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The future is often expensive, but the best 3D printers for under $500 give you a way to jump on one of the coolest cutting edge trends without going bankrupt. Like the very best 3D printers, the top models in this price range share most of the functionality of printers that cost three or four times more at a fraction of the price, and are often even more user-friendly (similar to the best 3D printers for beginners) and compact than their more expensive competition.
A great 3D printer opens up a world of options, from creating models and toys, replacement pieces for common gadgets, or even printing tools or complete puzzles. If you're a board game or tabletop miniatures enthusiast, the appeal is obvious (and immense). You can print out minis, pieces, or even complete games and save yourself a fortune compared to what you'd spend at retail. We looked at all the top choices in a more affordable price and picked out the vary best, and ordered them by use case/priority.
Wide filament compatibility
MicroSD and USB ports
Underpowered bed heating
Packed with features, the Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer V2 offers the best bang for your buck when it comes to under-$500 models. The machine has a compact build that won’t take up too much room on a desktop or table, arrives fully assembled and is ready to print 10 minutes after unpacking.
Utilizing an aluminum heating bed for printing, a cooling fan helps to ensure printing temperatures stay within normal ranges while a small LCD panel display shows your current print status. With a 100-micron resolution and a filament diameter of 1.75mm, the Monoprice has a build volume of 4.7 x 4.7 x 4.7 inches. The model employs a multitude of filaments including PLA, ABS, PVA, wood and metal composites, and it also works with a microSD card or USB connection for transferring prints directly from a PC or Mac computer.
Easy to use
Modestly priced without sacrificing any functionality, the XYZprinting Da Vinci Mini 3D Printer immediately impresses with easy-to-use software. Ideal for novices and experienced users alike, the Da Vinci offers smooth prints at great speeds.
The machine supports 1.75 diameter PLA filament ordered directly from XYZ. The filament is inexpensive to replace and makes for a fair compromise for such a budget-friendly 3D printer that produces great results. The overall printing resolution can be adjusted anywhere from 100 to 400 microns matching the same resolution that can be found among more expensive competitors. Weighing 24.25 pounds, the Da Vinci is portable enough to be moved from room to room — and built-in Wi-Fi allows you to do just this. Files are easily transmitted directly from a computer and printing is as simple as the push of a single button.
Range of temperatures
For budget buyers who don’t mind a smaller build volume, the Monoprice Mini Delta 3D printer is a smart buy. Arriving fully assembled, the printer consists of three arms on rails that move up and down independently of the print head. Printing is handled on the 110 x 120mm build volume plate.
With each print, the printer will continuously self-calibrate, eliminating manual bed leveling. With a range of different heat temperatures, the Mini Delta can work with a variety of materials including PLA, ABS, and wood or metal composites.
Selecting a print is done through open-source downloadable software and loaded via Wi-Fi, USB stick or SD card. Once loaded, you can adjust the options using the buttons on the front display. The machine is relatively user-friendly, so the learning curve isn’t too steep.
Printing speed is upwards of 150mm per second which is relatively quick for the budget-friendly price. Due to the small build volume, you’ll often see final results within 20-30 minutes.
Great for beginners
Lots of file transfer options
Doesn't utilize the entire print bed
User-friendly and widely regarded as one of the safest 3D printers around, the FlashForge Finder is a smart choice for beginners. Measuring 16.5 x 16.5 x 16.5 inches in size, the FlashForge can conveniently be stored on a shelf or desktop.
Compatible with Windows and Mac software, the FlashForge prints using the popular PLA filament with a built-in management system that provides user alerts when it’s running low. Transferring files to the machine for printing can be done in a variety of ways including via USB, flash drive or Wi-Fi as users can navigate a simple menu on the model's 3.5-inch touchscreen. Another benefit for beginners is the FlashForge’s assisted bed leveling for safely printing projects up to a build volume of 5.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches.
While many 3D printers are relegated to boxy designs or cabled messes, the XYZprinting Da Vinci Jr 1.0 Pro sports a beautiful frame that blends in nearly anywhere in your home.
Feature-rich, the Da Vinci Jr catches attention with an open filament arrangement that enables the application of third-party 1.75mm non-toxic PLA filaments. Wi-Fi connectivity ensures that you can connect and print from any corner of your home with a Windows or Mac computer and save files to an SD card as a backup method for transferring prints. A nine-point auto-calibration feature removes the need to make manual printing adjustments and automatically calibrates the print bed with the Z axis. Along with a printer resolution between 100 to 400 microns that produces great results, the Da Vinci offers a respectable build volume for its size at 5.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 inches.
Easy to assemble
Frame can warp during transport
Constructed almost entirely of metal parts, the JGAURORA is highly recommended for both beginners and experienced users alike who want to build their own 3D printer from scratch.
Fun to assemble and safe to use, the DIY model's metal build is more stable than traditional acrylic 3D printers and has a respectable build volume of 7.9 x 7.9 x 7.1 inches. Compatible with ABS, PLA, TPU and wood filaments up to 1.75mm, the Prusa can receive directions from a built-in SD card reader and comes with an 8GB SD card that doubles as the machine's instruction manual. An LCD display provides detailed information on the status of the current item that’s being printed on the 2mm-thick metal housing plate that’s stronger than competitive printing platforms. The high Z-axis position and top standard motor for XY axis positioning work to improve the accuracy of each print without driving up the cost.
In the inexpensive 3D printer market, the X-one2 from Qidi Technology is the king of the hill, a great, easy to use model with great features at a low price. For an absolute steal (without sacrificing much functionality), our best budget pick is a fantastic value, the XYZprinting Da Vinci Mini.
Our top choices for 3D printers haven't been tested just yet, but our experts will be printing a variety of models with different filaments all while keeping track of differences in print time and quality. They also pay attention to how easy each printer is to setup up, use, and in some cases assemble.
David Beren is a tech journalist with more than ten years of experience covering the industry. He even founded his own tech site, and has also worked as a social media and content marketing manager for major consumer brands.
Print speed - Speed sounds important, but remember that the faster the printer's speed, the lower the output quality, in most cases. This is especially true with speeds of more than 150mm/s. If you plan to print intricate objects, we recommend a printer with a slower speed as it will be more precise.
Printing material - Not all printers can print with all materials. Consider what types of objects you’ll be printing. If you’re planning to print plastic materials, there are three main types: ABS, which is ideal for printing kitchen gadgets or toys, PVA, a water-soluble option, and PLA, which is an environmentally friendly option.
Printer technology - While there are many types of 3D printing technologies out there, only two are mainstream enough to be relevant for consumers: FDM 3D printers and resin 3D printers. The former is the most popular and best for fast prototyping. It works when a thermoplastic filament is heated and extruded through a head that deposits the molten plastic in X and Y coordinates, while the table lowers the object layer by layer in the Z direction. Resin printers, in contrast, use stereolithography technology (SLA) and work by cooling liquid plastic to a solid form, which eventually produces the hardened 3D objects. These tend to be more precise than FDM printers, but also more expensive.