I trust you, which 3D printer to buy?

I love, love love my Glowforge. It has brought endless joy this last year as, I am sure, to all of you out there. Tough year, and all. I also love all things crafty (you see me, Cricut and Silhouette and other artistic people.)
I’m ready to try 3D printing and want to know which one to buy. I am not familiar with 3D software but willing to learn if it’s somewhat friendly. I also don’t care much about the price within reason. Please help me, I trust you guys and know we are all kindred spirits! Help a young girl out.


There’s a couple different technologies at the “within reason” price point, both with pluses and minuses - it would help to know what types of things you’d like to 3D print :slight_smile:

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I have pretty extensive experience; if you would like to discuss the options please let me know. There is a lot of data out there and determining the one that meets your needs will take some time and research, but I am happy to get you started.

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Oh girl, such a rabbit hole to jump into.
As @ekla said, there are two quit different technology’s that are approachable by amateurs and semi-pros.
Which is more important to you Precision or a variety of materials?


@chrisandrobwatson: I own four different “additive” 3D printers and I can recommend those made by Josef Prusa (Original Prusa i3 MK3S+ - Prusa3D - 3D Printers from Josef Průša) without reservation. They are inexpensive, open-source, reliable, easy-to-use and the support is amazing—despite the European location. You can save some money by buying a “kit”, but the extra cost for an assembled unit is not that great. In my experience you will probably not discover what is important to you until you get started, so a random choice of printer is just fine—as long as it is something that “just works”. I got started with free Tinkercad for 3D design—and still use its intuitive Web-based interface today for some tasks. I can promise you that 3D printing is fun! :sunglasses:


Way back when I had an original Thing-O-Matic, which I heavily modified over the years. Then I made the mistake of buying a 3D Systems CubePro printer that became unusable after the company was bought out. Nowadays I have a Creality CR-10 that worked right out of the box and (knock wood) is still printing great with almost no need for modification (although I DO have an automatic bed-leveling kit waiting for me to install it…) I would recommend the CR-10 as being a powerful, reliable, inexpensive (especially compared to the CubePro!) machine with a respectable (300x300x400) build area.

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I second @lightner’s Prusa recommendation. I think to start with a bed leveling system baked in worth the price points.

If you can do the assembly, you can save some with the kit. I think having to put things together helps you understand the machine better and makes it easier to deal with when you inevitably have something you need to replace on the head after a while or from a failed print that became a blob that enveloped your whole head. I haven’t had one of those in a while because I know how to avoid them. Good quality prints without a whole lot of messing with settings and hardware.

I don’t know what the CR10s are limiting out with hot end temp these days , but being able to print higher temps for PETG is a plus for extended materials use. I do like the Cr10 I have. It’s great for larger prints but they do take longer.

That’s my experience at the moment.


The first question you need to ask is, what do you want to do with the printer?

The second question you need to ask is, how much money do you want to spend?

The answers to these two questions would dictate your most-optimal choices.

I’ve been 3D printing since the original Makerbot came out. I currently own a Robo3D FDM (extrudes plastic filament) printer which is getting long in the tooth. But I’m waiting for a belt printer (unlimited print length) to show up hopefully late March. I also own a Form1+ and Form3 SLA printer (cures liquid resin with a UV light source, in my case a laser pew pew).

I use the Robo3D to print functional parts that don’t need to be pretty. They have to be printed “oversize” in high stress areas because FDM prints aren’t very strong, particularly in tension, where layers can pull apart. I machine the FDM prints on my CNC for things that need to be dimensionally very accurate. If you want to print stuff that looks 3D printed, and/or that you want to be able to take some mild abuse, or your budget-limited, FDM is the way to go.

