3D printers create objects by laying down incredibly thin successive layers of material, one on top of another, until a 3D item forms. You can create toys, small knick-knacks and even parts of machinery with just a model and a bit of material.
When 3D printing first started to make its way into the mainstream, printers commonly cost up to $100,000 each. Today, tech has advanced so far that you can now own a 3D printer in your home at a fraction of the price of the original models.
Getting started with 3D printing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. We’ve rounded up some of the best in-home 3D printers available under $300.
Quicklook: Best Cheap 3D Printers
- Best Overall: XYZprinting da Vinci Mini – View on Amazon
- Comgrow Creality Ender 3 – View on Amazon
- Anycubic Full Metal i3 Mega 3D Printer – View on Amazon
- ALUNAR 3D Printer – View on Amazon
- Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer V2 – View on Amazon
- FlashForge Finder 3D Printer – View on Amazon
- JGMAKER Magic 3D Printer – View on Amazon
- Anycubic Mega-S 3D Printer – View on Amazon
- ELEGOO Neptune 3D Printer – View on Amazon
- SainSmart x Creality Ender-3 PRO 3D Printer – View on Amazon
What to Look for in a 3D Printer
Every 3D printer isn’t equal when it comes to quality — even at a lower price point. Look for these features when you shop for an affordable 3D printer.
FDM Printing Capabilities
It’s best to start with an FDM printer if you’re just getting started with 3D printing and you don’t print professionally. In an FDM printer, a thermoplastic material fiber is heated until it becomes malleable and then extends through an extrusion head onto the printer’s table. The table lies on the Z axis, while the head of the printer uses X and Y coordinates indicated by the pattern to lay molten plastic, layer by layer, until the object takes form.
The counterpart to FDM printing is resin printing. Resin printing uses stereolithography technology (SLA). SLA works by exposing a molten layer of resin to a UV light, which causes the resin to harden. Like FDM printing, after a layer is laid and hardened, the printer uses the next set of coordinates on the pattern to lay another layer until the object takes form.
Beginners might prefer FDM printers because they’re smaller, less expensive and easier to operate. The liquid plastic used in FDM printers is also more widely available and FDM modes can be as small as a desk lamp. Resin printers are more expensive both to initially purchase and operate. They can easily cost up to $6,000, even for a small in-home model.
Start your search with FDM printers if you’re on a budget. If you find that you have a real passion for printing or you’d like to jump into the professional sphere, you can always upgrade later.
A Size That Works For You
When 3D printers first came onto the market, they were very large — some models even needed their own lab and still only produced small items. Today’s 3D printers are much smaller and more manageable. Look for a small model that can fit on a desk or table if you’re a beginner.
If you’ve already worked with 3D printers before and you want to create larger objects, make sure to pay careful attention to the dimensions of both the printer itself and the room you want to keep it in.
ABS and PLA Filament Compatibility
If you’re shopping for a low-end 3D printer, your filament options will be more limited. Filament is the material used by FDM printers to create your objects. Filament is sold in spools, usually contain about 2 pounds of filament per spool and cost around $20 to $50 per spool.
One of the first decisions that you need to make as a new 3D printer owner is which type of filament you want to print with. The most common low-cost filaments are acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA). Both filaments are similar in price but have a few different qualities. ABS looks smoother when dry but it needs a printer with higher heating capacities and it emits an odor when melted.
PLA doesn’t emit an odor when used for printing but is less flexible and tends to produce brittle-looking objects. There are more types of filaments available (including polyvinyl alcohol, high-impact polystyrene, nylon and even bronze) but they’re not as common and are usually much more expensive.
You probably can’t really imagine the difference between the two materials if you’ve never used them before. The simple solution? Choose a printer that can handle both types of materials.
Multiple Connectivity Options
Typically, 3D printers access patterns and models by connecting to a computer via a USB cord. While this method works well for most, you may want to invest in a printer with Wi-Fi connectivity if you’d like to set your printer up away from your desktop or laptop computer. Some 3D printers have their own internal memory capabilities which can save you the hassle of loading up the model for every print. Some printers also offer Ethernet connections, though this option is becoming less and less common.
