The 10 best budget 3D printers under $300 in 2018
- The 10 best budget 3D printers under $300 in 2018
- What is the best budget 3D printer under $300?
- The 10 best cheap 3D printers under $300
- Methodology: how we selected the best affordable 3D printers under $300
- Overview of the best budget 3D printers under $300
- Buying guide for budget 3D printers under $300
- What about all of the Prusa i3 clones?
- What about all of the low-cost Kickstarter 3D printers?
What is the best budget 3D printer under $300?
Finding a 3D printer on a low budget may prove to be a bit challenging- one must navigate between fishy Kickstarter promises, cheap clones, and shady manufacturers. We scoured the web to find the 10 best cheap 3D printers under $300.
As it is the case in many industries, users are increasingly looking for affordable 3D printers and lately, we noticed a “race-to-the-bottom” trend in which many startups and manufacturers compete to make the cheapest 3D printers on the market. These low prices obviously impact, in many cases, the quality of the hardware. Indeed, 3D printers under $300 are typically not professional-grade machines; they often require a good dose of technical knowledge to be assembled and are recommended for tinkerers, makers with some 3D printing experience or entry-level users with a small budget (and a lot of patience!).
Here is a quick overview of which factors we based our list on:
- Under $300
- Metascore (our rating indexed from reliable sources)
- Passes the YouTube test
- Community feedback and customer service
- No projects currently being crowdfunded
After filtering through our 3D printer database to get this list, we sorted the 10 best cheap 3D printers according to their metascore.
The 10 best cheap 3D printers under $300
|3D printer||Metascore*||Build volume (in mm)..............||Category||Price (MSRP**)||Check price|
|Anet A8||4.7||220 x 220 x 240||DIY||$180|
|Monoprice MP Select Mini||4.2||120 x 120 x 120||Assembled||$199|
|FLSUN Delta Kossel DIY||4.1||180 x 180 x 300||DIY||$220|
|TEVO Tarantula||4.1||200 x 200 x 200||DIY||$300|
|Alunar Prusa i3 DIY||3.9||220 x 220 x 230||DIY||$290|
|CoLiDo DIY||3.7||200 x 200 x 170||DIY||$299|
|Q3D TwoUp||3.3||175 x 175 x 125||DIY||$279|
|XYZPrinting Da Vinci Mini||3.2||150 x 150 x 150||Assembled||$290|
|Cetus3D 3D Printer||n/a||180 x 180 x 180||Assembled||$199|
|Tronxy X1||n/a||150 x 150 x 150||DIY||$160|
*Metascore: result of indexed review scores from four reliable sources (Amazon, 3D Hubs, Pinshape, Make:)
**MSRP: Manufacturer suggested retail price
Tip: if you would like to get a full overview of the 3D printer market, you can use our 3D printer comparison engine. Our database includes over one thousand 3D printer models, all in different price ranges. If you’re willing to invest a bit more into a 3D printer, we also have a list of the best 3D printers between $300 and $1,000.
The A8 by ANET is #1 in our ranking of the 10 best cheap 3D printers under $300.
Methodology: how we selected the best affordable 3D printers under $300
All of the budget 3D printers listed in this article follow the criteria below.
Under $300 and available
As indicated in the title, these are entry-level 3D printers under $300; their cheap prices make 3D printing accessible to more consumers including schools. Most of them are available either on Amazon or on GearBest, otherwise these 3D printers are purchasable directly via the manufacturer.
This is an essential factor- we index overall 3D printer review scores from four reliable sources (3DHubs, Pinshape, Amazon and Make:) to calculate a solid metascore. A couple of the 3D printers on the list are rather new on the 3D printing market, so they haven’t yet had the chance to be reviewed by these specific sources but they have a seal of approval from other user reviews and 3DP YouTube channels like Maker’s Muse.
To be included in our list, the 3D printers must have at least one review on YouTube (similar to the reddit Youtube test). We feel that this is an important benchmark, as it is reassuring to see an actual person “proving” the existence of the 3D printer. We don’t rely on brand-made videos or basic unboxing videos.
