Best 3D printers under 500

Disclosing the Best 3D Printers Under 500 – Features, Explanations, Pros & Cons

There are so many great things that 3D printers are advertised to do that it’s practically impossible to overlook them. They basically represent a connection to the future. You’ve seen such technologies in films and now they’re reality. Even better – they’re accessible to everyone! Sure, it all started with a hype and the first models cost a fortune. But these days, you no longer have to sell a kidney to buy one. In fact, you can browse the best 3D printers under 500 and get one for yourself.

The good news is this market has stabilized a little, so prices went down. The bad news is most people are not familiar with 3D printers, so there are a lot of question marks. You have no idea what kind of technologies they rely on, not to mention what they’re made of and how they work.

Understanding their operating principles and features is a must before spending your money. Just like for any other purchase, it’s imperative to research your options and do your homework. Also, it’s highly recommended to go with proven products from well established manufacturers.

But before going there, make sure you understand what you can do with a 3D printer and what to look for in one.

Discovering the Benefits of Using a 3D Printer

Market and Money

A 3D printer is the quickest way to develop an idea – simple like that. It allows ideas to become reality in no time. You got the concept in the mind, you set it up, draw a sketch, program it and print it right away. This kind of process usually takes weeks or even months, yet it’s now doable within hours.

Saving money is yet another major advantage. Think about all the injection mold equipment needed to design a prototype. Consider the production runs as well. All these things can skyrocket the costs. 3D printing is different though. You can create particular tools or parts at much lower rates than conventional machining.

Risks and Communication

What about the risks then? Most companies won’t be able to create one prototype for you. If you fail at it, you’ll end up spending a fortune on a mass production operation. On the other hand, printing a prototype gives you some extra confidence. You have the part right in front of you, so you can analyze it and try it out before actually going into mass production.

From this moment on, mass production is a breeze. When you suggest a product or you ask for production, it makes no difference how many details you provide. The actual product is often misinterpreted, as the construction is often a matter of imagination. But when you print it out, it’s infinitely better in the attempt to provide unexpected surprises.

Think about the feedback too. Is there a better way to get feedback than introducing an actual product? Exactly! Most people won’t know what to tell you if you only describe an idea.

Feedback and Feeling

Even for you, having the physical object in your hands is a major plus. You get the feel as you touch it. You can tell immediately if it’s what you want or you have to work more.

Think about the opportunity to personalize an item, as well as letting your creativity go wild. Your possibilities are literally limitless. You can 3D print pretty much anything you can think of. Think about it, design it and print it. A simple idea can become a dream that turns into reality within hours.

Fail Fast, Fail Cheap

Last, but not least, failure is a must in the process of success. Most successful people have failed in order to get there. With 3D printing, you can fail without spending a fortune. Also, you can fail fast. It’s much better to discover whether an idea will work early in the process. You don’t want to figure it out when it’s too late and you’ve already spent a fortune.

With these ideas in mind, it’s no surprise why so many professionals and even regular people turn to 3D printing. However, before spotting the best 3D printers under 500, try to understand the most common technologies on the market.

Analyzing the Different Types of 3D Printing

SLA

SLA (Stereolithography) is one of the pioneers of 3D printing. The method was developed to implement specific projects that involved 3D printing. This is basically the oldest technology used in this industry. Believe it or not, it’s still widely used today. Its principles are simply too good to ignore.

In order to use this technology, you need to use a CAD software. Design your product and save the file. It is then converted into a unique format that your 3D printer can understand the STL format. The process is based on layer printing, so the respective file should have enough information in each layer.

DLP

DLP (Digital Light Processing) is another similar process designed around three decades ago. This kind of technologies is common in mobile phones and movie projectors as well. Unlike the SLA technology, this one relies on a different type of light. It works with liquid plastic resin, which hardens as soon as it’s exposed to intense light.

Such printers are known for their speed. It takes seconds to print a layer. The benefits of this technology go even further – better resolution and more robust results, not to mention the necessity to use less materials.

FDM

The FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) technology was initially introduced in the ’80s. There are other similar technologies out there, yet they are named differently. The best part about this technology is that everything you design can be built in engineering grade thermoplastic. No other technologies can do that.

From this point of view, projects have outstanding thermal and mechanical qualities. The printer will deal with one layer at a time. Once the layer is cool and hard, it moves on to the other. Printing times depend on how complex the project is. All in all, the FDM technology is widely used in the automotive industry, as well as the medical industry.

