How much is a 3D printer? Everything you need to know

How much is a 3D printer; an image of the Spark 3D SP1 printer on a table.

How much is a 3D printer; an image of the Spark 3D SP1 printer on a table.

If you’re thinking of making cosplay helmets or toys at home, you’re probably looking at buying a 3D printer. When asking how much is a 3D printer, there are a lot of variables you need to take into account, but the good news is that these machines are far cheaper than they were just a few years ago.

The first thing to understand is the different types of 3D printers: FDM and SLA. FDM machines use affordable reels of plastic known as filament, whereas SLA machines use toxic liquid resin that cures into highly detailed figurines. Furthermore, resin machines require additional purchases of a wash and cure station, as well as batches of isopropyl alcohol.

You don’t need to go straight for the best 3D printer for miniatures when you’re just starting out, as it’s highly recommended to experiment with safer, more cost-effective filament machines before jumping into the world of resin. These machines are easier to use and can create good-quality figures and toys, as long as you’re not working on a fine detail scale.

But how much is a 3D printer?

If you’re looking to buy your first FDM printer, there’s good news: entry-level machines are surprisingly affordable nowadays. Just a decade ago, 3D printers had an average cost of $20,000. In fact, most consumer printers at the time were made at home by enthusiasts using standard parts and open-source software.

Nowadays, 3D printers are far cheaper and new budget-focused, entry-level machines are popping up every day. For example, the new Spark3D SP1 3D printer is a filament-based device that offers everything budget printers need to produce quality single-coloured prints.

With a sizeable 220 x 220 x 250mm bed, you can print large busts or even cosplay helmets. Additionally, a modern flexible build surface helps to dislodge hard-to-remove prints, a long-standing issue for newcomers to the hobby. Finally, assisted bed leveling makes using the printer much easier than standard printers in its price range such as the popular entry-standard: the Creality Ender 3.

How much is a 3D printer; an FDM printer Godzilla in Gold PLA
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Any decent-quality FDM printer will be capable of creating large plastic models with cheap materials.

Of course, there are cheaper machines out there. The Spark 3D SP1 is currently priced at £199.99, just a bit more than the standard Ender 3. However, cheaper machines typically have reduced features, such as a lack of automated bed leveling. If you’re looking for a printer around the £100 mark, you won’t have a great time. Another option is buying into the used market, but that can often lead to mixed results.

The Expensive Options

If money is no problem, there are a lot of options available for 3D printers that can go far above the Ender 3s and Spark 3D SP1s of the world. However, the gulf in price is often substantial, and they’re not without their own drawbacks.

For starters, there are the aforementioned resin machines. While some, such as the Halot One or Photon Mono SQ, are available for similar prices as budget FDM machines, there’s the additional process of washing (often with expensive alcohol), curing, and making sure you keep the machine in a well-ventilated unoccupied space.

How much is a 3D printer; a couple of Red vs Blue 3D printed figurines
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A resin printer can hand in incredible details at a small scale, but you’ll also have to deal with toxic chemicals.

However, a new generation of FDM machines offer more and more features that come with an obvious price hike. One example is the fantastic Bambu Lab P1P 3D printer. It’s scarily fast, has incredibly accurate leveling, and can print in full multicolour. Unfortunately, the machine itself costs £679.00 GBP and multi-colour support requires an additional AMS (Automatic Material System) machine priced at £339.00.

The expensive options are fantastic, but it’s hard to recommend spending a grand on a hobby you may not enjoy. That’s why the cheaper options, like the Spark 3D SP1, are easy to recommend. While not inexpensive, they’re affordable enough that you can explore the hobby responsibly. The world of 3D printing is massive, and there are always improvements around the corner, but the cheaper options are fantastic for anyone interested in the hobby, even veterans.

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