Best Beginner 3D Printer in 2021

So how do you get into printing in the third dimension? It might not be as complicated as you think

With more and more people getting into tinkering and making things in their own homes, 3D printers are seeing a bit of a boom. A quick look at Amazon though and it’s easy to be flabbergasted by the wealth of choice out there, so we have sat down and picked the five best beginner 3D printers on the market this year whether you are looking to get into filament or resin printing there really is something for everybody out there right now.

There’s plenty of amazing choices so let’s go looking, but if you are looking to spend a little more you should also take a look at our Best 3D Printers for under $500 too.

Our Recommended

Best Beginner 3D Printer in 2021

Editor's Choice - FDM
PROS

Ideal for beginners and easy to use

Removable build plate

Ships completely assembled

Connectivity

CONS

Limited to PLA filament

Small build volume

The FlashForge Finder is a strong option for beginners that want a fully-assembled plug-and-print 3D printer and are worried about accidentally dislodging or breaking components (wires, nozzle, belts, etc.) or inadvertently upsetting the printing process with an errant hand. With a semi-enclosed open-frame design, the FlashForge Finder comes in a sleek, housed package and is easily one of the more aesthetically cohesive printers in today’s guide, not to say safest.

Printing is smooth, reliable, and very quiet. The result is systematically very good for the price. The removable build plate is a nice touch that simplifies peeling off finished prints, and the 100 to 500-micron resolution offers respectable detail. The FlashForge Finder bundles in broad connectivity through either USB 2.0, USB thumb drive, Wi-Fi, and the 3.5-inch touch screen provides simple but responsive on-printer controls.

The FlashForge Finder does have its limitations, chiefly a small build volume – 140 x 140 x 140 mm. There’s no heated bed, no automatic bed leveling (although the leveling instructions are concise and easy to follow), nor filament detection. Filament support stops at PLA, with a bit of leeway for modest PETG prints.

For beginners experimenting for the first time, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but once you want to try your hand at more ambitious projects, you may find yourself outgrowing the FlashForge Finder. In that respect, experienced makers will struggle to find much to warrant buying the FlashForge Finder instead of one of the more versatile and adaptable 3D printers in our product guide.

Editor's Choice - SLA
Loading...
PROS

Great for beginners in resin printing

Fantastic price

Simple to level build plate

Perfect for intro to resin printing

CONS

No network connection. USB only

A little noisy when lifting print layers

The Proxima from Voxelab is the SLA printer that has got me into the hobby, and to be honest, I’ve fallen head-over-heels with it. I bought it because it was the cheapest option even though it only had a couple of reviews on YouTube at the time, they were solid. Don’t be put off by the fact you might not have heard of Voxelab, it’s actually a division of the highly credible Flashforge who have been making 3D printers affordably for a good while now.

Everything it says on the tine is true, you can basically pull the machine out of the box, level the build plate – which is pretty easy, although I did it twice initially to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, pour a bit of stinky resin into the VAT, being careful not to go past the handy MAX line or you are going to have a nightmare clean-up job on your hands, press PRINT on one of the sample models on the included USB stick and off you go.

That’s the theory anyway, in reality, you have another step to take which I can’t really understand why Voxelab has made you go through. The models on the stick are.STL files and haven’t been ‘sliced’ for the printer so you can’t print them without taking them to your PC and installing either the Voxelab software or the more popular Chithubox or LycheeSlicer, slicing them up and saving them back to the card and then hitting print. So in reality, certainly if you have never used a slicer before, the chances of you picking all that up in five minutes are slim. Nothing is inherently difficult, but it would have been nice if the included Deer model had been print ready, and as I said, I don’t really know why it isn’t.

Of course, you will have to get your hands dirty (wear gloves!) with the slicer sooner rather than later, but while the excitement to get your first print going is palpable, just give us the file ready to print.

This great little machine would have won this review round-up because of ease of set-up and price, but the one thing that is holding it back is it’s age. The Proxima has not had time to mature yet simply because it is so new. It is being bought up in decent numbers because of its price point and as such the support from Voxelab/Flashforge isn’t quite there yet, with many of the spare parts such as extra vats or FEP sheets being sold out on the company website and unavailable of Amazon. This in itself is certainly not a reason to not buy it as the almost guaranteed success of the machine means these items will quickly come back in stock, but I like the reassurance of being able to get what I need immediately, rather than waiting for stock to come back in and then be shipped from China.

