Good Inexpensive Robust 3D Printers?

The engineering program for my school, Woodside High School, is looking for some cheap, inexpensive, easy-to-use and easy to maintain 3D printers. Originally, the school was going to get Prusas, but they’re sold outside the U.S., so the school can’t buy them.
Does anyone have any recommendations?
Here’s a list of features the printer should have:

  • Cheap (<$1,000ish)
  • Reliable (Doesn’t break a lot)
  • Easy to maintain (Easy to recalibrate or change filament)
  • Build size between 6"x6"x9" and 12"x12"x12"
  • Able to print a variety of materials (PLA, ABS, etc.)
  • Easy to set up a print (Load file from Cura or something onto SD card and put in printer or something, then hit a dial a few times)
  • Doesn’t need to be connected to a computer when printing, can run off sd card or usb drive
  • Has a screen where you can select options
  • Uses parts that are easy to replace/get replacements for


EDIT: Also, if someone knows if there’s a reseller for prusas that’s inside the US, that would be great as well.

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I would recommend a cr-10s or pro and upgrade the heat end. I have never had an issue with mine and it hasn’t broken down once. It is more work to upgrade it but it is truly worthwhile.


Dito on creality’s stuff. I’ve got a CR-10. No meaningful upgrades and it printed a third of the 3D printed parts on our robot this year. Which on team 2702, is a lot of 3D printed parts. (x2 the parts because of practice bot + all the iterations of some of those parts it easily did enough print time for our whole robot and then some all on it’s own with no issues.)


Look at the Monoprice Maker Select V2. Great printer and prints a large variety of filaments

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Before getting my Prusa MK3S, I’d been using a Monoprice Maker Select Plus. It’s robust, only $330, can print PLA and ABS out of the box, and with a small change (swapping out the PTFE tube) you can print flexible filaments, PETG and Nylon. 7.9" x 7.9" x 7.1" area, runs off of SD, has a big modding scene (it’s a rebranded US version of the Wanhao Duplicator I3 Plus, so parts or mods for either model works). It’s great for the cost, has been very reliable, and has fielded numerous critical parts for myself and 1902 :wink:

I have the monoprice but under the micro center branding and i also recommended it but it can be noisy compared to other printers but it works

This reminds of a saying.

I can do the job cheap, fast, or good. Pick two.
If it’s good and cheap, it won’t be fast.
If it’s cheap and fast, it won’t be good.
If it’s good and fast, it won’t be cheap.


A nice alternative is the Anycubic i3 Mega at $250 currently, as long as you don’t intend to print super flexible filament (TPU works fine).
The Maker Select V2.1 with umbilical cord control box is also a pain, so I usually recommend the Maker Select Plus.

I’m more talking about upgrading it so I can print pc. If you plan on just doing pla and abs then there no need to upgrade. You should always switch the page tubing to a more accurate one so you dont have to deal with flexible filimant jams.

Even a used one they are great. The quality of the prints are fantastic and its a great learning tool.

We got an anycubic Chiron for 399 a couple of months ago. Works great. Might not be what you are looking for though as its bigger I am printing some stuff for bumblebot right now with a .8 nozzle out of HIPS (Does PETG, ABS Nylon and of course PLA too) here is some pics from what we printed since thursday morning

Its a bearing holder (700 g of HIPS ea) for our rack and pinion to lift the robot (we doing the 2019 one in plastic) I so far printed 2 of those need 2 more

2 double rack set 397mm long already printed 3 (about 350g of HIPS ea) need 1 more
Also need to print another 8 pinions and 4 connection gears already have 8 pinions at the shop
This will go on bumblebot

With 3d Printers in that category you got to be a bit handy. Some maintenance is required, cleaning, tightening (not too much) etc.


I would look into the Pulse . While Mattercontrol (The slicing program) isn’t the best, you can get an Simplify3D for only 150$ which works pretty well. For FRC applications the ability to print NylonX well is great, and this machine is designed for that.

For the CR-10, you would need to put in at least 200$ to print nylon well. PETG is a good alternate, but can be tricky and isnt nearly as strong. If you are thinking of a CR-10 I would suggest either TinyMachines or Sainsmart for reliable US vendors. The newer CR10 Pro with the controller in the bottom is probably your best option, but will be more expensive then the original CR-10.

