The Best 3D Printers for 2023

You Can Trust Our Reviews

Barely more than a decade ago, 3D printers were hulking, expensive machines reserved for factory floors and deep-pocketed corporations, all but unknown outside the small circles of professionals who built and used them. But thanks largely to the RepRap open-source 3D printing movement, these amazing devices have become affordable, viable tools for designers, engineers, hobbyists, schools, and consumers alike.

Today’s 3D printers come in styles optimized for different applications and kinds of printing. Models geared to professionals, like the Ultimaker S5, tend to have a closed frame, with a transparent door and often sides as well. Our favorite midrange 3D printer, the Original Prusa i3 MK3S+, and many budget models have open frames. You also tend to get a larger build area for your money with an open-frame model. While higher-end models such as the Ultimaker S5 can cost $6,000 or more, entry-level models such as the Monoprice Mini Delta V2 can be had for $200 or less. We’ve even seen and reviewed an able model geared to kids.

If you’re in the market for a 3D printer, it’s important to know how they differ so you can choose the right model. Read on for mini-reviews of the top models we’ve tested for a host of uses and users. After that, we go into more detail on understanding 3D printer specs and tech. Preparing to take the plunge? Read on.

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Original Prusa i3 MK3S+

Best 3D Printer for Serious Hobbyists, Makers

Why We Picked It

As the flagship of Prusa Research’s 3D printer line, the Original Prusa i3 MK3S+ is the latest iteration of a machine that has undergone a decade of advances and tweaks. The result is a polished open-frame 3D printer devoid of obvious flaws, supported by an extensive network of community and help features. While user manuals for many 3D printers are rudimentary, the i3 MK3S+ includes a beautiful, professionally printed guide that covers both the preassembled version (which we reviewed) and the kit.

In our testing, the printer’s operation proved smooth, with no misprints, and our test prints were consistently of above-average quality. The i3 MK3S+ supports a variety of filament types. (A 1-kilo spool is included.)

Who It’s For

The preassembled version of the i3 MK3S+ is good for anyone from a rank beginner to a 3D printing veteran. It’s also a great addition to a classroom or community center. You can save a bit of money by opting for the kit version, which will likely take at least an afternoon to assemble and may be best left to experienced users and tinkerers.


  • Consistently high-quality prints
  • No misprints in our testing
  • Easy-to-use, yet powerful, software
  • Supports multiple filament types
  • Includes a 1-kilogram PLA spool
  • Professionally printed user guide and great support resources


  • Build volume a bit small for the price

Read Our Original Prusa i3 MK3S+ Review

Dremel DigiLab 3D45 3D Printer

Best 3D Printer for Professionals and Small Businesses

Why We Picked It

Dremel is better known for its rotary power tools than its 3D printers, but the company put the same care and craftsmanship into the DigiLab 3D45 that it has with its more traditional products. The 3D45 consistently output good-quality prints in our testing.

Plus, the closed frame provides safety to users while prints are in progress. You can print from a computer over a USB, Ethernet, or Wi-Fi connection, as well as from a USB thumb drive. Every Dremel printer can connect via the web to the Dremel Print Cloud, from which you can prepare and launch print jobs, and even monitor prints in progress from an onboard 720p camera.

Who It’s For

The DigiLab 3D45 is made primarily for product developers, engineers, and other professionals, although it also should be useful in education. It was originally designed not as a commercial product, but as a tool for engineers at the Robert Bosch Tool Corporation (Dremel’s parent company) to use in product design, so it is built to the company’s exacting standards.


  • Very good print quality.
  • Easy to use.
  • User-friendly yet powerful software.
  • Prints via USB, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi, and from a USB thumb drive.
  • Safe design.
  • Relatively quiet.


  • Limited filament colors compared with competitors.Touch screen is not particularly responsive.

