Looking for a hassle-free 3D printer

We’re adding to our wish-list for sponsors and would like to find a hassle-free 3D printer. Basically one that you can say “print” and it prints. We had a few sub-2K units that, while they eventually work, tend to need a lot of babysitting and tuning. This might be used by our school’s art department as well as engineering so that reliability is important. Is there anything under $15K with at least a 6"x6"x6" build volume that would fit the bill? Cost per print is somewhat of a concern as well. Single color is fine.

this website might be helpful to you:

You can sort 3D printers based on size, whether you have to build it yourself, build volume, price, etc. :slight_smile:

We got one of these this season and are really happy with it.

From what ive seen Ultimakers have always performed well for the price.

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Most of the more “professional” FFF/FDM printers (7K+) are far less “fiddley” than mid-high end consumer printers. However, they often use proprietary filament and the price per print skyrockets. Many companies claim that their proprietary filament is “specially formulated” and “guarantees high quality prints”. A majority of these claims are either false or greatly exaggerated as to give an excuse for outrageous prices for generic filament in specially chipped cartridges.
When you get into other printing methods (SLA, SLS) both the printers themselves and the printing material become extremely expensive.

Personally, I’ve had some great experiences with the Mojo (produced by Stratasys) but, like most of the higher end consumer machines (and low end professional machines), the price per print is much higher than most open filament systems.

It’s a bit of a Catch-22. If the machine is of high quality and relatively expensive, 99% of the time, the filament will be extremely expensive in comparison to some of the mid range consumer machines.

Ideally, you want to find a machine with automatic bed leveling, an enclosed build area, and non-proprietary filament.

As far as FDM printers go, more expensive is not always better. I would look into purchasing one (or many) of the LulzBot or Ultimaker machines. They both have an excellent community and great support.
(Makerbot may be another option, but the newer machines have had several issues and the company has some not-so-nice business practices)

I own 2 Up Plus! printers and they are very stable.
They do not, however, have that large a print area.

At our makerspace, we use the following saying “The default state of a 3D printer is broken” #JustSaying :smiley:



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I have run 3D printers ranging from $300 FFF printers all the way up to factories full of $1,400,000 SLS printers. None of them are hassle free. I have spent days figuring out firmware issues on cheap reprap derivatives and weeks calibrating out the last alignment problems on the laser and process chamber temperature of extremely expensive printers. They all have their problems.

The closest, cheapest thing to hassle free you are going to find that is appropriate for FRC parts is something like a Stratasys Mojo or Dimension with a service contract.

At the risk of sounding like a company rep (I’m not in any way), I have to say that our Lulzbot Mini is amazing. I attend a separate school from my FRC team, and there aren’t many people with much technical knowledge (yet). I use our two Minis for printing robot parts, and many other people use them to print random things from thingiverse.

It uses a modified version of Ultimaker’s Cura as far as software goes, and there’s an “easy” mode and an “expert” mode. The easy mode is literally just select the material, quality/speed, and click print. Expert mode has basically every setting that I have ever needed. The support material generator is amazing, because you can (usually) pull it out in one long piece.

As far as PLA goes, it prints flawlessly. With it’s standard PEI surface and heated bed, there’s no adhesion problems for PLA.

There’s a pretty darn low learning curve, but it can also print almost any material because it has a full-metal hot end. It cleans itself.

At $1250, I am trying to convince people to buy me one for college (no success yet). The other great thing is that it stores and travels amazingly well. It has made many trips to my house and on robotics trips.

Lulzbot also sells the Taz, which is basically the same, but with a 11x10.8x9.8" build volume. In my experience, it’s not quite as easy to use.

Sorry for a long post, but one more thing. My only gripe with the Mini is that it has to be plugged into a computer to print things, you can’t load it onto an SD card and use your computer for other things. (More of an issue when I’m at home)

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I just want to point out that Stratasys owns Makerbot now. Makerbot also started out as a completely open-source company, and now are not nearly so much. Also some weird stuff with Thingiverse (their public file-hosting website) and alleged stealing and filing for patents on designs released there.

I don’t know is true or false, but I really don’t like where Makerbot went and how all of the Stratasys stuff is proprietery and super expensive filament (and disposable bed plates! Come on guys.).

I own three different 3D Printers in my personal work space. All have their good features and their bugs.

TL;DR: Robo3D R1 + Simplify3d Software = Happy Printing

My recommendation for a printer is a Robo 3D R1. It is a fantastic low-end printer (<$1000) and I couldn’t be happier with it. It has a large heated, glass print bed (10"x9"x8") and up to .1mm layer height. I was able to start printing successfully right out of the box and have been ever since.

One of my other printers is a Makerbot Replicator Mini 5th Gen. It’s only capable of printing small things in PLA, however it has fantastic dimensional accuracy. The downsides to this printer however are numerous, and I believe would be true across other MakerBot printers. Simply, it’s proprietary and difficult to debug when something goes wrong. And lately, I’ve had trouble getting even test prints to work. I do not recommend a MakerBot.

