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Reddit‘s Best Budget 3D Printers for 2017: An In-Depth Look

In the past few years, we‘ve seen an explosion in the world of additive manufacturing as 3D printing technology has become more advanced, affordable, and accessible. Once a niche tool reserved for well-funded industrial labs and deep-pocketed makers, 3D printers can now be found everywhere from the workshop to the classroom to the kitchen table.

The rapidly growing market of budget 3D printers priced under $500 has been a major factor in this technological democratization. But with an abundance of wallet-friendly printer options hitting the scene, it can be tricky to determine which one will give you the best performance and bang for your buck.

To save you from tumbling down the research rabbit hole, we‘ve compiled an expert guide to the best budget 3D printers for 2017 based on meticulous analysis of specs, features, reviews, and user experiences from authoritative sources and online communities like Reddit‘s vast 3D printing forums.

Whether you‘re a newbie looking to dip your toes into the world of 3D printing, a seasoned maker wanting a reliable workhorse, or a teacher bringing fab lab tech into the classroom, one of these top-notch budget printers is sure to fit your needs and budget.

The State of Budget 3D Printer Technology in 2017

Attempting to navigate the budget 3D printer market even a few years ago felt a bit like the wild west. Kickstarter campaigns promised the moon but often failed to deliver. Cheap, flimsy machines frustrated users with constant breakdowns, messy prints, and nonexistent support. Reliable printers with decent quality were simply out of financial reach for most individuals.

Fast forward to 2017 and the budget 3D printer landscape looks much different and brighter:

  • Dozens of models are now available in the sub-$500 and even sub-$300 price ranges
  • Overall print quality, reliability, and ease of use have improved dramatically
  • Printer designs are more standardized with a focus on quality components
  • The open source community has created a wealth of resources for troubleshooting and upgrading popular models
  • Major online retailers like Amazon and Newegg have brought many budget printers to the mainstream market

According to market research by Wholers Associates, desktop 3D printer sales have continued to climb, seeing a 27% increase in 2016 alone. Much of this growth has been driven by the category of low-cost printers, which saw a 50% increase in sales in the same period.

Budget printers still have limitations compared to high-end machines in terms of print quality, materials, build size, and speed. But today‘s crop of wallet-friendly printers have proven that they‘re capable of producing impressive results for a fraction of the cost, making the technology more approachable than ever before for individuals and small businesses.

How to Choose the Best Budget 3D Printer for Your Needs

With all the options now on the market, selecting the best budget 3D printer ultimately comes down to your specific needs, preferences, and how you intend to use it. Here are some of the key factors you‘ll want to consider and compare:

Factor What to look for
Price Printers in the $200 to $500 range, with some as low as $200-$300
Build Volume The max sizes vary, but aim for at least 120mm³ to give flexibility
Layer Resolution Look for a minimum layer height around 100 microns for good details
Supported Materials At least PLA and ABS support, plus others like PVA, HIPS, wood, flexible is a bonus
Print Speed Around 100 mm/s is standard for budget printers, some may be slower
Heated Bed A heated print bed is essential for ABS printing and preventing warping
Connectivity USB is standard, while nicer models may have SD card slots or Wi-Fi
Ease of Use Consider ease of setup/calibration, touchscreen interface, instruction manuals
Reliability Read user reviews carefully to assess long-term dependability
Noise Level Most budget printers are open-frame designs, so consider noise if used in shared spaces
Upgradability Some budget printers are easier to mod/hack with upgrades than others

While it may be tempting to simply go for the lowest-priced 3D printer, it‘s wise to weigh factors like reliability, print quality, and ease of use rather than basing your decision on price alone. A more expensive printer that consistently works well can save you money in the long run compared to a finicky, failure-prone cheapo model.

Our Top Picks for the Best Budget 3D Printers of 2017

After poring over spec sheets, reviews, and user feedback, here are our selections for the cream of the budget 3D printer crop, along with some insights into their strengths and potential trade-offs.

