3D printing is not the easiest craft to get started in and the range of printers, different filaments, modelling software and more can be overwhelming for the beginner. If it’s not the strange new terminology or outlandish specifications in measurements you’ve never heard of that have you stumped, then it's likely the hundreds of different printer options available on the market that will.
For the beginner on a budget, choosing the right printer is even more difficult. You might be tempted to go looking for a ‘cheap’ 3d printer, but a word to the wise—buying a cheap printer will cost you more in the long term. In fact, probably even the short term.
The beginner searching for a cheap 3D printer without really taking the time to consider which options are viable will end up buying two printers. The ‘cheap’ one that’s hard to use, faulty or breaks down after a few uses and then a good, affordably priced printer that really works.
To make things easy for you, we’ve chosen our two most popular, most affordable, most beginner-friendly 3D printers and put them head to head to help you make a decision. Here at CD Soft, we know a thing or two about 3D printers. We started the business to bring technology to classrooms all across the country, supporting education and budding tinkerers, creators, scientists and inquisitive minds.
In this article, we’ll also share why a printer is great for beginners, and how to get started on a budget—without limiting your learning possibilities.
What's Considered 'affordable' in 3d Printing?
Before we dive in, it's important to set expectations of what we mean by 'affordable'. To put it bluntly, 3D printing isn't a cheap pursuit in the traditional sense. It's tempting to go searching for the cheapest printer and filament to get stuck in, but as we've touched on already, 'cheap' and ‘good’ rarely go well together.
You might hear people refer to some good, affordable 3D printers as 'cheap'—but that's in comparison to more expensive, more advanced machines. For the purposes of this article, we've defined 'affordable' as being able to get into the game with everything you need, for around $1000; excluding a computer and network.
So, What Makes an Affordable 3d Printer Great for Beginners?
Whether you’re a passionate creator, student, crafter, or hobbyist there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the right 3D printer to get started. There’s a lot going on when it comes to 3D printing; you’ll need to get a grip on the software modelling tools themselves to actually create your design, then get that design to the printer and ensure the printer’s settings are correct. Get any of those steps a little off, and your finished product isn’t going to be what you were hoping for.
To that end, there are four core categories to keep in mind when choosing a printer. Choosing the right printer will let you focus on the important steps of the process, rather than battling with technical issues or print failures you can’t figure out.
These four areas are;
- Ease of assembly
- Ease of use
- Print Quality
In our article best 3d printers for beginners, we used a slightly different set of areas. In that one, we touched on price—however, as this article is specifically written for the budget-conscious beginner, we've swapped it out for quality. All of the printers in this list are affordable options.
Get a 3d Printer That’s Easy to Assemble
Getting a printer that’s not only affordable, but easy to assemble and easy to use will get you up and running all the faster. Complex calibrations following delicate assembly is something that’s easy to get wrong, and for a beginner it can be terribly frustrating and hard to diagnose exactly what’s going with your prints.
…and easy to use.
By the same token, ease of use means you can focus on getting your designs right and understanding materials. A machine that's hard to use is by nature, easy to make mistakes with. The less opportunity for mistakes to be made, the higher quality your finished prints will be.
...that offers support when you need it.
There’s a reason we didn’t call this article “best cheap 3D printers for beginners”. Generally, mass-produced, cheap products have incredibly poor support. And because they’re generally lower quality and more prone to failure, hard to source parts from and generally unpopular in the community—finding support is near impossible.
A great, affordable 3D printer for beginners is one that not only has great manufacturer support, but also a great community of like-minded enthusiasts. Turn to Reddit, for example, and you’ll find great support for both of our chosen printers.
...and outputs with great Print Quality.
Here’s a hypothetical situation for you; you’ve set your new printer up correctly, got your 3D model perfectly primed for your machine of choice, nailed the settings and executed a flawless print. But… the model just doesn’t look good. So you try again, and again, and again, and each time you get everything right but it still doesn’t work. You do some more research into the issue and find this particular machine just doesn’t print well.
All that time, and money, down the drain. This is the point we were making earlier—buying a cheap printer will cost you in the long run. Far better to buy an affordable printer that ticks all the right boxes for beginners.
Let’s get into it; our recommended, affordable 3D printers for beginners on a budget.
The Flashforge Adventurer 3
Ease of Assembly
The Flashforge Adventurer 3 is a fully compact, affordable, lightweight, and user-friendly system perfect for both creators and educators, experienced and brand-new beginners. Featuring a minimalist and portable design, it takes barely 10 minutes to set up.
This element of portability really can’t be overstated, for the entry-level 3D printer, having a dedicated space to set your printer up is often out of the question. Being able to get it out from the cupboard, and set it up on a table in short order means you’ll be more motivated to print more often.
The Adventurer Series extruder features an interchangeable nozzle, which with a three step process, is designed to be simple and fast to swap out. While they will require calibration to ensure accuracy this really is an important feature, delivering great versatility and flexibility. The printer's ability to handle different filament types (such as PLA, ABS and so on) is largely dependent on the extruder.
Ease of Use & Print Quality
Automated Bed Levelling
The Flashforge Adventurer 3 features an automated bed levelling system and is fully enclosed. It runs quietly and offers built in LEDs attached to the extruder head; allowing you to see the print well. There's also a small camera built into the print enclosure wall, allowing you remote monitoring of the print.
Removable, Detachable Platform
A removable and flexible platform is another great feature—simply remove the bed from the machine to detach your print. Remove your print from the bed without risk of damaging the extruder, printer itself or the model.
