Best 3D Printers Under $500: Top 3 Picks Of 2017

3D printers have taken an evolutionary step forward as they have become very easy to use and affordable for any household. Tap into your creative side with the unlimited possibilities that come with owning a 3D printer. Here i’ll be comparing three different 3D printers each with their own unique advantages.

To start off with one of my favourite 3D printers the HICTOP DIY kit. It is a very complete printer, it has the biggest print size of the three and can be modified. I would suggest this printer to tech savvy users with patience. It does take a couple of hours to build and there is a learning curve to it. The second printer is the Monoprice select mini which is one of the most purchased 3D printers and for a good reason. Being the cheapest of the three, it’s an amazing ready to go printer. Very durable, easy to use and produces amazing prints. Lastly, the FlashForge finder 3D printer a perfect printer for beginners. Very easy to use and the safest 3D printer because of its enclosure. I highly recommend for beginners and people with kids and pets.

 


Specs

Printing Material

Auto Leveling

Maximum Print Size

Heating Bed

Layer Resolution

Customer Suport

Assembly Time

Warranty


#1

HICTOP Desktop 3D Printer

PLA,ABS,Nylon,Flexiable,More

10.6"x7.9"x7.4"

100-400 Microns

Very Good

4-8 Hours

One Year Warranty

#2

Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer

PLA,ABS,Nylon,Flexiable,More

4.7"x4.7"x4.7"

100-400 Microns

Amazing

Already Assembled

One Year Warranty

#3

FlashForge Finder 3D Printer

PLA Only

5.9"x5.9"x5.9"

100-400 Microns

Excellent

Already Assembled

90 Day Warranty

 

Click on the table of contents below to skip to something specific you are wondering about or keep reading on.

 

1) HICTOP Desktop 3D Printer, Black

The HICTOP 3D printers is one of my favourite printers and a top choice for me. It is the most complete printer coming with every add on you’ll need. It has a strong frame making it durable and more stable. This printer has a big print size which is quite nice for bigger prints.You can also print with many types of materials thanks to the heated bed that it comes with. It produces high quality prints and it’s easy to calibrate with the auto leveling sensor.

I would recommend this printer for more tech savvy people with patience as it does have a learning curve. Being a DIY kit it does take about 4-8 hours to put together. Of cores because it’s a DIY kit you can more easily modify or upgrade it. It is also a open source printer with the capacity to use different softwares.

 

Key features of the HICTOP 3D Printer

Heated Bed

A heated bed is a very useful feature to have in your 3d printer. With the heated bed you can print with many types of different printing materials such as PLA, ABS, WOOD, HIPS, NYLON, FLEXIBLE, PC and PET-G. Without the heating bed you can only print with PLA filament. The heated bed also improves quality and lowers the chance of error by evenly heating and cooling the material.

Solid Build

The HICTOP printer comes with a very strong frame, this is super important for a durable and long lasting printer. Because of the fast moving pieces during printing weaker frames tend to break down faster and not last as long.

Big Print Size

Out of all three printers the HICTOP has the biggest print size of 10.6” x 8.3” x 7.7”. This is awesome for printing on a bigger scale. I personally really like to have the ability to print bigger. Although what most people do is print smaller pieces and put it together.

Auto Leveling

All printers need some sort of calibration and leveling so be able to print accurately. HICTOP can auto level it self saving you time and effort. Although the auto leveling is not a must and can be done manually, I find it really nice to have.

Ability to upgrade

Being a DIY kit gives you the ability to upgrade and modify this printer anyway you want. There are tons of modifications that can be done to improve the printer, many which you can print yourself. Also upgrades you can buy, the most popular being the dual extruder so you can print with two colors or two different materials in the same print.

Open Source

This is an open source 3d printer, which lets you use any other softwares not just what the printer comes with. This can be quite useful for someone who wants to play around with different settings or wants to modify their printer that sometimes requires other software. The best example is a dual extruder upgrade which needs its own software for it to work.

How do you know which is the fastest 3D printer?

The 3D printing speed is determined by how fast the extruder can move in millimeters per second. The speed can generally be changed in the settings because a slower speed can result in better detail and accuracy when it comes to smaller prints but with bigger prints the difference in quality is much less noticeable so you can use a faster setting if you are pressed on time.

For the three printers that am comparing which are in the lower price range, the recommended speed is between 70mm/s-90mm/s to get nice prints. So comparing the print speed can be significant when looking at more expensive 3D printers, but for this printers which are more affordable it’s quite similar and not so significant.

 

How do you know which printer will give you the highest quality?

