The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best 3D Printer Under 500

5 Best 3D Printers Under $500 in 2024 – For Beginners on a Budget

Welcome to the world of 3D printing! If you’re a beginner hunting for your first 3D printer, or perhaps an enthusiast on a budget, you’ve come to the right place. We know it can be quite a challenge to find the perfect balance between quality and cost. So, we have compiled a list of the best 3D printers under $500 that offer fantastic value for money.

Top Affordable 3D Printers for Everyone

1. Creality Ender 3 V2 – Best Budget 3D Printer

Creality Ender 3 V2

For those who are just starting their journey into the world of 3D printing, the Creality Ender 3 V2 is a perfect choice. Priced well under $500, it offers an impressive build volume of 220 x 220 x 250 mm, a build plate that heats up quickly, and a very user-friendly interface. It’s an “open source 3D printer,” meaning you can modify it to your heart’s content with a robust community backing you up. This is crucial for beginners as it allows room for learning, tweaking, and upgrading.

Although it is considered one of the cheap 3D printers for beginners, it doesn’t compromise on quality. The Creality Ender 3 V2 includes a number of features usually found on more expensive models, such as a filament run-out sensor, resume printing function, and an ultra-quiet motor, making your “printing for beginners” experience smooth and hassle-free.

The Creality Ender 3 V2 comes with Creality’s slicing software, but it’s also compatible with other 3D printer software like Cura or Simplify3D. This provides flexibility for users who prefer other slicer programs.

2. Anycubic 3D Printer Kobra Neo – Most User-Friendly Pick

Anycubic 3D Printer Kobra Neo

Introducing the Anycubic Kobra Neo, a 3D printer that’s 90% pre-installed and designed to get you printing in no time. Set up is a breeze, with the printer ready for action in as little as 10 minutes, making it an excellent choice for beginners. Unlike some DIY 3D printers that can feel overwhelming, the Kobra Neo is beginner-friendly without compromising on advanced features.

The Direct Drive Extruder ensures smooth and efficient feeding and discharging of various types of filaments, including TPU, PLA, ABS, and PETG. This feature, combined with the printer’s lightweight design, less inertia, and precision printing, ensures the utmost fidelity to your 3D model’s form.

This unit surpasses many other FDM 3D printers in terms of durability and longevity, thanks to its double-sided magnetic PEI spring steel platform. This feature not only saves you on maintenance costs but also makes model removal a cinch.

The printer’s user-friendly operation ensures precise detection and fast leveling, eliminating the tedious manual leveling process. If that isn’t impressive enough, the Kobra Neo’s printing volume has seen a significant 34.4% increase from the previous generation, the Anycubic Mega S.

The printer boasts a 12.1-liter printing volume, with dimensions of 250 x 220 x 220 mm—roughly the size of a standard Size 5 soccer ball. This substantial upgrade allows you to bring to life larger, more ambitious 3D projects.

3. Toybox 3D Printer for Kids – Requires No Software

Toybox 3D Printer for Kids

Introducing the Toybox 3D Printer for Kids, a gadget that is a game-changer when it comes to making design exciting for children. This printer, compact with dimensions of 9 inches high, 7.4 inches wide, and 7.4 inches deep, is specifically tailored for kids.

It stands out in the market as a smaller, safer alternative to traditional models, boasting one-touch functions that allow kids to operate the printer independently. Designed with a budget-friendly price tag, this product is an accessible tool to stir creativity in young minds and let them bring their imaginative ideas to life.

But the fun doesn’t stop there! The Toybox 3D Printer comes with an impressive catalog of over 1,000 toy designs, ensuring endless creative possibilities for your child. The system is cross-compatible with iOS, Android, web browsers, and the cloud, enabling children to upload their own drawings via a dedicated app.

For the little culinary enthusiasts, the set includes eight food rolls for crafting delightful treats. The company’s commitment to customer satisfaction is reflected in its 30-day free return policy, making the Toybox 3D Printer a risk-free investment in your child’s creative development.

