Christmas is nearly on us again, and there’s just a couple of weeks left to buy the rest of your presents. If someone in your life is interested in 3D printing you might be tempted to treat them to a new printer, but that raises a big question – which one? Take a look below for some great recommendations in our Christmas 2021 3D printer buying guide.
Before choosing a printer you need to consider who it’s for. Do you want to treat a hobbyist by giving them an upgrade on what they already have? Is it a gift for someone who’s fascinated by 3D printing but hasn’t got started yet? Are you giving a DIY enthusiast a new tool to help with their projects? Or are you just looking for something to keep the kids quiet? To help you out we’re going to look at four categories of printer, and give you our recommendation in each one.
3D Printer For Kids
Lots of kids are creative and interested in gadgets, so a 3D printer could be the perfect gift. Of course, you don’t want to give your ten-year-old something that’s complex to use and too fragile to survive clumsy little fingers, so a mainstream printer isn’t your best bet here. Luckily, there are some printers aimed at this end of the market.
The one I’m going to recommend here is the EasyThreeD X1. Quite honestly, I’m recommending this because I have one and it’s a really nice little printer. It comes almost fully assembled, it’s simple to use – no fiddly extruder, for example; you just shove the filament into a tube and let the motor take care of it – and for a machine that costs less than £90 it has surprisingly good performance. It does have a small 100x100x100mm print volume, but on the bright side that should keep the little monsters from using too much filament.
Entry Level 3D Printer
The X1 is great for kids, but as a first 3D printer for an adult it’s a bit limited. It doesn’t have much upgrade potential and can only really print PLA, so wannabe makers will appreciate something more capable.
The Anycubic Mega S certainly fits that bill. This has been around for a few years, but it’s recently had a refresh that makes it a very tempting option at around £220. The Mega S, like the X1, comes almost fully assembled – just connect its two components with a few screws, plug in the cables and you’re ready to level the upgraded glass bed and start printing. The one-piece frame is very robust and stable, the current version has an easy-to-use touchscreen interface and it will print ABS, HIPS and flexible TPU as well as PLA. The build volume is a respectable 210x210x210mm and it now comes with a powerful Titan extruder as standard.
An alternative, of course, is the Ender 3. This needs a lot more work to get it up and running, but it’s also a bit cheaper at around £185 and has a slightly larger 220x220x250mm build volume. On top of that it’s almost infinitely upgradeable.
3D Printer For Non-Hobbyists
I love 3D printers. I love building them, taking them to bits and upgrading them, even troubleshooting them when things go wrong. I admit it; I’m weird that way. But some people just want a new tool. They’re not really interested in 3D printers – what they’re looking for is a way to make plastic parts with the minimum fuss. Simplicity and reliability are key here, not upgrade options or tinkering potential.
The Flashforge Adventurer 3 is a user-friendly, fully enclosed printer with automatic bed levelling and an extruder that’s as easy to use as the X1’s. It has a relatively small 150x150x150mm build volume, but it comes completely assembled and it’s dead easy to use, quiet and reliable. It also has useful features like filament break/runout detection and a built-in camera to monitor your jobs. It’s great value at about £350.
Power User 3D Printer
What do you get for someone who already has a 3D printer? Well, you might need to spend a bit more but there are some great options out there. Around £500 will get you the Adventurer 3’s big brother, for example, the Flashforge Dreamer. This has a 230x150x140mm build volume, but it also has dual extruders, so it can print in two colours. Creality’s Ender 5 Pro, at around £330, is a sturdier box-frame evolution of the Ender 3 and has the same massive upgrade potential – or for just under £500 there’s the Ender 5 Plus, offering all the same features with a massive 350x350x400mm build volume and auto-levelling. Alternatively, if they’re running normal filament-based printer you could get them a photocuring resin model like Elegoo’s £280 Mars 2 or the larger £450 Saturn.
We hope that you have enjoyed our Christmas 2021 3D printer buying guide. Don’t buy any 3D printer without checking the reviews first – there are some real lemons on the market. If you stick with any of the ones mentioned here, though, you should end up with a Christmas gift that will work reliably, give good results and grow enthusiasm for 3D printing.