My last printer is a Flashforge Creator Pro. Capable of dual extrusion, has heated aluminum bed, and enclosure. After the initial setup I have not run into any issues beyond simple user error.

My last recommendation is not one of hardware but of software. I’ve been working with my Robo3D the longest and one of the best upgrades I’ve made was switching slicers. There are many free platforms available but I spent the money on Simplify3d and it is absolutely astounding.

I second this. Also, if you are interested in a more high-end resin printer, take a look at the Form Labs Form 2.

Also on team Lulzbot here, we purchased a Taz5 in November and it’s been a great addition to the team. Having used Makerbot and Ultimaker products, I can say that if I were spending another ~$2,000 on another printer, it would be one of the Lulzbot line (though I might wait for the Taz6)

I will say be careful about SLA printers in an FRC enviroment.

Small particulate can mess up prints very easily.

My school has a Makerbot Gen 5.
I’ve started referring to the extruders as “BIC disposable glue guns”
At last count, I’ve seen 5 broken beyond repair. They do a lot of printing, but they’ve only had it for a few months.

We have the Makerbot replicator, Replicator 2x, and their scanner. They love to become jammed with their filament and not printing correctly. Now, when it does print it prints really well, but There are better printers, and I personally would not recommend them if you want something “hassle-free.”

3005 has a couple Taz 5’s that we’ve been pretty happy about (~$2200 retail)

They are open software/open hardware, and there are a lot of mods you can add on. If you are “printer enthusiast”, you can really stretch the limits.

As mentioned earlier, the Lulzbot mini’s will save you a chunk of change if you don’t need the larger build volume. Realistically, very few parts we print require the extra build volume, it is more about being able to queue up ~4x the number of parts for an overnight print session (6x6 vs 12x12).

As the printer is open hardware, you can source the parts yourself and build from scratch to save ~40-50% if you want. I know I’ll be building one for the house, as well as another mentor, over the summer.

The Zortrax M200 is the best 3D printer I’ve ever used. https://www.3dhubs.com/3d-printers/zortrax-m200

(I’ve used a Taz 5, Ultimaker, 3D Systems Cube, Ecocycle, and a Dremel Ideabuilder)

You load up your 3D model into the software, make sure everything looks right. Save the file to a SD card and then pop it into the machine, select your file and then you can walk away. I’ve never had any trouble with failed prints on this machine after over 1500 hours of use. The printer prints all sorts of materials too.

If you want to compare 3D printer reviews use the 3D hubs guide. It’s the most comprehensive guide I’ve seen online.

So it isn’t just us.

I would steer clear of ANYTHING Makerbot. They used to make great machines aimed at hobbyist and makers, but ever since they were bought by Stratasys they’re only interested in making as much money as they can selling trash machines. Once you buy Makerbot, you’re locked into their proprietary ecosystem. Basic software with limited user customization, extremely expensive parts that commonly break, proprietary file formats, and more. As I said, they’re only interested in selling a dumbed down machine with a limited feature set. Don’t get me wrong, some of the earlier models such as the Replicator 1 are good, but anything after the Stratasys acquisition stay away from. Our school shop made the mistake of buying a fifth generation Replicator and the 3-D scanner. We’ve gone through one (soon to be two) extruders, the printer jams at least once every print, etc. And don’t get me started about the scanner. It’s a complete joke that, according to Makerbot support, “can only scan rounded objects”. Same for 3D Systems, steer clear of them too.

Sorry for the rant, I want to make sure nobody makes the same mistake that we did.

We have a Lulzbot TAZ 4. It has been good oberall, but not without its issues though. We replaced the glass bed with 1/4" cast aluminum after I broke the glass while removing a part. We upgraded the hot end this season to an E3D v5 (it was bought with the printer and never installed). The nozzle works great and I look forward to making nylon parts next season. Just a few weeks ago, one of the z axis drive screws came off the stepper motor and had to be realigned. I had to print a replacement extruder herringbone drive gear last season. If I had a guess, we have 400 hours on the TAZ. It has a great build volume and overall I would recommend it. It is an overall great printer and a lot of the components are 3D printed, which annoys me on a printer of that cost, but is also easy to repair given access to a working printer. Print spare extruder parts right away if you get one.

My OpenBeam Kossel Pro has been a champ for the past 15 months and has over 200 print hours on it. I spent a lot of time in the build making sure things went together perfectly. Something with the latest MatterControl build has rendered it non-operational, but it appears to be code added to the print sequence and not a control board issue. It does need a 32 bit control board since I should be able to print about 4-5x faster. While I love the printer, I’m torn on whether to recommend it based on your requirements.

I have heard good things about the MarkForged printer. It is a very capable printer and can print kevlar reinforced parts.

Most all printers are going to require some level of hassle and fine tuning. Sticking with open source will get you back up quicker and will probably be less expensive. Not to mention your students amd mentors can become experts and create modifications to improve the machines.

I would avoid Makerbot. I “consult” with my state libraries and they have had nothing but issues with them. Their Ultimaker v1s have been more reliable than the v2s.