Wednesday, 7 December 2016


As a freelance Cad technician, I usually have request from clients to produce printable 3D printable files (stl or obj formats). Most often, I completed such task remotely and files is sent via email to respective clients, while  making sure I satisfy their needs 100%. Once in a while I got work request to produce files as well as 3D print copy and ship to the requesting client.  Since I do not have a 3D printer yet, such requests could not be completed. Hence, it has become necessary for me to look at suitable 3D printer so as to satisfy more client's needs. Towards this aim, I have come up with a list of 8 inexpensive 3 D printers with features necessary for consideration when making decision for acquisition.

1. Oneup version 3

This is a third generation 3 D  DIY printer kit. Meant for those who like to assemble their own printer. Following the installation manual, it is a printer that is very easy to assemble. The manual is highly illustrative with images and instructions that makes the assembly  within 2 hours. With a print volume of 100 mm x 100 mm x 100 mm it is designed to print your 3 D model at a resolution of 50 microns. This translates to 0.05 mm surface finish which is one of the highest print quality  found within this category. Also, it has a speed of 60 mm/sec.

Version 3 has a more accurate and self lubricating z-axis nut. Another plus for precision is the chassis, linear shaft and the ACME screws are CNC (computer numerical control) cut and machined from USA. This makes it a very precise 3D printer. The X and Y axis are made of HTD with zero backlash from belt drive for precise operation. Oneup version 3 is compatible with 1.75mm PLA, ABS, HIPS, Nylon, PVA, Lay wood, Ninja flex and powdered metal based filament.  

The reason why I will recommend this printer kit is the easy to fallow assembly manual stock with illustrative images for your assembly ease. 

Not so good for this printer is that it does not come with a preheated print bed which make is not a choice for ABS and other print filament that warp in the absence of one. Another is that the linear bearing should be handled with care to prevent it balls from falling off during installation.Good new about the print bed is that it can be upgraded.

2. Monoprice select mini.

This is delivered to your doorstep fully assembled. The printer is made to eliminate the hassles associated with DIY kit 3 D printer. To buttress this fact, the manufacturer went one step further by calibrating the print bed right from the factory! So, all you need to do after receiving your package is install filament, load the micro sd to access the pre-loaded 3D model and start printing. I am attracted to this device because it does not have the box like traditional look of a most 3 D printers. The chassis is made from sheet metal, and they are fastened together with hex screws. The recommend software is cura and repeater.

Inside the box you will see; Monoprice slect mini 3D printer, filament rack, AC power adapter, AC power cable, micro usb cable, mico sd card, plastic bed scraper, bed leveling hex wrench, sample PLA filament.

The printer has a  print volume of 120 mm x 120 mm x 120 mm and  a print  quality of 100 microns. That is a 0.1 mm surface finish.When you  compare with Oneup version 3,  it has lower print quality. Monoprice select mini compensates for the drop in print quality with higher print volume as indicated above. And remember, you can start printing your model in few minutes.
This printer has maximum speed of 55 mm/s and it is compatible with 1.75 mm PLA, ABS, HIPS, Nylon, PVA, Ninja flex, Metal powdered filament and several others.

Apart from the attractive looks that draw my attention, the inbuilt LCD is very functional. This is because it displays print bed and extruder temperature, completed print percentage, speed adjustment and of course the operation cancel interface.

3. XYZ Printer Da Vinci Jr. 1.0

Another fully assembled, out of the box ready to use 3D printer. Having a print volume of 149.86 mm x 149.86 mm x 149.86 mm. This print volume is larger than the two previous printers on my list. It is designed to use an auto feeding filament system, which automatically takes the filament to the extruder. This function allows you to properly load filament on to the extruder and has 3D printing resolution of between 100 and 400 microns. This implies best printing resolution you have access to is 100 microns.

Recommended print filament for this printer is a non toxic 1.75 proprietary  PLA filament. Although, I found out there is a hack using an NFC enabled mobile devices with an app. The hack expands the posibility of using several other print filament like; ABSS, HIPS, Nilon and etc. This 3D print operation is enclosed with a transparent plastics that muffle out noise. Hence it is comparatively quiet printer.

The good about this printer is the auto feed system and the filament cartridge is designed to communicate with the Da Vinci Jr 1.0, this make sure you do not run out print filament in the middle of 3D print operation. Talking about extruder maintenance or replacement, there is a press and release device that easily accomplish its removal and installation off and on the print head.

The not so good about the printer is the use of propriety print filament ( which seems hack able), this won't be a problem if the supply keeps coming. Another thing I like to mention is the auto calibration claim for this printer. While I agree that the x and y axis is set to calibrate automatically, the z offset calibration needs to be attended to manually.  I think the proprietor should include the z axis in the automatic calibration so as to to earn the full auto calibration claim.

4. Cube 3 printer.

A fully assembled out of the box 3 D print ready, is another inexpensive printer. Unlike most printers and those that precedes it, it is built with dual extruders which allows for printing two colors or provides the option for printing from two different materials especially when using  filament for structural support in intricate 3 D  designs. This support filament is then removed after the  printing operation is completed using compatible solvent for example  water.

