Are you interested in 3D printing, and wondering what is the best beginner 3D printer? Looking to dip your toe in, rather than dive into the deep end? 3D printing for many out there, can fall into this type of category; there are so many 3D printers on the market today that it can be difficult to find the best 3D printer for you!
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Polyjet, Stereolithography (SLA), and Digital Light Projection (DLP) are just some of the dramatically different technologies that fall under the 3D printing umbrella, so making the decision on what system to start with can be overwhelming. Fortunately, TriMech can help make that decision a bit easier for you!
Economy Beginner 3D Printer
New to the TriMech family of 3D printers, our best new low cost beginner level printer is hands down the UltiMaker S7! Following the merger of Ultimaker and Makerbot towards the tail end of 2022, the UltiMaker S7 is a fantastic desktop option for a variety of users, including the at-home inventor, students from elementary school all the way through university, and even for some engineers and designers at the office.
The Ultimaker S7 system boasts a wide range of advancements over its competitors in the sub-$10k price range, all of which make it a great system to start with, which include:
- Dual Extrusion with dedicated support material: Like it’s big brothers, the Stratasys F-series and Fortus family, as well as it’s direct predecessors, the S5 and the S3, the S7 is capable of using one Print Core for your model material, while using a second for a dedicated soluble or breakaway support material. Access to dedicated support materials enables incredible design flexibility and great part quality on the underside of parts. This is typically a big problem for most other 3D printers around this price point, as they are often limited to single extruders and have to use their own model material to support themselves; if this is the case, part quality is almost always compromised in any supported area.
- Advanced Active Leveling: Almost every 3D printer in this class of machine requires a varying range of tinkering; tinkering with adhesion to the bed, tinkering with build settings, tinkering with bed leveling, etc. The UltiMaker S7 is a tinkerer’s nightmare because it makes everything as easy as possible right out of the box! Unlike most printers at this price point that ask you to calibrate them manually for every build, the S7 is calibrated perfectly out of the factory, and a further automated calibration happens at the beginning of every build to further ensure that the tray is always level with 0 work required on your end!
- Access to over 280 materials: The UltiMaker has partnerships in place with a wide range of material developers, the S7 has the capability of running a massive range of prototyping to engineering grade thermoplastics, which all have Validated settings in the UltiMaker Cura software. Furthermore, the UltiMaker S7 is an Open system, so it’s possible to run other materials past that, though it will require a bit more tinkering to figure out the best build parameters.
- Cura Slicer: One of the most well established beginner 3D printing slicer programs on the market. Cura is known as one of the best slicers out there. It’s easy to use, intuitive, as well as constantly being updated and improved, but not to mention it’s also FREE! Cura is a fantastic beginner slicing tool that will always help drive success during the printing process.
- PEI coated Flexible Build Plate: Gone are the days of using glue, painters tape, or a slurry of melted thermoplastic to get your parts to stick to the build plate; the UltiMaker S7 has a reusable flexible build tray that enables prints to easily stick to the tray when printing without any adhesive, and easily pop right off when they’re finished without any tools needed! What’s more, this flexible build plate is held in place using 25 magnets and 4 alignment pins, so it pops on and off with ease, and always exactly where it needs to be.
- Ultra Fine Particle Filtration: The S7 also has a powerful Ultra Fine Particle filter mechanism at the top of the unit that helps to both ensure clean air outside of the machine while printing (95% reduction in UFP’s), and also helps to draw heated air from the build plate up through the chamber to aid in build quality.
- On the S7 Pro, Automated Humidity Controlled Material Handler: The S7 is a fantastic 3D printer, but upgrading to the Pro variant adds a humidity controlled (40% humidity) filament handling storage unit that can hold 6 spools of filament (3 model, 3 support). Since this is also an automated loading unit, it enables users to load the printer up and run large jobs without fear of running out of material; if this happens, the S7 Pro will unload the empty spool and load a new one to keep on printing!
All in all, the new UltiMaker S7 and S7 Pro bundle are the best beginner level printers on the market today. We’ve only highlighted a handful of the top features of this new system, but bear in mind that it boasts a ton of great operating capabilities such as a 600-20 micron layer resolution range, a large build volume of 13” x 9.4” x 11.8”, remote monitoring through software and a webcam, etc.
FDM Beginner 3D Printer
While the UltiMaker S7 is a great option for the lone inventor, student, or even engineer to have on their desk, there comes a time where you need to upgrade to the best beginner 3D printer on the industrial printing side of things and that is absolutely the Stratasys F170. The F170, like the S7, is incredibly easy to use, but packs the well established Stratasys name brand reliability, print repeatability, machine uptime, and overall fantastic build quality that all Stratasys printers are known for.
