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Best 3D Printers 2014

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 16 comments
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"Star Trek" promised replicators that could print out anything in seconds, even a cup of "Earl Grey, hot." While the technology isn't there yet, it is getting closer, thanks to consumer 3D printers. These devices convert a digital design into any small, plastic 3D object that your imagination and design skills (or designs you download) can come up with, from a tchotchke to a replacement part for a device to a prototype

Home 3D printers mostly use a process called, alternately, filament deposition manufacturing (FDM) or fused filament fabrication (FFM). A plastic filament is melted and then deposited onto a smooth surface (called the print bed) by the printer extruder. The print bed is lowered, and the object is built up layer by layer.

Most 3D printers use either ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) or PLA (polylactic acid) plastic, both of which melt easily. Most users start with PLA, but then move onto the tougher (but slightly harder to use) ABS plastic. (Some printers can use more exotic materials, like clay, plasticine or even chocolate.)

MORE: 10 Great 3D-Printing Projects

Although improvements keep coming, the consumer models available now are limited. They print slowly, use only a small number of materials in limited colors, and require a lot of tweaking to get it working well. But once you get your 3D printer up and running, having custom-built objects on tap is a great feature for the modern household. We’ve picked the best 3D printers for how you want to use them. These printers can't yet produce a cup of tea, but they can produce the cup — and many other things.

MORE: 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

MORE: Future Home 3D Printing Includes Colors, Metals and Lasers

MORE: Forget Plastic: Molten Metal 3D Printers Are Coming

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  • 1 Hide
    bmwman91 , September 16, 2013 12:01 PM
    This is very exciting. With capable devices in the sub-$3000 range, 3D printing is really starting to get into hobbyist territory.

    I did see somewhere that the patent on the SLS process is going to expire in 2014 or something, and when that happens there is supposed to be a huge surge in open-source / hobbyist-accessible SLS devices. I certainly hope that is true. The SLS parts that I have ordered from proto houses are super strong, or at least moreso than the FDM parts that I have gotten.
  • 1 Hide
    alidan , September 16, 2013 4:41 PM
    never suggest the Cubify Cube, its overly expensive and under performing when compared to other even cheaper options.

    granted i would never recommend any non do it yourself 3d printer right now, as every one needs maintenance and the less you know about the printer, the harder it is to fix.
  • 3 Hide
    Tshulthise , October 12, 2013 3:15 AM
    Beware of any review that touts Cubify printers (Cube or CubeX) if they don't clearly point out that the proprietary filament will cost you $130/kg more than all other brands which use non-proprietary filaments!!!

    Here's the breakdown:
    Cubify filament costs $100 for about 0.6 kg of filament or $167/kg
    Non-proprietary filaments cost around $35/kg for the same thing.

    If you print 10 kg of filament per year you will spend an extra $1,300 (per year) just because you chose a Cubify product.

    I've owned 3 printers now and I can tell you that the filament cartridges don't offer any benefit. The unsealed cartridges contain a very small silica gel pack which will be saturated in just days if exposed to much humidity at all. So, they offer little to no protection against moisture absorption which can cause issues with PLA plastics. The best thing you can do is to store your filament in a sealed container with a renewable silica gel box from Amazon.

    Also, any printer that doesn't offer a heated bed will cause beginners a ton of headaches because without a heated bed the plastic will pull up and prints will fail much more often. This review tries to present the Cube's non-heated bed as a safety feature when really its just a missing feature.

