Christmas is approaching again, and the latest tech gadgets are going to be mentioned in a lot of letters to Santa. If you’re thinking about buying a 3D printer this festive season, either for the family or as a gift to yourself, you’re probably wondering what model to go for. Just a few years ago you had a choice of a handful of hobbyist models that needed self-assembly and a lot of tinkering, but now there’s a bewildering variety out there – so we thought we’d help you choose!
Something for the kids
Kids love making things, and a 3D printer lets them be more creative than ever before. Of course, you probably don’t want to let them loose on anything too delicate or expensive, so there’s a growing market for kid-friendly 3D printers.
One of the best choices is Cubify’s second-generation Cube 3D. Affordably priced at just over £130, it comes ready assembled and can be up and running in minutes. It also comes with a USB stick loaded with software and 25 printable models, and a cartridge of PLA filament. It can be fed files either wirelessly or from a USB stick, and it prints quite fast – ideal for impatient junior creators.
The perfect family 3D printer
A printer for the family needs to be simple enough for older kids to use easily, but with the capability to produce your craft projects quickly and economically. You’ll want more powerful software to design your own items, as well as access to libraries of simple projects for the children.
XYZ Printing’s da Vinci 3-in-1 is a very capable printer that sells for less than £600, gives amazing software control over all your print settings, and has a capacious 20x20x19cm print volume. It can print layers down to 100 microns thick and works with cheap, easily available PLA or ABS filament. It can also be upgraded with a laser engraving module,
Ultimate tech toy
What if you have some money to spare and you want to treat yourself to a high-end printer? You don’t need to worry about kids using it; what you want is quality, performance and features.
In fact what you want is the FlashForge USA Dreamer, a dual-extruder printer that can create objects up to 23x15x15cm. It costs £795, is WiFi-enabled and gives full support for Skeinforge and Slic3r software. It’s also very easy to set up, and can print layers down to 80 microns thick. It has a heated bed as standard and only very basic assembly is required.
One oddity of the Dreamer is that it comes with holders for 750g filament spools, rather than the more common 1kg size, but you do get the necessary files to print your own 1kg holders.
There are hundreds of 3D printers on the market now, with prices running from under £100 up to several thousand pounds; whatever you’re looking for there’s bound to be something that suits. These three are all good value for money, though, and if you’re struggling to choose you won’t go far wrong with any of them.