1. Monoprice Select Mini V2 ($220)

Monoprice Select Mini V2

Topping our list is the Monoprice Select Mini V2, a pint-sized powerhouse that punches well above its price class. The Select Mini V2 packs a surprising number of features into its compact footprint:

  • Heated print bed
  • Wide material compatibility (PLA, ABS, PET, TPU, wood, copper fill, etc.)
  • LCD touchscreen interface
  • Wi-Fi and microSD connectivity

It can crank out consistently good prints as fine as 100 microns, and users rave about its reliability and ease of use even for total beginners. The main limitation is the relatively small 120 x 120 x 120 mm build volume, but it‘s sufficient for many everyday printing needs.

2. Creality Ender 3 ($230)

Creality Ender 3

Another top contender is the Creality Ender 3, which has rapidly gained a following for its impressive quality and hackability. Its 220 x 220 x 250 mm build volume is substantially larger than the Monoprice Mini. Other highlights include:

  • Sturdy, rigid frame design
  • Fast-heating heated bed
  • Quiet power supply
  • Decent sized manual leveling knobs

While the Ender 3 produces great results, it does require more tinkering, calibration, and potential modification to get the most out of it. Luckily, it has an active user community churning out tips and printable upgrade designs. It‘s a solid choice for those who don‘t mind getting hands-on with their machine.

3. TEVO Tarantula Pro ($230)

TEVO Tarantula Pro

The TEVO Tarantula Pro earns a spot for its large 300 x 300 x 400 mm build volume, all-metal frame, and expandability. More of a DIY kit than a plug-and-play machine, it gives users a deep understanding of the inner workings of a 3D printer. Perks include:

  • Modular, open-frame design
  • Large heated bed
  • LCD screen with SD card reader
  • Decent print quality with some tuning

The Tarantula Pro is aimed squarely at tinkerers and experienced users, so it may have a steeper learning curve for newbies. But its potential for mods and repairs makes it popular for those who like to get under the hood. Expect to spend time with calibration to get the best performance.

4. Anycubic i3 Mega ($300)

Anycubic i3 Mega

The Anycubic i3 Mega is another strong budget machine, with an ample 210 x 210 x 205 mm build volume. It boasts an eye-catching yellow frame and several nice features:

  • Sturdy, full-metal body
  • Ultrabase heated bed for excellent adhesion
  • Filament sensor to detect jams/runouts
  • Responsive touchscreen controls

Ease of use is one of the i3 Mega‘s strong suits, with fast out-of-the-box setup, simple bed leveling, and quality results without extensive tinkering. Minor gripes include some interface quirks and noise, but overall it‘s a dependable, user-friendly budget option.

Honorable Mentions

These budget 3D printers didn‘t quite make our top picks, but are still solid contenders to consider in your search:

  • CoLiDo DIY ($300) – Good print quality, sturdy metal frame, but some bed leveling/adhesion issues
  • Anet A8 Plus ($240) – Popular in the DIY/modding community, great results with mods, but requires lots of tweaking
  • XYZprinting da Vinci Mini ($290) – Fully enclosed, very easy to use, but uses proprietary filament cartridges

Budget 3D Printer Performance Comparison

To give you a bird‘s eye view of how our top budget picks stack up against each other, here‘s a quick comparison of their key specs and features:

Printer Price Build Volume Layer Resolution Materials Heated Bed Unique Pros
Monoprice Select Mini V2 $220 120 x 120 x 120mm 100 microns PLA, ABS, PET, TPU, wood, more Yes Compact, feature-packed, easy to use
Creality Ender 3 $230 220 x 220 x 250mm 100 microns PLA, ABS, TPU, PETG, more Yes Good size, quality, highly moddable
TEVO Tarantula Pro $230 300 x 300 x 400mm 50 microns PLA, ABS, PETG, wood Yes Large volume, all-metal, expandable
Anycubic i3 Mega $300 210 x 210 x 205mm 50 microns PLA, ABS, HIPS, wood Yes Easy to use, sturdy, Ultrabase bed

This is by no means an exhaustive list of every budget 3D printer out there; new models are constantly being released. But after analyzing the current market, we feel these picks represent very capable machines that offer the best value and performance at their price points.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Budget 3D Printer

Whether you opt for one of our top recommendations or another budget-conscious printer, there are some tips and tricks that can help you maximize your results and minimize frustration:

  1. Use quality filament – Don‘t cheap out on poor-quality, inconsistent filament. Stick to reputable brands for fewer jams, clogs and print failures.

