UPDATE: we have released our list of the best 3D printers with meta-rating calculated using ratings from four reliable sources (3D Hubs, Pinshape, Amazon and Make). Find out which are the 20 top rated 3D printers currently on the market!
The “best 3D printers” articles are very common topic of 3D printing news. Indeed, the number of 3D printers available on the market has skyrocketed over the past 3 years. We list 980 3D printers in our database, so even if you have some knowledge or prior experience with 3D printing, finding the perfect machine can be a daunting task. And imagine if you’re a newbie looking to buy your first 3D printer…
In addition to the sheer number of products available, you have to take into account that 3D printers are complex machines. Many technical characteristics and external factors (testing environment, use cases, 3D model used…) must be taken into account and currently there are no standardized testing protocols which would allow for a fair performance comparison of 3D printers.
The “best 3D printers” listicles are, in this context, a tempting shortcut to quickly find out which 3D printers are ruling the market. These articles offer a shortlist of a few 3D printers, and claim to help you cut through the clutter of information. A lazy online shopper’s dream!
Besides, from a writer/webmaster standpoint, such articles are pure gold. They’re formatted as listicles and are perfect for “content-snacking” (yes, that’s a thing!), they can get viral quickly on social media with some basic clickbait techniques, and if you’re SEO-savvy they can rank well on Google and drive a lot of traffic to your website.
The only problem is most of these lists are not very reliable. From a user standpoint, researching information for a 3D printer purchase using these “best 3D printers” lists can be useful but this information must always be taken with a grain of salt.
Instead of creating our own list, we decided to follow our core principle on Aniwaa: curate, aggregate and normalize the data available and make it actionable for our users. In terms of products, the scope of the study is consumer-grade desktop 3D printers under $4,500.
For this analysis, we’ve sifted through 21 “best of 3D printers” lists and selected five of them as our reliable sources. We kept the lists of 3D printers which are the less biased, provide granular ratings and relevant product information.
We found two lists that clearly stand out from the crowd:
– Make: they are the only one that have a standardized testing protocol with a 3D print scorecard. It is of course limited but at least such method provides a factual common ground for performance comparison.
– 3D Hubs: the well known global 3D printers network took the crowdsourcing approach to gather ratings from thousands of users worldwide. The volume and granularity of first-hand users reviews and make their data super relevant.
As for the three other sources of 3D printers ratings, we selected websites providing granular ratings with relevant product information:
– PC Mag: a good 3 printer buying guide covering 10 well-known models under $4,000 (including 2 SLA printers)
– Tom’s guide: a short list with only 4 models but interesting analysis and data nonetheless
– TopTenReviews: a very granular list of the best 3D printers with relevant data
- THE 2016 META-LIST OF THE BEST 3D PRINTERS
To create this meta-list of the best desktop 3D printers, we have compiled ratings data of 3D printers covered by both Make: and 3D Hubs, the two sources we identified as the most reliable.
- Make uses a standardized 3D printer testing protocol, they use nine test models and rate each print results on a scale of 0 to 5 or 0 to 2. Then these scores are added together to obtain an overall rating (max is 39). We have normalized these ratings to obtain a rating out of 10, thus making it easy to compare to 3D Hubs and other sources.
- 3D Hubs gather accurate ratings on 10 criteria covering the machine from all angles, from print quality to ease-of-sue, reliability, customer service etc.
- To obtain the “Meta-rating”, we simply calculated the average between the Make: rating and the 3D Hubs rating.
|3D printer||Meta-rating||Make:||3D Hubs||Price|
|1||LulzBot TAZ 5||8.9||9.0||8.8||$2,200|
|3||SeeMeCNC Rostock MAX v2||8.8||8.5||9.1||$999|
|6||Tiertime Up Box||8.1||6.9||9.2||$1,899|
|7||Ultimaker 2 Extended||8.0||7.7||8.4||$2,499|
|9||Dremel 3D Idea Builder||7.6||7.2||8.1||$999|
Of course there are some really good machines that have been reviewed by only one of these two sources (or none of them) and did not make the cut here. But as always with a 3D printers ranking, it’s not perfect!
- RATINGS OVERVIEW FOR THE 2016 BEST 3D PRINTERS
We know our users like to make informed decisions and research thoroughly their 3D printing-related purchases, so we’ve gathered in the table below the ratings for 46 3D printers which appeared in the “best 3D printers” lists from the five sources we’ve analyzed. With this chart, you can quickly see the ratings for these 3D printers from various reliable sources.
It may sound obvious but data coming from such lists (including the meta-list above!) should always be put in perspective and challenged against several other information sources such as in-depth product reviews, first-hand users feedback from forums or Facebook groups. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself the next time you stumble upon a “best 3D printers” list:
- What’s the methodology used to create this list of best 3D printers? Is it clearly explained in the article?
- What’s is the source of the data presented? Did the writers actually test the machines?
- What 3D printers were considered for the article? Are these only machines sold on Amazon?
In our research, we found a couple of other valuable resources to help you find the best 3D printers:
We hope you’ll enjoy this analysis 🙂