If you’re a serious 3D printing enthusiast, you may also want to choose a model with direct peer-to-peer connectivity. This allows you to download open-source models and patterns directly to your printer without the extra steps of exporting the pattern to an SD card or USB thumb drive and then transferring it to the printer manually. The downside of printing directly from media is that it usually takes longer, as 3D printer processing speeds pale in comparison to even low-end modern laptops. Decide how you want to get your models and connect to your printer before you choose a model.
The Best Affordable 3D Printers
Know what you’re looking for in a printer? Check out our favorite affordable models — they all offer various fun and useful features.
Best Overall: XYZprinting da Vinci Mini
Who it’s for: The printing newbie who wants to give it a try without investing an arm and a leg.
One of the best ways to save money when you get started with 3D printing is to choose a mini model — and there’s not a mini model on the market that can top the XYZprinting da Vinci Mini. Small and stylish, the da Vinci weighs only 18 pounds and streamlines printing options through wireless capabilities and a single push startup. Reviews praise the da Vinci’s easy setup, quiet operation and flawless printing capabilities. At just under $180, it’s also one of the most affordable options on our list.
The only place where XYZ loses points? The printer is only compatible with XYZ PLA filament — and though the da Vinci model comes along with plenty of filament to get you started, you won’t be able to try other filament types unless you decide to upgrade. Still, the model is powerful, small, fun and it’s easy to use. It’s our top choice for those searching for an affordable 3D printer.
Comgrow Creality Ender 3
Who it’s for: The 3D printing enthusiast who knows his or her way around open-source software.
The Ender 3 weighs about 17 pounds and can be assembled in as little as 2 hours — but don’t think that makes it low-quality. At just over $200, the Comgrow Creality Ender 3 is an affordable and lightweight model that will fit on most crafters’ desks. The sleek, slim and stylish aluminum body looks futuristic and modern, so it’s just as much a decorative statement piece as it is a functional piece of hardware. Don’t let the Ender’s small design fool you — the printer features more advanced technology than most printers at this price point.
One feature that makes the Ender 3 unique is its enclosed memory system. If the printer begins a printing a model and the power goes out, the printer can pick up right back where it started once it comes back on.
A sleek option that’s both artistically and mechanically advanced, the Comgrow Creality Ender 3 is a great choice for serious printers who want to save.
Anycubic Full Metal i3 Mega 3D Printer
Who it’s for: 3D printers who want to make small models as giveaways, prizes or thank yous and who want a hassle-free, low-cost printing experience.
The Anycubic Full Metal i3 Mega is the right choice for you if you want to print 3D models quickly without messing around with software or pattern design. An FDM printer that works with many different types of filament, the i3 Mega has a maximum printing speed of 100 mm per second. It’s a fast and efficient option for those who need to print a lot of models quickly.
It doesn’t take long to set up, either. You can basically plug the i3 into your workspace and get started printing as soon as you lock in the filament. The i3 Mega also accepts a number of different input formats: STL, OBJ, .DAE, .AMF files as opposed to most machines that limit their capabilities to only .STL files. The printer also works after accidental power loss much like the Ender 3.
Though the i3 Mega may be slightly higher when it comes to price, professional printers who need to print a number of models quickly will love the printer’s intuitive features and easy setup.
ALUNAR 3D Printer
Who it’s for: Experienced DIY printers who want the satisfaction of setting up and customizing their own printer.
Are you a curious creator? Do you love to figure out how things work? If so, you’ll love the ALUNAR 3D Printer. The ALUNAR 3D Printer is a DIY kit, which means that you’ll need at least a bit of technical skill to put the model together, but you can customize the model to support different printing methods, filaments and materials.
Widely used in educational settings as well as personal home setups, the ALUNAR 3D Printer is a compact learning experience that budding engineers will love.
Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer V2
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for a compact, low-maintenance way to dip their toes into the world of 3D printing.
One the opposite end of the spectrum from the ALUNAR 3D Printer is the no-nonsense Monoprice Select Mini. The Monoprice Select Mini is compact, weighing in at about 14 pounds. The Mini accepts multiple types of filament, ranging from ABS and PVA to wood.
