A week ago, we spoke at length about the best 3D printers under 500. Most of those are entry-level machines that are great for beginners and desktop 3D print users who want to witness the technology first hand and get awed. Maybe print a benchy or an Eiffel tower at best.
The real fun though, in the world of additive manufacturing begins when you go north of $500.
That’s when the tech starts to get exciting and features/specifications that rival commercial-grade machines start to make an appearance.
We are talking about machines that let you grease your elbows and tinker around a little to improve the print quality without compromising on choice of material or the build volume.
So, today, we will foray a tad north of the $500 price bracket. Not as far as the Ultimaker 2+ or the Zortrax M200 though.
We will still stick to home user turf and explore the best 3D printers under 1000 dollars that are perfect for both hobbyists and makers.
And you might be surprised at the sudden increase in your options with just a marginal increase in the budget.
Let’s take a closer look.
FlashForge has managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat with the Creator Pro. This is a medium-range 3D printer that boasts of features like a dual extruder (two colors), metal frame and an all-enclosed design at a surprisingly low price tag.
Seasoned print enthusiasts will immediately notice the striking semblance to the old Makerbot 2. In fact, it almost looks like a clone. But the similarities are limited to the exteriors.
Once you set this up, the Creator Pro gives you very little reason to complain.
Cumbersome set up
Notice how we mentioned about the set up? That’s cause it’s no cakewalk. It took us a fair amount of time to set this up. And we live 3D printers all day. If you aren’t as versed with the anatomy of a 3D printer, you will need a couple of extra hands to set this up.
Thankfully, there are a couple of videos on YouTube that can guide you with the unboxing and set up. Attach the extruder to the carriage, level the build plate (manual), load the filament of your choice (FlashForge gives you spools of both) and the easy UI will guide you with the rest.
The machine is a breeze to use after that. There are multiple connectivity options and an LCD screen to make life simpler.
Excellent Print Quality
The Creator Pro is assembled to perfection. This ensures very precise Z axis movements at 100-300 microns. This clubbed with the excellent adhesion offered on the heated aluminum build plate makes for a very satisfying print output. The build volume (225 x 150 x 145mm) is decent enough to churn out reasonable-sized 3D models and prototypes.
FlashForge as well as many other online forums recommend that you use the ReplicatorG with the Creator Pro. We found the software to be very cumbersome to use, especially if you used to Cura or the more refined Simplify 3D. Thankfully, you are not locked-in to any software or material. The Creator Pro allows you to use ABS, PLA, woodfill and metals.
Most of the printers south of $1000 offer an all-enclosed design and a clean UI. But they offer a limited print volume.
If you are looking to supersize your prints, you’d need to spend in excess of $2000 at least.
Or, you get home the Creality CR10S. This beast of a machine is one of the most popular and most ripped-off (resold) 3D printers in the world. And for good reason at that. It has an enormous 300x300x400mm build area and that alone is a reason as good as any to get one home.
But even if you look beyond the large-sized print area, the CR-10s offers impressive print quality and is easier to use than many higher priced printers that we have used.
Clean Streamlined design
We are quite in awe of the clean minimalistic design on the CR-10S. It retains the ergonomic styling with the black aluminum rails from its predecessor, the CR-10. The less aesthetic parts are packed off into a control box (thankfully) and the heated build plate has a layer of borosilicate glass on it.
The footprint is a tad more than typical desktop printers. And one of the best upgrades is the dual lead screws on the Z-Axis that brings in the much needed stability for large sized prints.
Easy setup, Laundry list of features
During setup, ditch the quick start guide and plug-in the micro USB to save time. You should be up and running in minutes. Ensure that you pay special attention to the barring wheels on the Z-Axis. They should move uniformly.
Once you are ready to print, you’d appreciate the well-thought out features that include a built-in detection system for filament level, a print resume function that allows you to continue printing from where it left off in case of an outage and the ability to use any slicer software of your choice.
Qidi’s transition from an unknown startup to one of the most talked-about brands in the 3d Printer Space was largely driven by the QIDI Tech I. However, in recent times, it is their 2nd Generation printer, the X-ONE 2 which has been garnering rave reviews.
With a sub-400 price tag as we write this, the X-One 2 is one of the most affordable, ready-to-use desktop printers for home use. The print volume is decent and the all-enclosed design makes for an easy printing experience with satisfactory results.