Read Our Dremel DigiLab 3D45 3D Printer Review

Ultimaker S5

Best Pro-Level 3D Printer for Large Objects

Why We Picked It

The Ultimaker S5 costs a pretty penny, but you get a lot for its premium price. A 3D printer geared to professionals, the S5 has a large build area for a closed-frame printer and packs dual extruders—letting you print with two filament colors or types. To that end, it comes with one spool of Tough PLA (polylactic acid) and one of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), the latter a water-soluble filament commonly used as a temporary support material during printing for complex objects.

Moreover, it is easy to set up and operate. The S5 can connect to a printer via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, and you can print objects from a USB thumb drive inserted into its forward-facing port. It uses the familiar Cura open-source printing software that Ultimaker now manages.

Who It’s For

The S5 is a good choice for product designers, engineers, architects, and others in need of a machine that can consistently churn out high-quality prototypes or models (and that the money to spend on a printer that will bring that ability in-house). Its dual extruders let you print in two colors, or with multiple filament types. Its cubic print area is large for a closed-frame printer, and it churned out good-to-excellent-quality prints in our testing.


  • Dual extruders.
  • Large build volume.
  • Quiet.
  • Good print quality.
  • Easy setup and operation.
  • Touch screen.


  • Pricey.
  • Relatively slow printing at default resolution.

Read Our Ultimaker S5 Review

MakerBot Replicator+

Best 3D Printer for Product Designers/Engineers

Why We Picked It

The MakerBot Replicator+ output prints of good to excellent quality in our testing. It has a wide range of connectivity choices: You can print from a computer over USB, Ethernet, or Wi-Fi, as well as over Wi-Fi from a phone or tablet with the MakerBot Mobile app installed. You can also print files from a USB thumb drive. MakerBot provides its own software, which can be tailored to a user’s experience level. Although the Replicator+ is an open-frame printer, the extruder nozzle is placed in back of the extruder assembly and is hard to reach, minimizing the risk of someone accidentally being burned by touching the hot nozzle.

Who It’s For

The MakerBot Replicator+ is a good fit for product designers, architects, and engineers, as well as small businesses, schools, and community centers (not to mention, individuals with money to spare who are looking for a high-quality 3D printer). MakerBot’s latest releases, the Method and Method X, have a larger build area and are built to produce prints to meet exacting engineering standards, but they are much pricier. The Replicator+ is a general-purpose model that should appeal to a wider audience, and is more affordable.


  • Easy to use.
  • Very good print quality.
  • User-friendly yet powerful software.
  • Prints via USB, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi, and from a USB thumb drive.
  • Safe design for an open-frame printer.
  • Relatively quiet.


  • Printer setup through MakerBot Mobile app can be tricky.
  • Somewhat pricey filament.

Read Our MakerBot Replicator+ Review

AnkerMake M5

Best Midrange 3D Printer for Fast Printing

Why We Picked It

It’s unusual for a new player in the 3D printer field to sock a home run in their first at-bat, but Anker managed to do just that. The AnkerMake M5, an open-frame filament-based (FFF) model, is a cinch to assemble, and the print bed is easy to level (many 3D printers have died on that hill). It is easily the fastest FFF printer we’ve tested, and in our testing it consistently churned out high-quality prints with nary a misprint. A built-in camera can produce a time-lapse video of the print process, or share data with an AI function to analyze a print in progress. It supports
PLA, PETG, TPU, and ABS filaments. Anker provides a proprietary slicer for creating printable files, but claims compatibility with Simplify3D and PrusaSlicer 2.

Who It’s For

The AnkerMake M5’s midrange price may be prohibitive for some frugal shoppers and 3D printing newbies, but the minor assembly and setup shouldn’t be an obstacle even for rank beginners. It’s a good choice for hobbyists, schools, and community centers, and its speed and print quality put in good stead for rapid prototyping or short-run manufacturing.


