Complex creations made of plastic
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3D printers have slowly established themselves and their possible uses are far from exhausted. Numerous service providers offer professional 3D printing to order. The devices have meanwhile also become affordable for private users. But the best quality for at home also has its price: The test winner Ultimaker S5 based on FDM costs around 6,500 euros. You can get our price tip significantly cheaper: The still good Anycubic I3 Mega is available for around 250 euros. Top devices are also available in the 1,000 euro range. But there are differences in the printing technology. Everything you need to know about 3D printers can be found in the article.
Although 3D printing only became suitable for the masses a few years ago, the devices have been around since the late 1980s. Since then, the technology has been continuously refined and manufacturing costs have been reduced, so that 3D printers can now also be found in the semi-professional and hobby areas. There are various printing techniques, but two main methods are used in home-use devices: Stereolithography (SLA) provides very precise printing results with synthetic resin. The plastic printing technique Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is more common. This is cheaper and more user-friendly, which is why most of the devices we tested are FDM printers.
You can read that in our article: We first present the top recommendations from our 3D printer best list in a table and then in detail. We will give you a price estimate and explain our test procedure. Then we will explain how 3D printing works and what different types there are. For the selection of the right 3D printer, we will also give you the relevant criteria and then answer any open questions on the topic.
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This is the best 3D printer in the test
The best 3D printers
|Test winner||Price tip||Best print quality (SLA)|
Anycubic I3 Mega
Formlabs Form 3
Very good (1.3)
Very good (1.2)
Very good (1.4)
Very good (1.0)
FDM / FFF
FDM / FFF
Most popular shop
Most popular shop
|NO OFFERS||NO OFFERS||NO OFFERS|
from € 6,538 GO TO THE SHOP (iGo3D: 3D Printer Store & Office)
from € 249 GO TO THE SHOP (iGo3D: 3D Printer Store & Office)
from € 4,398 TO THE SHOP (3DMensionals)
| price comparison || price comparison || price comparison |
Test winner: Ultimaker S5
- Excellent print quality
- Practical dual extruder
- Very large print area
- High purchase price
- Long warm-up time
- Expensive Ultimaker printing material
In the home user sector, the Ultimaker S5 3D printer is the ultimate. But that is reflected in the price, the test winner is very expensive. The print quality is excellent, the FDM printer shows hardly any deviations from the specifications. He produces all four test objects without any visible defects, even complicated structures with fine bars and holes look flawless. A higher accuracy is only possible with SLA printing. In return, the Ultimaker offers a very generous pressure range. Objects can be 33 by 24 by 30 centimeters in size, which means that up to 23.8 liters of plastic can be processed - most of the 3D printers in the test offer less than half that. The Ultimaker also has two extruders, so it can print in two colors. The 3D printer takes a long time to warm up and prints quite slowly, but that increases the print quality.
In terms of equipment, the Ultimaker S5 received the highest rating. In addition to the USB connection to the PC, you have WLAN and a network cable connection available. You can also start printing without a PC. Only a reader for SD cards is missing. 11 printing materials can be used, but you pay twice as much for the Ultimaker own brand as for filaments from other manufacturers. The printer automatically recognizes the printing material and a camera in the interior of the printing environment allows you to follow the progress remotely. The touch display enables convenient control of the device, and the print bed can be calibrated automatically. The further development of the slicer software Cura used is open-source.
The test winner is also at the top in terms of price: You pay around 6,500 euros for the Ultimaker S5. It is worth using the 3D printer more intensively, otherwise printing is an expensive hobby.
Price tip: Anycubic I3 Mega
- Very good print quality
- Practical accessories
- Great value for money
- No WLAN or LAN interfaces
- No automatic table calibration
- Poor energy efficiency
The price-performance winner Anycubic I3 Mega costs a twentieth of the price of our test winner. That shows the wide range you have to deal with with 3D printers. The Anycubic does not lack print quality, which is very good. The FDM device prints our test objects with minimal deviations and even fine structures work well. The print area of the open and compact device is quite small: the dimensions are 21 by 20 by 20 centimeters, the maximum print volume is 9 liters. The Anycubic is therefore a good solution for smaller and simpler print objects, especially since the material that can be used is also limited: In addition to PLA and ABS, you can only use the impact-resistant polystyrene HIPS and wood fiber PLA.
The print quality of the Anycubic I3 Mega was not saved, but in terms of features and ergonomics. You transfer data via USB cable or from the SD card, the printer does not have network connectivity. The inexpensive model does not have a dual extruder either, but a replacement printhead is included in the accessories. Operation via touch display is possible. However, there is no automatic printing table calibration; you have to do this manually. Anycubic uses the Cura slicer software. The manufacturer does not sell its own filament, so you can freely choose between the PLA or ABS types. Overall, we found the processing of the device only satisfactory and the 3D printer is quite power-hungry for its size, comparable to a dual extruder device.