I use the Formlabs printers for stuff that I want to be high-quality. The printers produce parts that look like they came out of a mold. But while the resins are getting better all the time, the basic nature of the curing process tends to produce parts that shatter (like glass) when they yield (most plastics will bend). So I’ve been frustrated trying to use these prints in heavy duty use cases, they don’t do well with high impacts. This type of printer is also more expensive to own and operate. Resins aren’t cheap, they’re kind of messy and prints need post-processing to clean them up and finalize the curing of the resin, and the resin tray that holds the resin during a print is a consumable that also isn’t cheap. But these printers do produce amazing quality at a level that FDM can’t even come close to approximating. My Formlabs printers aren’t very inexpensive, but there are a slew of much lower cost SLA printers hitting the market now. The cost of entry has been lowered literally by more than 10x. If you want to print really high resolution items, you must go with SLA.

Both types of printers smell, in varying degrees depending on the printer and the materials it’s printing with. The resin printers however, are always “wet” so they smell a bit even when they’re not printing. This can be a limiting factor for example, if you live in a small apartment…


I also recommend the Prusa. I bought the kit and glad I did. I learned a lot about how it goes together and how it works. Now whenever I have a problem and a print doesn’t go well I have a good idea what went wrong. They have continued to make improvements and their slicer software is getting better and better. I have had mine for over two years. I also like their forum, almost as good as the members here. Watch some of their videos.


If you want something that is plug and play, like your Glowforge, buy a Dremel. It’s what I have in my school makerspace and I’ve had one clog/issue in five years…I doubt many 3D printer owners can claim that. :slight_smile: Our first year was the year of fidget spinners, and that dang thing was printing literally all day long every day without a hiccup.

Their customer service is stellar, and their slicing software (there is a desktop version and a cloud-based version) is easy to use. My students pick it up immediately without me having to do much instruction. You do have to buy their proprietary filament, which is a bit more expensive, but it’s worth the ease of use to me.

They have three different models…I would recommend the middle one, the 3D40, unless you really have a need to do different types of filaments (it only prints PLA). Make sure you get it with the flexible build plate, which allows you to pop your finished prints right off the print bed easily.


I own a much bigger, much more complicated 3D printer at home…and I don’t use it as often as I would if I would have bought a Dremel! Some people love doing test prints and tweaking settings until things are just so…I want to spend my time printing, not tinkering.

Happy to answer any other questions for you!


I fourth the Prusa recommendation. I also bought the multi material usint so I could do multi color printing. The MMU is interesting but not wholly necessary. The Prusa is a great printer. The support is top notch along with the community. The software is good, too. Regardless of which 3d printer, get ready to tinker. They are fun, but not perfect.


Probably, without knowing much, a variety of materials!

In that case, FDM is the way to go and that is good in that it this technology is more mature.
There are so many good FDM printers that it is hard to nail down just a few.
Make sure that what ever you get has a hot end that gets Hot so you can utilize all the modern filiments.
I have and like my Lulzbot but I I said, there are lots of good ones.

If you want the machine to do all the heavy lifting and work out-of-box with zero knowledge. Buy a Prusa.

If you like to understand how the machines work and aren’t scared of a few minutes of prep (which is minimal compared to print times), I love my fleet of Ender 3 Pros. They are also dirt cheap and I’ve never had a single issue.


Prusa 100%.

I’ve owned a few different 3D printers and this is my favorite by far. It is serviceable, either by you or by a tech in your area (and well loved by so many people there is bound to be someone near you).

It’s a magic journey, the first time you make something physical and real from out of your imagination. Absolutely addictive!


I had to remind myself we are talking about 3D printers here, because when I read this I immediately thought of my :glowforge: because that is how this journey has been for me!

I love following this thread. I hope to get a 3D printer one day also. I have a friend who owns a Prusa, so that is probably the direction I will go.


I want to add a word of warning about the Prusa. While it is a good machine, it is not a great machine. You must be prepared for a certain level of maintenance and you will have to learn to take it apart. I have two of them and maintain a third. They are good for their price point, but there are better machines on the market that are more reliable and don’t require as much maintenance.


Good to know! What would you recommend, @ben1 ?

@ben1: So exactly which 3D printers do you feel are “better machines on the market that are more reliable and don’t require as much maintenance” as those from Josef Prusa?