The printing resolution is normally measured in millimeters(mm) or microns and is the thickness of each layer  printing. The smaller the layer thickness the more detail it produces which results in higher printing resolution.

The layer thickness that all three printers can produce is the same at 100mm-400mm. This is the same with most 3D printers at this price range.

 

What is a heating bed?

A heating bed is when the surface where objects are printed on has the ability to heat up to 50C-100C depending on the material you are using to print. Heating beds gives you a huge advantage as it avoids warping or deformation which can happen if the material cools at different rates.This feature reduces the chance of errors and increases the accuracy and quality of the print.

Both HICTOP and the Monoprice mini 3D printer have heating beds. This is also why both this printers can print with many different types of materials. With no heating bed you can only print with PLA like the Flashforge which is the third 3d printer am comparing.

 

How big can the prints be?

The dimensions of the print are measured by width x depth x height (the XYZ axis) in inches, for this printer it has a maximum print size of 10.6” x 8.3” x 7.7” inches being able to give the biggest prints out of all the three printers.

If you are trying to print a bigger object than your printers max print size, you can always print several pieces and put them together, this is very common.

 

What is a DIY 3D printer and what are the advantages?

DIY 3D printers stands for do it yourself 3D printers, this means you have to put it all together and it does not come assembled like the other printers. HITCOP is the only DIY 3D printer on the list and it takes a couple of hour to put together. This gives you a chance to closer see how a 3D printer all comes together and how it works. This is great for learning more about 3D printers.

A big plus is that you get a lot more for your money because its cheaper for the manufacturer to make DIY 3D printers. The HITCOP has a larger printing volume, a heated bed, solid build and the ability to print with more types of materials. Other advantages are that you can easily change parts later on and modify your 3D printer to improve it. It can also use any brand of filament not limiting you to one brand and even use different sofwares/platforms.

 

2)Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer

The Monoprice select mini is easily the best bang for your buck 3D printer in the market.For the price of around $200 you get an amazing 3D printer. It is a ready-to-go 3D printer which you can be using 10 minutes after unboxing it. The printer comes with everything you need to start printing. It also has a heated bed so you can print with a wide range of materials and a easy to use interface. It also is a very strong printer and lasts a long time.

I would recommend this to someone who is on a budget and a beginner.The maximum print size is smaller than the other 3d printers, but what most people do is print smaller pieces and put it all together anyways.

Key features of the Monoprice Mini 3D printer

Heated Bed

I really like having a heated bed because you can experiment with different types of materials. It also improves print quality and lowers errors.

Ready to go

After unboxing the printer there isn’t much set up left before printing. This is quite nice as is it already built. Most beginners prefer having a built printer already than having to spend hours building a kit.

Easy to use

The monoprice mini printer comes with its own software which is very easy to use. Perfect for first time users and even people who don’t want to mess around with settings.

Excellent Warranty

You get a 30 day money back guarantee no questions asked. Also a 1 year part replacement warranty. Their customer support is one of the best with live chat and call support.

 

How much does 3D printing cost?

It depends what material you get but i’ll be talking about the most common material used PLA.In amazon for about 20 bucks you can get 1kg of PLA filament. With one roll of filament you could roughly make about 150-200 chess pieces.

 

What is auto calibration in a 3D printer?

All printers have some sort of calibration that is required before printing. It normally has to do with the distance between the printing bed and the extruder head. This calibration only has to be done once in awhile and is quite easy to do.

HICTOP is the only printer out of the three with a auto calibration sensor so it can automatically do it. The other two printers have to be calibrated manually which is no big deal.

Is it easy to use?

This printer is very user friendly and after setting it up which takes about 10 minutes. It as easy as select what you want to print and click print.

What are the warranties on this 3D printers?

First The HICTOP 3D printer comes with a one year part replacement warranty with good email support and now facebook messaging.

Secondly, Monoprice select mini 3d printer has a one year replacement warranty and also a 30 day money back guarantee no questions asked warranty. They have the best customer support with live chat and call support during the weekdays which i really like.

Lastly, flashforge offers a 90 day replacement warranty. You can contact their support center via email in their site.

 

3) FlashForge Finder 3D Printer

The Flashforge finder is the easiest and safest 3d printer out of the three. It really is made for beginners and kids. That’s why it is so popular with first time buyers and it’s even found in a lot of schools now. A very simple and stylish printer fits in anywhere. Yet it produces beautiful and high quality prints. It comes already built and ready to print out of the box.

I recommend  this printer for does who just want to start printing and are beginners. Also if you have kids or pets I would suggest this printer because it’s an enclosed printer so the hot parts are safely inside the printer and out of their reach.