  • High-quality prints
  • Fast standard print speed
  • Filament holder can be mounted vertically or horizontally
  • Print bed offers large print volume and easy print removal
  • Quick assembly, using extra-handy bundled toolkit
  • Nifty time-lapse recording feature


  • Somewhat expensive
  • So-so documentation
  • Undocumented error alerts

Read Our AnkerMake M5 Review

Original Prusa Mini

Best Budget 3D Printer

Why We Picked It

The Original Prusa Mini is a compact, open-frame 3D printer that consistently produced high-quality prints in our testing. The Mini has a somewhat smaller build area than the Original Prusa i3 MK3S+, requires some assembly, and needs to be calibrated. But it’s much cheaper than its larger sibling.

The Mini includes a beautifully produced user guide and access to Prusa Labs’ prodigious help resources and forums. You can use a large range of filament types with it, too. It comes with the company’s PrusaSlicer software, an alternative to the well-known Cura open-source 3D-printing program.

Who It’s For

The Prusa Mini is a good choice for both beginning and intermediate users. It’s suitable for use in educational or public venues, as well to teach or demonstrate 3D printing. (Anyone seeking a similar printer with a larger build area should consider the Original Prusa i3 MK3S+.)

The Mini comes only in kit form, and construction—in particular, getting the nuts and bolts on two disparate parts to line up—can be a little tricky, but it shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to assemble. It’s not plug and play—the Monoprice Mini Delta V2 3D Printer comes closer to that description—but most of it is preassembled, so it’s among the simplest kits we have encountered. It’s worth the patience required for assembly.


  • Top-notch object quality
  • Supports a variety of filament types
  • Useful, professionally printed user guide
  • Great support resources
  • Versatile, user-friendly software


  • First-layer calibration can be tricky
  • Only includes starter packets of filament
  • Requires monitoring if young children or pets are around

Read Our Original Prusa Mini Review

Monoprice Mini Delta V2 3D Printer

Best Budget 3D Printer for Beginners

Why We Picked It

Among the things we look for in an entry-level 3D printer are a low price, ease of setup and use, largely problem-free operation, and solid print quality. The Monoprice Mini Delta V2 3D Printer ticks off all these boxes. It lists at just under $200, and it is a cinch to set up and operate. Its print-bed leveling is truly automatic and requires no calibration—bed-leveling problems can be the bane of some budget (and even pricier) 3D printers. For software, it comes with a modified version of the popular open-source Cura program we have seen with numerous other 3D printers.

The Mini Delta V2 eschews the Cartesian (X-Y-Z axis) design found in most filament-based (FFF) 3D printers in favor of the Delta design, in which the extruder’s motion is controlled by three sets of arms. This makes it fast, and capable of printing tall (relative to its other dimensions) objects, though it still has a relatively small build area.

Who It’s For

The Mini Delta V2 is great for newbies thanks to its bargain-basement price, easy setup, and smooth operation. Although its output in our tests was nearly misprint-free, print quality was unspectacular. That, and a relatively small build area, makes it a less-than-optimal choice for intermediate—let alone expert—users. But it’s a fine, low-risk first 3D printer for those getting their feet wet in 3D printing.


  • Sub-$200 price
  • Quick, nearly misprint-free printing
  • Easy setup and operation
  • Sturdy steel-and-aluminum frame
  • Supports multiple filament types


  • Tiny build area
  • So-so print quality
  • Mere one-year warranty

Read Our Monoprice Mini Delta V2 3D Printer Review

Anycubic Vyper

Best Budget 3D Printer for Large Objects

Why We Picked It

The Anycubic Vyper, an open-frame budget 3D printer, provides a large-volume print area and support for automatic bed leveling. It comes partially assembled, with the remaining steps (bolting the frame to the base, plugging several cables into their sockets, and attaching the filament spool holder to the frame) simple and straightforward. As for filament, the Vyper supports the standard ABS and PLA, plus TPU and PETG. The printer only comes with a small starter coil, so you will want to buy at least one spool when you buy the Vyper. (Helpful hint: Anycubic and Amazon often offer filament deals with the purchase of a Vyper.)

