglass and carbon fibre.
Engineers love Markforged 3D printers, and it’s easy to see why; they can 3D print parts with the strength of 6061 aluminium, and quickly too. The Mark X is the latest 3D printer from Markforged, with in-process laser inspection, print head encoders for extreme accuracy and a gigantic 330mm x 250mm x 200mm build volume. It is also available with a stand, as illustrated by the picture to your right, and it can print at a 50-micron resolution.
Potential applications for the Markforged Mark X include industrial tooling and fixtures, prosthetics, consumer electronics, casings, fascias, protective elements and small-series production runs. The Mark X has also proven a hit with secondary educational institutions, where design and technology curriculums are increasingly incorporating 3D printing as a learning tool. The best part? The Markforged Mark X is as simple to use as any other desktop 3D printer, despite its impressive range of capabilities. All you have to do is load your nylon and composite filament, send your spliced file to print, and hey-presto, your super-strong and super-tough part will be 3D printed before your eyes. Want to know more? You can find out more about the Mark X at this blog post.
Roboze One +400
The Roboze One +400 can print PolyMethylMethAcrylate (Plexiglass), thermoplastic engineering polymers and PolyEtherImide.
For engineers and designers, the Roboze One +400 is one of the best industrial-grade FFF desktop 3D printers on the market. The dual extruders on the +400 can reach a temperature of up to 400°C, and the build plate can reach a temperature of 150°C. This means you can 3D print with an impressive range of technical materials, including PEEK; a food-safe thermoplastic polymer, and PMMA; which is acrylic glass (Plexiglass). You can also print with regular ABS, HIPS, and a carbon fibre filament that’s super-strong.
The Roboze One +400 also has an enormous build volume – 200 mm x 200 mm x 200 mm (xyz) – and it can print at a resolution of 50-200 microns, at a speed of 60-250 mm/s. 12 technical materials are offered with this 3D printer, and there are a variety of impressive technologies within, such as a patented beltless system and a 3.5″ touchscreen interface.
The Ultimaker 3 is the first 3D printer to have swappable print cores, for improved quality output and uptime.
Launched in October 2016, the Ultimaker 3 is one of the best FFF 3D printers on the market. It has several unique features, including swappable print cores – which let you switch between filaments super-quickly – and an automated nozzle lifting system, which improves the consistency of parts that are 3D printed with two materials. The Ultimaker 3 also has an open filament system, however users who work with Ultimaker’s new materials get a perk – NFC support. The Ultimaker 3 has an NFC scanner built in, that communicates with the NFC chips on select Ultimaker filaments. The printer’s NFC scanner automatically recognises what material / filament you are using, and adjusts the printer settings to match so you don’t have to.
The Ultimaker 3 has a build volume of 215 mm x 215 mm x 200 mm, and it’s also available as an Extended model, which has a taller build volume of 197 mm x 215 mm x 300 mm. Both Ultimaker models can print at a layer height of 20-microns, with support for Nylon, PLA, ABS, CPE and PVA. This is the first Ultimaker printer to support nylon, a super-tough engineering material with outstanding mechanical properties.
3DP Excel Series
Okay, so this 3D printer isn’t really accessible. But it is impressive; the 3DP Excel Series is huge and fast, with support for additive, subtractive and robotics manufacturing.
Available sometime next year, the 3DP Excel Series is a colossal multi-gantry 3D printer with a 4 ft x 4 ft x 8 ft (1.2 x 1.2 x 2.4 m) build area as standard, but because of its modular design, it can be extended to over 100-metres. To create such an enormous machine, 3D Platform partnered with PBC Linear, Xtrution, THK, Yaskawa, and Shimpo, to create a 3D printer that’s not only industrial-grade and huge, but super-reliable and future-proof too. The Excel Series is capable of printing at a speed of 2 kg/hr to 55 kg /hr (that’s 55kg of filament extruded, per hour), and it has a state-of-the-art parallel gantry configuration.