I would also suggest an Lulzbot Mini (Not the Mini2), this printer will be the most “press print and wait” for any consumer 3D printer. It can do Nylon and many other materials. It can do NylonX/NylonG with an 250$ upgrade, theortically it can print these out of the box, but they will wear the standard nozzle, which decreases the accuracy and it is a pain to change the default extrude nozzle, which is why i would suggest getting an aerosturder.

I am pretty sure Prusa only sells direct, theoretically you could try to buy used from US residents, they have a facebook group where they go up for sale pretty regularly.

Source: I own a CR-10 and a Lulzbot Mini, and have taking additive manufacturing classes in college and have the CSWA-Additive Manufacturing certification.

Most flashforge printers are fairly inexpensive and work really well. I use one for my personal use. They have ones around 1,000 and they are really good and honestly they are one of the best brands you can get. You really don’t need much knowledge to operate it either.

I will contrast the previous statement: our experience with the two Flashforge printers we purchased in 2016 has been abysmal, and I can’t recommend them to anyone. We have the ones that are basically Replicator 2X (2012) clones, and they are utterly unreliable after two full summers of trying to get them working again.


Edit: Tbh, I would not buy anything other than a Prusa i3 mk3. You will not be disappointed so do anything you can to get your hands on some. I am sure other people can chime in on this as well. The slicing program and support as well as flexible build plate make this printer second to none.


It was a hair buried in the post…


If they are allowed to buy used (from US residents) they might be able to get some. As from Prusa themselves (First party) they will never be able to buy them, since Prusa doesn’t use third-party vendors.

They sometimes go up for sale at these facebook groups:

Some people also try to resell new ones on Ebay (They will charge extra)

Honestly I would get 2 CR-10’s and upgrade them, there are many free upgrades and many more cheap ones. As long as they aren’t moving the printers often it will hold up well.

Buying used also works well for 3D printers. Most of them use standard parts and are simple mechanical systems, so if something breaks you can just replace it for cheap. A fair majority of people use them once then lost interest, which just means savings for whoever buys it.


Before getting a CR10 Get an Anycubic they have a much better bed, are cheaper and pretty much anything sticks to their “ultrabase” or get an Artillery X1

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We have an X1 coming today and plan to do a review. It’s currently my favorite option for an FRC printer based on price and specs. They are coming out with a smaller version this fall. It seems like it has some issues with it’s ribbon cable but the community has been making some fixes that seem to work. Stock direct drive, volcano style hotend, and ultrabase style AC heated bed are very useful for more advanced filaments (nylon, PC, etc) once you change the throat to an all metal version for higher temps.

We had been recommending the pulse from Matterhackers but after having it for over a year I definitely don’t recommend it anymore. Not being able to use auto bed leveling with cura or octoprint makes it annoying. We also had the heated bed connector die on our main board. If you just want to print connected to a computer connected with mattercontrol it’s an okay printer. I do like that the XE comes stock with a garolite bed, which is one of the few printers that can do that. Adding a piece of garolite from mcmaster isn’t that hard and we have done that with a couple printers to make printing nylon easier.

We have two JGaurora A5 printers, I don’t really recommend them as a first printer but if you want something dirt cheap, this is a good deal at $175, but expect to need to do some tweaking and upgrades.

This isn’t really answering the question in the OP but assuming other people are also looking for recommendations.

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The heated bed connector dies because they do not put strain relief on the wire and the going back and forth wiggles the wire and causes arcing - happened to me too We had quite an argument and they replaced the Rambo mini that runs it. Bed wire needs to run underneath and needs a drag chain. Also the Powersupply is underpowered its 15A the Rambo min manual states Power supply >16 a and last time I checked 15 is not greater than 16 so now that its out of the warraty it gets an enclosure, a 30a power supply some rewiring etc. The PTFE tube pops out of the BMG etc

IF you want to use Cura - Well I like slic3r and prusa slicer for free slicers - slice in that and write the gcode file then run it through MC for bed leveling - that way you can even print volumetric. But yeah mc has a lot to be wished for. Right now I have an anycubic Chiron and someone donated just enough money to buy one for the team too. So far so good on the Chiron I love the bed and its a good platform to do some upgrades on

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