Best 3D Printers for Under $1,000 Windows Central 2019

For the last five years we've invested in the 3D printing world, using as many printers as we can to see what is good and what is bad. We all know that printing can be expensive — there are machines out there that start at $3,000 and go up from there — so we want you to have some idea of what you can get for cheaper. When it comes to value and quality you can't beat the Prusa i3 MK3. While it isn't the cheapest of the machines on this list, it is easily the best quality in terms of build and print.

Best Overall: Prusa i3 Mk3

In the world of hobbyist 3D printing, there are few names as well known as Josef Prusa. His work in open source 3D printing has revolutionized what can be done at home and on a budget for those who want to create amazing prints. The Prusa i3 MK3 is the latest machine based on his open source design and is easily the most advanced printer in this list.

The Prusa has automatic bed leveling, making each print start the best it can, but it also corrects the print on-the-fly if anything happens to shift the bed. With a sensor in the extruder, the Prusa can tell when you run out of filament, pause the print, and alert you to add more, saving countless mistakes in the process. From the removable bed to easily being able to remove prints without breaking them to the excellent save function, which stops your prints being lost in a power cut, the Prusa goes out of its way to make every print work.

The listing is for the kit version of the i3 mk3 so you will be required to build it yourself. Prusa does supply a fully made one but it's $200 more when you add in the extra shipping. Which one you buy will depend on your preference, but we recommend getting the kit. Plus, it's actually a lot of fun learning to build one from scratch.

Pros:

  • Auto bed leveling
  • Excellent print quality
  • Open source
  • Active community
  • Save functionality

Cons:

  • Cheaper to buy the kit

Best Overall

Prusa i3 MK3

Fantastic quality

If you are just starting out in the 3D printing game and you want to start off with the best, then go for the Prusa MK3.

Best Value: Creality Ender 3

The Creality Ender 3 is a shining example of how a community can get together, take something cheap and flawed, and turn it into something special. The Ender 3 is not a printer for someone who wants quality prints straight of the box — you have to earn them. Sure, it's easy to get set up and it doesn't take much other to put together — just a few screws —but to get a print that you can be proud of takes effort.

The Ender 3, while being cheap, it is not configured well by Creality. The extruder setup is poor, as are a lot of the acceleration settings and because of that, it can take endless fine-tuning. Don't be dismayed though, there are people out there who are willing to help put you on track.

I never would have gotten the Ender 3 to the point of usability without the help of the Facebook and Twitter 3D printing communities, and I strongly urge you to look into those places if you intend to buy an Ender 3. Especially check out Filament Frenzy on Twitter. He can make the Ender 3 sing and dance like magic.

Of course, if you have the time to spend on it, $220 for a full-size printer that can make some fantastic prints is a bargain. If you have time to love it, it can be a great investment.

Pros:

  • Extremely cheap
  • Simple setup
  • Can create amazing prints

Cons:

  • Can take a lot of work to get right

Best Value

Creality Ender 3

Community favorite

The Ender 3 can be a real pain to get right, but when you do it can some amazing prints. Make sure you join some communities for help.

Best For Your Desk: Monoprice Maker Mini Pro

If you are completely new to 3D printing and want something simple, reliable, and cheap, you can't do much better than Maker Mini Pro by Monoprice. The printer itself is small enough and quiet enough to sit on the desk in your office and allow you to make small, fun little projects fairly quickly. The Mini has several high-end features like Wi-Fi connectivity, along with the SD Card and direct PC connection that you normally get with larger printers.

It even comes with auto bed-leveling, which can be picky but is a great addition. There's also a heated bed for printing with multiple types of filament, something you'd expect on a more expensive printer, all wrapped in a sturdy metal body that reduces the "noise" often associated with cheaper printers. With a 4.75-inch print bed, the Mini is the smallest of the printers on this list, but if you are just starting out in 3D printing and only want to experiment, the small bed is more than enough.