The print volume of Cube 3 is 152.4 mm x 152.4 mm x 152.4 mm. This is 44% higher than its predecessor, cube 2 and also higher compared with the above named printers. Depending on your precision needs you can select a resolution of either 70 microns or 200 microns.

What I like about this 3D printer is its wireless connectivity with your pc, mac, ios and android devices. Hence, you are able to send a 3D print job from your various devices with ease of this function. Also the proprietary filament cartridges can effectively communicate with the printer without any additional settings. This function makes two of a kind on this list Because of this advantage, the system ensures that you do not run out of filament right in the middle of print operation. In addition, the printer have an auto level print bed that saves you time and hassle of manual setting.

What I do not like about the printer is that it uses propriety filament print cartridge that make use of ABS and  PLA filament. It is note worthy that this printer previously had been sold for $999 dollar. At that time, it has lots of issues like the propriety filament that is sold for $ 50 along with the problem of constant jamming print bed. Because of this it receives bad rating on amazon. The good news is the propriety filament is now sold about the price of other non propriety filament. And more importantly, the jamming print head has been resolved. 

5. Monoprice 13860 maker select 3d printer v2

Compared with the Monoprice mini select, it a 3d printer you can assemble in ten minutes by tightening 6 screws. This makes it one of the fastest DIY 3 D printers to assemble. Unlike the the Monoprice mini which has been calibrated right from the factory, there is need to calibrate the print bed before print operation. Inside the box you will find PLA filament, 2Gb ram SD card containing Cure and repeater software.

Build with an all metal frame, the print volume of 200 mm x 200 mm x 180 mm is quite larger than its predecessor on this list.

Like many others, Monoprice 13860 has print quality of 100 microns. That is one tenth of a millimeter. This 3 D printer has a print speed of 100 mm/ sec and it is compatible with all types of print filament such as ABS, PLA, HIPS, Jelly foam, PVA, TPU, TPE, Copolyester, PET, XT and etc.

What I so much like about this printer is its versatility to use all filament types. Hence you have access to material properties that is a best fit for your design. In addition it is a DIY kit that is very easy to assemble (fastening of  six screws in about 10 minutes).

6. COLiDO DIY Printer.

This is a kit D-I-Y 3 D printer needs assembling before it is able to produce 3 D model. A manual and a you-tube video helps guide through assembling. The printer has a print volume of 200 mm x 200 mm x 200 mm.

The print quality is 100 microns and it noteworthy that the recommended print filament is PLA.

7. Alunar 3D Desktop Printer Prusa i3 DIY

The Alunar  3D desktop printer is a kit DIY 3D printer of an open frame build. It definitely needs to be assembled before you start producing 3 D models. It is delivered with manuals in pdf format, pictures and link to a youtube video showing yu  step by step instructions on set up. It is capable to print model of maximum volume 220 mm x 220 mm x 230 mm. With its print volume, this  happens to be the 3 D printer with maximum print size on my list of  8 affordable 3D printer in the market with a print speed of 100 mm per sec. In addition, the print quality is within the range of 100 to 300 microns. The print quality is best at 100 microns .

Worthy of mention is that the Alunar 3D printer is built with an LCD display with  ease of control, and also has high quality extruder and stepper motor which allows  the 3D printer to work up to 100 hours without interruption.

Aluna 3D is compatible with several 3 D print filaments such as; PLA, ABS, HIPS, Nylon, wooden-filament and flexible PLA. 

The good thing about the printer is that  being a DIY device you have access to multiple assembly guides like how to pictures, pdf manual and a link to a youtube video. stl and Gcode are the software required for printing.

Not so good is the metal print bed which can be replaced with acrylic material.

8. Borlee Mini 3 D Printer.

This 3 D printer also has a unique look similar to Monoprice mini select. That was my first attraction to the two printers, they totally defy the customary box like look. It is has the smallest print volume on my list of 8 affordable 3D printer in the market and it is a fully assembled ready to use printer. With a print volume of 90 mm x 90 mm x 90 mm, it is capable of producing 3D model print quality of 100 to 400 microns at a speed of 80 mm per seconds.

Inside the box you will find Borlee mini01, SD card, 4Gb SD card reader, Cleaning stick for Nozzle, Thermisor, USB cable, 0.4 mm copper nozzle, Yellow heat bed tape, print bed scraping tool, spool holder, power supply and PLA filament to test run your first print.

Compatible filament for printing include; PLA, Soft PLA, Glow PLA and Wood.

A nice feature not common with most printer is the ability to pause the print process and change or replace filament. This feature makes me begin to get an idea that if properly done, you can make multiple color with this (this has not been substantiated).

I am yet to find any fault with this printer.

Having gone through the list of eight inexpensive 3d printers, you are more informed to decide if any of this is suitable for your needs. In case you are interested in any of the above named items a click on the respective links will take you to amazon page to see the current price. As at when I am compiling this, prices are below $ 500.