It's literally the gift that keeps on giving: 3D printers let people custom-create everything from decorations to spare parts to jewelry right from home. And this year, home 3D printers are more affordable than ever, with many of them costing under $600. Home 3D printers mostly use a process called, alternately, filament deposition manufacturing (FDM) or fused filament fabrication (FFM). A plastic filament, either ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) or PLA (polylactic acid), is melted and then deposited in layers. Some (usually more expensive) printers use a process called Stereolithography (SLA) printing, in which a laser solidifies a photosensitive resin to form each layer and produce very detailed objects.
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 work 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 user-friendly 3D printers that are the best at how you want to use them.
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