SLS

SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) is a technology that works with laser. That’s its primary source of power. It’s quite similar to the SLA, yet the difference is that it relies on powdered material, rather than liquid resin. The printer won’t need any support structure since the prototype is surrounded by powder at all times.

Just like other 3D technologies, this one implies a CAD file, which will have to go through the same conversion. The printing material can vary widely – nylon, aluminum, steel and even glass. However, given the use of laser technologies, the SLS is more common in professional factories. Lasers also add to the price.

Other common technologies on the 3D printing market include:

  • SLM (Selective Laser Melting)
  • EBM (Electronic Beam Melting)
  • LOM (Laminated Object Manufacturing)
  • DOD (Drop On Demand)
  • MJ (Material Jetting)
  • Sand Binder Jetting
  • Electron Beam Melting (EBM)

Knowing the most common technologies on the market can help you make more informed decisions. However, the actual technology is not the only thing to keep in mind. So, what else should you look for?

What to Look for in a 3D Printer under 500

Assembled Vs. DIY

Apart from the desired technology, it’s important to determine whether you want an assembled or a do-it-yourself 3D printer. If you are the technical type, you might know how to assemble the printer yourself. However, this model doesn’t work for everyone. If you can’t handle the procedure, just opt for the assembled type.

Building a printer from zero is daunting, especially with no experience. Fortunately, there are plenty of DIY kits out there, as well as tutorials and instructions. It is, indeed, a beautiful project, but you have to ensure that you’ll be able to complete it. An assembled printer is better if you want to skip the hassle.

Available Budget

Some 3D printers cost up to ten times more than others. With such a broad range, choosing the right model can be tricky. Even when you’re hunting the best 3D printers under 500, chances are you’ll still find some decent differences in price. As with any other purchase, the price will dictate the final decision.

Generally speaking, the price represents an indication of how qualitative the respective item is. However, based on the projects you have, you may not actually need a premium model. These days, you can easily find inexpensive models that can tackle most home based projects.

Printing Quality

The printing quality is directly proportional with your actual necessities. So, what do you expect from this printer? There are two measurements in terms of quality. First, think how much detailing you want. Second, consider the speed requirements. The smaller the amount of microns in the specifications, the more detailed a printer is. Don’t overlook the volume either – the maximum size a machine can print.

Printing Filaments

Printing filaments are all about compatibility. Double check the filaments your potential 3D printer is compatible with and make sure you can easily find them in commerce. Plenty of 3D printers work with two major categories of filaments – ABS and PLA. Other printers are more sophisticated and they can also work with metal, wood and other similar materials. You should find these details in the manufacturer’s specifications.

Safety Standards

When operating a 3D printer, you’ll deal with high temperatures. In other words, you expose yourself to some risks. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your printer is safe and comes with extra safety features, especially if you’re not too experienced. Apart from the actual printer, the tools associated with it must carry the same safety standards, not to mention the working environment.

Many models come with transparent enclosures around the printing surface. After all, that’s where all the heat goes. Some others don’t have this feature. If you have kids or you’re not 100% familiar with the technique, it’s wiser to choose a model with extra protection.

Now that you also know what to look for in a printer, it’s time to research the best rated products on the market. So, what are the best 3D printers under 500? More importantly, what makes them sell so good?

Top 5 3D Printers Under 500

FlashForge 3D Printers, New Model: Finder

FlashForge Finder 3D Printer
FlashForge Finder 3D Printer

Given its safety features and design, FlashForge’s 3D printer is designed for newbies. However, it borrows some features from more advanced printers, so its capabilities are quite diversified. With 4.2 out of 5 stars, it’s one of the most appreciated 3D printers on the market.

Features and Specifications

  • Measures 16.5×16.5×16.5 inches
  • Weighs 24.2 pounds
  • The building plate is slide-in, so printed objects can be easily taken out
  • Controls and associated icons are available on a 3.5 inch color touchscreen
  • Made from plastic alloy
  • The building plate is heat resistant for safety
  • USB and Wi-Fi connectivity

Easy to Operate and Precise

Operation is simple due to the touchscreen controls. They’re intuitive and don’t require too much experience. You can print with just a few taps, without connecting the machine to your computer. It displays a preview of the printing model before starting the operation. The printing status is displayed in real time. Also, the control panel is available in multiple languages for convenience.