    Please read actual user reviews to make an informed decision. All of these types of reviews seem to tout the Cubify products and present no warnings about the huge costs that will come as you print more material. It makes me wonder if 3D Systems has a significant budget invested in wooing influential bloggers or if the bloggers are just unaware of the huge costs involved with using Cubify's proprietary filaments? Time will tell.
  • 0 Hide
    bolly , November 11, 2013 2:06 AM
    I have a small business and we are looking for a second hand 3D printer machine. does anyone here knows a good site for buying such a machine or know someone who sell it?
  • 0 Hide
    oladeji , November 21, 2013 9:11 AM
    I need some good advice, please. I want to get a 3d printer for micro-scale commercial start-up basis. I need something fast with a good finish, simple and easy to use, lot of support and a good variety of materials. Was thinking of the cubex cos of the great reviews I've seen.
  • 0 Hide
    michaelesguerra , November 25, 2013 12:08 PM
    This is a great article here, but you have missed the Ultimaker 2?! this 3D printer was noted in the MAKE magazine Nov 2013 as "fastest and most accurate" 3d printer on the market - I've seen it and its a great piece of kit, it can also be upgraded to dual extruders too, definitely worth considering. If your unsure what 3d printer to go for check out www.3dscanner3dprinter.com they have really good reviews worth reading.

    You can get a Printbot simple for about £400 assembled or unassembled for £300 thats as cheap as you can get so far
  • 0 Hide
    facevalue , January 28, 2014 9:37 PM
    How long until we can 3D print a 3D printer?
  • 1 Hide
    Grandmastersexsay , January 29, 2014 7:12 AM
    Compare an entry level CNC mill like a Tormach to these 3D printers. For around the same price you could be working with aluminum, and have stronger and more accurate results with plastics. The capabilities of the 3D printers aren't even close. http://www.tormach.com/store/index.php?app=ecom&ns=prodshow&ref=32084
  • 0 Hide
    3DPrinterGuy , January 31, 2014 1:39 PM
    Thankfully not listed is the Ultimaker printer. I've had nothing but problems with it and their support staff seems more interested in insulting your intelligence than helping you out. Stay away from Ulitimaker.
  • 0 Hide
    Someone Somewhere , February 2, 2014 5:33 AM
    Isn't it a bit early to be giving out a list? It's customary to write the list at the end, as a reflection. What happens if something new comes out in a few months?Also, that Cube looks like it would be the 3D version of an inkjet printer; consumables pricy and locked in.
  • 0 Hide
    Grandmastersexsay , February 2, 2014 10:44 AM
    Why are you reposting this same crappy story?
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , April 10, 2014 1:38 AM
    I was wondering if you can print 'strong' 3d elements using those printers? I'm planning on replacing many pieces of sheet metal on my aging Opel Ascona from 1970 with carbon fiber next year and was wondering if it'd be worth it to buy a 3d printer to 'print' hinges and other small parts that would need to be glued to the parts in order to bolt on to the car. Alternatively I have access to some people who can craft it out of aluminum on siemens 840 based cnc machines (but these people are terribly busy).
  • 0 Hide
    Inkjet3D , April 10, 2014 8:08 AM
    I am always amazed that there is no mention of FDM (Fused Deposition) machines using a simple HP printhead and powdered metal or any powder. Also, I don't see any Inkjet printers or any hardware from earlier model machines like Sanders Prototype, Inc. or Soldiscape, Inc. These older machines have all of the hardware and electronics which can be used for designing a new 3D printer without reinventing it. They accept STL files with the machine software. They are really well built and could be a good starting point for someone wanting to learn the technology. Layergrownmodel.com has old machines if someone is interested. Mount a fluid delivery system and watch it grow a model.
  • 0 Hide
    cats_Paw , July 15, 2014 12:11 AM
    This is all nice and good, but are those things actually selling units?
    Apart from so cool and swag, I dont see myself buying one of these to.... what exactly?
    Print a 3D model of ... what?

    It might have its applications but for home use, i really dont see it.
  • 0 Hide
    jozhang , August 12, 2014 1:44 AM
    Nice 3D printer, how the cost for the printer material?
  • 0 Hide
    OJ , August 18, 2014 10:19 AM
    A great desktop 3D printer that is missing on this directory is CraftBot - a very affordable quality product that anyone can use. You can find more information on their blog: http://blog.craftunique.com/no-more-cheap-poor-or-expensive-overpriced-3d-printers/
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