Finding which of the best 3D printers is right for you can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack, especially if you’re unfamiliar with all the different features that set machines apart from one another. Just a few short years ago, the options available to the public were limited, in availability, pricing and features.
Things have changed considerably since then, and now there’s a huge variety of options available for just about every niche and budget. In fact, this variety means that ranking the best 3D printers is no small task because of how different these machines can be, placing them in two distinct categories: Resin-based printers and FDM printers.
FDM stands for ‘Fused deposition modeling’ and is the most recognizable style of 3D printing. A motor moves a nozzle that squeezes melted filament onto a heated bed to form a shape, which is useful for folks who don’t need to worry about tiny details (as layer lines are usually visible on the finished print), but instead value size. This kind of printer is fantastic for prop creation and household objects like vases as you can create much larger models than a printer that uses resin instead of a spool of filament.
Filament also comes in a variety of different materials, from standard ABS plastic and PLA (polylactic acid), up to flexible foam and sturdy carbon fiber, which makes FDM printers that can use these more niche filaments well suited for prototyping.
As the name suggests, resin printers instead use a vat of UV reactive liquid resin that cures in layers to bring your ideas to life. There are several styles of resin curing technology used, such as SLA (Stereolithography), MSLA (Masked Stereolithography) and DLP (Digital Light Process). All of these methods can be messy and even dangerous as resin gives off toxic fumes, but the level of detail achieved is impossible to replicate on an FDM printer.
Models created on a resin printer are often also much smaller given you’re restricted by the size of your resin tank and submerged build plate, so this is better for people who want to create jewelry masters, tabletop miniatures and other small, detailed figurines.
Whatever your needs, you’re sure to find one of the best 3D printers for the job on this list. We’ve collated reviews and user information to find the top choices for both resin and FDM styles of printing, taking the confusion out of finding the right machine. Now you just need to resist the urge to print every 3D file you stumble across.
Best resin 3D printers
The Anycubic Photon Mono X 6K offers a huge build plate, while the 6K screen ensures there is no loss in print quality as we scale up, solving one of the biggest issues with resin-based printers – they usually sacrifice size for detail. The high resolution and large build plate means that users can print extremely detailed figures at a bigger scale, making it ideal for larger figurines, cosplay props and prototyping.
One of the few criticisms we had was the noise as the Anycubic Photon Mono X 6K uses some pretty big fans to keep the machine running at an optimal temperature, but it’s not recommended that you remain in the same room while resin printers are in use anyway, so behind a closed-door you’ll only hear a muffled whirring.
If you need something with a little more space, Elegoo has other planetary-inspired offerings in its lineup. The Elegoo Saturn is more affordable than the Anycubic Photon Mono X 6K and can’t match its resolution, but many of these finer details are hard to detect with the naked eye which makes the Saturn a great choice for those who simply need more volume to create bigger models.
It lacks some of the features seen on its smaller cousin, the Mars 2 Pro, such as a rubber seal or a built-in air filter, but its simplicity makes it easy for new users to master. We would suggest you avoid using the provided test print file as these are a universally frustrating experience to remove from the build plate, but otherwise the Elegoo Saturn is one of the best options for anyone wanting to buy a larger printer with minimal fuss.
Size isn’t everything, and the compact Elegoo Mars 2 Pro proves it. This printer is on the small side compared to the other offerings on this list, but that’s a great benefit to those of you who don’t have a lot of spare counter or table space at home, but still want to jump into the world of 3D printing.
It’s also affordable and comes with some great features that make it well suited to people who lack experience using these kinds of machines, such as a built-in air filter to remove most of that nasty resin smell and dangerous fumes, though we do find the choice to side-mount the resin tank to be cumbersome when compared to top-down alternatives.
Anycubic’s Photon M3 is a little larger than the original Photon Mono 4K, and its affordable price tag makes this a suitable first printer for folks who are bored or the typical style used by older models of resin printers. The hood shape is eye-catching, and it’s extremely easy to set up and use with minimal experience so while it looks nicer than its predecessors, you don’t have to be an experienced maker to use it.