Also consider
PROS

Perfect printer for those that want to learn and play around

Excellent print quality for the price

Easy DIY upgrades

Good build volume

CONS

Self-assembly

No auto bed leveling

The Creality Ender 3 Pro makes our list for the excellent price-to-performance value on offer. Creality has been around since 2014, and they’ve injected each successive iteration of the Ender model with the know-how and expertise picked up along the way. The Creality Ender 3 Pro is a prime example of this and is, in fact, one of the latest upgrades to Creality’s respected Ender line-up.

The upgrades include a beefier power supply, better components, and a magnetic build surface, which work to offer a safer and more stable printer. The Creality Ender 3 Pro specifications include features you’d expect from pricier options, notably a fairly sizable build volume of 220 mm x 220 mm x 250 mm, a power recovery mode, a heated bed, and a tight filament pathway. The results speak to this with superb quality prints for the price. As an FDM printer using standard 1.75 mm filament, the Creality Ender 3 Pro is ideal for those that want to keep costs down moving forward.

The Creality Ender 3 Pro does ship as an assembly kit, and while the build may take a few hours, it’s relatively straightforward. As kit assembly printers go, the Creality Ender 3 Pro is among the simplest to get up and running. You have to factor in a bit of setting up and calibration, chiefly because it doesn’t include an auto-leveling feature, though. Despite what may be a drawback for novices, investing the time to set up the Creality Ender 3 Pro correctly translates to excellent prints for a 3D printer under $300.

The Creality Ender 3 Pro is ideal for those who want to learn as they build, supported by a bustling community of Ender enthusiasts. It also has the added benefit of being exceptionally well geared towards tinkering and upgrades. As Creality bluntly puts it, the Ender 3 Pro is ‘hackable as hell.’

PROS

Print quality

Semi-assembled

Filament sensor

50 micron resolution

CONS

Loud printing

Build volume

The Anycubic Mega S is another 3D printer that successfully balances a sub-$300 price tag with impressive print quality and a generous feature set. Undoubtedly an entry-level printer, the Anycubic Mega S comes with its limitations, it has to be said. Still, there’s plenty here for beginners and even seasoned printers to sink their teeth into.

A solid full-metal frame, three-step easy assembly, a high-quality Titan extruder better suited to flexible filament, suspended filament spool holder, and 50 to 400-micron print resolution combine to offer easy up-and-start printing (after manual bed leveling). The results are invariably reasonable, surprising even for a $300 printer. The open design makes the Anycubic Mega S particularly suited to modification and tinkering.

The Anycubic Mega S also boasts quality of life features that have trickled down from much pricier printers, such as a filament sensor that includes run-out detection, an auto-resume function after power loss, and Anycubic’s impressive Ultrabase heated print bed (strong adhesion and easy removal of finished prints), and a full-color integrated touch screen.

As for the negatives, the Anycubic Mega S runs loud with both the fans and stepper motors combining to make quite a din, unlike the Creality Ender 3 V2, which is virtually inaudible by 3D printer standards. The build volume lags behind the Ender 3 as well, with a 210 x 210 x 205 mm print area. While Anycubic could have made some improvements here, these issues don’t take away from the fact that the Anycubic Mega S offers good print quality, excellent quality of life features, and broad material support (TPU, PLA, ABS, HIPS, Wood).

PROS

Fully enclosed design

Out-of-the-box printing

CONS

Build volume

No auto-bed leveling

Limited connectivity

Another top plug-and-play 3D printer under $300 worth considering is the QIDI Technology X-one2. But unlike the FlashForge Finder, this one includes an almost fully enclosed-frame design (the top remains uncovered), ideal if you favor safety or want a controlled printing environment to manage temperatures and keep unpleasant ABS fumes contained to a certain extent.

Features include a resolution of 50 to 400 microns, MK10 extruder, a user-friendly 3.5-inch touch screen, a CNC aluminum alloy build, a heated build plate (110-degrees), support for PLA, TPU, ABS, PETG filament, and an SD card reader. Prints quality falls within a respectable range for the price, and you can expect smooth, detailed creations to come out reliably.