Who It’s For

Due to its competitive pricing, generous build area, and automatic print-bed leveling, the Vyper is a good choice for 3D-printing newbies or hobbyists on a budget. Some of our test prints looked a bit rough-hewn, so print perfectionists will want to avoid this one, but its minimal assembly requirements shouldn’t deter anyone from buying it on that score.


  • Relatively large build area
  • Automatic bed leveling
  • Simple assembly


  • Short (one-year) warranty
  • Includes only a small starter filament coil
  • Using Cura software with the Vyper requires tweaking a couple of settings
  • Test prints showed some “hairy” filament residue

Read Our Anycubic Vyper Review

Creality Ender-3 V2

Best Budget 3D Printer for DIY Types

Why We Picked It

The Creality Ender-3 V2 provides good value in an open-frame 3D printer, offering a large print area for its price. This bargain-basement printer, which comes in kit form, produced generally good-quality prints in our testing.

For software, you can use either Cura or the company’s own Creality Slicer. The Ender-3 V2 works with several filament types. PLA, ABS, PETG, and TPU. Its manual print-bed leveling proved tricky in practice. Setup instructions could have been better, but fortunately some third-party sites offer useful videos and other getting-acquainted help.

Who It’s For

The Creality Ender-3 V2 is aimed at 3D printing newcomers with a DIY mindset, as well as tinkerers on a budget. If you’re looking for a plug-and-play 3D printer to get up and running as quickly as possible, you’ll have to go elsewhere, as the Ender-3 V2 kit requires some enterprising screwdriver-twirling. That said: You do learn an incredible amount about how 3D printers work by assembling your own, if you have the patience and are willing to roll up your sleeves.


  • Inexpensive
  • Slightly above-average print quality
  • Good-size build area for its price
  • Supports several filament types


  • Manual print-bed leveling can be tricky
  • Setup instructions could be deeper, more legible
  • Questionable quality control on some parts

Read Our Creality Ender-3 V2 Review

Toybox 3D Printer

Best 3D Printer for Children and Young People

Why We Picked It

The Toybox 3D Printer is a device that children can enjoy with minimal supervision, and use to output some nifty toys. A parent will be needed for initial setup—which involves setting up a free account, downloading an app, and syncing the device with the printer—and there should always be an adult around when it is used by younger children. You can print from a mobile device or through a browser, selecting printable objects from Toybox’s generous selection or designing your own. Printing proved smooth, with no misprints. Filament-wise, it’s PLA only, which is the best choice for beginners.

Who It’s For

The Toybox 3D Printer is designed for use by children and young people—Toybox Labs suggests a minimum age of 5, and that there be an adult around when the printer is in use. The Toybox should be fun for people of any age—printing with it is a good activity to bring parents and children together.

You can import and print 3D files from outside its ecosystem, but the process can be tricky. That, combined with its minuscule build area and the fact that its filament is limited just to PLA, make the Toybox a specialty printer unsuitable for general use. That said, it’s a great choice for use by kids and young people.


  • Reliable, misprint-free printing
  • Easy setup
  • One-touch operation
  • Well-composed help resources
  • Access to more than 2,000 printable toys and projects
  • Lets you create your own printable designs


  • Tiny build area
  • Not ideal for importing 3D files created elsewhere

Read Our Toybox 3D Printer Review

LulzBot Mini 2

Best Open-Frame 3D Printer for Hobbyists and Schools

Why We Picked It

Easy to set up and operate, the LulzBot Mini 2 is an open-frame 3D printer capable of printing with a variety of filament types. The Mini 2 supports direct USB connection with a computer, and adds SD-card connectivity. It uses “thick” filament (2.85mm, often rounded to 3mm in descriptions), available on the LulzBot site and elsewhere. Easy to set up and use, the Mini 2 employs the commonly used (and effective) open-source Cura printing software. Overall print quality was solid, if not exceptional.

