Some of our team members have been intensely looking at 3D printers and we have come at the crossroad of Cost vs Quality. So, what is the best 3D printer you recommend in terms of precision and build quality and has the best price value?
Probably the best value in 3d printers are the open source ones like RepRap. At the same time they can require more maintenance and be troublesome. For simplicity the best I know of is the Cube. They are nearly as user friendly as commercial inkjet printers and work well. In the end it really comes down to how much money you are willing to spend and what you want to use it for. You could PM someone on team 3824, they know a lot about 3d printers, especially the Cube.
Lulzbot AO-101. Good at start, but in the long term crudded out. It currently sits in a box.
This past weekend I received my MakerGear M2 kit. Built it in about 6-7 hours. Amazing quality. Worked right away. No issues. LOVE IT so far. I have already made mistakes that would have taken me a total of 10 hours to make up for on my lulzbot (laptop reboots, etc.) and such mistakes created no issues on the M2
However, if this is your first printer, don’t buy a kit. There is enough to learn as it is.
I’ve had some experience with Makerbot’s. They worked. However I almost explicitly use ABS.
I would highly recommend a polyprinter. They are a local to Dallas Startup and are not widely known, but their printer produces awesome parts. For the price of a makerbot replicator 2, you get performance that exceeds a 2x. Also they have figured out some magic to print extremely fast on this machine. I have a Uprint Se and this thing has similar quality both printing in ABS but the Polyprinter gets the job done 2x as fast.
We used parts printed on from this machine on our bot this year, such as our pullback winch, pneumatic cylinder mounts, and drivetrain spacers.
I would recommend the 5th gen MakerBots once the price drops (and it will drop) from $2,800 to $2,200 like the Replicator 2. Even if you can’t wait, MakerBot is one of the most user friendly companies you can buy from, with quality to match. They are very easy to use, and can start printing right out of the box, with only simple modifications needed for exotic filament. Our team has used the Replicator 2 for 2 seasons now, and we are getting ready to start with the 5th gen.
RepRap printers are my second choice. They can be a pain to put together if you’re buying a kit, and the customer service is non existent. In exchange for these inconveniences, you get great specs at a cheap price and room for customization. RepRap also has a great variety of printers to choose from, unlike MakerBot (this will remain true until the MakerBot Z18 and mini finally release). 2 Members of our team use RepRap printers, both are quite satisfied with their purchase and had them built before the month was out.
Steer clear of any and all 3D systems printers (Cube, CubeX, Cube 3, etc). 3D systems makes excellent professional grade printers, but make horrible consumer grade printers. The Cube systems have “proprietary” filament storage systems (basically DRM for your filament) meaning you can only by their expensive filament, and they have a tendency to break… a lot. 3D systems may look fancy, but thats all it is, looks.