The Best 3D Printer for Miniatures [Sep 2020]

If you enjoy printing 3D miniatures, then you’ll already know that there are a few things you need to consider when looking for the best printer: cost and quality.

There’s more to printing off a miniature than just popping the material in and waiting for your perfect little figure to come out.

But even if you’re just getting started printing your very own 3D miniatures, the good news is that there are plenty of printer choices.

Whether you are looking for prototypes for a design model, role-playing games, tabletop games, or video gaming miniatures for concept art, there are some better printers for miniatures. 

List of the Top 5 Best 3D Printers for Miniature Printing

  • AnyCubic Photon – Best Overall 3D Printer
  • Wanhao Duplicator 7 – Best for Large Batch Printing
  • Original Prusa MK3 – Best for Beginners
  • Monoprice Maker Select – Best Budget
  • FlashForge Creator Pro – Most Versatile
We love the AnyCubic Photon

Dead simple to set-up, comes pre-assembled, intuitive touch-screen and exceptional level of detail. This machine empowers CREATORS, without expecting you to be a mechanic. The small - but precise - print bed is perfect for miniatures.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

However, before we get too far along, let’s begin with some basics of printing technology.

For starters, there are two types of 3D printers available to print off your miniatures:

  • Filament-based printers, also known as FFF or FDM 3D printers
  • Resin-based, or SLA 3D printers

Both options come with their own benefits and drawbacks, which you’ll want to take into account before you get started printing.

These are the best 3D printers for miniatures:

AnyCubic Photon – Best Overall 3D Printer

AnyCubic Photon

Our favourite 3D printer for miniatures is the AnyCubic Photon printer. This resin-based unit can print your favorite miniatures with incredible quality. The unit is more detailed than almost any other 3D printer on the market and stays within a reasonable price range.

The Photon offers a maximum layer resolution that checks in at 25 microns, which is the highest of any of the products on our list.

The Photon is a top of the line SLA 3D printer that comes with a UV LED light source. Your miniatures will print from top to bottom. You’ll notice this is the opposite direction of the bottom to a top method that FDM printers use.

If you’re in the market for a 3D printer, you can’t go wrong with the Photon, which will create very detailed and smooth products no matter how complex they are.

Not much assembly is required with this printer. Right out of the box, it’s easy to set up and get going. The unit comes with a solid frame, along with a touchscreen interface that lets you see a preview of your miniature before it prints.

The unit provides an easy process for levelling the bed and ships with a slicer that users find simple and user-friendly. When it comes to creating complicated and detailed miniatures, the Photon is one of the best printers on the market for getting the job done.

We love the AnyCubic Photon

Dead simple to set-up, comes pre-assembled, intuitive touch-screen and exceptional level of detail. This machine empowers CREATORS, without expecting you to be a mechanic. The small - but precise - print bed is perfect for miniatures.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Pros of the AnyCubic Photon

  • Simple and easy to set up
  • Print offline
  • Comes completely assembled
  • Intuitive touchscreen user interface
  • Easy to maintain
  • Print quality provides amazing detail

Cons of the AnyCubic Photon

  • The material can be on the expensive size
  • Smaller print size than other 3D printers

Further Reading:

Wanhao Duplicator 7 – Best for Larger Print Jobs

Wanhao Duplicator 7

Wanhao 3D printers are one of the more popular filament-based brands in the market. They offer a wide variety of devices, so you’re sure to find something that works for you. For the purpose of our list, we’re going with the Duplicator 7.

This 3D printer is a desktop offering specifically designed for users who want only the best when it comes to layer resolution. Similar to the AnyCubic Photon, the Duplicator 7 is an LCD SLA 3D printer that comes with a UV LED light source.

While these two printers have much in common, they also have a few differences. For starters, the Duplicator 7 provides users with larger printing size. However, Duplicator 7 does not have the resolution capabilities that the Photon offers.

The Duplicator 7 offers plenty of features, including an excellent cooling system, vents that allow for increased airflow, and a solid frame. Wanhao also put the power button on the back of the machine, so you won’t accidentally bump into it in the middle of a print job.

So if you really like the Photon, but need something that offers more build volume, take a look at the Duplicator 7. It’s straightforward and easy to use and can print very detailed 3D miniatures.

It’s not quite as easy as the Photon, but definitely worth the money if you don’t need something as advanced.

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10/27/2020 12:10 pm UTC

Pros of the Wanhao Duplicator 7

  • Large base
  • Open material platform
  • High detail printing
  • Larger printing size than AnyCubic Photon
  • Sturdy and stable frame

Cons of the Wanhao Duplicator 7

  • Materials can be costly
  • Customer support isn’t very reliable
  • Build volume is limited

Further Reading:

Original Prusa MK3 – Best 3D Printer for Beginners

Prusa i3 MK3

When it comes to value and convenience, it’s tough to beat the Original Prusa MK3 3D printer. This FDM printer comes loaded with plenty of features, including automated print bed levelling, which is something a lot of beginners need.

The MK3 is easy to assemble. However, you might be waiting a while for it to arrive as it ships out of the Czech Republic. Many who use the MK3 would argue that it’s worth the wait given the quality and value the product provides.

This medium-sized, open-sourced 3D printer offers an open structure, which makes it great for both hobbyists and professionals.

The MK3 has a solid frame that includes a spool holder mounted on top, along with an LCD controller, which comes with a magnetic heated print bed that you can remove if necessary.

Additionally, the MK3 boasts a high-quality mainboard that detects shifted layers and runs quietly while printing. The unit also has a filament sensor that can determine if a jam occurs and automatically pauses the current printing job.

With the right nozzle and the appropriate settings, anyone using the MK3 3D printer will get high-quality, clean, and detailed miniatures. The unit has the ability to print large models as well, so you don’t have to choose between one or the other.

Even though this 3D printer doesn’t compare with the AnyCubic Photon, it’s still an excellent option. It’s versatile and capable of printing with various materials right out of the box. Plus, you’ll get excellent value since you can use it for more than printing miniatures.

If you’re just getting started in the world of 3D printing and want a stable, high-quality 3D printer that prints miniatures in high-resolution, the MK3 will get the job done. It comes loaded with plenty of features perfect for beginners, so you won’t feel overwhelmed.

We Prefer the Ender 3 Pro Here
$236.00
Put simply, the Ender Pro has worked out all of the kinks, glitches, and inconsistencies that were shipped with the original Ender 3. You can save some money by going with the Ender 3, but it's not worth it unless you are very technical.
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
10/27/2020 06:10 pm UTC

Pros of the Original Prusa MK3

  • Great for beginners
  • Automated bed leveling platform
  • Excellent print quality
  • Built-in filament types sensors
  • Quiet printing process
  • Panic feature pauses print job if necessary
  • Magnetic build platform can be removed

Cons of the Original Prusa MK3

  • No enclosure provided
  • Translucent materials create issues with filament types sensor

Further Reading:

Monoprice Maker Select – Best 3D Printer on a Budget

Monoprice Maker Select

3D printers aren’t cheap, which is why it’s important to have an option you can afford on a budget. If that’s the case for you, check out the Monoprice Maker Select.

This company is known for its budget printers, all of which you can find for a lot less than other printers on this list.

With its open-frame 3D printer, the Maker Select is an excellent choice if you prefer the FDM route (fused deposition modeling). The unit comes with a stable and strong aluminium frame and includes a separate controller box for the device.

The Maker Select comes equipped with an open-material system, heated printer bed, and a build-volume that’s perfect for creating your favourite miniatures. You can connect the unit through USB or print via an SD card if you prefer.

Right out of the box, the printer is easy to set up. It comes partially assembled, so you don’t have to assemble the whole thing yourself. All you need to do is make sure the frames are securely in place, and you’re ready to start printing.

