Best 3-D printers for FRC teams

Hey,
I am looking to purchase a 3-D printer to be used for general use but also want something that would be beneficial to have available for an FRC robot. I am currently looking at the Dremel DigiLab on Amazon for $1,899. I like that this is enclosed, making it a bit safer but otherwise I could go with about anything. I do not know much about 3-D printers so any help on this would be great! I just don’t want to spend a good chunk of money on something and then realize it is not going to meet our needs.
Thanks in advance for your responses!

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In terms of best bang-for-buck under $1000, it’s very hard to beat Prusa i3MK3 in any form factor. Assemble it yourself and it’s $750, getting you two really solid printers for under the price of one of the one you were looking at. We’ve printed more than a collective year of print time on them at work (a university makerspace) since having them for under a calendar year, and they’ve been absolute workhorses.

A 3d printer being enclosed does not inherently make it more safe, but I also understand that some schools have purchasing rules that can make things more difficult. Then again, the rules of printer safety are fairly straightforward if you stick with sensible filament and printing choices (PLA, PETG, built-in Prusa slicer settings).

Prusa as a company has more print-time on their printers than any other company in the space does, given that they use more than seven hundred of them to print printer parts (say that five times fast!)

Hope this helps!

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It all depends on your requirements and price range. It’s important to understand how temperature impacts what materials you want to be able to print - an enclosure with a heated bed allows you to print more thermally expansive materials, like ABS, but is not needed for more stable materials like PLA. Your extruders maximum temperature is going to determine what materials you can print (for the most part) - look up the recommended temperature ranges to be sure it does what you need. Finally, look at the print volume compared to your expected parts, to make sure it’ll be big enough.

Beyond that, it really comes down to compatibility (windows/Mac software, for example) and precision.

For what it’s worth, I print a ton of stuff for my team with a MonoPrice Voxel. Not too expensive. Most stuff is either ABS or PLA, but I’ve also done A PLA/Carbon Fiber blend, PLA/wood blend, PLA Silk, and TPU with it, all successfully. Accuracy is spot on, and the wireless printing is a nice feature.

Obligatory MarkForged shill post.

Obviously what printer is best for you depends on budget a lot. Since you are looking at an $1800 printer currently, it would be helpful to know if that is around your ceiling, in the middle of a range, or towards the lower end of what you want to look at.

Many here think the Onyx One may not be worth it at the $4500 price tag, but I still don’t know of anyone who regrets getting one (at least) for an FRC team. It just works, Eiger is easy to use, and the part performance gets the job done well.

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yes, $1800 would be about the max here.

Two Prusas it is!

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What other tools does your team have.

A ~$200 Ender 3 V2 will do ~90%+ of what most FRC teams need for printing. Printing pulleys, camera/electronics mounts, etc.

Learning on a cheaper printer first is also a good idea so when you inevitably mess up the hot end or something the repair price is pretty low.

It’s like the other $1500 could be used to add other capabilities to your team.

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I’ve heard good things about the Prusa Mini if you want to increase overall bandwidth, but can’t speak directly.

I also know numerous people with Ender 3’s who think they mostly hold up to Prusa. Again, can’t speak personally.

In general it’s all about throughput, but understand there will be maintenance on pretty much anything you’re going to get at these price points.

I love our Prusa Minis, they have a fantastic easy to use interface and PrusaSlicer makes setup and slicing super easy for new users.

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If you’re looking for something to learn and tinker with, I’d highly recommend a creality ender-3.
In terms of bang for your buck, you can’t beat this machine. It’s a really good platform for new learners, and produces fantastic prints at a legitimately unbeatable price ($150-$200).

Community support for these is also huge, and you can find a ton of modifications, tools, setups, and resources very easily.

I have one, and it’s been nothing but fantastic since the day I got it out of the box, I’ve printed lots of parts with a variety of materials (including flexibles), and haven’t had a single problem.

If you’ve got the extra money to spend, you definitely can’t go wrong with a prusa mk3, but if your budget is a little tighter (or you just want more printers), I strongly recommend and ender-3.

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angry, stupidly restricted grant noises
someone go write grants for Visa prepaid debit cards already

And yeah, two printers keeps you covered when one decides to explode. They all explode eventually, but the Prusas take a bit longer than most in their class.

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I’ve used both a dremel digilab and Prusa mk3. I’d choose the prusa every day.

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I like the Ender 3, having one myself, but I would not market it as a Prusa replacement. The latter is a lot more reliable and does great work out of the box in PLA and PETG. I replaced the hotend with an E3D Volcano nozzle on a Prusa, and have printed hundreds of hours of carbon-filled PETG without any tweaks or issues at all.
I have printed a couple hundred hours on the Ender 3 and while I am fairly happy with it, it’s not as “out of the box” as a Prusa when printing PETG. Definitely need to tune temperature and retraction a little, and re-level the bed frequently. However, for $160 I cannot imagine a better printer.

To OP: I would recommend a Prusa, a Volcano hotend, some Atomic Carbon PETG, an Ender 3, and some Amazon Basics or Overture regular PETG. These will work out of the box and print a lot of stuff. The Ender is good for fast prints and low-quality prints, and the Prusa can be used for longer prints that need the additional strength of the carbon fill.