4. Artillery Sidewinder X2 – Large Volume Pick

Artillery Sidewinder X2

The Artillery Sidewinder stands out as the best affordable 3D printer for those looking to create large models without compromising on quality. Despite its impressive print volume and affordable price point, the company hasn’t cut corners on its features. There might be a few minor areas for improvement, but these do not overshadow the overall capabilities of this printer.

One might assume that a larger printer like the Sidewinder might compromise speed for size, but that’s not the case. Despite not being the fastest on the market, it can create fine layers of 100 microns (0.0038 inches) each, offering quality on par with many smaller devices. The printer comes mostly assembled, requiring only the ribbon cable and spool holder to be set up, though the latter could be of better quality to prevent occasional feed errors.

Unique for a budget 3D printer, the Artillery Sidewinder features auto-leveling, a time-saving addition that eliminates the frustration of manual leveling. The glass bed heats up in about two minutes, making the printer ready to operate swiftly and quietly.

As with many budget 3D printers, the Sidewinder may require some fine-tuning to achieve optimal performance, but this investment of time is rewarded with its reliable functioning. The machine has received some criticism concerning customer support, but overall, the Sidewinder stands as a reliable, high-quality choice for large-scale, budget-friendly 3D printing.

5. Creality CR-10 V3 – Superb Value for Money

Creality CR-10 V3

As the successor to the Creality CR-10 V2, the Creality CR-10 V3 comes packed with upgrades that enhance your 3D printing experience. A notable upgrade is the Titan direct drive extruder, which revolutionizes the filament loading and retraction process, minimizing undesirable stringing and clogging. The printer also sports an improved all-metal frame and a sturdy cross brace, lending the Titan extruder the rigidity it needs to combat wobble effectively.

This unit retains the standout features of its predecessor. Among these is an impressive build volume of 300 x 300 x 400 mm, a dimension that outperforms most sub $500 3D printers. This generous build size offers ample printing space for even the most ambitious hobby projects.

The print quality of this product has earned high praise, displaying remarkable consistency across different prints and performing equally well with PLA and TPU materials. From decorative pieces to models and figurines, the CR-10 V3 delivers excellent results.

However, this printer is not without its shortcomings. The rotary knob controls feel somewhat dated, particularly when other Creality CR models feature modern touch screens. The clutter of cables connecting to the control unit needs careful arrangement to avoid interfering with the printing process, a task that can become tiresome.

While Creality has included everything necessary to upgrade to automatic bed leveling with a BL Touch sensor, the decision not to install one as standard can feel like a missed opportunity. Despite these minor drawbacks, the Creality CR-10 V3 remains a standout choice in the sub $500 3D printer market.

How to Choose an Ideal 3D Printer Under $500

How to Choose an Ideal 3D Printer Under $500

Consider the Print Quality

The quality of the prints a 3D printer can produce is arguably the most critical factor to consider. Look for a printer that can produce high-resolution prints with fine details. This usually depends on the printer’s layer height and printing speed. Remember, though, that a high-resolution printer may print slower as it takes more time to print each layer.

Look at the Print Volume

The print volume of a 3D printer refers to the maximum size of the object it can print. This is determined by the size of the printer’s build area. If you plan on printing large objects, you’ll need a printer with a larger print volume. However, if you’re only going to print small items, a printer with a smaller build volume should suffice.

Check the Printer’s Compatibility with Filament Types

Check the Printer's Compatibility with Filament Types

Different 3D printers are compatible with different types of filament, the material used to print objects. The most common filament types are PLA and ABS, but there are many others, like TPU, PETG, and nylon. Ensure the printer you choose is compatible with the type of filament you want to use.

Ease of Assembly and Use

Some 3D printers come fully assembled, while others require some assembly. If you’re a beginner, a fully assembled or a printer that is easy to assemble might be a better choice. Additionally, consider the printer’s software and user interface. These should be easy to use and navigate.

Customer Support and Community

Lastly, consider the level of customer support provided by the printer’s manufacturer and the size of the printer’s user community. A large, active user community can be a valuable resource for troubleshooting and learning new techniques. Good customer support can also be very helpful if you encounter any problems with your printer.