 

Key features of the FLashForge Finder 3D printer

Easy to use Touchscreen

Very easy to operate with the intuitive touchscreen that comes with a very easy to use interface. This is great for first time users and just want to quickly print.

Very safe

The Flashforge comes as an enclosed 3D printer keeping the hot parts away from kids or pets. I always recommend an enclosed printer if you think there could be a safety issue of someone touching the hot parts.

Wifi connectivity

Connect your printer to the Wifi to send print files to your printer wirelessly and also to update your printer’s software.

Removeable Print Plate

You can easily remove the print plate from the printer, this is so once your print is done you can remove the print from the plate. This also minimizes the need to level the plate and calibrate the printer.

Assisted bed leveling

The printer guides you via the touchscreen on how much you need to tighten the leveling screws by beeping once you have reached the right tightness. This makes the leveling process really easy and simple.

 

What material does this 3D printer use?

It uses a biodegradable type of plastic called PLA ( polylactic acid) which is created from renewable materials. PLA is the most common material used by inexpensive 3D printers. The FlashForge does not have a heated bed and because of this it can only print with PLA which is what is recommended for beginners, as it’s the easiest material to print with.

What type of 3D printers are this?

All three 3D printers I am reviewing in this post are fused deposition modeling(FDM) 3D printers which are the most common type of 3D printers commercially sold as they are cheaper. The (FDM) type printers essentially melts thin layers of plastic and stacks this layers one on top of each other creating your print. Of course, there are much more expensive 3D printers such as stereolithographic printers that use liquid and lasers beams to form a 3D print.

 

Is it safe?

Many lower-cost 3D printers are open and have no shielding and this can be hazardous if you have younger children or pets as the printer’s extruder heats up to 250C to melt the PLA to form your print. The FlashForge 3D printer has made sure to make it kid friendly by adding a transparent shield so they can watch as the magic happens without having safety issues.

It is always recommended that the printer is in a ventilated area as it does give out some fumes from melting the plastic but no scientific proof has yet shown that the fumes have an impact on our health.

 

Where can you get designs to print?

There are many websites where people upload their designs and you can download them for free and print them as long as your 3D printer can read the format is written in which is most commonly STL. You can also join this sites and share your own designs.

 

How can I make my own designs?

There are many free tools to produce your own design from scratch. One of the most popular free tools is tinkercad , which works with any operating system but it does have a learning curve. Another cool way of producing your own design which is very easy to do is using an app such as 123D catch with your tablet or smartphone which scans an object and makes a 3D model of the object that you can then print.

 

What are some useful applications of 3D printing?

The great thing about 3D printers is the customizability. Being able to make pieces the exact shape and size you want them to be. This is really useful for projects and for designing your own creation. As I mentioned above you can see and download many designs already made, this can give you an idea of the possibilities of what you can print.

Some common prints are phone cases, toys, super heroes figures, pencil holder, custom tool holders, plastic gears, chess pieces and a lot more.

 

Verdict

Depending on what you are looking for, each printer made for different users. To begin with the HICTOP DIY 3D printer kit made for people who are more tech inclined and patient. It takes 4-8 hours to put together and has a learning curve when using it. This printer has a very strong build, the biggest print size and the ability to be modified for more advanced users. It is an amazing open source 3d printer which you can do a lot with.

Then we have the monoprice select mini printer, bestselling printer in amazon which does not surprise me. You get a very sturdy and high quality ready-to-go printer for a low price getting the most out of your money. Easy to use,very good for beginners or people on a budget. Lastly, we have the Flashforge finder a printer made user friendly in both safety and functionality. It’s the easiest to use and safest printer of the three,it’s why a lot schools choose this printer. Its great if you have kids or pets and are concerned with the safety aspect of 3d printers.It is also super easy to use for does who are not so tech savvy.

 

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Ingrid - August 4, 2016 Reply

I am so amazed that I can get a 3D Printer for my home. I mean 300grams of filament for 200 chess pieces. I could make all sorts of gadgets for work and the kids! Love it! Technology never ceases to amaze me thanks for answering a lot of my questions!

    Attila H - August 5, 2016 Reply

    Hi thank you for you comment!

    You can print a lot of things because most prints are actually hallow in the inside so you don’t waste any material. Although if your want to print something that is completely solid you can but most people print hallow prints to save on material. When it comes to making gadgets there is infinite possibilities and tons of already made free designs in the internet. You and your kids would have a lot of fun with one of this!

    Have a great day!