I also like Markforged printers, but $400/kg filament coupled with a $4500 printer is very pricey for all but the most well-off teams. That money could go towards other things, especially organizing equipment.

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This would be my recommendation. I almost always put challenging prints on the Prusa with mostly good results. It has 182 print days on it. The adjustments are easier than the ender 5… but the ender can print nicely too.

I use prusaslicer for both as I prefer it.

I also have the Prusa in a enclosure but mostly it is used if we print ABS.

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so…3d pritners amirite…

the best printer for your team (or you) heavily depends on your use case(e.g which parts of the robot your planning to print, what polymers ur trying to print)

gonna limit my stuff to fdm printers, going over the other types is gonna take long.

cheaper 3d printers such as an ender 3, anycubics or a sidewinder x1, comes with hotends lined with ptfe(ptfe offgasses as low as 200c and can be detrimental for higher(>240c) filaments, some dont have safety standard compliant psu’s(might or might not burn your house down), so you will have to mod them to have it… though for prototyping with pla, getting into 3d printing and the like, these printers are on the low side price wise and can be quite economical for what they are(you can mod these printers to match a mid tier printer, but prepare to spend about the same amount as buying a mid tier printer in the first place while trying to do so) .

the more mid tier printers… e.g prusas, matterhackers, lulzbots, ultimakers, the like…are great printers that come with genuine and rated parts, can print more filament types, usually have a wide consumer and experience base, compared to lower tier printers; they have a functioning customer service team, has a more mature design, and is usually reliable enough to not require as much tinkering, as others here have said, cant go wrong with em.

the higher tier printers… such as a markforged are specialty printers that usually isnt catered to a regular consumer, these can print more exotic and experimental filaments with greater physical properties than a regular fdm polymer, that regular consumer printers cant without extensive modifications.(also might be too expensive to the average frc team, especially if no direct sponsor is involved)

then theres the one other type… DIY(RepRap, Ratrig, hevort, Design your own, etc) these printers usually cannot be bought as a whole printer, but they are usually in the low-high tier range, can be built with either cheaper or more expensive parts… but people who build these as of now are usually 3d printer hobbyists that are willing to sacrifice time or are trying to achieve a specific end goal, than someone who wants to just buy and print.

so… recommendations, to be honest i can’t recommend you anything specific nor talk about specific printers(unless its an ender 3), but i hope the block of text above helps a bit in your search, tried to summarize as best as i could on what to expect on each usually price but not really tier of fdm printers out there.

P.S ABSOLUTELY IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT BUY AN ANET A8
(i myself is an owner of a heavily modifed ender 3, though not for frc purposes)

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If you have an Ender 3 or a Prusa, you might be interested in a setup we’re receiving from one of our sponsors, 3DQue. Automated continuous printing with their Quinly setup. It clears prints after the bed cools and starts the next print. @AllenGregoryIV I’m going to use the protopipe parts and we’ll see how well it handles continuous prints.

Here’s a promo video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGK5uHWd6X8

It looks promising, but we haven’t played with it yet. It should arrive this week or next.

I’m personally a Prusa fan. I have 1 genuine Prusa mk3s, and 1 Prusa that I have had for ~7 years that I continue to tweak. They are fantastic printer with no major limits in what you can do. You can stick with basic materials (like pla and petg), or go for some stronger materials like Prusament PC Blend, Prusament PC Blend CF, or NylonX. All 3 seems to work well in my experience, but I have mostly used the NylonX. (You need a nozzle upgrade to run the CF materials). You can even print TPU, which has its place on the robot imo.

If you want an enclosure, you can get those from Printed solid. This will help you print the more exotic materials like the Nylons and PCs. They also have a hepa filter attachment for these I believe, which is another safety feature.

I also recommend one of these with your first printer. This will allow you to dry your filament, which is critical with Nylon, but extremely helpful with PETG. It also occasionally helps revive an old spool of PLA.

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Nth recommendation for a Prusa or Prusas in that price range… if you really want an enclosure, there are aftermarket ones available or it can make a nice little side project.

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I’ve been loading up on Ender 3 v2’s lately. I’ve found even compared to the Ender 3 Pro I bought over a year ago that these print with more consistency. They also have built in thermal runaway protection so less fears about burning your facility down. Upgrading to Jyers firmware makes the touchscreen and UI infinitely more useful. You can find them on sale sometimes for around $210-$230. I pretty much exclusively print Duramic Tough PLA+ just because it prints so easily and is actually tough.

If you want to explore other materials with ease the Prusa is probably the right machine, but if you want some cheap printers that get the job done cranking out tough PLA parts, I also recommend the Ender 3 v2.

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For getting into FRC 3d printing, I very much prefer multiple cheap printers over one expensive one. Don’t underestimate the value of parallelization in your printing – no matter how much you spend on a single printer, it won’t appreciably impact your part throughput the way that 2+ printers will. The ability to just crank out tons of basic parts from PETG or similar would be way more revolutionary to a build season’s workflow than being able to do just a couple of one-offs from exotic materials. Seconding the Ender 3 for this goal, you can get a farm of them together at $200 a pop, and upgrade them as needed for reliability, ease of use, and more demanding filaments.

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