Much like the FlashForge Finder, the QIDI Technology X-one2 sacrifices build volume for plug-and-print ease of use, with an underwhelming 145 x 145 x 145 mm build area. Similarly, the printer lacks auto-bed leveling, although the setup is reasonably straightforward – feed-in filament, adjust a few screws to level the bed, and you’re ready to go.

Things To Consider

Choosing the right 3D printer is a pretty big decision, so it’s important that you thoroughly consider your options before you buy. That also means thinking about what is most important to you in a 3D printer. With that in mind, here are some of the key things to think about when buying your 3D printer.

Intended Use

One of the first things that you need to think about when buying your 3D printer is what you are planning on using it to make. This can have a huge influence on the kind of machine that you should be buying. Here are just a few of the common things that you can make with a 3D printer.

First of all, you can create the kinds of objects that you would usually find around the house. If you are planning on making household objects with your 3D printer, you should get an FDM printer. If you are planning on creating things that are going to be used with food, make sure that you coat the items in a food-safe epoxy.

You can also make objects that you can use outdoors. In this case, you are going to need something extra durable. You should use something similar to ABS in this case. Likewise, if you are planning on making works of art with your 3D printer you should use a resin printer. For professional items, you can use a resin printer. For things like tools, you may need to pay a little extra to get a more heavy-duty 3D printer.

It’s also a good idea to think about your plans for the 3D printer in the long term. Is it something you just want to experiment with and use for fun, or do you plan on using it in the long term for bigger projects? There’s no point in buying a cheap 3D printer that will only give you a basic level of functionality if you have bigger projects planned later down the line. Sometimes it’s better to pay a little more money for a printer that’s going to give you more functionality if you plan on making 3D printing more than just a hobby.

Printer Style

There are a few different printer styles on the market that are worth thinking about. Again, what you choose can determine the sorts of things that you can make with the printer. The first type of 3D printer is the FDM printer. These are generally used by people that like to do 3D printing as a hobby. It’s often best to opt for a Cartesian style construction of FDM since this is usually going to give you significantly better control, and it may also improve the results that you get in the end.

For incredibly detailed work, you should opt for an SLA printer. These printers are incredibly precise. DLP printers on the other hand are much smoother in terms of operation than FDM machines are. You can also opt for SLS or Selective Laser Sintering printers, but these are usually best for creating industrial-level parts that may be a little difficult to make.

If you are looking for a beginner’s 3D printer, it’s definitely best to get an FDM printer, and they are also usually a lot more affordable too.

Quality

It’s important to assess the overall quality of the printer before you buy. Naturally, there are two main things that can determine the quality of the printer: the print speed and the print resolution.

If you want to have a lot of detail in your projects, you will need to get a printer that has a has smaller microns, since this will give you more details. In addition to this, if the printer can move its extruder faster, it will print the items much more quickly.

It can sometimes be a little difficult to gauge the quality of the printer just by reading the specifications set out by the manufacturer, however. In these circumstances, it’s best to turn to the internet for help! Other customers will often post photos of their finished results, and these can show you the quality of output you’re getting from the printer.

Safety Functions

3D printing can get rather dangerous if you’re not careful, so it’s important to ensure that your machine has some precautions in place in case something goes wrong. There are some safety features in particular that you should consider getting. For instance, look for models that have automatic nozzle cooling once you have finished printing. Sometimes 3D printers will come with heated beds, and the printer may come with an automatic shut-off feature for this when the project is complete. These are just a few of the things that you should take into consideration.

Print Resume Function

Sometimes unexpected things may happen. For instance, your printer may suddenly pause in the middle of your work, perhaps because the power has cut off. Naturally, you don’t want your entire printing project to be ruined. In these situations, having a print resume function can be incredibly helpful. Your printer will just continue where it left off, rather than starting the entire project again from scratch.

UI

Having a 3D printer that’s easy to use can go a long way, and can certainly make your user experience far more enjoyable. You don’t want to spend unnecessary time on playing around with a rotary knob, after all. With this in mind, you should look for a printer that comes with a touchscreen interface if possible, since this will generally be a lot easier for you to use.

