The best 3D printers of 2024

3D printing has come a long way from its clumsy infancy. Today, 3D printers are great for hobbyists, professionals, and everyone in between.
A lineup of the best 3D printers on a plain background.

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The 3D printer, when it first arrived, seemed right out of the future: you can create anything at all, crafted from a steady stream of plastic. However, it’s now an incredible way to make gifts, parts, and doodads in the present. Lost a chess piece? Print a new one. Need an adapter for the sink? Print one. The possibilities are endless. But sometimes, the choice of which model to buy can also feel endless. What features should you look out for? How do prevent this from becoming a temporary hobby that turns into a money pit? Will you have to worry about accidentally burning your house down or maiming a family member? Here’s how to find one of the best 3D printers for you in perpetuity sans personal hazard.

How we chose the best 3D printers

In coming up with our list of recommendations, we considered models from the leading makers of 3D printers. We looked for options that fit a range of circumstances, from beginners to pros. Ease of assembly, versatility, build volume, and price also figured into compiling our list of the best 3D printers.

The best 3D printers: Reviews & Recommendations

One of our picks should help you unlock your creativity. And while you’re waiting for your 3D printer to arrive, stock up on the best 3D printer filaments.

Best overall: Dremel 3D45

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Why it made the cut: This award-winning 3D printer works with a range of materials and is a favorite of architects, engineers, and beginners alike.

Specs

  • Build volume: 6.7 x 10 x 6 inches
  • Weight: 42.8 pounds
  • Compatible materials: Nylon, ECO-ABS, PETG, PLA

Pros

  • Designed for commercial use
  • Comes with an intuitive touchscreen
  • Has a built-in HD camera that allows for remote printing

Cons

  • Expensive

Dremel’s 3D45 printer is at the top of the heap for home 3D printers. It’s right on the line between a home 3D printer and a professional printer, but what allows it to claim this title as the best home 3D printer is its impressive software and ease of use. It relies on a version of the open-source Cura software, with a nice big touchscreen, which makes it surprisingly simple for beginners, given the extremely high print quality. It’s also one of the best enclosed 3D printers you can buy. It’s a splurge, but it’s worth the price if you’re serious about 3D printing.

Best for kids: Toybox

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Why it made the cut: This easy-to-use 3D printer comes with a catalog of more than 1,000 toys for kids to create.

Specs

  • Build volume: 7 x 8 x 9 centimeters (2.7 x 3.1 x 3.5 inches)
  • Weight: 6.6 pounds
  • Compatible materials: PLA plastic

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • New toys added to catalog every day
  • Uses non-toxic and compostable PLA

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Smaller build space

Depending on age and experience, kids and teens may prefer a typical, “adult-centric” 3D printer. But the Toybox (which we have thoroughly reviewed) is designed for younger kids, with lots of safety options (like non-toxic materials) and a super easy-to-use app for selecting and printing all kinds of fun toys. And those toys can be for kids of all ages, as this is a great 3D printer for gaming miniatures.

Best small: FlashForge Finder 3

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Why it made the cut: This compact printer is easy to assemble, quiet, and has good build volume for its size.

Specs

  • Build volume: 190×195×200 millimeters
  • Weight: 34.39 pounds
  • Compatible materials: PLA, ABS, HIPS, PETG, PETG PRO, TPU

Pros

  • Can use right out of the box
  • Glass platform is removable 
  • Quiet and small

Cons

  • Only works with Linux

The FlashForge Finder 3 is a well-priced, diminutive 3D printer that doesn’t skimp on the features. Its leveling system guides you through the oft-annoying process of ensuring the built platform is aligned properly. Plus, the build plate slides right out, which makes removing your printed object much easier. It also boasts a touchscreen for easy operation, and the build platform is designed to be cold, for safety reasons. It’s a great 3D printer for all kinds of activities, like prototyping accessories for cosplay.

