While this article is not about programming, or PLCs, the explosion of 3D printers on the market is undeniable. With the cost of these printers continuing to drop, it is no longer out of reach for DIY’ers or tinkerers like you and me. The ability to render tangible 3D models has wide-spreading applications in automation. That’s why, in this article, I’ve done a little research on this topic and want to go over what I think are the best 3D printers under $500.
3D printers have been one of the most important innovations of the last decade, and as the name suggests, they allow us to produce a 3D model by “printing” it. They essentially provide an easier and more affordable way for us to produce various things from 3D prototypes and even ready-to-sell final products.
I am touting this my, “3D Printer Buyer’s Guide”, not only will I discuss the best 3D printers under $500, but I’ll also discuss some key factors and considerations you need to think about when choosing between the different 3D printer options.
Different Types of 3D Printers
It’s very important—before you make your 3D printer purchase— to understand the different types of 3D printers. Each type has its own unique features and advantages, and depending on your specific needs, one type of 3D printer may be a better fit than another.
The 3D printer types listed below are the three most popular on the market today. They are, FDM, SLS, and stereolithography:
1. FDM 3D Printers
FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling, which is a 3D printing technique that utilizes an additive method where a 3D model is produced by heating and then squeezing out plastic, and then the heated plastic is reconstructed, layer by layer.
Most of the portable 3D printers today are FDMs, and they are arguably the most popular 3D printers on the market. This is partly because FDM technology is the most accessible (easiest) and so FDM printers are significantly more affordable than the other types.
Some, if not most, of the best 3D printers under $500 are FDM printers.
2. Stereolithography 3D Printers
Stereolithography is also an additive technique but is very different than FTM. Instead of heating plastics into malleable form and shape/squeeze them, this process utilizes a photosensitive liquid, which is hardened by an ultraviolet light beam.
Stereolithography will produce a higher quality 3D model as the printout compared to FDM printers, but since the process is much more complex, stereolithography printers are much more expensive.
SLS stands for Selective Laser Sintering, and in many aspects, is a very similar process to stereolithography. The main difference, however, is that SLS involves fabrication powder instead of photosensitive liquid, and laser instead of ultraviolet light.
A unique benefit of the SLS technique is that it can (properly) 3D print metal materials, which isn’t possible with the other two methods. SLS is commonly the most expensive method out of the three and is certainly much more expensive than FDM.
Here, since we are dealing with the best 3D printers below $500, most likely our options will be FDM printers.
3D Printing Materials
A key aspect of 3D printing over “traditional” paper printing is the fact that we can use various materials to print and mold the model. Knowing what material(s) to use and how compatible it is with the 3D printer is essential since not all 3D printers can process all kinds of plastics and/on other materials.
On the other hand, the material we use will also dictate the quality and characteristics of the printed model, for example, how soft/rough the 3D model will be, how solid, and so on.
Here are two of the most common materials used for 3D printing, and the pros and cons of each material:
- Poly Lactic Acid (PLA): a bio-degradable plastic material that is manufactured from mainly plant-based materials like sugar cane or corn starch. 100% free of chemical substances so it’s a very good material if you want to produce edible models (glass, bowls), and other environmentally-friendly products. Also, good material for children due to its chemical-free quality. Most of the best 3D printers under $500 feature PLA as their main material choice.
- Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS): oil or petroleum-based plastic, and one of its key qualities is its higher melting point than PLA, so the printed ABS models will be harder and more durable. For this reason, ABS is a popular choice if you need durability, for example, to print phone cases, helmets, etc.
Top 5 Best 3D Printers Under $500
In this section, I’ll reveal what I think are the best 3D printers under $500.
QIDI Tech X-One2 is simply one of the best 3D printers below $500 and is definitely one of the best in its class. An excellent entry-level 3D printer for beginners, but also a great pick for light industrial usage.
One of the key highlights of QIDI Tech X-One2 is its ease of use. It’s very easy to set up the X-One2 with its fully assembled design, it supports both ABS and PLA materials and packed with complete security measures. Also, the X-One2 features an SD card slot and a USB port.
Some minor downsides: the printer utilizes a high-quality heated aluminum print bed that is fixed (non-removable), so sometimes it’s difficult to take out the completed printed models. Also, you can’t connect to Wi-Fi.