Community feedback and customer service
We selected 3D printers that have an active online community of users and a decent customer service. We realize that these two points are subjective, and most of all that it is hard to evaluate wether a brand is reliable or not. However, we get feedback from users, partners and 3DP YouTube channels and websites, so we try to summarize these observations into keynotes. Opinions may change over time and not everyone has the same point of view, so even with our summaries we still recommend looking for information in Facebook groups, Google+ circles, proprietary brand forums, Reddit, etc. to avoid lonely despair in the 3D printing world. For starters we have a list of the best 3D printing forums.
Overview of the best budget 3D printers under $300
Best DIY 3D printer kits under $300
The Anet A8, a 3D printer kit based on the Prusa i3, delivers fast and accurate prints without being too noisy. This 3D printer’s assembly can take for over five hours to complete but the included instructions are clear and easy to follow.
The spool holder and nozzle-cooling mechanism come up regularly as problematic but they can simply be updated with a few 3D printed pieces.
Full specs: Anet A8
The Delta Kossel DIY by FLSUN is based on the Kossel model, part of the RepRap project (like the Prusa i3 model). Delta-type 3D printers offer quicker 3D prints than most basic 3D printers and deliver accurate results. This 3D printer is open source and can therefore be tweaked and upgraded at will. The FLSUN Delta Kossel DIY bears an aluminum frame making it a stable 3D printer (compared to plastic-framed ones).
It seems that FLSUN replies to many user questions, conveying decent customer service.
Full specs: FLSUN Delta Kossel DIY
The easy-to-build Tarantula by TEVO is a Prusa i3 clone, this one producing good quality prints without previous tweaking. Its reliable all-metal hot end allows for multi-material printing like PETG, nylon, wood, etc. The Tarantula is a rather quiet machine, but not online: the community for this 3D printer is quite big and very active.
It is possible to benefit from other users’ experiences and download shared files for upgrades.
Full specs: TEVO Tarantula
This cheap DIY 3D printer kit is yet another Prusa i3 replica by Alunar. It features a rather large build volume on its heated bed and an LCD screen for easy status checks. This 3D printer kit’s build process is simple and well-explained, so beginners can fling themselves into this project without too much difficulty.
There is a swarming international community around the Prusa i3 model which makes it a breeze to find information, help, and upgrades for this open-source 3D printer.
Full specs: Alunar Prusa i3
The CoLiDo DIY is a lightweight, colorful 3D printer kit that is great for beginners. All of the most complicated parts are delivered pre-assembled, so building the rest of the 3D printer only takes about fifteen minutes.
According to some users, many of the CoLiDo DIY parts start to warp after a few months of use. These parts can be 3D printed and replaced, or this 3D printer can be used as a stepping stone before committing to a bigger investment.
Full specs: CoLiDo DIY
Like other 3D printer kits under $300, the Q3D TwoUp will need tweaking and upgrades in order to produce good quality prints. The user must be willing to spend time on this 3D printer, as decent 3D prints are rarely to be expected soon after assembly. A heated bed upgrade is available.
The previous version of this 3D printer, the Q3D OneUp, was a successful Kickstarter project.
Full specs: Q3D TwoUp
The build plate is flexible, which makes it possible to easily pop off the 3D prints. There aren’t many Tronxy X1 users so this cheap 3D printer is not for people who enjoy referring to online groups and forums.
Full specs: Tronxy X1
Best assembled budget 3D printers under $300
Monoprice MP Select Mini
- Metascore: 4.2/5
- Build size: 120 x 120 x 120 mm
- Country: US
- Automatic calibration: Yes
- Price (MSRP): $220
- Seller: Amazon
Add-ons are available to enhance the MP Select Mini’s performance and make it as enviable as higher-end 3D printers. Its popularity allowed for a second version of this 3D printer to be developed, the Monoprice MP Select Mini V2.
Full specs: Monoprice MP Select Mini
XYZPrinting Da Vinci Mini
- Metascore: 3.2/5
- Build size: 150 x 150 x 150 mm
- Country: Taiwan
- Automatic calibration: Yes
- Price (MSRP): $290
- Seller: Amazon
The XYZPrinting Da Vinci Mini offers a decent precision of 0.01mm- a rather decent quality for this low price range.