Included with the printer are a few 3D model samples, along with some free filament. This gives you the opportunity to start printing once you have everything set up.

As far as print quality is concerned, the Maker Select runs about the middle of the road. It’s not going to blow you away, but it’s not horrible either. While the unit can print large miniatures very well, it does have trouble with smaller miniatures, like those in the 28-millimetre range.

Overall, the 3D printer is reliable and offers decent quality, especially considering that it’s one of the best you can get on a budget. If you fall into that category, the Maker Select is a solid option.

Monoprice Maker Select Plus
$389.99

The large heated bed, LCD touchscreen, and MicroSD card loaded with printable models make the Monoprice Maker Select Plus a worthwhile purchase.

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10/27/2020 12:10 pm UTC

Pros of the Monoprice Maker Select

  • Decent print size (large build plate)
  • Good print quality
  • Simple to set up
  • Heated bed (print bed)
  • Sturdy frame

Cons of the Monoprice Maker Select

  • May need upgrades out of the box
  • Bed levelling is a manual process
  • Not as good printing smaller miniatures

Further Reading:

FlashForge Creator Pro – Most Versatile 3D Printer

flashforge creator pro

The FlashForge Creator Pro is a dual extruder 3D printer, which makes it one of the more versatile options on our list. For starters, the unit provides new ways for users to print with the filament. This includes printing in dual colours without pausing the current print job.

It’s more stable and durable than many other open-frame 3D printers since it is built with a robust and sturdy metal frame. It also offers an LCD controller, which allows you to print via an SD card, a heated print bed, and a pair of back-mounted spool holders.

You’ll also notice that you can remove the acrylic covers, which is handy when you need to perform any type of maintenance on the FlashForge printer.

Since this unit comes assembled in the box, setting up the Creator Pro is a very straightforward process. You’ll be up and printing in a matter of hours, however, it might make sense to change the stock settings for better results.

Once you have everything set up the way you want it, the Creator Pro is an absolute beast. It can print for days with little to no maintenance required on your part. Plus, the unit can print with either ABS or PLA without experiencing any additional problems.

The biggest feature the Creator Pro has to offer is its ability to use water-soluble support materials. As a result, the unit can create more challenging miniatures that don’t skimp on the details.

Additionally, the Creator Pro can print with a wide variety of materials, so you’re not limited to just one type. A full enclosure allows the printer to maintain a stable temperature within the printing area, which is a must-have when using certain types of materials.

Plus, the printer can use filaments that aren’t specific to FlashForge. However, bear in mind that you may need to create your own spool holders as the ones that come with the Creator Pro are designed specifically for the printer.

Overall, the Creator Pro is reliable and creates quality miniatures. It’s versatile and offers many features that align with some of the best printers on the market. If you need something that does a little bit of everything, consider the Creator Pro 3D printer.

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10/27/2020 06:10 pm UTC

Pros of the Creator Pro

  • Includes dual extruder option
  • The metal frame is enclosed
  • Excellent support
  • Dual colour printing option
  • Supports third-party filaments
  • Solid print quality
  • Larger build plate

Cons of the Creator Pro

  • Built-in software is limited
  • Bed levelling requires manual adjustments
  • Very heavy

Further Reading:

 

Photon

Duplicator 7

MK3

Maker Select

Creator Pro

Type

Resin

Resin

ABS/PLA/PETG/others

ABS/PLA/TPU/others

ABS/PLA/PVA/others

Resolution

25 microns

35 microns

50 microns

100 microns

100 microns

Filament

N/A

N/A

1.75 mm

1,75 mm

1.75 mm

Volume

4.5×2.6×6.1 inches

4.7×2.7×7.9 inches

9.8×8.3×8.x inches

7.9×7.9×7.1 inches

8.9×5.8.5.9 inches

Connection

USB

USB

SD Card/USB

USB/ SD Card

SD Card/ USB

Weight

14.6 pounds

26.5 pounds

14 pounds

20 pounds

32.7 pounds

FDM or SLA 3D Printer?

FDM 3D printers make use of an extruder with a hot-end, which allows for melting the filament. Once the filament is melted, it’s then deposited onto the build platform (build plate). This is what creates the 3D model. However, FDM printers do so a single layer at a time.

On the plus side, FDMs are easier to use and come with lower operating costs and a larger build volume than their counterpart SLA printers.

With an SLA 3D printer, you’ll notice that the post-print process is a little messier than it is with an FDM option. Keep in mind, though, that FDM printers don’t offer the overall quality that an SLA printer offers.

With that in mind, which 3D printer should you choose when it comes to printing 3D miniatures? We’re glad you asked.

We did the leg work and came up with a list of the best 3d printers for miniatures..

Where to Buy a 3D Printer

There are plenty of places you can use when you’re ready to buy your 3D printer. However, keep in mind that the type of 3D printer you want may dictate where it’s available.

Like nearly anything else, you can usually find the 3D printer you want on Amazon. If it’s not available there, you may also try other retailers like MatterHackers.com.

NOTE: You can order the Anycubic Photon – our top pick for miniatures – directly via the Anycubic site here.

If you can’t find the printer you want in any of those places, you can always try to contact the manufacturer directly.

FAQs

How Much Does It Cost to Print a 3D Miniature?


There are several reasons to print your own 3D miniatures, one of which is cost. The average cost of printing an unpainted miniature typically falls in the $5-$ ten range.

How Long Does it Take Print a 3D Miniature?


If you aren’t concerned with quality, you can print off a miniature object in roughly 10 minutes. However, a more complex, high-quality, and detailed object can take as little as a few hours or as much as a day to finish.

Take a look at the software on your 3D printer to get an idea of how long it will take for your miniature to complete.

Which is Stronger? ABS or PLA?


While ABA has better properties when it comes to mechanics, it’s more difficult to use when 3D printing than PLA. For 3D printers, PLA is ideal if you’re focusing on aesthetics. On the other hand, ABD is ideal for strength, stability, and durability.

Something else to keep in mind is that ABS has been known to warp during printing.

What Materials Are Used in 3D Printing?


There are many different types of materials that are used when 3D printing. We’ve mentioned PLA and ABS, however, some objects can be printed with titanium, wax, polycarbonate, epoxy resins, and even nylon.

What to Look for in a 3D Printer?


If you’re new to 3D printing, take a moment and read the following tips to give you a good starting point when looking for a printer.

What Do You Want to Print?


Before you purchase your 3D printer, know what you plan on printing. There is a significant difference between printing devices for your desk and printing large-scale production pieces.

Also, ask yourself how often you will print, how much time you want to invest in 3D printing, and where the 3D printed objects will be used.

What Safety Features are Available?


Typically, a 3D printer that offers plenty of safety features is well-designed. For instance, a quality printer will probably cool the heated bed and nozzle when a printing job finishes. Additionally, some 3D printers will point the nozzle away from the object if you pause the job.

Is Resolution Important to You?


You’ll notice in the table above that the resolution of 3D printers is measured in a unit called microns. Usually, FDM printers are on the lower end of the spectrum, offering around 25 microns.

By comparison, resin-based printers usually reside on the higher end, around 100 microns. With an FDM printer, you can quickly and easily adjust the resolution. For smoother printing, being able to adjust the belt tension and layer height is paramount.

Finally, remember that resin-based printers require precision from their lasers. Keep an eye out for a printer that you can adjust based on the micron count detailed in the printer’s specifications.

What High-End Features Does the Printer Offer?


It can be easy to forget about high-end features as you look for a 3D printer that suits your needs. However, if you want things like heated glass beds, touchscreen interfaces, and dual filament options, be sure to add them to your list of must-haves.

What About End-User Support?