- Filament Size – 1.75 mm
- Filament Type – ABS, PLA, TPU, Nylon, PETG
- Build area (mm) – 145 x 145 x 145
- Build Plate Material – 6mm CNC machined aluminum alloy
- 3.5 inch full color touchscreen
- Full metal frame, accurately controlled heating bed
- Easy to set up due to its fully assembled
- The heated aluminum print bed
- Easy to level build platform
- Responsive touchscreen interface
- Compatible with third-party filaments
- Limited build area
- No Wi-Fi support
- Not suitable for kids due to its heated print bed
The QIDI Tech X-One2 offers great durability and reliability and can produce intricate and detailed 3D printed models with its relatively fast process (up to 150nm/s). With that being said, the 3D printing process is very efficient with its relatively big filament temp size, preventing “warping” from the printed model and reducing the loss of details.
For those of you who are looking to purchase your very first 3D printer, the QIDI Tech X-One2 is arguably one of the best options available in the market, with a fairly shallow learning curve. Since it can use both PLA and ABS filaments, the X-One2 is also quite versatile for you to experiment with both materials, to find out which can better fit your design.
One of the best 3D printers under $500 for so many reasons.
Another great contender for those looking for a 3D printer that is easy to use and affordable at the same time. Flash Forge 3D is a great entry-level 3D printer that might be attractive for beginners and those with a tight budget.
That being said, the Flash Forge 3D Printer offers a really compact design and can produce pretty clean and detailed printed models. This is a good choice for hobbyist’s and tinkerers looking to experiment with a 3D printer for the first time due to its ease of use and overall safety.
A minor downside of the Flash Forge 3D Printer is that it can only use PLA filament and not other materials. Also, it’s a little smaller than the X-One2 so it can only print relatively small models. Still, one of the best 3D printers under $500 for people of all ages.
- Build area (mm) – 140 x 140 x 140 mm
- Filament Size – 1.75mm
- Materials – PLA only.
- Layer resolution – 100-400 microns, adjustable
- Easy to navigate touchscreen interface
- Connectivity – Cloud, Wi-Fi, USB cable and Flash drive connectivity
- Comes packed with next-gen 3D printing technology.
- Easy user-interface propelled by a rich and instinctive LCD panel.
- Glass bed slides to help out with the loading and offloading of 3D prints.
- The blue tape covering the glass surface adheres the printed model to the filament.
- The proprietary filament storeroom indicates whether or not the filament has extruded.
- No heated printing bed.
- Sensors can sometimes cause issues while printing.
- The interface might need some time getting used to
- It can only print PLA filament.
A really affordable and very safe 3D Printer, makes the Flash Forge 3D Printer a great choice. One of the best 3D printers under $500 for tinkerers, and hobbyist’s.
How the printer can only use PLA material is, on the one hand, a downside. But on the other hand, PLA is famous for its non-toxicity, making it (and this printer) a very safe choice for young people — although parental guidance is always advised.
Also, the fairly compact size will also mean that we can only print a limited size of 3D models with the Flash Forge 3D Printer.
If aesthetics is an important factor for you in choosing between the different 3D printers, then the XYZ Da Vinci Jr. 1.0A Pro is a great option to consider. It utilizes a unique feature called “open filament arrangement”, essentially enabling the printing of third-party 1.75mm non-toxic PLA filaments. One of the best 3D printers under $500 considering its versatility in material choices.
You can connect to WiFi with the XYZ Da Vinci Jr. 1.0A Pro , so you can print from anywhere as long as you are connected to the same WiFi network. Also, there’s an auto-calibration feature that makes this 3D printer really easy to use, since it can automatically calibrate the print bed with the Z-axis. Decent build volume, especially when we consider the printer relatively compact size.
- Build area (mm) – 200 x 200 x 200 mm
- Filament Size – 1.75mm
- Materials – PLA, ABS, Tough PLA, PETG, HIPS, Wood PLA.
- Layer resolution – 20-400 microns, adjustable
- Connectivity – WiFi, SD Card
- 9 point auto-calibration system
- Uses a 9-point calibration detection system for determining the distance between print bed and extruder with maximum accuracy.
- Print settings can be easily adjusted to be in harmony with your material using slicing software.
- Adjustable temperature settings aid in printing 3rd party 1.75mm PLA through PETG and PLA filaments.
- Accompanied by a free slicing and CAD software having user-friendly operations.
- Stellar online community and technical support to guard your back at all times.
- Unsatisfactory rendering software
- Software giving wrong information about installed filament
- Software is prone to crash.
Besides its compact and elegant design, it’s very easy to set up and configure the XYZ Da Vinci Jr. 1.0A Pro . It can connect via WiFi (cloud connectivity), which adds further convenience since we can remotely control the printer as long as we are still connected.