Full specs: XYZPrinting Da Vinci Mini
Cetus3D 3D printer
- Metascore: n/a
- Build size: 180 x 180 x 180 mm
- Country: China
- Automatic calibration: no
- Price (MSRP): $299
- Seller: n/a
Its proprietary software, however, blocks the user from employing Simplify3d, Slicer, etc. This 3D printer does not feature a heated bed so it only prints PLA filament (although interestingly enough it appears that it prints PETG better than PLA, even without the heated bed).
Full specs: Cetus3D 3D Printer
Buying guide for budget 3D printers under $300
For under $300, the only technology available at the moment is extrusion (FFF/FDM) 3D printing. Some resin SLA (polymerisation) 3D printers have been developed for under $200, but they are still at the prototype stage. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, since FFF/FDM technology is less complicated than other categories. Resin 3D printers are more adapted for dental and jewelry applications.
Print quality highly depends on layer thickness and XY resolution; with our comparison engine it is possible to compare these characteristics side-by-side for different 3D printers. To learn more about different 3D printing technologies, here is a list of 3D printing technologies and processes.
DIY kits versus assembled 3D printers
At such a low price most of these 3D printers are DIY, which means that they are delivered in unassembled kits– much like a well-known Swedish brand’s furniture. After assembly, even if it seems that everything has been perfectly put into place, there is still the possibility that the 3D printer will not function well. Just one loose screw can generate messy prints, so it’s important to keep calm and not get angry with the 3D printer.
DIY 3D printer kits can easily be upgraded by 3D printing extra parts. 3D printer kits are great for learning more about how a 3D printer works- but they can be intimidating for newbies. This being said, there are a few pre-assembled 3D printers for under $300 in our list, for those who don’t feel like drowning in anything too technical.
Closed frame versus open frame
One must learn to tame 3D printers to get decent 3D prints, especially with open-framed machines. Many things can interfere with 3D print quality, such as temperature and room drafts. For basic protection it is possible to add makeshift “walls”, with cardboard for example, around an open-framed 3D printer. Closed frame 3D printers protect the 3D printing process, prevent smelly fumes (yes, melted plastic unsurprisingly smells like melted plastic) and help mask the 3D printer’s mechanism noises.
As one may assume, low prices lead to high volumes of 3D printers sold, and often to large and active user communities. This can be a good and a bad thing. The negative side to this is that manufacturers may not be able to handle many after-sales customer requests, so it is important to check out their website and comments to get a preview. On a brighter note, help and frequently asked questions can be found on specialized forums if a certain model has enough users. We have a list of the best general 3DP communities that have extensive information for many 3D printers. Model-specific information can be found with a quick search engine query.
The build volume, or maximum size of a 3D print, is also an important spec to consider. If the goal is just to discover and experiment with 3D printing then the build size isn’t too significant, unlike if specific parts need to be printed with certain measurements. For those who are looking for bigger build sizes, we have an article on the 20 best large volume 3D printers.
3D print accuracy can easily be thrown off if the print bed is the teeniest bit lopsided. Some 3D printers offer automated bed leveling, but a lot of others require manual calibration. Manually making sure that the bed is perfectly leveled can be challenging and time-consuming but it is something that gets better with habit.
What about all of the Prusa i3 clones?
Since the blueprints are open source and patent-free, many opportunists cloned and rebranded the Prusa i3 to make money off of it. Josef Prusa is now a part of the business too and selling his Original Prusa i3 under his own brand. Josef Prusa’s Original Prusa i3 MK2 is n°1 on our list of the overall best 3D printers. Being made by the original designer, the Original Prusa i3’s are generally more reliable and better quality than low-cost, rebranded Chinese clones.
Indeed, a lot of these clones come from China and do not have a website of their own, so it is difficult to get precise manufacturer information. The majority of them have poor quality parts, which do not make them worthy of our list even if they are at a low price. For best interest we included some of the most famous versions of Prusa i3’s, ones offering the highest number of reviews and offering precise community support (not all Prusa i3 clones are mediocre).
What about all of the low-cost Kickstarter 3D printers?
Top cheap Kickstarter 3D printer fails
3D printer startups tend to promise amazing products through expensive marketing campaigns to get as many pledges as they can. This is not an unusual goal, but when too much effort is put into advertising there is not much left for logistics, if the business model is not well prepared.
