Desktop 3D printers come in lots of varieties but they all work in much the same way; a filament of plastic is fed through a “print head” that builds up thin layers to create a 3D object. We keep discovering new ones as we look around for them. Here’s a sample of some of the more popular ones some of which are still Kickstarter projects.
Here’s a video review of the UP!Mini along with Solidoodle 2 and Cube 3D
Here’s another video of the UP! Plus PP3DP lists the UP!Mini, a fully enclosed printer for $899 on their site. They also offer an open-frame 3D printer called the UP! Plus for $1499. Both printers come pre-assembled and take a feed from a spool of filament and deposit layers of 250 – 350 microns for the UP!Mini and 150 – 400 microns for the UP! Plus. Reviewers give the Up! Software tool high marks for ease of use.
FormLabs uses a different technology in its 3D printer called stereolithography which some people maintain offers better precision for the money. The Form1 uses a laser to selectively solidify a liquid resin one layer at a time. The layers can be as thin as 25 microns. The resin is expected to cost around $150 per liter. FormLabs broke a funding record on Kickstarter with $2.6M but lately has had a legal cloud hanging over it from a lawsuit from 3D Systems the maker of the Cube 3D.
The Cube 3D from 3D Systems is an open frame printer that uses cartridges to feed the plastic filament. The cartridges can be easier to work with but you have to buy them from them at a cost of around $50 each. Their app called “Cubify,” takes a .STL file and changes it to their “Cube” format and then “prints” a model in 250 micron layers. You can also get ready-made files at Cubify.com.
This affordable $499 - $699 printer comes housed in a solid metal box. It comes with a “starter” roll of filament that is used to put down 100 – 300 micron layers. The filament is fed from a spool which you can load yourself. Solidoodle 2 works with different open source printer apps although they recommend using it with Repatier a free and open source application.
MakerBot Industries grew out of a non-profit 3D printer venture called RepRap. MakerBot has been one of the pioneers in the desktop 3D printer market. They even have a retail store in New York City where you can buy products, get advice and even have a 3D model made of your face while you wait. MakerBots printers are sold as kits that once assembled can crank out 3D models with layers as thin as 100 microns. The latest 3D printer from MakerBot is called the Replicator 2 and costs a hefty $2000.
If you don’t mind spending an estimated 45 minutes to assemble the Printrbot you can have yourself a fairly affordable 3D printer for around $600. Printrbot is a pretty simple printer that is made partly form birch wood. It apparently gets the job done although it might be considered more of an entry-level printer.
The Portabee is another no-frills, open-frame 3D printer kit that costs around $480 ($699 assembled). It’s based on the RepRap Wallace and offers a lot of 3D printer for the money including a heated bed.