Who It’s For

The LulzBot Mini 2 is a good choice for individuals, schools, and community centers thanks to its easy setup and operation. Hobbyists and tinkerers will like its ability to print with a wide variety of filament types. Its build volume is on the small side for an open-frame printer, and its print quality is only average, so professionals such as product designers, architects, and engineers may want to look elsewhere if they need to produce larger and/or more exacting models.


  • Easy to set up and use.
  • Powerful software.
  • Quiet operation.
  • Supports a variety of filament types.
  • LCD with SD-card slot.
  • Self-leveling print bed.
  • Easy to remove finished objects from print bed.
  • Works with Windows, macOS X, and Linux.


  • Print quality inconsistent at times.
  • No bundled filament.
  • Open frame increases risk of burns from a hot extruder.
  • Relatively sparse connectivity options.

Read Our LulzBot Mini 2 Review

Buying Guide: The Best 3D Printers for 2023

When you are shopping for a 3D printer, the first question, before all others: What do you intend to print on it? Actually, not only should you ponder what you want to print, but a more fundamental question: Why do you want to print in 3D?

A lot of that depends on who you are. Are you a consumer interested in making toys or household items? A trendsetter who enjoys showing the latest gadgetry to your friends? An educator seeking to install a 3D printer in a classroom, library, or community center? A hobbyist or do-it-yourselfer who likes to experiment with new projects and technologies? A designer, engineer, or architect who needs to create prototypes or models of new products, parts, or structures? An artist who sees fabricating 3D objects as a kind of sculpture? Or a manufacturer looking to print plastic items in relatively short runs?

3D Printed Objects

(Credit: Molly Flores)

The “best” 3D printer for you depends on how you plan to use it. Consumers and schools will want a device that’s easy to set up and use, doesn’t need much maintenance, and offers reasonably good print quality. Hobbyists and artists may want special features such as the ability to print objects with more than one color or multiple filament types. Designers and other professionals demand outstanding print quality. Shops involved in short-run manufacturing will like a large build area to print multiple objects at once. Individuals wanting to show off the wonders of 3D printing to friends or clients will want a handsome yet reliable machine.

PCMag Logo 3D Printer Guide: Basics You Need to Know

For this guide, we will focus on 3D printers targeted at consumers, hobbyists, schools, product designers, and other professionals such as engineers and architects, rather than high-end industrial printers. Most printers in this segment build 3D objects out of successive layers of molten plastic, a technique known as fused filament fabrication (FFF). It’s also called fused deposition modeling (FDM), although that term is trademarked by Stratasys Inc. A few 3D printers use stereolithography—the first 3D printing technique developed—in which ultraviolet (UV) lasers trace a pattern on photosensitive liquid resin, hardening the resin to form the object.

What Size Objects Do You Want?

Make sure that a 3D printer’s build area is large enough for the kind of objects that you intend to print with it. The build area is the size, in three dimensions, of the largest object that can a given printer can produce (at least in theory—it may be somewhat less if the build platform is not exactly level, for example). Typical 3D printers have build areas between 6 and 9 inches square, but they can range from a few inches to more than two feet on a side, and a few are actually square. In our reviews, we list printers’ build areas in inches in height, width, and depth (HWD).

Prusa 3D printer in PC Labs

(Credit: Molly Flores)

What Kind of Filament Should Your 3D Printer Use?

As for the materials you’ll use to print with, most affordable 3D printers use the abovementioned FFF technique, in which plastic filament—available in spools—is melted and extruded, then solidifies to form the object. The two most common types of filament are acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA). Each has slightly different properties. For example, ABS melts at a higher temperature than PLA and is more flexible, but emits fumes when melted that many users find unpleasant, and it requires a heated print bed. PLA prints look smooth, but they tend to be on the brittle side.