In particular, we see the F170 as the perfect next step up for nearly all your 3D printing needs because of:
- Heated Build Chamber: The consistency in part quality and accuracy that the well insulated heated build chambers of all Stratasys FDM printers provides is the single most important feature to keep in mind when looking at a higher cost beginner friendly printer. Nearly all FFF and FDM printers these days have a heated bed, but without consistent heated air throughout the entire chamber, layer to layer adhesion after the first inch or so can become problematic, and can often result in questionable part quality, or even parts with split layers!
- Automatic Calibration: The F170 never needs to level its bed; since that’s done at the factory, and if any adjustments needed to be made, they would be completed by TriMech’s expert Field Service Technician team. With that said, whenever you change print heads, you do need to calibrate the Model tip to the Support tip so that the printer knows exactly where one is in relation to the other. While there is a manual calibration that you can dial that in super tight with (no tools, just a loupe and a pair of calipers), there is also an automatic calibration that can get you off the ground and running without doing anything yourself!
- GrabCAD Print: GrabCAD Print is an incredibly easy to use slicer software that, like Cura, is free with your F170 printer, and makes the slicing process as easy as possible for a beginner. Using the free GrabCAD Print server software, you can also enable cloud access, giving you visibility to the printer status and webcam when outside of the local network of the machine.
- Best In Class All Around: The Stratasys Fseries, which the F170 is a member of, are the most reliable, accurate, and fastest printers out there compared to their top direct competitors, and that’s not a figure of speech; studies have documented this in direct comparison and being a Stratasys F170 user myself for years now, I can absolutely back that up with my own experience!
When it comes down to it, if you need high accuracy parts, day in and day out, with no tinkering, fidgeting, or heartburn in “making the printer work”, the Stratasys F170 is the best beginner 3D printer for industrial applications on the market.
Resin Beginner 3D Printer
Interested in a non-filament option? Our best resin based beginner friendly 3D printer is the Stratasys J35; a rotating platform PolyJet printer that can run three materials at the same time and mix them together to create a fantastic range of highly advanced models! PolyJet technology prints incredibly fine 19 micron layers that ensure that your part has the smoothest curves, highest accuracy, and the best overall part quality possible. While most other resin based printers require a secondary UV Post-Cure, meaning the parts aren’t complete out of the printer itself, the J35 utilizes an onboard LED UV lamp to 100% cure your parts during the printing process, leaving you with safe to handle parts without the need for a massive amount of PPE gear.
PolyJet technology is the best on the market for full color prototyping, amongst other top applications for the technology, but in particular we love to talk about the Stratasys J35 as the best beginner friendly resin 3D printer because:
- Multi-Material Magic: Printing in three materials at the same time gives the user a ton of flexibility in design, and I don’t just mean that figuratively; I also mean LITERALLY flexible! The most common materials used on the J35 are VeroUltra White (Ultra Opaque, even for walls under 1mm thick), VeroUltra Black, VeroUltra Clear, but also the Elastico Clear and Black, which are thermoset rubberlike materials with a base ShoreA durometer of 45, and can be mixed with most rigid materials to achieve a durometers of ShoreA 50, 60, 70, 85, and 95, along with rigid “Simulated Polypropylene-like” combinations. Add in a two component simulated ABS-like material called Digital ABS that has mechanical properties (strength/durability/heat resistance) that get close to that of thermoplastic ABS, this system is a powerhouse of capability!
- GrabCAD Print: Like GrabCAD Print for the F170, this software also powers the PolyJet printer lineup. Again, it’s an incredibly easy to use interface, but on the PolyJet system we see added capabilities with regards to the assigning of material properties of each body or part in an assembly, or each part on the tray. It may sound complicated to dial up something like a digital combination of a rubberlike material and a rigid, but GrabCAD Print makes the process incredibly easy!
- Safety: There are often fears that people have surrounding resin based platforms, but the J35 system is completely self-contained, meaning you’re never going to directly interact with liquid resin. Cartridges have rubber caps that connect directly to material bay slots and draw material out of the cartridge, straight up to the head. The head jets out the resin using piezoelectric nozzles precisely where they need to be on the tray, and the LED UV lamp passes over those parts during the ensuing rotation, curing the part 100% on the tray. Once the part comes off the tray, all you need to do is remove the gelatin like support material (by hand, by waterjet, or if using the WSS150 material then by dissolving in water), and you’ve got your part in hand!
While the number of 3D Printer’s on the market seems massive, the majority of those printers aren’t worth your time in tinkering, your energy in post processing, or your money in lack of reliability. With that said, our list of the top three beginner friendly 3D printers are all highly capable, easy to use, and most importantly reliable! Looking at stat sheets for what a printer can do, often the listed capabilities of the system tend to drift a bit from what it can “actually” do consistently, so always keep that in mind when weighing your options as your look for your first, or next step up in a 3D printer. If you need more advanced capabilities, TriMech can help there as well, but if you need a beginner printer, we’ve got you covered!