The coronavirus pandemic has shown how versatile 3D printers are and has highlighted an urgent need for expertise about them. Large corporations such as HP and Formlabs as well as indie 3D model makers have been using 3D printers to design and create PPE-like face shields, clips for masks (surgical and homemade) and even hands-free door handle add-ons to help in the fight against COVID-19.
I procured an XYXPrinting da Vinci Jr. 1.0 A Pro after several weeks of working from home without access to a 3D printer. Right away, I made a few fasteners for homemade cloth masks and then tackled some face shields.
For more like this
Subscribe to the CNET Now newsletter for our editors' picks of the most important stories of the day.
My interest in 3D printing technology and 3D design started back in 2018, when I got deep in the weeds, creating everything from phone 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. Luckily, the 3D printing industry has been experiencing a boom, with new technology entering the market to meet all of my 3D printing and 3D scanning needs.
Now playing: Watch this: How to make your own coronavirus protective gear on a… 7:47
Thanks to growth in the industry, there are plenty of 3D printing options to choose from, but finding a 3D printer that meets your needs and is within your price range can still be tricky. That's why we're here to help. We've considered the pros and cons of each consumer 3D printer, along with printing speed, print quality, build volume, noise level, design, resolution, print volume, size of the print bed and build plate, whether it includes a heated build plate, conduciveness to additive manufacturing 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. And they're great for you to craft your own personalized 3D modeling designs.
Once you find the best 3D printer and you end up getting completely addicted to 3D printing and dreaming about PLA filament, don't blame me. (But if you do, here's a handy 3D printing FAQ that should answer some of your questions). This list is updated periodically.
Best for multifunction printing
XYZPrinting da Vinci Jr. 1.0 A Pro
The ambitious da Vinci Jr. 1.0 A Pro is a step-up 3D desktop printer with a big 6.9-inch square build surface and optional add-ons for both laser engraving and using specialized printing material like a carbon-fiber filament type. It's $450 with just the standard equipment, or $580 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 3D print 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, its big, easy to use buttons, and frankly, the cheerful bright orange color.
Best 3D printer for the price
Monoprice Select Mini V2
Despite the low price, this is a pretty damn full-featured 3D printer, and a favorite affordable 3D printer for testing the 3D printing waters. Print quality and print speed are excellent. Just be sure to purchase extra filament for this cheap 3D printer since you'll use up the sample filament very quickly.
Best resin 3D printer
If you're set on a resin printer, this is the best desktop 3D printer for you. Resin printers are the next step up in rapid prototyping design technology when you want your print job to look as high quality as any industrial 3D printer or anything assembled in a factory. Just be warned: The resin is harder to work with, and printing with resin requires good ventilation.
Best 3D printer for ease of use
Flashforge Adventurer 3
This is my go-to best 3D printer for the 3D printing enthusiast for balancing price, easy use and print quality. Setup is easy, and I had it assembled and was ready to start printing my in less than 30 minutes after opening the box and gathering materials for my 3D printed object. Read more.
Best 3D printer for easy replicas
SOL Desktop Laser 3D Scanner
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 print quality resolution are great with this 3D printer, and printer setup is easy.
Best 3D printer for big spenders
Glowforge 3D Laser Printer
Printing technology doesn't get much better than what comes with this 3D model 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 an FDM printer hours to do, takes just minutes in the Glowforge.
Crazy things I've made on a 3D printer
Printers, computers and more
- The best printer for 2020
- Best laptops, desktops and tablets for designers and creatives in 2020
- Best vlogging camera for 2020: Sony, Canon and more compared for YouTube
- Best TVs for gaming in 2020: Low input lag and high picture quality