It suffers at the hands of the Anycubic slicing software Photon Workshop, which is prone to crashing, but the actual hardware is well built and reliable, so this is easy enough to work through with some tweaking and patience.
If detail is the only thing you care about, this list has a clear winner for you. The Phrozen Sonic Mini 8K, as the name suggests, can print models at an 8K resolution, which makes it the ideal choice if you need to print with extremely precise detail.
If you want to design jewelry, print tabletop miniatures or perhaps extremely realistic faces and models then we can attest that the finished prints made on the Sonic Mini 8K are a step above any other consumer-grade printer we’ve tested. Our only gripe would be the printer’s small capacity, though this makes it well suited for smaller workshops or cramped environments.
Best FDM 3D printers
FDM style printers have come a long way since they first appeared on the consumer market, and many developments in the technology can be seen in the Anycubic Vyper which offers features that can appeal to both seasoned makers and those with no prior experience of the hobby. It has a flexible magnetic build plate to easily remove your completed prints without damaging them, an idiot-proof LCD control panel and auto-bed levelling which greatly reduces the risk of your prints failing.
It even ships with a built-in drawer to store some of the accessories that Anycubic provides, such as wirecutters for removing supports. It’s not the cheapest printer on the market, but it’s absolutely worth the mid-range asking price considering the features you get.
Fancy printing your own Storm Trooper helmet? FDM printers are typically larger than their resin counterparts, but to say the Anycubic Kobra Max is ‘big’ would be an understatement. This large-scale machine is capable or producing massive prints that would previously need to be cut up and printed in segments, which means you can create a full adult-sized mask or helmet in just one print session.
The Kobra max even includes the same automatic bed levelling as seen on its smaller cousin, the Anycubic Vyper, which makes this behemoth easy to use without any prior experience. Our only complaint is that it can accommodate larger nozzles but doesn’t ship with any, so you’ll need to purchase these separately if you want to shave some time off your prints.
If you don’t want something quite this big, you can also check out the smaller models in the Kobra range: the Anycubic Kobra Plus and Kobra (opens in new tab).
Prusa is arguably one of the most recognizable brands on the market, and that’s for good reason. This printer has a large online following thanks to its open-source hardware and firmware, so if there’s something you want to tinker with then you’ll find plenty of support, and its massive online presence means you’ll have plenty of resources to help you grow your hobby and improve your skills.
The Prusa i3 MK3S+ is available as either a pre-built printer or a DIY kit for those who want to assemble the unit themselves (and save some cash in the process). Results are high-quality, consistent and the machine is easy to use with plenty of resources available. The build volume is on the smaller side, but you can easily learn to cut your larger models into sections to print.
There are several printers that dominate the budget-friendly FDM category, so if the above offering doesn’t take your fancy you can instead take a look at the even more affordable Voxelab Aquila S2. You won’t get any automatic bed levelling, which can be a tad cumbersome, but this cheap printer has a trick up its sleeve to sway potential customers – it can use filaments that other printers might not be able to handle.
This is useful for those of you who want to use carbon fiber or nylon filament, which need a higher temperature to work effectively but offer some unique benefits such as a smoother print or higher strength. This functionality is prized among folks who enjoy building fighting robots or prototyping, but the Voxelab Aquila S2’s low price means this is one of the best entry-level printers for users of any skill.
Creality is yet another big name in the world of 3D printing, and the Creality Ender 3 V2 is one of the best options for would-be makers on a tight budget. This machine often goes on sale for under $300, so while we think it’s not quite up to the same standards as some of the more premium offerings on the market, its highly affordable and provides fantastic experience with making adjustments within the slicing software to better optimize your print results.
You’re getting a built-in drawer, a removable LCD control panel (for some reason), and a potential layer height of 0.1mm. For a no-frills workhorse, this is ideal for learning the ropes and you’ll be hard pressed to find something better for the price.