3D printers have come a long way in the past few years.
Initially relegated to large industrial processes, they experienced a bit of a boom in the mid-2010s, when the technology became affordable to small offices, design firms, and hobbyists. Since then, 3D printers have evolved along with a number of vectors. Low cost, high-resolution resin printers have joined filament-based (or FDM) printers in the home and hobbyist market. Printers with large print areas have become available at both the low and high end, with lower-end printers optimizing for the very basic heated plates needed for large prints, while the higher-end solutions add sealed chambers, temperature management, and cameras. Printers with dual extruders are becoming more common, and the slicing software needed to prepare prints is becoming more sophisticated. We're also starting to see more full color and metal printing.
In this guide, we award best-of-show for a range of printer categories. We're spotlighting the machines based on where they're best used. We're starting with the most expensive offerings and ending with our favorite under-$200 printer.
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Stratasys is a well-known name in the industrial 3D printing space, and Fortus 450MC has been around for a while. So while it's not the most recently introduced 3D printer, this $100K+ printer makes its place on our list because its fully-enclosed 406 x 355 x 406 mm print area can reliably produce carbon fiber, nylon, carbon fiber-infused nylon, and advanced resin-based filament night and day, without breaking a sweat.
If you're building prototypes you intend to use rather than just show off, this printer can