With the Bowden extruder setup already a part of the Mini the results of printing are significantly better than I ever thought a $200 printer would produce. I helped my local youth room purchase three of these so the young people there can learn how to design and print in 3D and so far the only issue I have had is a blocked nozzle and an uneven print bed, both of which are the basic foibles of 3D printing and easily fixed by anybody.

Pros:

  • Auto bed leveling
  • Fits on your desk
  • Wi-Fi printing
  • Heated bed

Cons:

  • The print bed is really small

Best For Your Desk

Monoprice Maker Mini Pro

Teeny desk printing

Sometimes you just want a little fun at your desk. The Mini Pro is perfect for a desktop 3D printing setup.

Best Value Delta: Monoprice Mini Delta

When I first used the Mini Delta I was ready to write it off from the start — $160 for a delta printer? It was obviously going to suck. Turns out, I was wrong. I like the Delta for a lot of reasons including its portability, it's build quality, as well as its great print quality. None of those things are as awesome as the price though. For just $160 you can have a 3D printer of your own that works as soon as you turn it on.

The interface on the Mini Delta is incredibly simple, making it perfect for youngsters and first-timers who aren't interested in taking things apart to make them work. The printer has three buttons and each one is self-explanatory, helping you get printing straight away. The nature of delta printers — delta printers use three constantly moving servo arms instead of rods and screws — means this mini model is dependable, even when being jostled. A delta, once dialed in, will give you great prints even under the worst of circumstances.

I was blown away by the print quality of this little machine and, even though it can only make really small models, it remains one of my favorites to have close by for small, quick jobs. The only issue I sometimes have is the auto-leveling is sometimes a little off and you will need to manually adjust or use a product like Magigoo to help keep it all stuck down.

Pros:

  • Solid as a rock
  • Great print quality
  • Simple interface
  • Portable

Cons:

  • Small
  • Bed leveling is janky

Best Value Delta

Monoprice Mini Delta

Mini dependability

The Mini Delta is an amazing little machine with some advanced features. The print quality is excellent and the portability is superb.

Best Value Resin: AnyCubic Photon

Resin printing can be expensive. The machines themselves are normally high-priced and the resins can be even pricier. Resin printing differs from the other printers on this list because it uses a liquid plastic that is cured over a UV light or shot with a laser. It can be messy, difficult, and a little dangerous so it's best to know what you want before you buy.

Somehow Anycubic made an affordable resin printer that produces some of the best quality prints I've seen from a printer under $2,000. The prints from a resin printer are gorgeous and are often impossible to tell that they are 3D printed. They often look like injected molded models.

Using Chitubox — a slicer now used by a large number of 3D printer manufacturers — to slice the models is simple and effective and makes the entire process of printing models on the Photon a breeze. One word of warning though: make sure your supports are thick in Chitubox since they can be a little wimpy if you aren't careful.

Of all the resin printers that I have owned and used the Photon is the one I recommend to friends, and therefore to you, dear readers. It's dependable and accurate every time.

Pros:

  • Entry level price
  • Almost invisible layer lines
  • Simple to use
  • Excellent slicing

Cons:

  • Small build plate
  • Chitubox can be tricky

Best Value Resin

AnyCubic Photon

Resin printing is amazing

This is one of my favorite printers, and it's so cheap you should buy two just for fun.

Bottom line

I've been playing with 3D printers for a long time now, sometimes professionally, sometimes as a hobby, but always on a budget. If I knew what I know now when I started this hobby I would have chosen the Prusa i3 as my first foray into 3D printing, but because I didn't I got to try some other fun printers too.

The Prusa MK3 is a powerhouse of variety, allowing you to print with almost any material possible, with multiple colors – this is an optional upgrade and costs about $300 so be sure that's what you want first – and with a speed and accuracy rivaled by none other at this price range on the market. I love this printer, I really do, it never fails to make a wonderful print for me time and again, largely due to the clever fail-safes built in.

Credits

James Bricknell: James built his first PC when he was 13 and has never looked back. He can be found on Windows Central, usually in the corner where all the 3D printers are, making models for his friends, or huddled around the Xbox playing the latest games.

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