  2. Fine-tune your slicing settings – Spend time dialing in parameters like print speed, shell thickness, infill percentage, and support placement for each material.

  3. Keep your print bed level and clean – An uneven or dirty print surface is a recipe for poor bed adhesion and warped or spaghetti-like prints.

  4. Perform regular maintenance – 3D printers are still relatively temperamental machines, so give yours some routine TLC like cleaning, lubrication, and checking for loose fasteners.

  5. Get involved with the community – Places like the /r/3dprinting subreddit and 3D printing forums are gold mines of troubleshooting tips, upgrade ideas, and inspiration.

  6. Have realistic expectations – Despite how far budget printers have come, they still have trade-offs compared to high-end machines. You may not get perfect, high-res prints every time.

Educators and Students Flock to Budget 3D Printers

One area where budget 3D printers have made a huge splash is in education, particularly in STEM subjects and makerspaces. A 2015 study by the NMC Horizon Project found that 3D printing was one of the most important developments in educational technology.

Many schools are now using budget 3D printers in the classroom to teach everything from basic geometry to engineering concepts to design thinking. Affordable printers make it feasible for schools to provide enough machines for every student to gain hands-on experience.

Organizations like MakerBot and Dremel have launched initiatives tailored specifically to putting low-cost 3D printers in schools. The Dremel Idea Builder 3D20 is an education-focused printer offering easy setup and a fully-enclosed design for safety.

Small Businesses and Budget 3D Printers

Budget 3D printers aren‘t just for hobbyists and classrooms – they‘ve also found a place in small businesses looking for a cost-effective way to prototype products and create custom parts or objects.

For instance, a small-scale jewelry designer could use a printer like the Monoprice Select Mini V2 to rapidly prototype new ring or pendant designs before committing to precious materials. A tabletop gaming company might use an Anycubic i3 Mega to print figurines, dice, or other components.

Even large companies are catching on to the potential of budget printers. Microsoft recently built an experimental "Millennium Falcon" robot using several Monoprice Mini Deltas, citing the low-cost machines‘ reliability, consistency, and "disposable" nature compared to much pricier printers.

The Potential Drawbacks of Budget 3D Printers

For all their merits, budget 3D printers aren‘t perfect tools, and there are some potential downsides to consider:

  • Reliability issues – Cheaper components used in budget printers may be more prone to breaking down or wearing out sooner.
  • Difficult troubleshooting – Technical problems can be harder to diagnose or fix without good documentation or support.
  • Noise and odors – Budget printers tend to have open-air designs that don‘t contain noise or fumes from certain materials.
  • Limited material selection – High-end printers often support a wider range of printing materials.
  • Slower print speeds – Budget models may have reduced print speeds to improve quality.

So while budget printers can be great tools for many applications, they may not be ideal for highly precise, professional-grade printing or niche material needs. It‘s important to weigh both their benefits and limitations.


There‘s no doubt that 2017 has brought an impressive array of budget 3D printers to the market, offering solid performance and quality at more attainable prices than ever before. Printer models like the Monoprice Select Mini V2, Creality Ender 3, TEVO Tarantula Pro, and Anycubic i3 Mega are leading the pack with their balance of features, reliability, and ease of use.

Whether you‘re a tinkerer, a teacher, an entrepreneur, or just a curious creator, this new crop of budget printers puts the power of additive manufacturing within reach. While they may require a bit more patience and hands-on effort compared to expensive, high-end machines, they‘ve proven their ability to produce remarkable results on a realistic budget.

As the technology continues to improve and become more user-friendly, there‘s no telling what innovations we‘ll see next in the world of affordable 3D printers. But one thing is for sure: there‘s never been a better time to join the 3D printing revolution, even with a limited budget. So pick out your printer, grab some filament, and get ready to turn your digital dreams into tangible realities, one layer at a time!