The leveling system is extremely precise. You have to loosen or tighten the screws until it notifies you that it’s ready to go. Each location is leveled individually. You’ll get notifications on the touchscreen, so keep an eye on it.

Convenient and Stable

The sliding plate gives you the chance to grab your printed project safely, without the possibility to injure yourself or damage the result. The sliding mechanism is useful to prevent accidental damage to the printer too.

As for stability, you got the 2nd generation Wi-Fi connectivity. The wireless transmission is flawless, while files are sent with no issues at all. The printer’s memory can take up to 4GB of data. You can send files directly from your laptop. You can also use a traditional USB memory stick – no cables needed for the transfer, so no interruption or loss of transmission.

What’s to Like:

  • Multiple safety measures
  • Easy to setup and operate
  • Intuitive controls
  • USB and Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Sturdy construction

What’s not to Like:

  • Proprietary filaments
  • Has consumable parts

Qidi Technology New Generation 3D Printer:X-one2

QIDI TECHNOLOGY X-one2 Single Extruder 3D PrinterQidi Technology’s 3D printer can be a front runner based on its capabilities. It’s highly indicated for less professional operations and even light commercial uses. Believe it or not, unboxing and installing the unit shouldn’t take more than an hour – ideal for beginners and amateurs.

Features and Specifications

  • Build volume 140x140x140 millimeters
  • Weighs 41.9 pounds
  • Double layer metallic construction
  • Spray paint technology
  • 6 millimeter CNC machined aluminum alloy platform
  • Heating function
  • ABS and PLA filaments
  • 3.5 inch touchscreen
  • MK10 nozzle
  • 10 millimeter rod

Complete and Convenient

The 3D printer comes with a complete set, which means you don’t have to make any separate purchases. You have everything you need to start printing right away. Basically, apart from the actual printer, the package includes one roll of 1kg PLA filament, a power cable, an SD card, a card reader, a tool box, a scraper and filament guide tube. As for the filament, the color is randomly selected, so you can’t choose it yourself.

In terms of convenience, this printer is ready to go within one hour. Unbox it, set it up, load the model you want and it can start printing right away. From this point of view, it’s excellent for less experienced users.

Strong and Stable

The printer comes with a double layer metal. It’s strong and sturdy, while the printing process is quite stable. It’s less likely to wobble, so it won’t cause any mistakes. The 6 millimeter CNC machined aluminum alloy platform adds to its stability. The bottom is perfectly flat and can resist deformation. The platform can easily heat to 110 degrees Celsius without facing any issues. It works with pretty much any kind of filament – be it basic or more advanced.

Power is also given by the solid motor.

What’s to Like:

  • It can print within one hour
  • Simple to install and setup
  • Stable and sturdy construction
  • Can work with pretty much any kind of filament
  • Complete package

What’s not to Like:

  • Cannot select the filament color
  • The touchscreen could provide more details than just the basics

GIANTARM® 3D Printer

GIANTARM 3D Printer Mecreator 2 Desktop 3D printerDesigned to look good, perform above average and provide multiple capabilities, Giantarm’s unit can easily qualify as one of the best 3D printers under 500. Although it’s mostly recommended to beginners, students and professors, it has some professional features that make it appealing to more advanced users too.

Features and Specifications

  • Build volume 160x160x160 millimeters
  • Measures 320x320x360 millimeters
  • Weighs 25.8 pounds
  • FDM printing technology
  • 0.05 millimeter printing precision
  • 60-80mm/s printing speed
  • ABS and PLA filaments
  • Windows, Mac and Linux operating system
  • Metal sheet chassis
  • Aluminum alloy plate

Safe and Convenient

There are no doubts about it – this 3D printer is built with efficiency in mind. It’s safe to use due to the protective cover, so it’s less likely to cause any injuries. Its size makes it space efficient as well. Furthermore, it features a top-notch steel chassis, which adds to its durability and stability without compromising the looks.

Convenience is not to be overlooked either. Each 3D printer from this manufacturer is manually assembled upfront, but also tested. In other words, you have to unbox it and start printing within half an hour only.

Clear and Versatile

The printer features a LED strip. The light is blue. Its primary role is to give you some hints about the model you’re printing, even under low light conditions.