Best professional: Creality Ender 3 Pro

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Why it made the cut: This high-end printer is an upgrade from the last model, with an aluminum extruder for stability and a magnetic printing surface that allows users to remove models more easily.

Specs

  • Build volume: 8.66 x 8.66 x 9.84 inches
  • Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Compatible materials: PLA, ETG, ABS

Pros

  • Comes semi-assembled
  • Magnetic printing bed that allows for easy product removal
  • Aluminum extruder proves extra stability.

Cons

  • Not designed for beginners

The Creality Ender 3 Pro is known for its high-quality prints, and the company does a great job of leading owners through the assembly process. It’s fully open-source, and there are lots of options for upgrading individual parts later, which makes it a great base for learning about 3D printing. It’s also surprisingly affordable and a great 3D printer under $500. It isn’t the easiest 3D printer to use, but if you’re building a printer yourself, that’s likely okay with you.

Best resin: ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X

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Why it made the cut: The ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X offers the best vital features per cost of any consumer-grade resin 3D printer out there.

Specs

  • Build volume: 192mm x 120mm x 250mm
  • Weight: 22.4 pounds
  • Compatible materials: Resin

Pros

  • Premium feature set
  • Reasonable price
  • Very fast

Cons

  • Not as easy to use as entry-level models

If you’re looking for the best overall bang for your buck in the resin 3D printer space, the ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X is your ticket. ANYCUBIC is an extremely well-known manufacturer in the space, and there are plenty of online tutorials on how to use its devices on enthusiast forums like Reddit. 

The Mono X’s feature set is a cut above the usual suspects in the 3D printer game. At 7.5 inches by 4.7 inches by 9.8 inches, the Mono X’s build area is more than big enough for any miniature you’re likely to want to build, except maybe Cthulhu. It also offers fast speeds, 4K resolution, and better Z-axis support than similar models.

Best budget: ANYCUBIC Kobra 2 Neo 3D Printer

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Why it made the cut: Autolevel takes the worry and guesswork out of making something new.

Specs

  • Build volume: 8.7 x 8.7 x 9.8 inches
  • Weight: 16 pounds
  • Compatible materials: PLA

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Small footprint
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Heavy

As far as affordable 3D printers go, we love the ANYCUBIC Kobra 2 Neo 3D Printer. It’s cheap but includes higher-end features like auto-leveling. Linear propulsion and input shaping functions give you smoother, sharper prints. It’s perfect for beginners but is a great match for more experienced makers. It’s a best value if you want the most bang for your buck.

What to consider when buying the best 3D printers

Today’s offerings are generally designed for two markets: home and office. Home 3D printers tend to be more affordable—lately, some of the best beginner 3D printers have been getting down under $300, which is a far cry from the thousands they used to cost. These are great for toying around with, teaching yourself (or your kids) modeling software, and seeing what kinds of crazy stuff you can create out of seemingly thin air.

Professional 3D printers are much more expensive but show the full capability of this moment in time in the 3D-printing world. Architects can quickly build out perfect scale models. Manufacturers can skip the entire go-to-the-factory tour and spit out a prototype in minutes. 

Luckily, some of the best home printers are also some of the least expensive 3D printers. After all, the needs of a home user are not quite as particular as a professional in an engineering lab. That doesn’t mean you’ll be skimping on features, though; these 3D printers, no matter how affordable, can do some truly amazing stuff.

Some of the professional 3D printers require some experience with CAD design—yes, we know, the “D” stands for design already—software, which can feel overwhelming for newbies. But there are plenty of machines that are beginner-friendly, enabling you to download designs and print them right out.

Setup

The best home 3D printers—meaning, not a professional system designed for businesses—are typically smaller, ideally a bit cheaper, and hopefully, come pre-assembled. Home 3D printers should be able to connect via a simple USB cable to your computer, although WiFi connectivity is a nice option to reduce the amount of cord clutter around your home. 