The Anycubic I3 Mega is a good entry-level device, the price-performance winner only costs around 240 euros. This is great for the print quality offered, but you have certain limitations.
Best print quality (SLA): Formlabs Form 3
- Best print quality in the test
- Good ergonomics
- Large selection of printing materials
- Proprietary slicer software
- Resin printing material is generally expensive
- High purchase price
The Formlabs Form 3 3D printer was the device with the best print quality in our test, with a smooth 1.0 rating and top marks for the printed test objects. The SLA printing process does a great job and, above all, allows fine structures to succeed. You have a little more effort than with FDM printers, especially since you have to laboriously remove support structures. However, you will be rewarded with an extremely precise result. As with most SLA printers, the printing area is limited: the object can have maximum dimensions of 14 by 18 by 14 centimeters and a volume of 3.9 liters, so only small projects can be implemented with the synthetic resin - but professionals can use their creativity let play.
The equipment of the Formlab Form 3 is basically OK. You can connect the 3D printer to the PC via a USB cable and use WiFi or network cables. There is no SD card reader. Everything is included in the scope of delivery to clean and cure the printed object. There is also a large selection of materials that can be used, but without professional knowledge you have to rely on Formlabs' own brand - and that is expensive. The running costs of printing with resin are generally high. The control of the device works well, also directly on the device via the touch display. However, Formlabs relies on proprietary, non-open source slicer software. The printing table can be calibrated automatically, but printing generally takes a long time with SLA.
If you are looking primarily at the print quality of particularly fine structures, you cannot ignore SLA. The Formlabs Form 3 as the test winner in this area is expensive: around 3,900 euros.
How much do I have to spend on a good 3D printer?
The market for 3D printers is now quite large and in the upper price ranges the transition from home user devices to commercial models is fluid. The most expensive 3D printer that we tested costs over 6,000 euros - but it is also the best in terms of quality. The wide range of 3D printers for the home can be found in the range from 2,000 to 4,000 euros. This applies to both FDM and SLA models, although the operating costs differ considerably. Since printer technology is becoming cheaper and cheaper, you can now get good devices for hobby projects at a comparatively low price of 500 to 1,500 euros, including some of the best-selling models. In the range under 500 euros you will find entry-level devices that mostly deliver solid print results, we have not found any real defects here in our tests so far. However, savings are often made in terms of equipment and ergonomics.
What is a 3D printer and what printing techniques are there?
3D printing enables the production of three-dimensional objects without a mold. For this purpose, the selected liquid or solid material is applied in layers under computer control, so that the desired object is gradually created. The materials used now cover a wide field: 3D printers for home use use plastics or synthetic resins, but in the industrial sector, metals, alloys and ceramics are also used for printing. Originally, this was mainly used for the quick production of prototypes, but now special components are also produced with 3D printers if mass production is not worthwhile. Custom 3D printing is a big business.
Various 3D printing methods that work with different materials have been developed since the 1980s. The starting shot was given by stereolithography (SLA), which is still used today in many 3D printers. The object is made of light-curing plastic, especially liquid synthetic resins. A laser hardens the desired surface layer by layer. This method enables very precise printing of even fine structures. In some cases, however, support structures are necessary that have to be removed afterwards. After printing, the item must be cleaned and irradiated with UV light. Modified methods use the projection technology DLP (DLP-SLA) or LEDs with an LCD mask (Masked SLA, MSLA) instead of the laser.
The Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printing method is much cheaper and therefore widespread in 3D printers for home use. As this is a protected brand name of the Stratasys company, the name Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) has been introduced as an alternative. In the technique, molten plastic is discharged from the extruder, the three-dimensional object is built up from layers that melt together and hardened by cooling. Two thirds of 3D printing worldwide is done using this method. Molten metal can also be used instead of plastic, but devices for this are only available in the commercial sector. Other methods of 3D printing such as laser beam melting, laser sintering or 3D screen printing are used there.
What do I have to look out for when buying a 3D printer?
- Printing technology & purpose
With the 3D printer you can produce a lot, from key rings and pen holders to figures and spare parts. However, if you are planning particularly filigree creations, you have to think about the printing technology. Both FDM and SLA printers achieve high print quality, but stereolithography can handle fine structures and details better. However, working with SLA devices requires more effort, both in post-processing of the printed objects and in cleaning and maintaining the printer itself. The extra charge for an SLA printer must be worth it to you. FDM printers are cheaper, require less cleaning, and do great printing on simpler shapes. However, more complex creations do not always succeed.