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Best 3D Printers 2014

Best 3D Printers 2014

It's literally the gift that keeps on giving: 3D printers let people print everything from home decorations to figurines to jewelry right from home. And this year, home 3D printers are more affordable than ever, with many of them costing around or lower than $100.

While 3D printers might not be quite at the level of the replicators that "Star Trek" promised us cup of "tea, Earl Grey, hot" quite yet the technology 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.

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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: XYZ Da Vinci 1.0 AiO 3D Printer/Scanner Review: Mixed

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: Resin: The Next Little Thing for 3D Printing

Related Buying Guides:
Best All-in-One Printers
Best 3D Printing Service
How to Buy a 3D Printer

Follow Richard Baguley @rbaguley. Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+.

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  • 0 Hide
    yandexrhino , September 5, 2014 2:57 AM
    This one is really great and worth
  • 0 Hide
    n1kk0 , September 22, 2014 2:12 AM
    I really want a 3D printer to make free Lego pieces.
  • 0 Hide
    kamhagh , October 13, 2014 11:36 PM
    printing a 3d printer with a 3d printer :D  lol
  • 0 Hide
    ldun , October 14, 2014 6:38 AM
    As cool as having a 3D printer would be, I just don't see myself having a need for one... yet
  • 0 Hide
    Rational , October 21, 2014 7:35 AM
    People who print Legos should never own one of these. What are you thinking, Legos are cheap, it would cost more for the material to print them not to mention the actual printer. These printers are really for designer, product developers, and engineers. That's why I'm buying one; anything else is a joke and waste of money.
  • 0 Hide
    captainhurt , October 29, 2014 5:49 PM
    3d printers are not practical for the masses. They are very expensive complicated ways to produce small imprecise rough-hewn plasticy artsy objects.
    if you need a replacement plastic part for something, buy the correct, perfectly spec'd and properly colored oem-based replacement at online/brick store.
  • 0 Hide
    Dell_Calderon , November 5, 2014 9:30 PM
    Agreed, 3D printers may not be practical for the masses. But today there are some pretty good ones available which you can own for less than $1000. For instance, here are a couple of them which are good quality and yet economical:
    1. MakiBox: For first-time users, this is the best bet; the only limitation being that it prints only small things (150 mm wide x 110 mm deep x 90 mm). Price- $200-$300
    2. Phoenix 3D printer: A fully functional basic printer provided you purchase their unique 3D printing software. Price- $375-$500
    3. The Buccaneer: Wi-Fi enabled. You can also use apps to browse for things to print based on category. Price- $399-$999
  • 0 Hide
    Neivalf , November 6, 2014 1:44 AM
    Question, how can you state Best 3D Printer for Beginners when it has not come out yet? This cannot be taken seriously, what factors are you using to base the choices on. I expected much better from this website.
  • 0 Hide
    SGA1 , November 13, 2014 8:59 AM
    After reviewing many pre-assembled printers out there, I chose to spend the money on the Ultimaker 2.

    The printer is great. It is fast, relatively quiet, and very accurate. The Cura slicing software does a great job, too. The finished products look and feel excellent. I've only used the PLA that it came with, so far.

    Unfortunately, the customer service is terrible! I had to wait 11 days for a response to inquiries sent to customer service and sales. Only after requesting to cancel my order did I get a response! Part of my decision to buy the U2 was based on an offer they provided for North American customers, which was 3 free filament reels. They told me that I missed the promotion by 2 days (ended Oct 12th? Not the first of the month, not the end of the month, not even the middle?). This end date was never displayed on their website so it felt very much like a bait-and-switch. Finally, after requesting to cancel my order, someone from customer service promised 3 reels if I kept the order.

    So I kept the order and now have a U2. But, I still haven't heard back regarding the 3 promised reels. Nor, have I heard back regarding the wrong power cord that they sent.

    In summary, I like the product, but if anyone else builds a 3D printer as good or better, I'd rather buy from elsewhere.
  • 0 Hide
    mzdxjx , November 15, 2014 1:24 PM
    Declaring the Cube 3 as best 3D printer for beginners is way off the mark.

    When the Cube 3 first started shipping (October 2014), I was an unfortunate recipient of this poorly constructed and poorly tested product. Beginners would be well advised to avoid this product and company altogether.

    To make matters worse, 3D Systems refuses to refund money... as company policy! This, I was told by their tech supplrt, after spending over a month working with their tech support trying to figure out how to get through a whole print without clogging and sending in numerous bug reports.

    First they blamed their cartridge supplier and sent me a few new cartridges (which also consistently failed), then they blamed the firmware and their "automatic" calibration all the while saying that my printer is just fine. After downloading their new firmware and following a complex set of instructions to calibrate under this new firmware, I discovered that their calibration did not solve the problem. So now they want to send me a new printer, after a month of blaming everything but the printer. I feel like a beta tester; is this the way they treat all of their customers?

    Filament clogging is bad enough on a printer with a user serviceable extruder, this built in extruder is a disaster! At $50 per filament cartridge (containing only 12 oz of filament) this is no small problem because the extruder is built into filament cartridge and the cartridge is not user serviceable.

    Cube 3 (and 3D Systems in general) is also a poor choice if you use an Apple computer because their MAC software (what little they have) is riddled with bugs. My advice is to avoid this company entirely, they certainly don't understand how to make-it in the consumer market.
  • 0 Hide
    Printing guru , December 11, 2014 9:33 PM
    Do not buy anything from 3d systems. Not only are they horrible with the customer support they break down far too often. Expensive to maintain and the only thing left on the machine I own that isn't brand new do to repair is the outer shell
  • 0 Hide
    Tibor Fekete , December 12, 2014 4:20 AM
    I would STRONGLY recommend to include CraftBot 3D printer as well:
    8 x 8 x 10 inches build area with PLA,ABS,Nylon + USB + LCD-control with a price of 700$(+shipping):
  • 0 Hide
    MrTango , December 13, 2014 2:17 PM
    Don't buy a 3D printer if you don't want do spend 98% of your time fiddling, wait 3-5years for 3-4 generations newer designs. Right now all are stil in a lab state. I bought a Lepfrog for 2500$ earlier this year and I have gived up. This printer is a real crapy mess off bad designed and assembled stamped alusheet parts. I dumped it in a metal recycling container today.
  • 0 Hide
    MrTango , December 13, 2014 2:32 PM
    Don't buy a 3D printer if you don't want do spend 98% of your time fiddling, wait 3-5years for 3-4 generations newer designs. Right now all are stil in a lab state. I bought a Lepfrog for 2500$ earlier this year and I have gived up. This printer is a real crapy mess off bad designed and assembled stamped alusheet parts. I dumped it in a metal recycling container today.
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