You’ve found the 3D printer you want to buy, and you’re ready to pull the trigger. Before you do, take a moment and look for the customer support offered by the manufacturer. It is just a social media logo, or are there actual ways to reach a real-live person?

3D printing is more complicated than traditional printing, so if something goes wrong or you aren’t sure how to proceed in a certain situation, having someone to speak with could make your 3D printing experience.

No Lack of Options for Printing 3D Miniatures

Whether you have plenty of experience with printing 3D miniatures or you’re just getting started, there are plenty of options on the market that can get you headed down the right path.

No matter your budget or comfort level, you’re sure to find a 3D printer that works for you. It’s up to you to determine which one makes the most sense for what you hope to accomplish, but when it comes to printing miniatures, it’s safe to say you have a wide variety of choices.

So make a list, check it twice, then head out and find the best 3D printer for creating your favorite miniatures.

We love the AnyCubic Photon

Dead simple to set-up, comes pre-assembled, intuitive touch-screen and exceptional level of detail. This machine empowers CREATORS, without expecting you to be a mechanic. The small - but precise - print bed is perfect for miniatures.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Further Reading: How to Find the Best Silicone 3D Printers and How to Find the Best Multicolor 3D Printers.

Fusion 360 vs Inventor Compared [Aug 2020]: Which is Best?

Fusion 360 vs Inventor Autodesk

Having a high-quality computer-aided drafting solution is critical for design, manufacturing, learning, and much more. Whether you’re a student or a professional, you need a tool like Fusion 360 vs Inventor that enables you to do the work you need to do.

As a hobbyist or a small business on a budget, you may also need a solution that is feature-rich without the cost, or you may need something that is compatible with your 3D printer and all of the other tools you use at home.

Fusion 360 and Inventor are two software programs commonly used for 3D printing (3D modeling software). They’re computer-aided drafting (CAD) software solutions made by Autodesk, but they’re both very different.

Autodesk Fusion takes an updated approach to CAD with other integrated tools and collaboration abilities that are useful for the modern designer. Inventor is an old system with recent upgrades that make it useful for traditional designers and large corporate manufacturing.

Bottom Line Up Front: For almost every user the more approachable, flexible and cost effective solution is going to be Fusion 360 here (free trial available). That said, if you are a commercial enterprise with manufacturing applications, Inventor is the ideal choice here (free trial available here)

Main Differences Between Fusion 360 vs Inventor

These are the main differences between Fusion 360 vsInventor are:

  • While Fusion 360 is a complete CAD, CAM, and CAE tool, Inventor is a traditional CAD software solution
  • While Fusion 360 comes with integrations allowing for commenting, revision histories, online and offline use, and much more, Inventory does not
  • Inventor does not have revolutionary collaboration capabilities, whereas the Fusion 360 does
  • Inventor only works on Microsoft operating systems, whereas the Fusion 360 is compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS

Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is an innovative CAD product that also incorporates CAM and CAE tools to bring your design software into the future. It was reimagined by the team at Autodesk after asking one simple question. If you could design a revolutionary CAD tool from scratch with everything you want, what would you build?

The result is Fusion 360. It keeps solid design tools from your existing CAD software, ditches everything you don’t need, and adds to the package everything that seems to be missing thus far. Fusion 360 also aids in the design and engineering process from beginning to end.

It enables collaborative development and intends to be the next generation Product Innovation Platform everyone will want to use. There are plenty of things that set it apart from other CAD software, so let’s take a look at why it’s so compelling.

Fusion 360 Features

Fusion 360 Features

Fusion 360 features ensure that the platform is integrated, connected, and accessible.

Designing

3D modeling and concept design are made possible by a top-down approach to your workflow. Using a single-model environment, you can create all unique parts and assemblies with existing library file format options. That means you can link your current design and make global changes of standard parts.

You can also start with an existing design and build it up or create designs from scratch because it incorporates direct and parametric modelling. Using a history-free mode gives you the ability to make simple edits when you don’t know what the final design looks like.

With history captured direct modelling, you can make direct edits to the design history or import CAD files (CAD file formats) from other vendors and make changes without using the native history of the original model.

Fusion 360 Prototyping

You can prepare prototypes or final parts with the 3D print preparation environment integrated into Fusion 360. Once you have a final design, you can program your design for 2-axis, 2.5-axis, or 3-axis CAM, all within the software. You can also create traditional drawings directly inside the platform.

Directly link all of your 3D print models, drawings, and CAM paths to your 3D model. When you update your model, everything updates at the same time, so last-minute changes aren’t a problem.

Integrated Simulation

The Fusion 360 model allows for the simulation of your design as you near completion, so you know the printed model will function properly. You can verify your design and minimize the number of physical mistakes you make, which saves you time and money, especially when you’re on a budget.

You can use any of the integrated rendering and FEA tools, motion studies, and assembly modeling to analyze your product design (advanced analytics methods and data collection) and make sure it works before you make it.

Furthermore, you can generate modal frequencies, static stress, thermal stress, structural buckling, and event simulation. Or do shape optimization studies without paying for the extra simulation software.

Fusion 360 Simulation

Document Management

If you work alone, you may not need to collaborate with others, but you can still take advantage of the onboard document management that Fusion 360 offers. It’s built into the platform and backed up to the cloud.

Every time you save your project, it creates a new version, so you have an audit trail and a history of changes. You can control all file permissions and track your project with renaming or restructuring at any time.

Create a project team and give them access to the files uploaded using the Fusion 360 document management web service. This includes markup, live review, and commenting. You can also give access to non CAD system users, and their access won’t be restricted or limited by the software they use.

This behavioral data management eliminates the need for database maintenance or checking in and out. You get complete permission control, version tracking, comments, linked documents, and everything else you need in a seamlessly controlled and coordinated environment.

Compatibility

Autodesk Fusion 360 runs on Windows, macOS, and your web browser. You can also download apps for both Android and iOS. Just choose the platform that works best for your design needs, or use multiple options for work, home, and on-the-go.

Because you can use Fusion 360 on your local device ID and on the cloud, you can run it conveniently from wherever you are. It works with or without an internet connection. However, connecting to the internet allows for support from the cloud with processor-intensive tasks, so you get the most performance out of your local hardware.

Fusion 360 vs Inventor

Signing Up

As with any other software program, you have to pay for it. The great thing about Fusion 360 is that there are no barriers to entry for a lot of people. However, it’s geared toward students and companies rather than individuals.

It’s free for students, startups, and companies that have less than $100,000 in revenue per year. Almost anyone can have access to high-quality tools for nothing if you fall into one of these categories.

For everyone else, you can have a 30 day trial of Fusion 360 just to see if you like it. After that, rental licenses are available on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. If you have an existing Autodesk account, this process is even easier.

After you sign up for Autodesk, you can download the software and begin using it right away. Enter the necessary information to get access to your trial or approval for a free subscription.

Running Fusion 360 requires minimal hardware and processing power, especially when you make use of the cloud support for backing up and storing files. You don’t need to purchase expensive hardware to run it.

You’ll always get a better user experience if you increase your memory or update your graphics card. Having a dedicated graphics card is always a good thing when you’re dealing with design software.

Summing Up Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is a revolutionary CAD tool that gives you the freedom to control every aspect of your design. From creating designs from scratch or manipulating imported files to running simulations and verifying the design before printing, you have everything you need in one place.

Take advantage of collaboration tools and cloud backups so you can manage all of your data without complicated database or server management. While it’s a program geared toward companies, individuals may find it useful as well, especially if you’re a student.

With the integrated tools, connectivity, and accessibility that Fusion 360 gives you, you’ll have all of the tools you need in a premium CAD software program that will serve you well into the future.

Inventor

Autodesk is known for providing great depth and functionality in their software programs, and Inventor is no different. You’ll get a lot of solutions that feature the ability to control your design and engineering experience all the way through simulation and manufacturing.