TIKO 3D Tiko
- Price: $199
- Amount pledged: almost $3M in March 2015
- Number of backers: 16,538
- What happened: they simply promised too much for too little and found themselves left with no more funds to fulfill their orders. The first backers received their 3D printers, but many remained Tiko-less.
- More information: Tiko 3D Tiko
Rinnovated Design Peachy Printer
- Price: $100
- Amount pledged: over $650,000 after its launch in September 2013.
- Number of backers: 4,420
- What happened: one of the two founders embezzled about half of the Peachy Printer funds to build himself a house, forcing the company to lay-off its workers and collapse.
- More information: Rinnovated Design Peachy Printer
- Price: $300
- Amount pledged: just under $1.5M, and an additional $2M by private investors
- Number of backers: 3,520
- What happened: Pirate3D drowned in their initial success with too many products to deliver and not enough staff. They roguishly started to retail-sell their 3D printer before trying to own up to their backers (which they didn’t).
- More information: Pirate3D Buccaneer
Top low-budget Kickstarter 3D printer success stories
Although many Kickstarter fail stories can be discouraging to anyone who genuinely wants to help fund cool 3DP projects, the picture is not all black. Some startups have kept their promise and have successfully delivered. In certain cases, the manufacturers even managed to sustain their business well enough to launch new products. Formlabs is a great example : this famous brand started out on Kickstarter and is now among the best 3DP manufacturers. To stick with the subject though, below we mentioned only the low-cost Kickstarter 3D printer success stories.
- Price: $449
- Amount pledged: $3.4M
- Number of backers: 11,855- it’s a Guinness World Record.
- How they succeeded: effective pre-launch planning and adequate management after being funded. Disclaimer: although this project was a success, it does not have great ratings.
- More information: M3D The Micro
- Price: $199*
- Amount pledged: $169,103 ($100,000 goal)
- Number of backers: 589
- How they succeeded: an organized campaign, constant updates for backers and a minimalist 3D printer with no complicated promises.
- More information: Cetus3D 3D Printer
*$199 was the Cetus3D price during its Kickstarter campaign; it is now priced at $299.
Current cheap Kickstarter 3D printer projects
If you’re willing to take the risk, here is a bonus list of some crowdfunded 3D printer projects under $300 that are still on the rails as of June 2017:
- Price: $99
- Amount pledged: $360 206 and counting
- Number of backers: 1488 and counting
- Concept: a small plug-and-play desktop 3D printer with a sleek design. The manufacturer already produces the Kodama Trinus
- Planned shipping date: December 2017
- More information: Kodama Obsidian
Robotic Industries BuildOne
- Price: $99
- Amount pledged: $771,191 ($100,000 goal)
- Number of backers: 3,213 and counting
- Concept: a basic 3D printer with possible add-ons like a heated build plate or OLED screen
- Planned shipping date: September 2017
- More information: Robot Industries BuildOne
- Price: $399
- Amount pledged: $478,748 and counting ($50,000 goal)
- Number of backers: 1,170 and counting
- Concept: closed-frame, reliable SLA 3D printer with a reasonable price-to-performance ratio
- Planned shipping date: January 2018
- More information: Kudo3D Bean
The Kudo3D bean is over $300, but it is SLA (resin polymerisation) technology which is a lot more precise than extrusion, and often more costly. Kudo3D also manufactures the Kudo3D Titan 1 and the Kudo3D Titan 2.
ONO 3D ONO
- Price: $99
- Amount pledged: $2,321,811
- Number of backers: 16,180
- Concept: a resin type 3D printer with a smartphone used as its light source
- Planned shipping date: it should be shipped in June 2017, but delivery dates have been delayed for months. To be continued…
- More information: ONO 3D ONO
For more videos, see our list of the best 3DP YouTube channels.
We hope that we have provided helpful information for anyone who wishes to leap into 3D printing without spending too much money, or for those who are simply curious about what is available on the market.
More 3D printing resources
- Want to invest a little more? Here are 15 low budget 3D printers under $1,000.
- Do you want to compare all existing 3D printers? Check out our 3D printers comparison engine, we have more than 1000 3D printers listed.
- Overall, what’s the best 3D printer on the market? Find out with our ranking of the best 3D printers in 2018.