10 best 3D printers 2016

3D-print your dreams

Note: Our best 3D printers round-up has been fully updated. This feature was first published in May 2015.

3D printers print 3D models, using a process called additive manufacturing or AM. This process uses computer control to lay successive layers of material to build a 3D model.

Two plastics, ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and the more eco-friendly PLA (polylactic acid or polylactide), are the materials most commonly used, but the technology has advanced to the point where almost any material can be printed with, from food to metal – although not necessarily at home.

The most widely-adopted 3D print file format is .stl, which can be exported from most 3D modelling and scanning applications. As well as creating 3D models yourself, you can download a huge selection from sites such as makerbot's Thingiverse.com.

As with conventional 2D printers, resolution and size are all important. A high resolution will produce a higher quality print than a low one, and a large print bed may be more convenient, enabling you to print your objects in one go rather than splitting the print into several parts.

If you're in the market for a home 3D printer then there's a lot to consider. Do you want single colour, dual-colour or more? Do you need a 3D scanner? Do you place a premium on maximum quality or faster printing? Physical size and weight are issues, especially if space is at a premium, and then of course there's the small matter of price.

Here we take a look at ten of the best models.

Best 3D Printers

1. CubePro Trio

Best for three-colour, three-material printing at an incredible price

Price: About £3075 / $4299
Buy: Amazon | Dabs | Nigel OHara | Cubify

The bulk of home 3D printers are limited to one- or two-colour printing, but the CubePro Trio has the capability to print three different materials in one session. This can be especially useful if you want to create an enclosed mechanism: nylon can be used for the gears, ABS for the surround and PLA for the support structure that can then be dissolved with caustic soda. The CubePro is an ideal solution for modellers and engineers who need to create 3D prints with moving parts.

best 3d printer

Best 3D Printers

2. AirWolf 3D HD2x

Recommended for dual-material standalone printing

Price: £2685 / $3995
Buy: Amazon | AirWolf 3D

The AirWolf 3D HD2x is a sleek multi-material printer designed with prototyping at its heart. The dual material and colour printing make this printer stand out, as does the huge 11" x 8" X 12" print area, an ideal choice for prototyping. The design features a semi-enclosed structure to protect the plastic during the print process, and for convenience print files can be loaded direct from an SD for autonomous printing without a computer. A great choice for product designers who need a large print bed and choice of colour and material.

best 3d printer

Best 3D Printers

3. MakerBot Replicator 3D Printer (5th Generation)

Great for higher level education

Price: £2639, $2899
Buy: RoboSavvy | Amazon | MakerBot

Makerbot is one of the best-known 3D printer manufacturers, and that's all due to the Replicator. It was one of the first production printers to look like a conventional product rather than something that had been built in a garage. Its ease of use, consistent print quality and auto calibration features make this a popular choice. Now on its 5th generation, the Replicator's semi-enclosed enclosure, slick design and huge support community make this a very tempting choice for anyone in the education market as well as for high-end home enthusiasts.

best 3d printer

Ultimaker 2 Go

4. Ultimaker 2 Go

High-resolution compact printer

Price: £1070 / $1450
Buy: Robo Savvy | Ebuyer | 3D Gbire

The Ultimaker 2 took print quality to a new level with an incredible minimum layer height of just 20 microns. It has now been joined by two further models – the Extended, a tall version, and the Go which is a small compact edition. The Go is by far one of the smallest 3D printers on the market, with a footprint of just 258 x 250 x 287.5mm, which makes it an ideal desktop printer.