AutoDesk Inventor Features

Inventor Features

With Inventor, you’ll experience frequent updates, so your software is always up-to-date, giving you easier access to all of the tools you need. You’ll get new feature refreshes, feature testing, and updated user interfaces to make it easier.

Autodesk Inventor Upgrades

The inventor has the benefit of being around a long time, so it’s perfected its features over time, Autodesk has plenty of experience poured into this software solution, but with frequent redesigns, you still get a modern-looking platform.

Mobile compatibility is an upgraded feature of today, and the Inventor handles it with ease. You can work on your local hardware or take advantage of the mobile workstation and features. They’ve also introduced a light mode because sometimes the dark mode is too hard to see.

The sweep functionality allows you to sweep a solid along any path, giving you a major upgrade over sweeping a 2D profile. You can sweep 3D geometric forms as well. This gives you the ability to model complex linear or rotary mechanisms and maintain form.

A 3D form driving feature allows you to create objects with the functionality you want while a panel approach allows you to switch back and forth between your sketch and a feature without exiting any operations.

Autodesk Inventor User Experience

The user interface provides additional support for monitor setups so you can customize your desktop workflow the way you need it. You can drag your Inventor frames onto other monitors or expand the frame to span it across monitors, depending on your preferences.

By dragging to other monitors, you can have more than one file open at once for simultaneous design work and easy switching back and forth from one project to another.

Designing

The inventor provides tools for both solid and surface modelling. They also have an increasing set of tools for surface style, free-form, and sub-divisional modelling. You can also create and edit these forms with ease using Inventor tools.

What Inventor does better than a lot of other CAD tools is to offer an unwrapping tool so you can estimate blank size and form along with the ability to fold parts. You can select continuous faces, lock edges, and mark edges as rigid. You’re left with a convenient profile design you can use in other downstream applications

Autodesk Inventor Design Automation

Compatibility

Performance is always a concern when dealing with large file types. Inventor is releasing improvements in 2020 that will speed up load times. Their focus is on improving operations and actions that make it run leaner and more efficiently.

That also means that you’ll see an improvement in your workflow because operations and actions will be easier for you, involving fewer clicks to get where you need to be. Every project follows a similar path, from 2D and 3D modeling sketches to a more intricate framework.

You can establish standard forms or use forms you’ve already created as a base for your project, or you can start your design from scratch.

To use Inventor, you need the Microsoft machine. It doesn’t work on macOS, so it’s geared more toward traditional designers using older technologies. However, it does integrate with the Autodesk online app for backup storage and collaboration.

Signing Up

You need to sign up for Autodesk in order to download Inventor. However, signing up for an Autodesk account if you don’t already have one is easy and free. The inventor comes with a 30 day free trial for anyone who likes to try it before they buy it.

After your trial, you can subscribe for a monthly or yearly plan, or you can pay for a three-year subscription. You can also bundle your Inventor software with other useful tools like AutoCAD, Inventor CAM, and Inventor Nastran.

There are no free subscriptions for students, startups, or small businesses, but Inventor isn’t as expensive as a lot of other CAD software solutions, so the subscription cost is a bit more manageable.

Inventor Designs

Summing Up Autodesk Inventor

The inventor doesn’t have a lot of the feature-rich collaboration tools that Fusion 360 does. It’s an older system that’s been continually upgraded over time. The new 2020 release will implement some great usability and workflows with upgraded tools that a lot of designers need.

The inventor has more traditional engineering and manufacturing tools with deeper, more mature functionality. It’s a system meant for heavy commercial design and manufacturing. What you’ll find in recent upgrades are new efficiencies, workflow consolidation, and evolving tools that make it well worth purchasing.

More So than expensive brand new technologies, Inventor provides increased efficiencies and redesigned workflows to make your work much faster and easier to do. You also might be able to take advantage of some bundles that give you both systems and several others for an excellent value.

You can empower your workflows with much more than the feature-rich Inventor and also take advantage of some evolutionary features with Fusion 360 at the same time when bundling your purchase.

Autodesk Inventor vs Fusion 360 Comparison Chart

Here are some of the direct comparisons that may help you make a decision when purchasing your next CAD software solution

 

Fusion 360

Inventor

Compatibility

Windows, macOS, Android, iOS

Windows

Mobility

   

Bundle

No

Yes, with Fusion 360, AutoCAD, Inventor Nastram, and Inventor CAM

Manufacturer

Autodesk

Autodesk

Import from other CAD platforms

Yes

Yes

Collaborate with other users

Yes

Yes, but other tool integrations required

Subscriptions

Monthly, quarterly, yearly

Monthly, yearly, every three years

Price

Starts at $60 monthly, free for students, startups, and small businesses

Starts at $250 monthly

Free trial

30 days

30 days

Designing from scratch

Yes

Yes

Designing from form libraries

Yes

Yes

Product simulation

Yes

Yes

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about these two software platforms and how they work.

Will Fusion 360 replace Inventor?

Fusion 360 is Autodesk’s flagship CAD tool. They pulled out all the stops to create something more versatile and modern. It has the mobility and compatibility features that most need to do their work. Not to mention, it’s perfect for students or small businesses on a limited income.

The goal is for Fusion 360 to replace the Inventor eventually. However, a lot of traditional designers aren’t ready to move to the cloud-based platform offered by Fusion 360. They prefer the deeper, richer tools that Inventory has to offer.

Is Inventor better than AutoCAD?

The inventor has tools that are built for computer-aided design. You can create Inventor drawings as DWG files that you can edit in AutoCAD, so it increases your collaboration potential with users who have AutoCAD software.

However, the Inventor eliminates the need for AutoCAD, especially with choosing the bundle that includes a subscription to AutoCAD as well. You certainly don’t need both, but if you like to have both, you can bundle them for additional savings.

Is Fusion 360 still free for hobbyists?

Fusion 360 offers a free subscription for up to three years for students and up to one year for small businesses. This includes hobbyists. You don’t have to own a business to use Fusion 360 for free, but it’s not free forever.

What is Autodesk Inventor used for?

Inventor allows you to create 3D mechanical designs. You can also enable design communication and collaboration as well as product simulation. It’s a 3D mechanical solid modelling design software used to create 3D digital prototypes for CAD user applications. It’s generally used on a commercial or professional scale and isn’t a great solution for hobbyists.

The Verdict: Fusion 360 or Inventor?

While Fusion 360 and Inventor are both made by Autodesk (Autodesk product family), they’re used for very different modeling things. Fusion 360 is a feature-rich, modern software solution that’s compatible with several operating systems. It revolutionizes the way you collaborate on files and has the ability to work both offline on your local hardware or online for cloud backup.

Fusion 360 is great for students, hobbyists (3D printing specifically), and small businesses. The price point makes it more accessible to all, and it is intended to replace the Autdodesk Inventor software someday.

The inventor has deeper, richer tools that are preferred by traditional designers, but it doesn’t have the same hardware compatibility or mobile design solutions as Fusion 360. Inventor is typically used for commercial manufacturing purposes.

It’s more expensive, but the depth of the Autodesk software platform is needed for intensive design on a large business scale. However, it offers bundles to give you better value, and you can purchase Inventor with Fusion 360 and other integrations that make it more versatile and increase your usability.

Bottom Line: For almost every user the more approachable, flexible and cost effective solution is going to be Fusion 360 here (free trial available). That said, if you are a commercial enterprise with manufacturing applications, Inventor is the ideal choice here (free trial available here)

Fusion 360 and Inventor are both great solutions to your CAD program modeling needs, but make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for and exactly what you need before you make an investment.

Further Research on 3D CAD Tools & 3D Generative Design

If you enjoyed this comparison, you might also like to see our take on:

Ultimaker 3 vs Lulzbot Taz 6: Which Should You Choose?