By considering these factors, you can choose the best 3D printer under $500 that suits your needs and offers the best value for your money. Remember, the “best” 3D printer isn’t necessarily the most expensive one—it’s the one that best fits your specific needs and budget.

So, How Much Should I Pay for a 3D Printer?

How Much Should I Pay for a 3D Printer

The cost can range from under $200 to several thousands of dollars, depending on the printer’s capabilities and specifications. As a beginner, you might be asking, “How much should I pay for a 3D printer?” The answer largely depends on your needs and how you plan to use the printer.

If you’re dipping your toes into 3D printing for the first time and aren’t ready to shell out a ton of money, a printer in the $200-$500 range will serve you well. This budget will afford you a reliable, high-quality machine like the Creality Ender 3 V2, Artillery Sidewinder X1, or the Anycubic i3 Mega, which all offer exceptional value for their price.

Remember, the initial cost of the printer isn’t the only expense to consider. You’ll need to budget for ongoing costs like filament, replacement parts, and perhaps upgrades, which are an integral part of the 3D printing hobby.

What about the 3D Printing Process for Beginners?

3D printing might seem complex, but it’s a lot simpler once you understand the basic process. Here’s a simplified rundown:

  1. Design/Download a Model: You can create a 3D model using software like TinkerCAD, Blender, or Fusion 360, or download pre-made models from websites like Thingiverse or MyMiniFactory.
  2. Slice the Model: Next, you need to slice the model using 3D printer software. This turns your 3D model into layers and generates a G-code, a language that your 3D printer understands.
  3. Prepare the Printer: Ensure the printing bed is level, and load your filament into the printer.
  4. Print: Transfer the G-code to your printer (usually via USB or SD card) and start the print. Now, you can watch as your creation comes to life!
  5. Post Processing: After your print is complete, remove it from the build plate. Depending on your print, you might need to remove support structures or perform other finishing touches.

3D Printing Process for Beginners

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I get a good quality 3D printer for under $500?

Absolutely! While more expensive models may offer additional features or larger print volumes, there are many excellent products available for under $500 that produce high-quality prints and offer a range of useful features.

2. What is the best 3D printer for beginners under $500?

The best 3D printer for beginners should be user-friendly, easy to assemble, and offer reliable customer support. The Anycubic Kobra Neo and the Toybox 3D Printer for Kids are both excellent choices for beginners.

3. How much should I pay for a 3D printer as a beginner?

This largely depends on your budget and your needs. There are plenty of high-quality units available under $500 that are perfect for beginners. These models often provide user-friendly interfaces and are easy to set up and start using.

4. Are cheap 3D printers worth it?

Yes, many cheap units provide excellent value for money. They can produce high-quality prints and offer a range of features that can satisfy the needs of beginners and more experienced users alike.

5. What is the best budget 3D printer for printing large models?

The Artillery Sidewinder is a great affordable option for printing large models, thanks to its generous print volume. The Creality CR-10 V3 also offers a large build volume and is an excellent choice for those looking to create big projects.

6. Is there any open-source 3D printer under $500?

Yes, there are several open-source units available under $500. Open-source printers are popular because they allow users to modify and upgrade the printer according to their needs. The Creality series, for instance, is known for its open-source models.

7. What kind of software do I need to operate a 3D printer?

Most 3D printers use slicing software to translate 3D models into instructions that the printer can understand. Some printers come with their own proprietary software, while others use open-source software like Cura or Slic3r. It’s important to check what software is compatible with the printer you choose.

Final Thoughts

3D printing is an exciting and rewarding hobby that has become more accessible and affordable than ever. As we’ve seen, you don’t need to break the bank to start creating 3D masterpieces. With the best budget 3D printer options we’ve discussed, you can dive into this thrilling world without burning a hole in your pocket.

Remember, the best product for you will depend on your unique needs and goals. Do you want to print large models? Do you need high-resolution prints? Are you looking for an open-source unit that you can tinker with and upgrade over time? By considering these questions, you’ll be well on your way to choosing the perfect product for your money’s worth.

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