Best answer: If you're looking to make large 3D printed pieces or you want to finish your prints then a filament printer is the best choice for you. If you want production quality out of the machine or you are looking to print small models with high detail then we would suggest a resin, SLA/DLP printer

What is SLA/DLP printing?

Stereolithography/Dark light projection (SLA/DLP) printers are, essentially, 3D printers that print using light to cure liquid resin into layers. The cheaper versions use an LCD display to shine a UV image into the resin, which cures it into a solid layer. The print bed then rises up slightly to let the next layer cure.

This allows you to print a model with extremely fine detail, far more than a standard filament printer can produce, and the end result tends to need far less post-processing work to give you a finished product.

The downside is that they tend to have smaller build plates than filament (FDM) printers, so you can't make large pieces on them. They also tend to be a little slower than FDM printers as they have to cure. You will also have to wash the print and further cure it after it has printed to get the full effect.

What is FDM printing?

Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is the style of printing you are likely most familiar with. A string of plastic called a filament is melted through a hotend and deposited on the build plate. The next layer is then placed on top of the previous layer.

FDM printing is used far and wide in modeling and for producing larger parts like cosplay armor and helmets. The nature of the printing makes it very easy to set up and very easy to learn. Most maker spaces around the country use FDM printers as they are cheap and reliable.

It's only when you start wanting to make smaller models in finer detail that FDM printing can run aground. That isn't to say that a well tuned FDM printer can't give you amazing detail, they can. If you look at the Joker model we used by Wekster you can see that although the model isn't quite as nice as the resin version it still looks very good.

So which should you buy?

That's a good question. It all depends on the kind of printing you want to do.

If you are hoping to print miniatures for board games, highly detailed models, or production quality parts, then an SLA/DLP printer is the best choice. The level of resolution that a resin printer can bring is extraordinary.

If you are hoping to build large scale models, cosplay items like armor or helmets, or you are looking to rapidly produce prototypes, then an FDM 3D printer is likely the right choice for you. It gives you the greatest range of choices at a great price.

Best FDM

Prusa Mk3 Kit

You can't get better

For a first time FDM 3D printer, you really can't do better than the Prusa Mk3. Its advanced features and astounding print quality make it the best printer you can buy for under $1000

There are a huge array of FDM 3D printers on the market at a price point to suit every pocket. We chose to showcase the Prusa Mk3 here because it is the perfect mix of price, advanced features, and quality prints.

Value SLA/DLP

ANYCUBIC Photon

Fantastic value

The ANYCUBIC Photon is surprisingly awesome. For less than $500 you can have a resin printer that makes amazingly detailed models at just its standard settings. On the advanced settings, it is almost magical.

We went with the ANYCUBIC Photon for this comparison because the entry level price point is just right for trying resin printers for the first time. Sure it has a small buildplate and the touchscreen is not the best, but a resin printer for $434 is not to be sniffed at.

This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for more details.

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