The Ultimaker 3 and the Lulzbot Taz 6 are two of the best 3D printers on the market. They both provide consistent print quality, ease of use, and accessibility to both beginners and experts. While they have many similarities, they contain different features that make them unique.

Main Differences Between Ultimaker 3 vs Lulzbot Taz 6

The main differences between Ultimaker 3 and Lulzbot Taz 6 are:

  • The Ultimaker 3 features two extruders for more versatile printing, whereas the Lulzbot Taz 6 does not.
  • The Ultimaker 3 does not support a wide variety of speciality filament types, whereas the Lulzbot Taz 6 does.
  • The Ultimaker 3 has strings of lights running along the inside of the frame to make the print job more visible, whereas the Lulzbot Taz 6 does not.
  • The Ultimaker 3 has an open design providing a view of your print job from all angles, whereas the Ultimaker 3 print jobs are only visible from the front and sides.

Ultimaker 3

ultimaker

The inclusion of two extruders on the Ultimaker 3 means it’s more versatile and flexible than other 3D printers, even its predecessor, the Ultimaker 2+. You can print using two different filament types or colours for more dynamic printing results.

The print quality has also improved and it offers some of the best calibre prints from a fused filament fabrication 3D printer. Of course, all improvements come at a price and you’ll pay considerably more for this upgrade.

That being said, this printer is a lot easier to use than complex 3D printers of even higher quality and it uses the conventional plastic filament rather than liquid resin, which can be much harder to handle.

Design and features

The dual extruders make the Ultimaker 3 much more versatile. Other than that, you also have filament feeders, reducing the risk of clogs and jams. Plus, the spool holder is big enough for two filament spools at the same time.

The open front and top with translucent white sides make it easy to check on your progress, although it does require more caution to ensure you don’t touch extremely hot components. The interior has a string of lights extending down each side of the front inside edges, lighting your print space, and making it easier to see.

Dimensions are 23.1 x 19.9 x 13.3 inches and it weighs 23.3 pounds. It’s about the same weight as the Ultimaker 2+, but with more features, which is surprising.

The build area isn’t huge, but it’s a decent size at 7.8 x 8.5 x 8.5 inches. The print bed is made of a sheet of glass that automatically heats before each job. You can also automatically level the bed upon startup from the maintenance menu or choose another interval that works for you.

Setup

Setup isn’t too difficult, but there are a few steps you need to follow to get it up and running. Run the cable from an NFC socket and the filament spool holder. Putting the build plate in place requires fastening it to the platform with the clips provided.

Next, attach the power cable, turn on the printer, and follow the instructions on the display. The five-line display is controlled with the adjacent dial.

While one extruder comes already installed, you have to add the second one yourself if you want it. It’s easy to add and the printer comes with instructions for how to do this.

Loading filament spools on the spool holder is the last step. There is a hole at the bottom of a filament feed gearbox where you need to feed the end of the filament. A gear will grab a hold of the filament and pull it through a long tube to the extruder. The extruder melts it and it comes out of the nozzle.

Repeat this process with a second filament spool into the other gearbox to complete the setup.

Software

The Cura software should be downloaded from the Ultimaker website onto your printer once you get it completely set up. This is open-source software for 3D printers, which means you’ll have access to other print plans that other people create for it.

Ultimaker has created iterations of Cura that are specially tailored for all of the printers it manufactures. What you’ll find is that the software is open-source, but still designed just right for your 3D printer.

There are different versions of Cura, so make sure you choose the one labelled for the Ultimaker 3. It’s easy to set up and use, which makes it great for beginners, but versatile and advanced enough for experts.

Beginners can choose basic settings while experts may want to play around with some more advanced settings to tweak the printer how they like it.

Filament

ultimaker 3 printer

While the Ultimaker 3 takes common filament types like PLA and ABS, they also provide support for other options like nylon, PVA, and CPE. This gives you a wide variety of options to choose from so you can pick the one that’s right for your particular job.

Most 3D printers use a plastic filament of 1.75mm thick, but the Ultimaker 3 has enabled the extrusion of their filament to be 2.85mm. The result is better quality print jobs.

PLA, ABS, and CPE come in a huge variety of colours, and nylon is available in black or transparent. All filament spools for the Ultimaker 3 have an NFC chip, which is a really nice feature that allows your printer to automatically detect the colour and type of your filament without you programming or changing any settings.

It will use this information to select the correct temperature profile for that particular filament, which again, results in higher quality print jobs.

While you can use third-party filaments in the Ultimaker 3, you will have to set the temperatures by hand in Cura. While this may not be something you want to do, it’s a great option for saving money on filament spools.

The Ultimaker 3 has two types of print cores. It comes preinstalled with an AA print core that’s compatible with nylon, PLA, ABS, and CPE. However, it comes with a second AA-type print core and a BB core, either of which you can choose to use for two-colour print jobs. The BB core will only print supports with PVA.

Connectivity and printing

Setup Wi-Fi on your Ultimaker 3 for easy transfer of print jobs. If you don’t have access to Wi-Fi, you can hook it up to an Ethernet connection and send jobs that way. You can also use files that are stored on a USB drive.

The Ultimaker 3 comes with detailed instructions on how to print using any of these methods. This is a nice upgrade from the Ultimaker 2+, which could only print from an SD card.

There are four resolution settings on the Ultimaker 3. High-resolution prints at 60 microns, normal is 100 microns, fast is 150 microns, and draft mode prints at 200 microns.

Even at the draft resolution, your prints will look better than on most other FFF 3D printers. It only gets better at every resolution setting after that. However, keep in mind that the better resolutions take much longer to print.

The normal resolution takes about twice as long as the draft resolution. While there may be times when you need higher quality prints and are willing to wait for them, the draft resolution is pretty close to what most other 3D printers come with standard, and it’s a fine quality for most things.

While the Ultimaker 3 is equipped to handle dual-extruder printing, before you do that, you need to use the maintenance menu to run a calibration on the XY offset and make sure your print cores are in sync. You can print some test patterns to determine where they line up and then enter those values for the X and Y axes on the display. The printer will then calibrate the cores to ensure they’re aligned on your next print job.

Pros:

  • Excellent print quality and resolution
  • Easy to use
  • Accurate printing without mistakes
  • Two extruders for multicolour printing
  • Quiet operation

Cons:

  • Long print times at higher resolutions
  • Expensive

Read Some Ultimaker 3 Comparisons here:

Why Go With the Ultimaker 3?

I'll be honest, the Ultimaker 3 is one of my FAVORITE 3D Printers of all time. Not trying to hype it, but it's still the go-to for reliable performance and durability over time. It actually gets BETTER the MORE you use it... Weird!

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Lulzbot Taz 6

lulzbot taz 6

The Lulzbot Taz 6 is a bit cheaper than the Ultimaker 3, but it’s still at the upper end of the 3D printer marker. It’s another 3D printer that’s easy to use and reliable. It also has a relatively large build size, making it a really popular machine for both individuals and professionals.

Design and features

The design of the Lulzbot Taz 6 is relatively minimalistic. It has a black coating over metal, making it sturdy, with steel rods and self-lubricating bushing. The components are made of a lime green material to add a bit of flash.

It’s a huge printer with a huge print area, so it’s nice to see a minimalistic frame that’s not too overwhelming. You can also see your print job from any angle because there aren’t any extra components getting in the way. There is a user interface at the top left corner of the printer so it’s easy to access but it’s not in the way. It only adds to the sleek, sturdy, simple design.

With a huge print volume of 280 x 280 x 250mm, it’s larger than the Ultimaker 3. The print bed is made of glass with PEI film. The print bed is heated, so before printing, it will automatically warm to the correct temperature. You’ll also enjoy automatic bed leveling.