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@bill.m.davis It depends on the use, the required capabilities, and the person. I don’t give general recommendations without some knowledge of what the user has in mind and what they are willing to spend money wise or time wise.

@lightner The CEL Robox is one such machine. It is only recently that the Prusa has approached the technology that was in the Robox, and the Robox still has technology features that no other printer has. Their filament monitoring checks both for presence and movement, and the controlled flow print head eliminates stringing in most materials. The AC powered bed heater heats the bed faster than any other printer with an equivalent bed size. The ULTEM PEI bed sheet means you get the same bed adhesion, or better, than the Prusa and other PEI sticker beds, can use every other bed surface on the market by just adding it to the top of a spare sheet, or by making an insert.
I have seven Robox machines, six of which have over 5000 print hours each. My oldest probably has double that. I have spend less on upgrades and repairs on any one Robox than I have on my Prusa MK3. When new part designs get released for the Prusa, they get printed on the Robox.

I started with the Prusa MK2.5. I had the extruder motor cable fail twice, due to their poor cable management. I designed my own cable management and the problem stopped. They have since come up with a similar solution. The MK3 continues to have filament cooling issues leading to jams with large parts and high temperature materials, especially with the stock hotend. I had to upgrade the heatbrake and the thermal paste in order to print the same materials that my Robox units will print all day long. Even with the new design for the airflow over the heatsink, a titanium heatbrake and improved thermal paste, I get heat creep into the filament during certain prints.
The stepper drivers in the Prusa Mk3 are great, but don’t take into account that if the extruder cuts a hole in the filament the printer will just keep printing. Thanks to Prusa’s faulty profiles I had to spend four hours cleaning burned material from a heatsink that baked PETG into it. The profile was tuned to a higher extrusion value than it should have been and the extruder cut a divot into the filament when it jammed. The printer never even noticed. The Robox extruder would have detected a failure to feed, since it isn’t reliant on the extruder load, and would have paused the print until I could have cleared the problem. The Robox profiles haven’t had that issue either; their profiles are pretty much bulletproof in my experience.
Prusa only now solved their heat sensitivity issue for the PINDA, and guess what, you have to pay for it. Robox uses direct bed sensing so it isn’t heat sensitive.
Prusa had to replace the linear bearings and linear rods on both of my printers due to excessive wear. This was the only issue that I got a fix for without paying for.
My MK2.5 caught fire due to poor workmanship on the power supply cables from their factory. When I complained about it they didn’t even offer to send new power supply cables or replacement parts because I “could print my own parts and make my own cables”. I had to replace them myself, within the warranty period. The MK3 uses a different design because of this issue.
When I have a job that I need done on time, I use the Robox. The Prusa gets used only for jobs that don’t fit in the Robox or that need the MMU2. The MK2.5 is down right now for a filament feed issue. Apparently the new fan (yet another paid “upgrade”) can’t keep that heatsink cool either, so I have to give it the same treatment that the MK3 got, and I don’t have any reason to get it working right now, so it collects dust until I have a need to buy yet more parts for it.

I also think that the Zortrax line or the Ultimaker line are better printers than the Prusa, though they have a lot of the same technology drawbacks when compared to the Robox. I also don’t have any direct experience with them, so I am only going on what I have read about these two manufacturers.

CEL fell behind on their software development and their slicer lacks some of the modern features, but even so many other printer companies are headed the same way CEL went, having custom software rather than attempting to make do with a generic.

CEL has been pushing the state of the art in FDM technology for years. I recently read an article from a US university talking about breakthrough tech where they would change the angle of the print head to eliminate support. CEL had a prototype of this tech three years ago.

The only issues that I have with the Robox right now are that they don’t have any support for US customers and they are much smaller than other companies so COVID killed their supply chain. These two circumstances are why I can’t recommend the Robox to new users in the US right now. Once they are able to get their supply chain up again and if they get US support again the Robox will be my top recommendation for a hobby 3D printer.