September 18, 2020
The best 3D printer for beginners and budget creators for 2020

The best 3D printer for beginners and budget creators for 2020

COVID-19has brought into focus a sharper need for 3D printing know-how. Individuals and bigger companies like HP and Formlabs have started using 3D printers to design and print PPE equipment such as plastic face shields, clips for homemade or surgical masks, and even hands-free door handle add-ons to help in the fight against the coronavirus. 


After several weeks of working-from-home without 3D printer access, I finally got my hands on an XYXPrinting da Vinci Jr. 1.0 A Pro. So far, I’ve made a couple of fasteners for home-made cloth masks and some face shield headbands. The former are already in use, the latter will have to wait until my clear plastic face shield material arrives in a few days. 


The 3D-printed hook holds my home-made cloth face mask in place. 

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My interest in 3D printing started back in 2018, when I got pretty deep in the weeds, creating everything from smartphone stands to tabletop game accessories to a sweet mini Millennium Falcon. Since then, I’ve doubled down, getting into 3D scanning and even laser cutting, which lets you sculpt real-world designs from wood and leather. 

There are plenty of 3D printing options to choose from, so finding the best 3D printer that meets your needs and is within your price range can be tricky. That’s why we’re here to help. We’ve considered the pros and cons of each printer, along with printing speed, print quality, noise level, design, resolution, and more. These creative tools, which range from affordable (under $300) to high end (over $3,000), are awesome gifts for a creative person in your life — or even better — they’re great for you to craft your own personalized designs.

Once you find the best 3D printer and you end up getting completely addicted to 3D printing, don’t blame me. (But if you do, here’s a handy 3D printing FAQ that should answer some of your questions). 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

The ambitious da Vinci Jr. 1.0 A Pro is a step-up printer with a big 6.9-inch square build surface and optional add-ons for both laser engraving and using specialized material like carbon-fiber filament. It’s $449 with just the standard equipment, or $579 with the extras. That said, the lack of built-in Wi-Fi on this printer is a major hassle, and for this price a nonheated bed is a serious omission. Some of the company’s printers are locked to proprietary filament, but fortunately, this model is not (which is good, because the sample roll of PLA included in the box wasn’t great). 

Despite some extra troubleshooting required during setup, I liked the modular nature of the printer, its big, easy to use buttons, and frankly, the cheerful bright orange color. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Despite the low price, this is a pretty damn full-featured 3D printer, and a favorite affordable first step for testing the 3D printing waters. Print quality and speed are excellent. Just be sure to purchase extra filament for the printer since you’ll use up the sample filament very quickly. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re set on a resin printer, this is the best 3D printer for you. Resin printers are the next step up in rapid protoyping design technology when you want your printing to look as high quality as anything assembled in a factory. Just be warned: The resin is harder to work with, and resin requires good ventilation. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

This is my go-to best 3D printer for balancing price, easy use and print quality. Setup is easy, and I had it assembled and was ready to start printing in less than 30 minutes after opening the box and gathering materials.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Recreate pretty much anything by putting it on this 3D scanner, where a rotating base and built-in camera create a 360-degree copy, which is then editable in any 3D program and printable on your 3D printer. Simply scan the object, import the scan into your slicing software for cleanup, and print. The included software alerts you of next steps in the printing process with either sound or texts. Scan quality and resolution are great, and setup is easy. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Printing technology doesn’t get much better than what comes with this printer. Glowforge laser cutters can sculpt projects from wood, leather, lucite and other materials, making it an interesting printing alternative to filament-based 3D printers. Even better, what would take a FDM 3D printer hours to do, takes just minutes in the Glowforge. 

Originally published in 2019 and updated periodically.

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