The Lulzbot Taz 6 is compatible with filament types PLA, PVA, ABS, HIPS, nylon, PETG, polycarbonate, UV luminescent, and plenty of other specialty filaments. The filament diameter is 3mm. To print with the Lulzbot Taz 6, you can use either a USB drive or an SD card. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have Wi-Fi or a wired Ethernet connection, so you have to have your files saved on a physical device.

Setup

The Lulzbot Taz 6 comes completely assembled, so the box is on the large size, but it comes with everything you need to get it setup. Upon opening the box, you’ll find these items in addition to the fully assembled Lulzbot Taz 6:

  • Quick setup guide
  • Hexagon-shaped hot end tool head
  • 4GB SD card
  • Filament feed tube
  • Toolkit bag
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Ruler
  • Precision knife
  • Clam knife
  • Tweezers
  • Dental pick

Although it comes with a lot of extra tools, there really is no physical setup required. Just snap all of the pieces into place and begin calibrating.

The documentation included in the box will guide you through all of this setup step by step. Images accompany all instructions so you’ll be clear on what to do. It should only take about 30 minutes to get it ready.

Although you do need to mount the Y-axis assembly with screws, connect all of the cables, and mount the tool head, they’ve made it easy and intuitive with all of the detailed guides. The last step is snapping the filament guide tube onto the side bracket and you’re ready to print.

Software

Lulzbot Taz 6 also uses open-source Cura software, so it’s both easy to use and expansive. It’s accessible to beginners but has plenty of advanced settings for those who have a bit more experience and really want to take this 3D printer on a ride.

The software will recommend printing profiles and filaments based on your job, but you can always customize or override these with your own settings.

The Cura Lulzbot Edition software allows complete user control over infill, print speed, shell, cooling, and a lot more. You can even modify some of these settings mid-print.

Connectivity and printing

lulzbot taz 6 printing

The one downside to the Lulzbot Taz 6 is that it doesn’t have any internet connectivity options. There’s no Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection port, so you have to use a USB drive or an SD card to transfer your print jobs to the device.

However, you can print using three modes including standard, high quality, and high speed. The standard model offers 0.25mm prints, which is even higher quality than the normal mode on the Ultimaker 3.

High-speed prints have a lesser quality of 0.38mm, which is slightly worse than the 150 microns offered on the fast mode of the Ultimaker 3. The difference between the Lulzbot Taz 6 standard and high-speed modes will be visibly apparent in your finished products.

Pros:

  • Large build volume
  • Consistent performance
  • Easy setup and use
  • Minimalistic design

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Noisy operation

Read Our Lulzbot Taz 6 Full Review Here.

FAQs About the Ultimaker 3 and Lulzbot Taz 6

Is the Ultimaker 3 worth it?

People frequently ask if this or that product is worth the money, and the answer is always the same. You have to make that decision for yourself. It depends on your needs and your budget.

However, the Ultimaker 3 is, without a doubt, a very high-quality 3D printer with some excellent features that make it worth the price if those are the things you’re looking for. It’s an easy system to use and its performance and reliability are excellent.

Did Lulzbot go out of business?

Surprisingly, this frequently asked question is poignant at this particular time. Despite their superior quality and dedication to customer support, Lulzbot decided to close their doors back in October of 2019.

While they may not be making any new printers going forward, you can still find excellent quality from previous products, and it shouldn’t be a reason not to purchase them or give them a try.

What is the best 3D printer?

Both the Ultimaker 3 and the Lulzbot Taz 6 top most lists of the best 3D printers out there. In fact, there are other Ultimaker and Lulzbot models that top most lists, too. They’re excellent brands of superior quality, and you can count on any of them to do the job right.

The Verdict

Both the Ultimaker 3 and the Lulzbot Taz 6 are reliable 3D printers of excellent quality and consistency. They use the same software that’s easy to set up and use, and they’re both great for beginners and experts alike.

The benefit of the Ultimaker 3 is the dual print cores allowing for more versatility in your print jobs. Its normal print mode produces super high-quality prints, but the build volume is slightly smaller than the Lulzbot Taz 6.

The price point of the Lulzbot Taz 6 is more accessible but still high. The benefit to this design is that it’s minimalistic and open, so while the Ultimaker 3 does make it easy to monitor your print job from the front and the sides, the Taz 6 makes it easy to see all the way around.

The Ultimaker 3 also can’t compare to the number of filament types supported with the Lulzbot Taz 6, so if you need more options there, the Taz 6 is a better choice.

Recommended Reads:

How to Find the Best 3D Printer for Schools [2020]

Is 3D printing fun for you? Do you find excitement in the idea of taking some basic materials and turning them into an object you can use? If so, can you imagine how much more joy something so special can bring to children?

3D printing is an amazing and creative market, and every child should have a chance to watch an object come to life at once during their childhood. And 3D printing continues to expand and grow. Today it is a part of several industries, including healthcare, architecture, and many others.

So no matter what field your child is interested in, there’s a good chance 3D printing can have an application. 3D printing in school allows them to explore what this new technology is capable of doing and the impact it has on the world around us.

But which ones are the best ones for schools and how do you find the right 3D printer? Here are a few of the best 3D printers you can purchase for your classroom.

Flashforge Finder 3D Printer – Best Overall for Classroom Use

Best Overall
Why Go With the Flashforge Finder?
$299.00

The Flashforge Finder is the perfect combination of approachability and reliability to be a great classroom performer. Not too big or complicated to overwhelm, but also consistent with no "open source" finicky customizations.

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10/27/2020 06:09 pm UTC

The Flashforge Finder is a really good starter 3D printer for students with potential for the more advanced students. It packs some really nice features and offers a lot out of the box.

Because of its focus on ease of use and simple interface and software, it is the perfect printer to get you started with 3D printing.

I personally love the proprietary filament management system. The filament is contained inside a cartridge that slides into the back of the printer with an automatic filament sensor, working just as easily as a traditional printer. This makes filament management a breeze; extremely approachable for students.

The other standout feature is the auto-leveling print bed 3D technology. This is a feature mostly found on expensive printers that allow the user to precisely calibrate the distance between the nozzle and the build plate. It uses a sensor on the print head as well as very informative messages on the touchscreen to allow the user to quickly and easily calibrate the printer.

All in all, the Finder really takes the common friction points out of 3D printing (additive manufacturing). Students can focus on be creatively engaged vs troubleshooting.

Further Reading: Full Flashforge Finder Review.

Lulzbot Taz 6 – Best for Older Students

LulzBot TAZ 6 3D Printer

If you’re teaching older high school or college students, the Lulzbot Taz 6 FDM printer might be the 3D printer you need. While this Lulzbot Printer is one of the bigger 3D printers available on the market, its large build volume (print volume) allows you and your students to print off more than one object at a time.

Setting up the Taz 6 will take you a little longer than it will with the Dremel, but you can probably get it done in less than an hour. Once you get everything figured out, it’ll make much more sense and become second nature. Check our full Taz 6 Review here.

For your students, the Taz 6 ships with software which helps them learn how 3D printing works. More advanced students can jump right into the settings where they print almost anything they want.

With an LCD display, students can see exactly how much progress has been made on the current print job, along with how long they can expect to wait until it is completed. The Taz 6 is a little noisier than other enclosed 3D printers, so be aware of that if you plan on starting a print and then teaching a lesson.

The Taz 6 offers an all-around high-quality printer that lets you automate your 3D printing sessions. This 3D printer gives high school and college-aged students a leg up as they get ready to enter the workforce Learning about 3D printing may wind up serving them well.