Print Bed Size

The size of the print bed of your 3D printer can determine the size of projects that you can make, so it’s important to think carefully about this. If the print bed is bigger it means you can print larger things. This may not be that important to you if you are primarily going to be making smaller objects, however.

Additional Features

So, what else can your 3D printer offer you? There are a few things worth looking for. For starters, what is the connectivity on the printer like? Can it connect easily with a computer or a laptop, or do you need something like an SD card to get the printer to work? Also, has the printer come already completely assembled, or are you just going to get a 3D printer kit? Finally, consider the amount of noise that the 3D printer makes – these devices can be rather noisy, so it’s worth considering if you’re going to be working in an environment where the noise is going to be a problem. If you are then you may need to consider getting a quieter model.

FAQs

What can you print on a 3D Printer

The world is your oyster – to a point. You can only print out things as large as your printer’s Build Bed will allow, and in the realm of consumer home-use 3D printers that we are dealing with here, that means objects that are pretty small in reality.

You would struggle for example to build out a stand for your laptop as it simply wouldn’t fit on the build plate of a cheap 3 D printer. There are ways around it, you can chop up the object and print it in several sections and then simply Super Glue it together when it’s done – and indeed many makers do that if they are making props or prototypes, but if you are looking to 3D print a Mandalorian helmet so you can do some crazy cosplay, just be aware you are going to have to do more work than pressing CTRL-P.

How do resin 3D printers work

Science time. Sorry. Resin printers use a technique call Stereolithography to produce solid items.

Stereolithography belongs to a family of additive manufacturing technologies known as vat photopolymerization, commonly known as resin 3D printing. These machines are all built around the same principle, using a light source—a laser or projector—to cure liquid resin into hardened plastic. The main physical differentiation lies in the arrangement of the core components, such as the light source, the build platform, and the resin tank.

SLA 3D printers use light-reactive thermoset materials called “resin.” When SLA resins are exposed to certain wavelengths of light, short molecular chains join together, polymerizing monomers and oligomers into solidified rigid or flexible geometries.

Assuming that means nothing to you, in lay terms your printer will lower a build plate into a vat of uncured resin suspended over (generally speaking) an LCD screen which will display an image for a few seconds. While the image is displayed UV light is leamed through the image which cures (solidifies) a think layer of resin in the shape. This is then repeated for subsequent layers adding more and more cured resin to the shape as the build plate gradually rises upwards from the vat. It’s a very cool process.

Which is better FDM or resin?

It really depends on what you want to print. Resin is better if you want to print small detail objects, FDM is better for larger more functional parts, although you can still print highly-detailed models with filament with a little practice. Note though that they are totally different techniques – you can’t print with resin on an FDM printer and vice versa.

 

How dangerous is resin 3D printing?

Dangerous is a strong word. You are unlikely  to kill yourself printing a few small toy soldiers or a model of the space shuttle but there are definite precautions you NEED to take when printing with resin. The first, and most important coming from the fact the raw material is in liquid form is you absolutely do not want to get it on your skin. Rubber gloves are a must. You also need to take precaution not to let splashes get into your eyes. It is remarkably easy to slosh and splash it around so safety glasses are definite plus. Resin is a huge skin irritant and if you get any one you you need to wash it off immediately and if you ingest it or get it in your eyes you need to seek urgent medical attention to be on the safe side.

Also be careful of secondary contact, such as drips and the like on your desk that you might not realise are there until you have put your hand in them or the cat has walked across them. Take your time, take sensible precautions and you will be just fine.

Our Verdict

Editor's Choice - FDM

Is the Flashforge Finder the best printer on the market at the moment? No way. Is it the best out-of-the-box option for total beginners – yes indeed it is. If you stick with the hobby be aware that you may well outgrow this quicker than you think, but if you are put off by the Reddit and youtube tales of bed-levelling woes and stringy messes you can learn whether tinkering and making is actually for you with the minimum of fuss. Of course, some would say tinkering is part of the fun and how you learn, but its not for everybody. If you want to entertain yourself and maybe introduce the kids to the hobby, you won’t go wrong with the finder.