Red filament in 3D printer

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Other materials used in FFF printing include, but are not limited to, high-impact polystyrene (HIPS); composite filaments made of wood, bronze, and copper; UV-luminescent filaments; nylon; Tritan copolyester; polyvinyl alcohol (PVA); polyethylene terephthalate (PETT); polycarbonate; conductive PLA and ABS; plasticized copolyamide thermoplastic elastomer (PCTPE); and PC-ABS. Each material has a different melting point, so use of some exotic filaments is limited to printers designed for them or ones with software that lets you control the extruder temperature. So your printer needs to support a given kind of filament to use it.

Filament comes in two diameters—1.85mm and 3mm—with most models using the smaller of the two. Filament is sold in spools, generally 1kg (2.2 pounds), and costs $20 to $50 per kilogram for ABS and PLA. Although many 3D printers will accept generic spools, some companies’ printers use proprietary spools or cartridges. These often contain an RFID chip that allows a printer to identify the filament type and properties but restricts the material to the manufacturer’s compatible printers.

Make sure the filament is the right diameter for your printer, and that the spool is the right size. In many cases, you can buy or make (even 3D print) a spool holder that will fit various spool sizes. (For much more on 3D printing filaments, check out our filament explainer).

Prusa Filament

(Credit: Molly Flores)

Stereolithography printers can print at high resolutions and skip filament in favor of photosensitive (UV-curable) liquid resin, which is sold in bottles. Only a limited color palette is available, usually clear, white, gray, black, or gold. Working with liquid resin and isopropyl alcohol, which is used in the finishing process for stereolithography prints, can be messy and odiferous.

How High a Resolution Do You Need in a 3D Printer?

A 3D printer extrudes successive thin layers of molten plastic in accordance with instructions coded in the file for the object being printed. For 3D printing, resolution equals layer height. Resolution is measured in microns (0.001mm); the lower the number, the higher the resolution. That’s because the thinner each layer is, the more layers are needed to print any given object, and the finer the detail that can be captured. Note, however, that increasing resolution is sort of like increasing a digital camera’s megapixel count—although higher resolution often helps, it doesn’t guarantee good print quality.

Red filament figures of Yoda, an owl, and a chess piece

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Nearly all 3D printers sold today can print at a resolution of 200 microns—which should produce decent-quality prints—or better. Many can print at 100 microns, which generally delivers attractive objects. A few can print at higher resolutions still, as fine as 20 microns, but you may have to go beyond the preset resolutions and into custom settings to enable them.

AnyCubic Test Print

(Credit: Molly Flores)

Higher resolution comes at a price, as printers with resolutions higher than 100 microns tend to cost more. Another downside of increased resolution is that it can add to print times—halving the resolution will roughly double the time it takes to print a given object. But for professionals who require the highest quality, the extra time may be worth it.

Anycubic Test Print

(Credit: Molly Flores)

The field of 3D printing for consumers and hobbyists is still in its infancy. The technology has been evolving at a rapid rate, making these products ever more viable and affordable. We can’t wait to see what improvements the coming years bring.

Can a 3D Printer Print in More Than One Color?

A few 3D printers with multiple extruders can print objects in two or more colors. Most are dual-extruder models, with each extruder being fed a different color of filament. One caveat is that these printers can only print multicolored objects from files that have been designed for multicolor printing, with a separate file for each color, so the areas of different colors fit together like three-dimensional jigsaw-puzzle pieces.

Why Is a 3D Printer’s Build Platform Important?

We’ve mentioned its size, but other aspects of the build platform (the surface on which you are printing) can prove critical in practice. A good platform will let an object adhere to it while printing, but should allow for easy removal when the printing is done. The most common configuration is a heated glass platform covered with blue painter’s tape or a similar surface. Objects stick to the tape reasonably well and are easy to remove when completed. Heating the platform can prevent the bottom corners of objects from curling upward, which is a common glitch, especially when printing with ABS.

