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Cheap 3D printers: Best budget 3D printers under $500

Neptune 2 Hero Shot
Neptune 2 Hero Shot (Image credit: Windows Central)

While 3D printing can often be an expensive hobby, it doesn't have to be. There are many fantastic printers available for under $500, so we wanted to focus on those for this article. You could be just starting in 3D printing or looking to expand your collection with some budget workhorses, but either way, we have something for you in our list of best budget 3D printers.

Types of 3D printers

There are two basic types of 3D printers: FDM and resin. While we go into great detail about filament and resin printing in another article, I will try to give you a quick rundown of the difference here.

FDM (filament based)

FDM printing is the most common type of 3D printing and is used to make large-scale models of just about any category. It can be used to make practical prints like brackets and boxes, fun prints like cosplay armor, or even 3D-printed dresses. It feels like almost every day, someone pushes the boundary of what can be done with an FDM printer. If you are looking for the most versatile 3D printer, then get an FDM one. They are safer too, so this is a good pick if you and your younger family members want to try it together.

Resin

Resin 3D printing is very different from the standard FDM style previously mentioned. While it has a list of must-have accessories to make it a success, resin printing allows for much greater details in your print. It is perfect for those who want to print gaming miniatures, jewelry, or highly detailed statues. You will need to use a liquid polymer to print these models, though, so make sure you protect yourself; it can be dangerous if you aren't careful.

Cheap doesn't need to mean low quality

3D printing is one of the few hobbies where cheaper doesn't always equal worse. While many lower-end printers require a little more fine-tuning than their more expensive counterparts, they are still capable of producing fantastic prints with just a little work.

My current favorite 3D printer in the budget scene is the Elegoo Neptune 2. Elegoo has managed to take all of the best bits from the Ender 3 — a great budget printer in its own right — and fine-tune them into a machine that is easy to set up and prints excellently right out of the box.

If you are looking to get into resin printing instead of FDM, then go for the Anycubic Mono 2k. It is the perfect balance between budget and quality. You can expect blisteringly fast prints with a focus on exquisite detail.

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, or huddled around the Xbox playing the latest games.