A little bulky, but built like a rock
We love the fact that even entry-level printers have upgraded to metal frames from the obsolete wooden ones. This might just be us, but it does add to the stability of the printer and prevents wobbles which can affect print quality. It does come at a cost though. The X-One 2 weighs a massive 42 lbs and has a slightly bulky design.
Setup is a breeze and rightly so. This is a printer aimed at beginners and there’s nothing worse than having to struggle with the setup when you are starting off with your printing.
With an SD card slot and a USB connection, connectivity is easy. Also, you can use almost any slicing program of your choice with this.
Decent print quality
Adhesion to the 6mm CNC machined aluminum alloy build platform is a perpetual issue that Qidi must address soon. The build plate comes with a glue that’s a hit or miss at best. At times, the sides of the prints can curl up.
There are workarounds for this. But eventually, it will take a little trial and error before you get the prints right with the glue.
Print quality itself is very good, especially for a machine at this price point. You can churn out good quality replicas and household items in little time. A little stringing is common. But you can fiddle with the settings of your slicing program to minimize or stop this completely.
Our next pick is Qidi’s flagship (if we can call it that) which originally put it in the spotlight in the global marketplace. The good old warhorse, the Tech I, which has been around for more than a couple of years now. But it still continues to give newer and upgraded competition a run for their money.
This 3d printer is what introduced features like dual extruders and a heated aluminum build plate in the sub-500 price bracket. And even now, there’s hardly any competition to it.
A lot of people pit it against the FlashForge and call it a replicator clone. But for us, this is hands down one of the best 3D printers under 1000.
The all-metal, all-enclosed print box
The Qidi Tech I looks neat, with clean cuts and straight lines. The frame is metal and the panels are plexi-glass which give you a clear view of the printing progress. This means, that the print box is all-enclosed which keeps the temperature consistent (ABS). At the same time, you can choose to remove these to allow better ventilation while using PLA.
Dual extruders mean double-colored prints. But most people are unaware that you can stop a print midway and add another color to it if need be.
Exceptional Print Quality
The Qidi Tech I ships with an SD card that contains the Makerware Replicator software that’s recommended by the company. We still prefer to use Simplify 3D and you can use any slicing program of your choice.
There are two spool holders that are 1-inch in diameter. Once again, that’s a small but very important feature that amplifies your choice of filaments. Why, you can even use the Hatchbox filament with the Tech 1. The only criteria is that it must be 1.75mm.
The print quality is almost flawless. We don’t usually throw around words like those. But after having used the printer for over a year, week after week, we are yet to come across a problem.
We initially owned a Bibo 2 base and were very impressed with the print quality. However, it had a few minor niggles with bed levelling and it took forever to get heated. Also, the wifi and laser modules had to be purchased separately.
Then Bibo came up with an upgrade which has been causing ripples in the sub-1000 category of 3D printers.
It is called the Bibo 2 Touch and it is an all-enclosed combo 3D printer with dual extruders and a laser engraver.
This is a machine that can do it all. It prints to perfection, you can create engravings and it has a bunch of new features that make it a very desirable proposition for both beginners and seasoned hobbyists alike.
Multiple cooling fans, filament-out detector
The Bibo 2 Touch is compatible with a whole bunch of filament types. You can use PLA, ABS, dissolvable, wood, carbon fiber and PETG with it. Being an all-enclosed design, Bibo throws in some extra cooling fans to prevent the machine from getting overheated.
We have printed PLA on multiple occasions without any problems whatsoever. But if you feel that the print job is taking longer than you expected and it needs extra ventilation, you can always remove the acrylic panels on the front. One of the best features in the upgrade is the filament-out detector which automatically pauses the print if the spool runs out of filament. You can then resume printing from the same point.
The Bibo 2 Touch is compatible with Repetier-Host, Cura, Simplify3D and Makerware
Excellent Customer Support
With a bulk of the manufacturers of 3D printers based in China, after sales support is often delayed or unsatisfactory. However, Bibo has two centers based in the United States for repair and returns which speeds up things. Also, their online customer support is rated to be among the best. They also have a Whatsapp support group!
Coming to the most important aspect, the print quality is as close to the Ultimaker 2 that you can get at this price point. It is near flawless. Ditto with the laser engraver. We have used it multiple times to make engravings as well as for making templates for air brushes. Works like a charm.
To sum it up
Unlike five years ago, the market for 3D printers has really exploded recently and there are some great printers on offer in the sub-$1000 market. These are our personal favorites and also have a great reputation among casual users, hobbyists and makers. If you have your own favorite best 3D printers under $1000 that you’d like to add to this, then do give us a holler.