Unlike almost every other low-cost 3D printer, the Mini also comes fully assembled. It also includes a MicroSD card with a number of pre-installed models so you can plug and print right away.
FlashForge Finder 3D Printer
Who it’s for: In-home enthusiasts who want a quiet, easy-to-operate printer.
Another model that comes assembled, the FlashForge Finder features a unique square shape that will fit on any desk or table. Hailed as one of the quietest printers on the market, the FlashForge
Finder operates with as little as 50 decibels — so quiet that almost no one can hear it. It also has a number of fun features that make printing simple, like easy Cloud storage that allows you to browse and download designs directly onto the printer.
Perfect for anyone who wants a solid, Wi-Fi compatible 3D printer, this model from FlashForge will fit in both functionally and aesthetically with any home office.
JGMAKER Magic 3D Printer
Who it’s for: Printing enthusiasts who want a combination of industrial power, easy assembly and failure safety net features.
The “magic” in the JGMAKER Magic 3D Printer lies in the device’s multiple fail-safe features that make 3D printing all but foolproof. The Magic 3D Printer can seamlessly resume printing after the power has been disconnected, warn you when the device detects that filament is running low and is even able to resume if the SD card is accidentally removed.
This model from JGMAKER features an industrial grade base and tray that makes the printer safe enough for use on any home desk. It’s also exceptionally easy to assemble — the company claims that most users will assemble their model in as little as 2 hours. Easy for anyone and fast to boot, the JGMAKER Magic 3D Printer is a good choice for absolute newbies as well as experienced professionals.
Anycubic Mega-S 3D Printer
Who it’s for: Users who want a comprehensive 3D printer with minimal assembly that still offers plenty of unique features and customization options.
Another strong offering from Anycubic, the Mega-S is one of the company’s latest models — and the design team has taken steps to make sure that it’s perfect for both beginners and experts.
With just 3 steps to get started and 8 screws to place, you can begin with the Mega-S in as little as 15 minutes. The printer comes with a kit that has everything you’ll need to get started, including filament, limit switches and even a pair of gloves. The Mega-S is also great for more experienced users, with expert-level customization options and 20-100 mm/s printing speeds.
ELEGOO Neptune 3D Printer
Who it’s for: Domestic and international 3D printing enthusiasts who are concerned about safety features first.
It can be hard to find a 3D printer that’s compatible with your home or office’s electrical voltage if you live outside the U.S. 3D printers sold online almost always take U.S. outlet voltage into consideration exclusively, which means that international buyers will have to use a converter.
The Neptune 3D printer is outfitted with LRS-350 single output switching power, meaning that international users won’t fry their printer’s wires when you plug it in. It’s also an incredibly comprehensive printer, offers tons of essential features and works right out of the box.
SainSmart x Creality Ender-3 PRO 3D Printer
Who it’s for: 3D printing enthusiasts who love the Ender 3 model but are willing to splurge a little bit more for a sturdier base.
The Ender-3 PRO is an upgraded version of the Ender 3 — and this model also includes technology from the team at SainSmart that makes it safer and more stable for home use.
The team at SainSmart has remodeled the aluminum base of the Ender 3, making it safer for home use while retaining the same power of the original Ender 3 model. This can be worth the splurge for parents or pet owners concerned stability and safety.
Get Started 3D Printing
You’ve saved, used your budgeting app and you’re finally ready to get your hands on the 3D printer you’ve always wanted. The technology that was once only for professors and engineers in university laboratories can now be yours for under $300.
Unfortunately, the learning curve to using your 3D printer may still be a little steep if you’re making your first foray into the printing world. Before you decide to buy a printer, check out a few 3D model patterns — sites like Thingiverse and ALL3DP are overflowing with designers that offer open-source models that anyone can print.
Don’t be afraid to check out a few patterns or hit the forums for printer recommendations straight from the source. These communities are often welcoming to newcomers who want to learn more about this niche hobby.
Want to learn more about affordable products? Check out Benzinga’s guides to the best cheap televisions, the best cheap cell phone plans and the best cheap office chairs.