The 10 Best 3D Printers - June 2017
Every week we analyse the technical specs, reviews and prices of every 3D printer on the market in the UK to determine our top 10 list.
In total we compared over 80 3D printers, 347 reviews and 613 prices. Last updated 23 June 2017.
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Buying a 3D Printer
3D printing is a new but rapidly growing field of printing and creating. Also known as ‘additive manufacturing’, 3D printers are very different from all other printers. Below we will give you an introduction to what 3D printers are, how they work and what attributes to consider when choosing a model.
3D printing, as the name suggests, involves taking a blueprint of an object and creating a fully-realised 3D model as a physical object. The object is not so much ‘printed’ as ‘constructed’ - the printer breaks the blueprint down into hundreds of small layers, then nozzles pump a special plastic material into the shape required for the layer. It then moves up the tiniest fraction, and repeats for the next layer, and so on. Using this method the model is constructed from the base up, and at the end you have a fully 3D version of the blueprint!
Because 3D printing is such a versatile technology, the scope of what you can print is astounding. People have successfully 3D printed everything from extremely-intricate toys and clothes to replacement parts for machines. Someone has even managed to print a fully-functional camera! Many of the blueprints used to create such things are freely available online, meaning that anyone with access to a 3D printer can download and fabricate the item!
Because the process is far cheaper and faster than creating many of the objects normally, 3D printing is increasingly being used for the creation of artificial limbs., especially for children. This is because they grow so quickly that they outgrow the size of their limbs, so cheaper, fast-produced replacements will utterly change the game.
3D printing is not just limited to medical or mechanical objects - there is a growing field dedicated to 3D printing food! While still in it’s infancy, people have already successfully used fine sugar syrups or protein pastes to create a wide array of foods, from sweets to savoury snacks.
In short, it’s an astoundingly exciting field, with a lot of potential. The tech has a long way to go still, but consumer models of machines are already available on the market for early adopters.
Because 3D printing is such cutting-edge technology, models for early adopters come with a hefty price tag attached. Some small, lower end models can be got for around £300-400, but most come in between £750-1000. As with all very new tech, it’s expected that as more and more consumer models appear on the market, the prices will start to drop in the years to come. However right now, the price will form a substantial barrier to entry.
Once you’ve decided to buy a machine, the next consideration is the size. Because there has to be enough space in the machine to fit the finished object, what you can create will be limited by the size of the machine. Small printers may only be able to fabricate objects a few centimetres across, while larger, more expensive machines allow for correspondingly bigger creations.
Also, it’s worth noting that even the smallest 3D printers have quite a large footprint, so will take up a substantial amount of space wherever you set them up.
The current generation of 3D printers are not particularly fast, but this tech is evolving and getting faster all the time. That said, there is a substantial difference in speed even between current brands of printer. Look for a model with more than one nozzle for faster printing speeds.
Finally, 3D printers don’t yet always create a perfect 1-to-1 replica of the blueprint. This can be due to many factors, such as sub-standard quality of nozzles - nozzles that are too big don’t allow for very fine precision work, meaning it will create more of a vaguely thing-shaped lump than a delicate construction. The 3D printers on our site have an ‘accuracy’ rating - look for one with very high accuracy for the highest fidelity between the original blueprint and your finished product.
3D Printer Retailers, Prices and Features
3D Printer Prices
The price range of 3D printers is from £199 to £2,355 and in total we found prices for 23 3D printers. A new 3D printer costs on average £808 and 80% of 3D printers are priced between £255 and £1,764. The most expensive 3D printer that we found is the Ultimaker 2 Extended+ at £2,354, and the cheapest is the XYZprinting da Vinci Mini at only £200.
3D Printer Brands - Price Range
Ultimaker 3D printers start at £1,163 and the most expensive Ultimaker 3D printer costs £2,354. The average price of Ultimaker 3D printers is £1,759 which is the highest average price of all 3D printer brands.
3D Systems 3D printers start at £400 and the most expensive 3D Systems 3D printer costs £2,292. The second highest average 3D printer price out of all brands is 3D Systems 3D printers with an average price of £1,485.
The %8highest average 3D printer price out of all brands is Renkforce 3D printers with an average price of £1,259. Renkforce 3D printers start at £1,259 and the most expensive Renkforce 3D printer costs £1,259.
3D Printer Brands - Average Ratings
We have checked 47 expert 0 reviews from across the internet and used this data to calculate the average rating for each brand of 3D printer. Ultimaker is the top rated 3D printer brand with an average rating of 78%. MakerBot is the second best brand with 73% and Up! is the third best brand with 73%.
Biggest 3D Printer Retailers
The biggest 3D printer retailer by number of products currently for sale is Ebuyer Business. We found 11 current 3D printer offers from Ebuyer Business. The second biggest 3D printer retailer is Ebuyer with 11 offers. That means Ebuyer Business is the same as Ebuyer when it comes to 3D printers. Maplin Electronics is the third biggest retailer with 6 current offers.
When Are Most New 3D Printers Released?
Over the last 3 years we couldn't see any prominent pattern in the release month for new 3D printers. June was the biggest month last year for new 3D printers, with eight new 3D printers released that month. 15 new 3D printers were released in September 2015 making it the biggest month that year for new 3D printer releases. In 2014 most new 3D printers were released in September as well, with eight new 3D printers released that month.
How Fast Do 3D Printer Prices Drop After Release?
On average 3D printers drop in price by 5% in the first 6 months after release. If you are prepared to wait then you could save an average of £38 on a typical £808 new 3D printer by waiting 6 months before buying.
Across the range of 3D printers, the accuracy range from 0.0125mm to 0.25mm. The accuracy of most 3D printers range from 0.013mm to 0.036mm.
Comparing all 3D printers, the print resolutions range from 50 DPI to 50 DPI. The PolaroidModelSmart 250S has the biggest print resolution. This 3D printer is a 50 DPI Print resolution 3D printer and currently retails for £1,234.98. The PolaroidModelSmart 250S has the smallest print resolution. This 3D printer is a 50 DPI Print resolution 3D printer and is available at £1,234.98.
Comparing all 3D printers, the print heads range from 1 to 2. The print heads of the majority of 3D printers range from 1 to 2. The 3D printer with the most print head is the CELRobox 3D Printer, which is a 2 print head 3D printer and currently retails for £799.99. The CELRobox 3D Printer, which is on sale for £349.98, has the least print head and is a 1 print head 3D printer.
Biggest 3D Printer Retailers
We found 11 current offers for 3D printers from Ebuyer Business making it the biggest 3D printer retailer. That is the same as the second biggest retailer, Ebuyer for whom we found 11 current offers for 3D printers. The third biggest retailer is Maplin Electronics with 6 current 3D printer offers.
Which Are the Cheapest Retailers for 3D Printers?
With the cheapest price on 10 3D printers, Ebuyer is most frequently the cheapest 3D printer retailer.
Proportion of 3D Printers for Which Each Retailer is Cheapest?
The shop that most frequently offered the cheapest price on 3D printers is Ebuyer and offers the cheapest price on 90.9% of its 3D printers.