Also, we don’t need to calibrate anything since the factory setting is quite robust. That said, it is very straight forward to reconfigure and customize the printer by utilizing the built-in LCD monitor. One of the best 3D printers under $500 in the ease of use aspect and as mentioned above, versatility.
A minor downside is that the software aspect can be quite clunky at times. For example, when rendering, the software can sometimes provide inaccurate information.
Arguably one of the best 3D printers under $500, famous for being one of the most affordable 3D printers in its class, the Monoprice Mini Delta 3D Printer is solid — quality-wise — when compared to other comparable 3D printers.
The printer is fully assembled straight out from the box, so it’s essentially plug-and-play with the Monoprice Mini Delta. However, you don’t get any on-board setup wizard, so configuration and setting up your first printing can be a little tricky.
The user interface is simple to use and navigate. After the initial setup, the Monoprice Mini Delta is quite easy to use. It also offers an automatic calibration routine, and for its price, offers a comprehensive set of features.
- Build area (mm) – 110 x 120 mm
- Filament Size – 1.75mm
- Materials – ABS, PLA, Wood Fill, Copper Fill, Steel Fill, Bronze Fill
- Layer resolution – 50-200 microns, adjustable
- Compact desktops design
- PC and Mac compatible
- Automatic calibration feature to help you out with the struggles of bed leveling.
- A durable frame constructed from black anodized aluminum and steel can withstand rough usage.
- It comes fully assembled to save time.
- Supports printing of various filament types.
- Compatible with open-source software such as Repetier or Cura so that you can tailor your 3D printing experience to personal preferences.
- Small build envelope.
- Steep learning curve.
- Faulty power brick
- Hot-end temperature inconsistent
- Unprotected build plate
The Monoprice Mini Delta 3D Printer is an excellent choice for budget buyers who wants a decent 3D printer but don’t really mind the relatively small build volume. The printer arrives fully assembled from the box, so we don’t need to physically set it up.
Also, the Monoprice Mini Delta can automatically calibrate itself with each print, so you don’t have to calibrate various things especially bed leveling. It can print various materials including wood, metal, PLA, ABS, and more.
It offers a fairly good printing speed (150mm per second), and since the build volume is fairly small, it should take less than half an hour before you can get the final model — in most applications. One of the best 3D printers under $500.
A pretty affordable 3D printer that can produce a high-end, detailed and neat printed model, making the ADIMLab 3D a very strong contender as one of the best 3D printers under $500. It’s very easy to set up the ADIMLab 3D, so we wouldn’t need to worry about how to assemble it correctly.
With its pretty big build area (310x310x410mm), we can print relatively large models, and this is probably the key highlight of the ADIMLab 3D Printer, making it an excellent choice for those who want to experiment with larger designs.
A minor thing to note about this 3D printer is about safety since it’s not accommodated with a cover that wraps the print area, so if you are using filaments that contain chemicals and toxic substances, you might need to cover it manually.
- Filament Size – 1.75 mm
- Build area (mm) – 310 x 310 x 410
- Filament Type – PLA, ABS, PC, Wood, HIPS, TPE and Flexible PLA
- Build Plate Material – Aluminum base heated bed
- Gantry style 3D printer for compact printing
- Easy to navigate 3 inch LCD display
- Great value for the price
- Easy setup
- Large build area
- Great customer service
- Support multiple filaments
- You may deal with temperature control issues
- Print Bed has to be manually leveled
- No cover for the print area
Pretty attractive price when we consider the excellent set of features, making the ADIMLab 3D a great choice as one of the best 3D printers under $500. It can use a lot of different filament materials, making it a very versatile 3D printer if you want to experiment with different materials.
You might, however, need to buy a protective cover separately for safety measures, but it doesn’t really affect how we rate this printer: great quality of printed models, and an excellent 1-year warranty for each part of the ADIMLab 3D Printer.
Best 3D Printers Under $500 – Final Words
The 5 best 3D printers under $500 I’ve shared above are my top picks that can suit anyone, from those who are looking to experiment with 3D printers for the very first time, and even experienced professionals.
My number one pick here goes to the QIDI Tech X-One2, but all models presented are great with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Truthfully, if you pick any of the models I’ve listed here, I’m sure you’ll be more than happy with the purchase.
I hope you’ve gathered enough information from this 3D printer buying guide, and if in the market for one, have everything you need to make an informed decision.
If you enjoyed this review article, be sure to check out my other review articles here on the site:
- Best Desktops for Programming (PLC, CAD, OOP)
- Best Monitors For Programming Under $500
- Best Laptops For Programming (Updated for 2020!)