Monoprice Select Mini – Best for the Budget-Minded

Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer V2

Even though the Monoprice Select Mini is a budget-friendly FDM 3D printer unit, you may be impressed by how well it’s built. Moving parts within the printer are hidden from sight, which means you don’t need to worry about little fingers finding their way into an area where they might get hurt.

On the front of the printer is an LCD screen so you can view helpful information such as the overall health of your printer and the progress of the current print job. The LCD also allows you to find files so you can locate exactly what you want to print.

The printer comes fully assembled, which is nice if you don’t want to mess with a lot of set up. However, you will have to calibrate the printing bed, which shouldn’t take too long. Otherwise, you’re up and printing 3D objects before you know it.

Monoprice is known as a company that builds quality 3D printers, so you know you’ll be getting a reliable 3D printer without breaking the bank. However, there isn’t really such thing as a “cheap” 3D printer, so keep in mind that you’re going to spend quite a bit.

With that in mind, the Mini 3D printing machine is NOT cost-prohibitive and does make it possible for some schools to have multiple 3D printers. If you’re on a budget, the Monoprice Mini should be your first choice when it comes to 3D printers.

Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer
The Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer is a HIGH quality and budget-friendly option printer, that is very safe to use around children.
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Dremel 3D40 – Best Large Format Classroom Use

Dremel 3D40

The Dremel 3D40 tops our list of best 3D printers for classrooms because it literally comes with lesson plans. There are 30 lessons included with the printer, and they can be used for third graders or high school seniors.

Every lesson included has a 3D model that comes with it. That means students have the ability to modify and adjust the object before they print it off.

With this printer, your students can learn the fundamentals of 3D printing while gaining the confidence needed to become comfortable with the device. The 3D40 is designed to be easy to use and safe in a classroom setting.

The printer isn’t very noisy, so you can start a print session at the beginning of class and let it run without worrying about the need to talk over it. Plus, the object may be done printing by the time class is over.

3D Printing Experience in Schools

This is why it’s so important that we bring 3D printing to our schools. We want our children to stay abreast of the latest technologies and how to use them safely. Teaching our children how to use 3D printers while they’re young opens the door to many opportunities as they move forward.

As more and more 3D printers enter into classrooms, more and more children are discovering the fun and excitement they provide. But these devices aren’t only for engineers and architects. There are uses for 3D printers in biology and music.

3D printing encourages creativity and innovation as our children consider the blank piece of paper before them and imagine a real-life object they could create in only a few short hours.

That doesn’t mean 3D printers are only for students. Teachers can use them as well to create educational tools as opposed to spending their hard-earned money on them. This means that instead of spending money on educational aids for all their students, a teacher could use a 3D printer and spend that money elsewhere.

Best 3D Printer for Schools

Use Cases for 3D Printers in a Classroom

As we’ve discussed, there is a wide range of use cases for 3D printers in the classroom. Whether you want to add it to your already existing curriculum or build something brand new, there’s a good chance you can find a way to incorporate 3D printing.

Here’s a list of areas where you can implement 3D printing to show your students how it works and drive them to adopt this technology while being enthusiastic about its possibilities.

3D Printing

If you have a 3D printer in your school, why wouldn’t you use it for a 3D printing class? You can educate your children all about the technology behind 3D printing. Students could learn more about two distinct aspects of 3D printing:

  1. First, they could learn about the core functions of 3D printing. This involved understanding how to control a 3D printer and the right materials to use when creating a 3D printed object.
  2. Second is understanding the key features of the 3D printer. This includes what the features are, how they work, and why they’re important.

This provides students with a way to learn more about the mechanical aspects of the 3D printer. I don’t know about you, but I usually learn something much easier when I’m doing it myself. Having a 3D printer in the school lets students see and learn up close and personal.

Engineering

Of course, when it comes to 3D printing, you almost have to throw engineering into the mix. Before 3D printing, it was difficult for teachers to find a way for their students to view their model in real life. Having a 3D printer would help solve this problem.

With 3D printing technology, teachers have the ability to teach their students many different engineering concepts. One example could be having students improve upon an already 3D printed model, then see how they turn out.

Engineering 3d printing

Biology

How can you use a 3D printer to enhance biology class? One way is through the use of printed anatomic models. Teachers can download these models online and print them off and use them as objects with which their students can study.

Having a physical representation of an organ will help students have a better understanding of the object they’re studying. It can also allow them to show that they understand the object from a practical perspective.

Art

3D printing has long been considered a part of the art industry as it allows students to create 3D versions of their artwork. This helps to promote innovation and creativity among children while showing them the flexibility of these devices.

Math

It can be difficult to engage students in math, no matter what level you’re teaching. Having a 3D printer can make this subject come to life. This could be in the form of using 3D printed objects to show percentages or learn 3D shapes like cones or pyramids.

With physical shapes and objects, students become more engaged and open to learning, which leads to an overall better experience for both the teacher and the pupil.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways an educational institution could benefit from owning a 3D printer. But what should these schools look for when considering a 3d Printer? Let’s take a closer look.

What to Consider?

If your school is ready to purchase a 3D printer, then there are a few things you’ll want to consider before making the final decision. Buying a 3D printer for your classroom is similar to buying one for your home.

That said, there are a few factors you may want to give serious consideration to so you can make an informed decision.

Setup

When it comes to set up, you’ll want something that simple, straightforward, and easy. Fortunately, there are a handful of 3D printers available that don’t require much in regard to setup. A printer that’s easy to set up means you take it out of the box, load the filament into the printer and get started (PLA filament, PETG filament, ABS filament, and more..).

Note: With every year, more diverse filaments and filament types come on the market, including wood, resin (and special resin 3D printers), and even carbon filament. Be sure to check your 3D printer specifications to ensure it’s compatible and/or upgrade nozzles / extruders if available.

There are also some that require a little bit of work during setup, but nothing too complicated. While these may require a bit more effort to get them up and running, they’ll also save you some money. So if you’re on a budget, you might consider going this route.

Size

When considering size for your 3D printer, you’ll want to think about two things. First, the physical size of the printer itself. How much room do you have in your classroom to dedicate to a 3D printer? This will help you determine what size printer to purchase.

Most classrooms are probably best suited to a desktop 3D printer, but even this generalizations contains MANY nuances including whether or not it fills an entire desk, has a dual extruder, etc….

Second, size refers to the build volume of your 3D printer. Many people believe that the more print build volume they have, the better off they’ll be. While this might be true for commercial 3D print businesses, it won’t make much sense for use in an educational environment.

This is because large volume printers are going to take much longer to print an object. Instead of waiting an hour or two for a single object, you may be waiting an entire day. Plus, you’re going to go through your materials much faster when using large volume 3D printers.

school 3d printers

Cost

Even though the print quality of 3D printers has gone up recently, the price has dropped, making it easier than ever to find a good printer at a reasonable price. You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a 3D printer for nearly any budget.

Keep in mind that if you’re on a strict budget, you may have to make a few sacrifices to find something in your price range.

Print Quality

As the 3D printing process continues to improve, so too does the physical design and print quality of 3D printers. However, just because you have a high-quality 3D printer doesn’t mean you can leave it on at all hours of the day.

Quality 3D printers are made with great components, which means they’ll be reliable when it comes to printing objects for you and your students. Usually, these types of printers also use high-grade filament as well.

Speed

The reality is that most 3D printers won’t be able to complete a printing session during your class period. While today’s printers are much faster, it can still take the better part of an hour to print off a small object.

Unfortunately, some 3D printers are on the slower side. If possible, try to avoid these for your classroom. You’re not helping your class learn about 3D printing if it takes a few days for something to print.

Material

The vast majority of 3D printers you’ll find will use one of two material types: PLA or ABS. Most people prefer PLA since its biodegradable and is a natural source and doesn’t have any toxic byproducts. It’s probably your best bet for use in a classroom setting.

