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Transparency is the Best Policy

Open Source 3D Printer – The Top 9 Right Now

Picture of Mika Yeap
by Mika Yeap
May 15, 2018

An open source philosophy is fairly common in the 3D printing space, and some enthusiasts consider it a must-have on their machines. Here are some of the best open source 3D printers, followed by a quick glance at their evolution.

1. Anet A8

Anet A8
Anet A8 Source: GearBest

Market price: $160

Dubbed one of the best low-cost printers out there, the Anet A8 boasts tremendous value for money. For less than $200, you get decent to above-average performance, depending on your tuning. You can read more about its features in our official review. The catch: Assembly is required. (Note: It’s not just “some assembly required”.) The machine comes in parts and you’ll need to piece it together, which can be quite daunting for a complete beginner.

The transparent nature of this open source 3D printer serves it well: Couple the A8’s affordability with its hack-it-yourself feel and you get a massive community of modifications and enhancements that you can use to make your own machine.

If you’re an intermediate user or have a soul for tinkering with wires and bolts for six hours one weekend, this will deliver a valuable experience.

2. Printrbot Play

Printrbot Play
Printrbot Play Source: 3D Printers Online Store

Market price: $310

Though it’s a slightly older offering, the Printrbot Play earns a spot on this list in 2018 because of its unrivaled design. It makes use of chunky powdered metal for most of the body, the tool head cover, and spool holder. That makes this machine super rigid, and you’ll quickly see the result of this in the form of smooth, accurate prints. Also, if you need to move your machine around regularly and are afraid of throwing the calibration off, the Play’s sturdy construction has got you covered.

As we concluded in our review, this open source 3D printer is excellent for beginners because of its simplicity and affordability. However, more advanced users might find themselves wishing for a larger build volume, as this only offers 4″ x 4″ x 5″ on a non-heated build platform (heated upgrade available).

If you’re printing large models often, this machine might not work for you. Otherwise, don’t let the price tag and meek look of the Play deceive you. You’re looking at a capable machine that will last a long time.

3. Creality CR-10

Creality CR-10
Creality CR-10 Source: 3D Hubs

Market price: $570

This simple machine started a stream of raving reviews when it first became available. Many praised its ability to produce flawless prints on a very spacious heated bed, all for a very affordable price. The CR-10 will make prints as large as 300 x 300 x 400 mm³, and it’ll do it fast. Its bowden extruder riding on aluminum rails make for an agile tool head. See if the complete list of features is worth the hype in our full review.

This open source 3D printer hasn’t got any revolutionary bells and whistles, it just prints big, well, and at a low cost. That combination will be convincing enough for most people to pick up at least one.

4. Original Prusa i3 MK3

Prusa i3 MK3

Market price: $750 as a kit, $1045 assembled

Most people know this one. The Prusa i3 commands a high level of respect in the 3D printing community, for good reason. It prints like a dream in addition to hiding lots of nifty smart features that make life easier when you’re starting another back-to-back print at 3 AM. You can learn more about its performance and functions in our review.

As an open source 3D printer, the Prusa i3 is one of the most open of all, with Prusa Research releasing all their design files publicly. That has led to a whole wave of clones at a greatly reduced price point, which is the whole point of being open source.

In summary, the Prusa i3 MK3 would make it onto any list of good 3D printers, open source or no. Indeed, we consider it to be the best printer of the year (so far). You’ll be hard pressed to find something this machine can’t do, especially with its healthy set of upgrades.

Original Prusa i3 MK3

5. Deezmaker Bukito

Deezmaker Bukito
Deezmaker Bukito Source: Deezmaker

Market price: $900

The Bukito is like no other machine on this list: It can run off portable batteries, meaning it can work untethered. This machine tries to be a rugged, portable printer with its unique belt system, large carrying handle, and unconventional cantilever design. And truly, it is indeed portable, as several users have proven by strapping it to a drone, for instance.

In terms of print quality, the Bukito is decent. Naturally, printing performance is not the main focus of this open source 3D printer. There’s only so much you can do to help a print when you don’t have a proper power source and you’re hanging onto an airborne vehicle.

If you want to start a cloud printing service — that is, a service which operates in the clouds — the Bukito is made for you. If you’re a slightly less adventurous maker looking for a desk companion, however, you might want to invest in another machine that trades travel spirit for performance.