Cait - August 4, 2016 Reply

Wow! I didn’t know that a 3D printer was so affordable to have at home. I found the information on creating your own designs very helpful. These are great products. I especially like the XYZprinting Da Vinci Jr. 1.0 3D Printer. Thanks for the great information.

Marge - August 4, 2016 Reply

Hi! 3-D printers are so amazing! I’m surprised that you can get one for under $500. Are there different kinds of plastic that you can use in it? I’m specifically wondering if you could print something using food grade plastic.

    Attila H - August 5, 2016 Reply

    Hi, Thank you for your comment!

    Yes you are able to print with PLA plastic which is a biodegradable food grade plastic and the most commonly used for this type of 3D printer. PLA is cheap and very commonly found in a huge variety of colors and forms.

    Have a great day!

Dawn - August 5, 2016 Reply

Hi,
I also didn’t realize it was this affordable to have a home 3D printer. The safety issue of having no cover, with kids about is very relevant to me, and also apart from safety, curious fingers could definitely cause the printer to not function the next time. A cover would be a necessity for me.
Thanks – Dawn

Elizabeth - August 5, 2016 Reply

Which one requires the least expensive materials to print? And is it easy to get new supplies?

    Attila H - August 5, 2016 Reply

    Hi thank you for you question!

    All three printers actually are able to print with a biodegradable plastic which is called PLA and is the cheapest and most commonly used. It is really easy to find PLA printing material in amazon and other places as many companies are making it in every color and even special effects like glow in the dark, magenetic PLA and more.

    Have a wonderful day!

Carl - August 5, 2016 Reply

wow, very informative, idid know about the heating bed, and i would imagine that it would give you the best possible outcome. and so many designs as well, this will be great to keep the kids occupied

    Attila H - August 5, 2016 Reply

    Hi!

    Thank you and the printing bed is quite important when it comes to quality even though some companies advertise that is not required so thats why some printers don’t come with the heating bed but it does hugely improve your success rate and quality of your final print. It is great for kids to let their creative side run wild and have tons of fun, it is also a great teaching tool for them to learn about design and even some math.

    Have a nice day!

Suze - August 5, 2016 Reply

Wow, a lot of really good information here Attila! Like many of the other people who have commented here, I had no idea that you could buy a 3 D printer for the home at such an affordable price. I have a question about copyrights. If you were to make your own item by copying it – I’ll use Lego as an example. I decide to make whole sets for gifts for my kids and their friends, so I copy a Lego set I have in my home. Does this infringe on copyright laws or is that still a bit of a grey area?

    Attila H - August 11, 2016 Reply

    Yeah 3d printers have become very affordable for private users! As long as you are just gifting it and not selling it it should be fine.

    Thanks

Lauren - August 5, 2016 Reply

Wow, it seems like 3d printers are becoming more affordable! I have a coworker who loves his HICTOP and really recommends it. He brings in cool little gadget he makes all the time. Thanks for the post!

George - August 6, 2016 Reply

I wanted to find out more about 3D printing and came across your site. Could you tell me some practical applications for 3D printing? It looks amazing and more affordable than what I imagined. Thanks!

    Attila H - August 29, 2016 Reply

    Hi George,

    Yes of cores there are many practical uses for 3d printers. You could print a custom phone case, self watering pots, earphone holder, business card case, interactive toys for your kids, a custom guitar wall mount, your favourite movie figure and really there is no limit to what you could make or even download a already made design from the internet.

Dave - August 6, 2016 Reply

I had no idea 3D printers had become so affordable and user friendly!!
Thanks for the great info.

Quinn - August 6, 2016 Reply

Thanks for the information. I am amazed at the relative affordability of 3D printers now and it seems only a short time they have existed! What is the warranty on these printers?

    Attila H - March 3, 2017 Reply

    Hi Quinn! Thank you to for asking. I have now added the warranty for each printer in the comparison chart and a detailed section talking about each warranty. Basically Hitcop has a one year warranty, xyzprinting has a 1 year warranty but with conditions and the new matter 3d printer has a 90 day warranty. As far as warranty goes HITCOP offers the best one.

Jackie - August 7, 2016 Reply

Wow, great article, I had no idea the technology was this advanced, and that we could all get one for home. It will be fun to look up all the designs and make things from home – my kids will definitely have fun, but I will make sure I get one with the shield.

    Attila H - August 29, 2016 Reply

    Its also great for kids to learns about the principals of building and it opens up their creativity. Its a great teaching tool and tons of funs :). I am sure your kids will have a blast creating things and yeah its a good idea to get an enclosed 3d printer specially for younger kids just so its completely safe for them.

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