Clever Assists and Features
The Flashforge Adventurer 3 offers a range of features that make printing simply easier. The enclosed print space and heated bed enable the printer to keep itself at the optimum temperature for quality prints, with less input required from you. Add to this a filament detector, the Adventurer 3 will pause printing when it detects your spool of filament has run out—meaning you can simply reload it and continue, rather than experiencing the disappointment of a failed print.
A combination of solid tooling and great design, paired with the aforementioned assists result in generally very high quality prints. The Adventurer 3 takes care of so many small things that go into print quality, achieving it is made simply easier.
Ready to get started today? Check out our top-value starter bundle featuring the Flashforge Adventurer 3!
Shop now: Flashforge Adventurer 3 Starter Bundle
Flashforge Creator Pro 2
Ease of Assembly
The Flashforge Creator Pro 2 is a mid-budget fully enclosed unit and successor to the fan favourite Flashforge Creator Pro. It is suited for creators, students and enthusiasts alike and a great entry level 3D printer.
Made from pressed aluminium, the Flashforge Creator Pro 2 boasts a robust 6.5mm heat resistant platform, designed to withstand harsh conditions. It comes with a universal power supply, flexible build plate and an easy to access control panel. The only issue may be attaching the direct drive extruders to the print head, but once you get that sorted, it's ready to plug in, calibrate, and power away.
Unlike the Adventurer 3, the Creator Pro 2 does not have a way to automatically level the print bed/build plate. But that’s okay, once you get the hang of things, it only takes a few minutes extra to set up.
Ease of Use
The Flashforge Creator Pro 2 is capable of handling some of the most common filaments, with a patented nozzle structure designed to load smoothly and steadily.
As a fully enclosed unit, it is able to maintain a stable temperature inside at all times. Eliminating the need to constantly ventilate throughout the printing process; this also makes it more suitable than the Adventurer 3 for printing ABS plastic, as it doesn't necessarily need to be in a well ventilated room (although this is still recommended).
It has built-in handles that allow for ease of access in and around the unit, and more importantly, transporting when required. Again, having a printer that can be stored and transported easily will motivate you to print more often.
It’s important to reiterate that the Flashforge Creator Pro 2 requires you to manually level the print bed making it slightly more complicated to use at first than the Adventurer 3. But after a few goes the process will become a breeze and take only a few extra minutes of prep time.
Much like other Flashforge products, the Flashforge Creator Pro 2 also uses Flashprint software as its standard slicing software, making it easy to use and effective in most cases.
An element that's hard to quantify in terms of ease of use, but definitely worth mentioning, is that the Creator Pro 2 is an independent dual head extruder printer. This means that it has two filament extruders (nozzles), meaning it can output twice as many prints, making it twice as quick as the Adventurer 3. While this sounds like a small quality of life improvement, enabling higher print volume, in truth it allows you to practice and learn quicker, and also wastes less time if a print fails. This can help you troubleshoot issues and progress much quicker.
Overall Print Quality
The Flashforge Creator Pro 2 is suitable for most mainstream printing filament and comes with two extruders designed to excel in double colour printing and double filament printing. This printer supports multiple types of plastic filament, including PLA, ABS, TPU and PETG filament.
It also supports PVA filament for printing the model supports—allowing you to soak your finished products in water and have the supports dissolve. Rather than tediously peeling them off. The Creator Pro 2 is suited for printing with the more common materials and stays away from the high temperature materials such as carbon fibre and nylon; making it better suited to beginners than serious enthusiasts printing a broad range of materials.
In general though, the Creator Pro 2 offers outstanding print quality for an affordable, entry level printer, and still holds its own against many far more expensive options. With good build volume, a quick print time and an easy learning curve, the Flashforge Creator 2 is an absolutely fantastic choice for a first printer.
Ready to get started? Shop our great value starter bundle now: Flashforge Creator Pro 2 Start Bundle
We've grouped both machines together for this section, as they're both made by the same company and equally popular in enthusiast forums, groups and in consumer-created media (i.e. YouTube).
Flashforge Adventurer 3 & Flashforge Creator Pro 2
Flashforge is known for their strong customer support. They are happy to assist where required and generally get back to you in a short time frame. To add to that, there is a huge online community available to reach out to, such as Reddit, and endless amounts of material out there covering even the most niche queries you might have on one of these machines.
Even more importantly, the support extends way past troubleshooting, set up and problem solving. YouTube for example, is filled with tutorials that can guide you through your first print all the way to advanced 3D modelling & printing.
Both units also come with a one year manufacturer warranty and are considered open-source products, allowing you to make upgrades and adjustments without breaking your warranty policy. It's important to read the small print though, as Flashforge requires you to personally “carry in” some of its models if you require any repairs, the Creator Pro 2 included. Which is totally fine; if you live in Hong Kong.
While both are great machines for their price points, the Adventurer 3 is significantly more affordable than the Creator Pro 2. However, the Creator Pro 2 will likely take you further into your 3D printing journey, especially with the dual heads, complete sealing and larger build size.
While the Adventurer 3 had the advantage over the original Creator Pro, the Pro 2 has levelled the field—except for levelling the actual bed. Really, they're two equally viable printers and they're both fantastic, just for slightly different use cases. The sealed enclosure of the Pro 2 is better suited to ABS, and the dual extruders obviously lead to much faster, much more serious printing. But the Adventurer 3 is significantly more affordable, and a brilliant printer that can definitely hold its own.
Whichever you choose, you'll have made a great choice, and if you need a little more help making that final decision—call, email or use the Live Chat today!