The printer has a wide area of applications, which makes it quite versatile. Practically, you can use it in a regular home for individual projects (such as personal inventions or even toys for your kids), education and even medical treatments. It’s easy to use for beginners, but it’s also versatile enough for more advanced people.

What’s to Like:

  • Easy to install and use, as it comes assembled
  • Lit under low light conditions
  • Versatile and useful in a series of applications
  • Safe to use
  • Sturdy and durable

What’s not to Like:

  • Getting used to it can be frustrating
  • Thermistor legs might need to be manually isolated

Reprap Guru DIY Prusa I3 3D Printer

REPRAPGURU DIY RepRap Prusa I3 3D PrinterReprap Guru is known for simplicity and performance. Its 3D printers may not look so good in your office or in your living room, but they can certainly deliver. They’re basic, so they’ll look like advanced machinery that can create wonders. After all, you want a 3D printer for performance, rather than looks. Given its capabilities, it’s mostly recommended to people who actually have a clue about 3D printing. The setup can be challenging even for the tech-savvy.

Features and Specifications

  • Weighs 18.8 pounds
  • Compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems
  • 8×8 borosilicate heat bed glass
  • Building volume 8x8x7 inches
  • Can print both ABS and PLA plastic – 1.75 millimeters
  • Runs both 110V and 220V
  • Features a classic 110V cord
  • No drilling, cutting or soldering

Advanced and Sophisticated

This is one of the best 3D printers under 500 for those who truly want to take their 3D printing experience to a new level. When it comes to newbies, it will be a challenge. It’s not assembled, so it makes a good DIY project. It can take up to 12 hours if you have no idea what you’re doing. On a positive note, it will give you a good educational lesson, as you’ll understand everything you need to know about 3D printers.

Even the tech-savvy users will experience some challenges trying to install this 3D printer. Once it’s set, calibration is just as important. Be careful when dealing with acrylic frame nuts. They shouldn’t be tightened, but snug, or the acrylic might crack.

Straight to the Point

The 3D printer is straight to the point. Once installed and calibrated, you can start printing right away. It can print both ABS and PLA plastic – the most common options on the market, so it’s quite versatile. It has a decently sized 8x8x7 inch building area – more than enough for basic projects.

It’s worth noting that it won’t cut, drill or solder. Also, the 8×8 borosilicate heat bed glass is included in the package.

What’s to Like:

  • More advanced than other units in this segment
  • Versatile
  • Works with both ABS and PLA plastic
  • Large building volume
  • Lightweight construction

What’s not to Like:

  • No manual of instructions
  • No protective cover

Anycubic i3 Mega 3D Printer

Anycubic Full Metal i3 Mega 3D PrinterAnycubic’s best 3D printers under 500 are designed for a broad category of users. They’re easy enough to use for beginners and those with less experience, so they have plenty of basic features. However, they also come with some patented technologies and features, which make the quite interesting to professionals too.

Features and Specifications

  • Weighs 15 kilograms
  • Measures 405x410x453 millimeters
  • FDM printing technology
  • 20-100mm/s printing speed
  • 0.4 millimeter nozzle diameter
  • Supports PLA, WOOD, ABS and HIPS materials
  • Building volume 210x210x205 millimeters
  • SD card connectivity
  • USB support
  • 3.5 inch touchscreen
  • Patented ANYCUBIC heat bed

Large Building Volume and Friendly Setup

The building volume measures 210x210x205 millimeters – more than other 3D printers in this segment. It’s obviously a bit larger too, but not by much. The rapport for printing volume and size makes it space efficient though.

The machine is simple to use and doesn’t require too much education. It’s setup on the plug and play principles. While it does require assembly, you just have to fit eight screws and turn it on, set the 3.5 inch touchscreen and start printing.

Convenient and Sturdy

Setting the printer up is not the only easy thing about it. Operating it also comes with some handy features. Basically, the printing process will pause by itself if the filament runs out. You can reload the filament and resume the process with one click.

The patented ANYCUBIC heat bed has a superior adhesion, but also a smooth surface. You can take your model away without using masking tape or glue stickers, like in most basic 3D printers.

Conclusion

As a short final conclusion, it’s up to you to analyze the best 3D printers under 500 and figure which one works for you. Go through the detailed guide before the reviews and analyze your necessities. Once you know what you want, making a decision is much easier. Fortunately, the above mentioned products are all cost efficient and can provide a good value for money.