Product image of Deezmaker Bukito

Deezmaker Bukito

6. Rostock Max

Rostock Max
Rostock Max Source: 3D Hubs

Market price: $999

To be honest, one of the main appeals of the Rostock Max is its delta design, which is less common in 3D printers. Watching the toolhead mvoe around when printing can be quite mesmerizing. The three arms sliding up and down in unison make it appear almost magical in operation.

But don’t be fooled: This delta has some concrete benefits, as well. The light bowden toolhead zips around faster and easier than a Cartesian counterpart, which means you can print faster and produce parts that are smoother. Being a common machine, this open source 3D printer has a large ecosystem of upgrade kits, too, which is always a good sign of community.

If you don’t have a delta style 3D printer yet or want to print faster than normal, the Rostock Max is a great choice. Just make sure you don’t knock it up too much, because calibration can be a pain.

7. Ultimaker 2 Go

Ultimaker 2 Go with backpack
Ultimaker 2 Go with backpack Source: Ultimaker

Market price: $1199

Yes, we know, Ultimaker makes bigger, newer printers with more modern features. But there’s one thing you can do with this model that would be difficult on any other Ultimaker: stuff it in your backpack. (Not your regular backpack, it has a special one.) The name of this little machine’s game is portability. The Ultimaker 2 Go is designed to be easily transported, which is normally a challenge or impossible. There is a tradeoff, though: It has a conservative build volume of 120 x 120 x 115 mm³ to make it less bulky in transit.

Make no mistake, for all intents and purposes this open source 3D printer pops out of the backpack and performs as reliably as one of its big brothers. You get the same smooth bowden system, superb printing, and quality construction the company is known for.

If you want a well-performing machine that can go out and about with you, the Ultimaker 2 Go is a perfect choice.

Ultimaker is additonally relevant in the open source as they are responsible for Cura, the widely popular open source slicer.

8. Lulzbot Mini

Lulzbot Mini
Lulzbot Mini Source: 3D Hubs

Market price: $1,250

The Lulzbot Mini is a reliable piece of hardware, featuring a 6-cubic-inch build volume, a heated bed, auto leveling, nozzle cleaning, and even a carrying handle. It feels premium and works spectacularly, as it should at this price point. If you want to dive deeper into its features, check out the review.

On top of all its plastic-drooling goodness, the company behind the Lulzbot line might boost the printers’ appeal further through participation in the open source community. For example, they support several well-known projects in the 3D printing space, like Slic3r.

Truthfully, you won’t have to worry about much if you’re still on the fence about the Lulzbot Mini. It does the job, and does it better than most. A welcome bonus is you get to support a noble movement in 3D printing history.

9. BCN3D Sigmax

BCN3D Sigmax with enclosure
BCN3D Sigmax with enclosure Source: BCN3D

4,470€ ($5,326) from BCN3D

Just released in late 2017, the Sigmax is BCN3D’s latest offering to professional FDM 3D printing. At close to five and a half grand, this machine is a leap or two beyond the other machines on the list. First of all, this hunk of metal is massive, offering a 420 x 297 x 210 mm³ print volume. But all that room doesn’t go to waste, because the Spanish company’s signature independent dual extruder system (IDEX) utilizes it to provide simultaneous printing in two special modes, Mirror and Duplication.

The icing on the fruit cake: A Bondtech extruder, swappable nozzles for easy material changing, a highly modified version of Cura, and even an enclosure that includes a filter for unpleasant fumes. All these things are part of the company’s effort to create an open source 3D printer geared towards professionals who require an absolutely dependable machine with little to no error.

If you make full use of advanced dual extruder functions and need lots of room to experiment, you’ll enjoy the Sigmax. As a work machine, you can rest easy knowing that a lot of thought has gone into making this machine one that you can count on.

Product image of BCN3D Sigmax R19

BCN3D Sigmax R19

The Open Source 3D Printer: A Background

The first RepRap part made by a RepRap
The first RepRap part made by a RepRap Source: Wikipedia

The reason this article and any of these 3D printers exist is open source. Consumer FDM 3D printing started through very early projects such as the RepRap initiative, an effort to design a 3D printer that could replicate most of itself, thus spreading the technology faster. The RepRap project put affordable machines in the hands of the earliest adopters, and because of the open source nature of the design its iterations came swiftly and plentifully.

Flash forward to now and the consumer FDM market has evolved into a vast ocean of machines, some still practicing the RepRap ideology by employing massive print farms that produce parts for their production-grade products. As consumers and businesses who use printers that can fit on a desk or bench, we really owe it to the open source ideology for putting such powerful technology in our hands.

License: The text of "Open Source 3D Printer – The Top 9 Right Now" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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