With some build platforms, you apply a glue stick to the surface to give the object something on which to adhere. This is workable, as long as the object can easily be removed after printing. (Sometimes, you must soak both platform and object in warm water for the object to come loose.)

Creality 3D Printer Control Panel

(Credit: Molly Flores)

A few 3D printers use a sheet of perforated board with tiny holes that fill with hot plastic during printing. This design holds an object solidly in place during printing, but objects may not easily come loose afterward. Using a thumbtack or an awl to push the plugs of hardened plastic out of the perforations to free the object and/or clean the board is a time-consuming process, and can damage the board.

If the build platform becomes tilted, it can impede printing, particularly of larger objects. Many 3D printers offer instructions on how to level the build platform or provide a calibration routine in which the extruder moves to different points on the platform, ensuring that they’re all at the same height. A growing number of 3D printers automatically level the build platform.

Setting the extruder at the proper height above the build platform when starting a print job is also important for many printers. The process, known as Z-axis calibration, is usually performed manually by lowering the extruder until it’s so close to the build platform that a sheet of paper placed between them moves with slight resistance. A few printers automatically perform this calibration.

Recommended by Our Editors

Is an Open Frame or a Closed Frame 3D Printer Better?

Closed-frame 3D printers have an enclosed structure with a door, walls, and lid or hood. Open-frame models provide easy visibility of print jobs in progress, and the easiest access to the print bed and extruder. (Sometimes, too easy.)

A closed-frame model is safer, keeping kids and pets (not to mention nosey or klutzy adults) from accidentally touching the hot extruder. It’s also quieter, reducing fan noise, and can keep the burnt-plastic smell of ABS from your nose.

Toybox 3D printer

(Credit: Molly Flores)

On the flip side, as mentioned earlier, you tend to get a bigger build area for your money with an open-frame printer. So it comes down to the space you’ll be printing in, your tolerance for noise and smell, and how many cats you have.

How Do You Connect to a 3D Printer?

With most 3D printers, you initiate printing from a computer via a USB connection. Some printers have their own internal memory, which is an advantage because they can keep a print job in RAM and continue printing even if the USB cable is disconnected or the computer is shut down. (That’s important because some complex prints can take many hours, depending on the printer!)

A few offer Wi-Fi or peer-to-peer wireless connectivity. A downside of wireless is that, because 3D printing files can be up to 10MB in size, it can take a while to transfer them. Another connection method that we’ve seen is Ethernet, for sharing a printer on a local network.

Many printers have SD or microSD card slots from which you can load and print 3D object files using the printer’s control panel and display screen, while others have ports for USB flash drives. The advantage of printing directly from flash media is that you don’t need a computer. The downside is that it adds an extra step, that of transferring the files to your card. Typically, wireless, SD card, or thumb-drive connectivity is offered in addition to the basic USB cable, although a few models omit the latter.

What Software Do You Need?

Today’s 3D printers come with a suite of software—almost always Windows-compatible, and often for macOS and Linux as well—on a disk or as a download. Not long ago, 3D printing software consisted of multiple apps, including a printing program that controlled the motion of the extruder, a “healing” program that optimized the file to be printed, a slicer to prepare layers to be printed at the proper resolution, and the Python programming language.

These components were derived from the RepRap open-source project, which spurred the development of low-cost 3D printers. Today, printer manufacturers have integrated these programs into seamless, user-friendly packages, many building on the Cura open-source platform. Some 3D printers also allow you to use separate component programs, if you prefer.

So, Which 3D Printer Should I Buy?

Also summarized at the start of this guide by usage case, below are the best 3D printers that we’ve reviewed recently broken out by their specs. They cover a wide range in price, features, and printing methods, but they all represent one thing: quality in their respective environments. For more information on how 3D printing works, our subject primer is a good place to start. Also, be sure to check out our roundup of the best overall printers.

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