Unlike the two other Ultimaker models there's no heated print bed, which does restrict the compatible materials to just PLA. The print quality, as with the entire Ultimaker series, is excellent and still hard to match for any other Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) printer.

best 3d printer

BigBox 3D Printer

BigBox 3D Printer

5. BigBox

Fully hackable, fully upgradable 3D Printer

Price: £900 / $1300

Buy: E-3D Online

The BigBox has finally arrived and is the result of a collaboration between the extrusion experts at E-3D and the motion system guys at Little Box. The BigBox is big with a 300 x 200 x 280mm build plate, this huge plate enables far larger prints than many other consumer level printers, especially at this price. The printer has been built to be hacked, so if you have ideas about its construction or have ways to improve the design it's easy enough to adapt it to your needs. The modular design means that the printer can be easily expanded to meet the needs of a specific jobs, swap out heads, upgrade the extrusion system, control board or simply when you need to replace parts. The BigBox looks to be the most compatible and expandable 3D printer system yet.

best 3d printer

Ooznest PRUSA i3

6. Ooznest PRUSA i3

DIY 3D Printer

Price: £450 / $785
Buy: Ooznest

The vast majority of 3D printers have evolved from the Open Hardware community as variants of the original RepRap project, and the PRUSA i3 is currently the ultimate example, with complete builder guides available online for free.

However, rooting around electrical stores and ripping parts out of old printers isn't everyone's idea of a good time, so the guys at Ooznest have compiled a complete kit that's ready to build.

Build times vary depending on experience, and the kit comes with clear instructions on the whole process. Once complete, print quality is set to rival that of many printers at twice the price, and the great thing is, because you've built it yourself you can really get a feel for how the technology works, and how it can be improved.

best 3d printer

Best 3D Printers


One for work and home

Price: £1140 / $1643
Buy: RoboSavvy | Amazon | Go Print 3D

In general terms 3D printers are designed as boxes with purpose, however BeeTheFirst has created a printer with both quality of print and actual design in mind – this is a machine that really wouldn't look out of place in a modern living room. BeeTheFirst has also thought about how and where people will be wanting to use their printers – at work, home or both – and has incorporated a thin design with a handle that enables the printer to be easily transported.

best 3d printer

Lulzbot Taz 6

8. Lulzbot Taz 6

latest update to the formidable Taz

Price: £2033 / $2500
Buy: Amazon

Initially you might be hard pressed to see the differences between the Taz 5 and 6; both feature a solid open frame build, large print base and ease of use.

However take a closer look at the refinements in design and improvements in usability and the upgrades quickly stand out. Features such as the auto leveling base has evolved from the one featured on the Luzbot Mini and works just as well on this larger scale, and the slight changes to frame layout and control panel are all welcome.

The Taz 6 is a big machine with an impressive print area of 280mm x 280mm x 250mm, with a 0.5mm nozzle capable of a minimum layer height of 50 microns and takes 2.85mm filament.

As you'd expect reliability is key to this machine as it has been for it's predecessors. The open build frame enables you to upgrade and customise to meet your needs.

There are few printers in this price range that meet the quality of parts of the Taz 6. If you need an easy to use and maintain machine that won't let you down then there are few other printers that can compete.

best 3d printer

Best 3D Printers

9. LulzBot Mini 3D Printer

Recommended for the true home print enthusiast

Price: £925 / $1350
Buy: Amazon | Lulzbot

LulzBot printers are based on projects from the Open Source community, and both the printers and the company reflect this ethos. 3D-printed components are part of this printer's build, and while this is a nice nod to its RipRap project origin, it also gives this printer a bit of street cred, while not forsaking quality. The Mini's compact size and 15.2cm x 15.2cm x 15.8cm print area and exceptional price make this an ideal home printer.

best 3d printer

XYZprinting Nobel 1 0

10. XYZprinting Nobel 1.0

Affordable SLA printer

Price: £1175 / $1499
Buy: RoboSavvy

The Nobel 1.0 features Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing technology, a process capable of producing prints of far greater detail than the more common Fused Deposition Modelling process (FDM). The Nobel 1.0 produces fine quality prints, and is bolstered by XYZprinting's own software and excellent support.

This technology is more common in the professional 3D printing industry, however, so this high quality comes at a price: the resin is expensive, the choice of materials is limited, print times are slow and each model requires both cleaning and setting to finish. But if you can overlook the time it takes to get your final print the Nobel 1.0 is a more than capable high-quality 3D printer at a great price.