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The best 3D printer for beginners to buy for 2020

The best 3D printer for beginners to buy for 2020


The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the versatility of 3D printers and the need for 3D printing expertise. Large corporations such as HP and Formlabs, as well as indie 3D model makers, have mobilized 3D printers to design and create everything from clips for masks (both homemade and surgical) to PPE-like face shields and even a 3D printed part that helps create a hands-free door handle to bolster the fight against COVID-19.

After several weeks of working from home without access to a 3D printer, I procured an XYXPrinting da Vinci Jr. 1.0 A Pro and immediately made a few fasteners for homemade cloth masks. Then I decided to 3D print some face shields. They’re truly amazing machines.


The 3D-printed hook holds my home-made cloth face mask in place. 

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My interest in 3D printing technology and 3D design started back in 2018, when I got deep in the weeds, creating everything from phone stands to tabletop game accessories to a sweet mini Millennium Falcon. Since then, I’ve doubled down, getting into 3D scanning and even laser cutting, which lets you sculpt real-world designs from wood and leather. Luckily, the 3D printing industry has been experiencing a boom, with new hardware and 3D printing software entering the market to meet all of my 3D printing and 3D scanning needs.

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Thanks to growth in the industry, there are plenty of 3D printing options to choose from, but finding a 3D printer that meets your needs and is within your price range can still be tricky. That’s why we’re here to help. We’ve considered the pros and cons of each consumer 3D printer, along with printing speed, print quality, build volume, noise level, design, resolution, print volume, size of the print bed and build plate, whether it includes a heated build plate, conduciveness to additive manufacturing and more. A 3D printer kit, which can range from affordable (under $200) to high-end (over $3,000), is an awesome gift for a creative person in your life. And they’re great for you to craft your own personalized 3D modeling designs.

Once you find the best 3D printer and you end up getting completely addicted to 3D printing and dreaming about PLA filament, don’t blame me. (But if you do, here’s a handy 3D printing FAQ that should answer some of your questions). This list is updated periodically.

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The ambitious da Vinci Jr. 1.0 A Pro is a step-up 3D desktop printer with a big 6.9-inch square build surface and optional add-ons for both laser engraving and using specialized printing material like a carbon-fiber filament type. It’s $450 with just the standard equipment, or $580 with the extras. That said, the lack of built-in Wi-Fi on this printer is a major hassle, and for this price a nonheated bed is a serious omission. Some of the company’s printers are locked to proprietary filament, but fortunately, this 3D print model is not (which is good, because the sample roll of PLA included in the box wasn’t great). 

Despite some extra troubleshooting required during setup, I liked the modular nature of the, its big, easy to use buttons, and frankly, the cheerful bright orange color. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Despite the low price, this is a pretty damn full-featured 3D printer, and a favorite affordable 3D printer for testing the 3D printing waters. Print quality and print speed are excellent on this mini 3D printer. Just be sure to purchase extra filament for this cheap 3D printer since you’ll use up the sample filament very quickly. 

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If you’re set on a resin printer, this is the best desktop 3D printer for you. Resin printers are the next step up in rapid prototyping design technology when you want your print job to look as high quality as any industrial 3D printer or anything assembled in a factory. Just be warned: The resin is harder to work with, and printing with resin requires good ventilation. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

This is my go-to best 3D printer for the 3D printing enthusiast for balancing price, easy use and print quality. Setup is easy, and I had it assembled and was ready to start printing my in less than 30 minutes after opening the box and gathering materials for my 3D printed object.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Recreate pretty much anything by putting it on this 3D scanner, where a rotating base and built-in camera create a 360-degree copy, which is then editable in any 3D program and printable on your 3D printer. Simply scan the object, import the scan into your slicing software for cleanup and print. The included software alerts you of next steps in the printing process with either sound or texts. Scan quality and print resolution are great with this 3D printer, and printer setup is easy. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Printing technology doesn’t get much better than what comes with this 3D model printer. Glowforge laser cutters can sculpt projects from wood, leather, lucite and other materials, making it an interesting printing alternative to filament-based 3D printers or a professional 3D printer. Even better, what would take an FDM printer hours to do, takes just minutes in the Glowforge. 

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Originally published earlier and updated periodically.

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