Resolution

You’ll also want to look at print resolution. This metric is measured in microns, and the smaller the number is, the sharper the image. The resolution of 3D models is important to 3D printing. You can think about it like you’re building out of LEGO blocks: if you only use a few larger blocks, you’ll have a very blocky, rough sculpture. But use a lot of smaller blocks, and you can create more natural-looking curves and shapes. For a home 3D printer, look for around 50 microns in resolution.

Assembly

Many 3D printers, including the Prusa i3, come in two versions: one is pre-assembled, and one, for a discounted price, requires assembly by yourself. In general, we don’t love the assembly-required versions, as they can be very finicky and tricky to put together. This isn’t quite an Ikea couch; these gadgets are complex, and any errors in construction can totally mess up your final prints. 

Once you go down into the less expensive units, you often won’t find any assembly-required options at all. These are more grab-and-go printers, designed for ease of use, and frankly, we like that. Especially because using these printers as an educational toy for kids is one of their best attributes, and the assembly is often too difficult for them. Instead, grab a kid-friendly, pre-assembled unit.

Size

3D printers can vary in size from a small shoebox to, well, literally house-sized. The smaller 3D printers are often a great option for those with a limited amount of desk space, or perhaps for those with no need to print anything all too large. 

Price

Given that many 3D printers can cost thousands of dollars, you’d be forgiven for looking at a less expensive printer with some suspicion. You’ll definitely be sacrificing something, but the nice thing about cheap 3D printers is that you can choose what you want to give up. Are you okay with a slightly lesser printing resolution? Or would you rather sacrifice how large the printed objects can be? Or do you want to build the printer yourself, opting for more barebones kits to save some cash? All of those are possibilities.

Kits

If you want to get in the weeds, and we’d understand if you do, a 3D printer kit is a great way to both save some money and start to understand the intricacies of how these machines work—because you’ll have to build them. 

It’ll take you a few hours to put these kits together, but there are tons of helpful tutorials on YouTube, and you’ll get the same kind of satisfaction that you might get from working on a car. If something goes wrong, you’ll know what, because you constructed the entire project. And the rewards for creating something that then creates something else? It’s fun wrapped in a riddle.

Open-frame vs. closed-frame

An open-frame 3D printer doesn’t have an outer shell like close-frame 3D printers do. An open-frame 3D printer is perfect if you don’t have to worry about dust, temperature fluctuations, or interference from children and/or pets. A closed-frame, or enclosed, 3D printer prevents all of the above. Open-frame 3D printers are often cheaper than closed-frame 3D printers.

Build volume

The build volume is how much space you have to print an object. A larger build volume lets you print larger objects. You can’t print your object completely if your build volume isn’t large enough for what you want to print. Build volume is listed in Cartesian form (x, y, z). Generally, look for 12 inches in one of the dimensions and 6-12 inches in the other two.

FAQs

Q: Is getting a 3D printer worth it?

Whether a 3D printer is worth it depends on your use case. They’re great educational tools, and can be really fun toys, too: it never gets old to download some plans and then have them manifest as a physical object, right there at home. They aren’t necessarily practical for home use, in that you’re not going to be printing too many high-end sculptures or tools, but if you know that going in, you can really enjoy yourself.

Q: What is the maintenance cost of a 3D printer?

It depends on the kind of printer you have. And, some companies include maintenance as part of the initial price, or with an extended warranty or annual service plan. Maintaining a 3D printer shouldn’t cost more than $100 per year, based on the models we mention.

Q: How long do 3D printers last on average?

If you maintain and replace parts, your printer can last between 5-10 years. Regular cleaning and adjustments can help with 3D printer lifespan.

Final thoughts on the best 3D printers

The best 3D printers—home printers, 3D printers for kids, detail-oriented kits, or even budget-friendly options—can be truly mind-blowing home gadgets. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch these machines spool plastic with such precision, creating something that you want seemingly out of thin air.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

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