Desktop 3D printers

The desktop 3D printer category covers 3D printers that are small enough to fit on a desktop. Their price can range from around $500 for cheap 3D printers to a few thousand dollars for advanced, professional-grade 3D printers.

FlashForge Adventurer 3 3d printer under $500
A closed-frame desktop 3D printer from FlashForge.

These 3D printers can be delivered ready to use– plug-and-play 3D printers– or, more often, can require basic calibration and setup before 3D printing their first object. Some are available as kits to assemble, though this format is much less common now.

3D printer kits, also called DIY 3D printers, come in separate parts and electronic components. Their prices can start as low as $100, and do require some technical knowledge for both assembly and maintenance.

Desktop 3D printers usually come with a dedicated slicing software, which can be proprietary, open-source, or both (like Ultimaker’s Cura software).

PrusaSlicer screenshot
Prusa Research’s slicing software.

Many desktop 3D printers use FFF 3D printing technology (extrusion) with plastic filament as a consumable. However, there is a growing number of resin-based desktop 3D printers that use SLA or DLP technologies.

There are desktop 3D printers for hobbyists and desktop 3D printers for professionals.

Best liquid resin printer Formlabs Form 3
A Formlabs desktop resin 3D printer for professionals.

Industrial 3D printers

Professional 3D printers, also known as commercial 3D printers or industrial 3D printers, form the most expensive and advanced category of 3D printers. These additive manufacturing systems are designed for professional and industrial use cases, from rapid prototyping to direct manufacturing of functional parts or end products.

The size of industrial 3D printers can vary greatly, from as small as a desktop machine to huge AM systems that can take up a whole room or more.

MASSIVit 3D Massivit 1800
An extra-large-volume 3D printer from Massivit.

Depending on their purpose, professional 3D printers can be based on a wide range of 3D printing technologies from SLS to SLM, SLA, or DLP. For instance, commercial 3D printers for the Dental or Jewelry industry are likely to use resin-based technologies such as SLA or DLP (higher level of details), while an industrial 3D printer designed for Aerospace applications may use the SLM or SLS technology to churn out highly resistant metal parts.

Commercial 3D printer prices can range from a few thousands dollars to hundred of thousands of dollars, even millions of dollars for the most advanced industrial-grade additive manufacturing systems.

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