While ABS is in and of itself great material for 3D printing, it does give off toxic fumes, which can eventually lead to health problems. No matter which material you choose, make sure your room has plenty of ventilation and ensure children maintain their distance while a print is in session.

FAQs

Here are a few of the more commonly asked questions about 3D printers for schools.

How much time does it take for a 3D print to complete?

This really depends on what you’re 3D printing. Printing a 3D object can range from 30 minutes to a week. There are many factors that determine how long it takes, including the size and complexity of the object, the quality and speed of your printer, and much more.

How much electricity do 3D printers use?

Today’s standard color printers are used by most people in their homes and use around 0.05 kilowatt-hours of electricity for every house they print. This is a pretty low amount. By comparison, a 3D printer will use roughly 50 watts of electricity for every hour you’re printing.

What are some of the benefits of 3D printing?

There are plenty of benefits to using a 3D printer. These include ways 3D printing is revolutionizing and combining certain industries. Hospitals and health care professionals use 3D printed items to save lives. 3D printed items help to reduce the cost of items we use on an everyday basis.

With 3D printers, we can customize objects and devices for specific uses and rapidly create prototypes without wasting a lot of hours and resources.

Opportunities Abound: 3D Printers for Schools

Having a 3D printer in your classroom has significant benefits for the school, the teacher, and the students. It provides a way for students to learn more about 3D printing, while enhancing subjects like Biology, Math, and Art.

Additionally, allowing students to learn about 3D printing open doors into areas of learning they may have never previously considered. Or it may spark an interest in a subject they otherwise dreaded.

There are countless opportunities that come with having a 3D printer in your school, and you shouldn’t have much trouble finding the right one now that you know what to look for. So what are you waiting for? Head out and get a 3D printer for your school!

Further Reading on 3D Printers:

Flashforge Inventor 2 Review [Aug 2020]

Flashforge intended to target education with their Inventor 2 3D printer, so if you’re looking for a solid plug and play option for your school, this may be one of the best choices. This upgrade to the now-retired Flashforge Finder is said to be as intuitive as using your smartphone.

With fully-enclosed components, a plethora of safety features, and modern connectivity features, everyone will have fun learning how to use it. It’s a high-quality 3D Printer solution for today’s classrooms.

Why go with the Inventor 2?
$699.00

The Inventor 2 is a great pick for KIDS or beginners looking to get familair with 3D printing in a lower stress environment. A great buy for schools, libraries or STEM encouraging parents!

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
10/27/2020 07:11 am UTC

About Makers Empire

The Flashforge Inventor 2 is made by Makers Empire, an Australian company focused on design education and providing custom tools and solutions to schools. Their goal is to assist educators in harnessing the power of 3D technology.

With this technology, they can teach design thinking, STEM sciences, and project-based learning. They develop simple tools that take the guesswork out of using the printer and put the focus back in learning how to implement the concepts.

The company is only five years old, but they’ve already penetrated forty countries around the globe to reach over one million students with their vision to empower children to become creators and problem solvers.

They believe every child should have access to 3D technology. The team is comprised of experienced business managers, developers, and educators. Most of them have children of their own and believe in the power of education.

They all want to make a difference by reinforcing values like learning, inspiring, empathizing, and innovating.

About the Flashforge Inventor 2

flashforge invertor 2The Flashforge Inventor 2 was made to be simple and intuitive. The design is attractive and the features make it safe for kids.

Getting Started with the Flashforge Inventor 2

This plug and play 3D printer comes with everything you need to set it up and get started right away. Everything is self-contained. Simply plug it in and you’re ready to go. It’s compatible with Wi-Fi so you don’t need a wired connection.

Start printing in just four clicks on the touchscreen.

If you do choose to forego Wi-Fi, you can connect it to any computer with just a USB cable. It’s compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. Plus, downloading the smartphone app means you can connect to it from wherever you are.

Flashforge Inventor 2 Design

The entire printer is self-contained. It has an attractive cube design of white and blue. All components are hidden rather than exposed. This prevents damage to the printer itself when being used by multiple inexperienced people and it protects children from touching incredibly hot components.

The touchscreen design is intuitive, much like your smartphone. It’s an important addition to a 3D printer for kids because they catch on so quickly to technology that it makes the transition from a smartphone or computer to the 3D printer much easier and more seamless.

The removable print bed makes it easier to remove printed objects from the printer when they’re done, without having to reach inside the unit and risk damage to the components or the printed item.

The only problem with the all-in-one design and the hidden components is that it makes maintenance on the extruder and any other moving parts much more difficult. If you’re one who likes to service your technology on your own, this one is harder to take apart than others.

Flashforge Inventor 2 Specs

The Flashforge Inventor 2 has a build volume of 150mm x 140mm x 100mm, which is much bigger than the previous model. The single extruder is compatible with PET, PLA, and TPU, but you can also turn the built-in filament guide off so you can use other materials.

Using biodegradable PLA filament is recommended for indoor use in the classroom, and it also has a high-quality 50-400 micron layer resolution for detailed build designs.

Here are some additional specs for those who like to keep track:

  • Printing technology: Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)
  • XY positioning precision: 11 microns
  • Z layer resolution: 2.5 microns
  • Nozzle diameter: 0.4mm
  • Filament diameter: 1.75mm
  • Frame and body: Plastic alloy
  • Printer dimensions: 420mm x 420mm x 570mm
  • Extruder quantity: Single
  • Connectivity: USB, Wi-Fi, SD card
  • File input type: .stl, .obj, .3mf, .ffp
  • File output type: .g/.gx
  • OS compatibility: Windows XP or newer, Linux, OSX

This 3D printer is on the more expensive end of the spectrum, but it’s also much safer and worth every penny for the education of students. It’s sleek and high quality with plenty of built-in features that make it easy to use.

Flashforge Inventor 2 Software

Flashprint is Flashforge’s proprietary slicing software. It comes standard on the Inventor 2 and contains both linear and tree support. It enables you to split models into several different parts for printing in different stages.

Flashforge Inventor 2 Features

flashforge invertor 2 3d printer

Features like built-in software, a touchscreen, and Wi-Fi make this 3D printer insanely easy to use. It also includes a door sensor, and will automatically pause your print job if the door is open to the chamber. Once the door is closed, printing automatically resumes.

Safety features like this make it one of the best choices for the classroom and for children.

In addition to that, you’ll also notice that it’s one of the quieter 3D printers available, so you can run it in the background while still conducting a lecture or a class session.

The Happy 3D mobile app allows all users to create models on their smartphone and then send them to the printer. You don’t have to have a connected computer in class for your students to easily queue their builds. The only requirement is that you lift that in-class cell phone ban so they can get to work.

The touchscreen displays the model before printing so you can confirm accuracy before beginning.

Automatic calibration also takes the fuss out of bed levelling. Because this is done automatically, your students can focus on learning the design process rather than fiddling with the technology.

The onboard camera sends up to date footage to your app so you can monitor your build from anywhere. It doesn’t require babysitting or being close by.

Flashforge Inventor 2 Alternatives

If you’re a beginner or you’re looking for a quality 3D printer for the classroom, here are some other options that may interest you.

Flashforge Finder

flashforge finder 3D printer

This is the previous Flashforge model. It’s smaller than the Inventor 2, but it’s also less expensive. In fact, it’s about half the price. It comes in red and black, and the Finder Lite comes in yellow and black.

Other than size, price, and colour, the only difference you might find is the lack of a mobile app. It’s still built with the same touchscreen and safety features. It’s also very quiet. If you can deal with a smaller size and you want the cheaper price, this is a great solution.

Why go with the Inventor 2?
$699.00

The Inventor 2 is a great pick for KIDS or beginners looking to get familair with 3D printing in a lower stress environment. A great buy for schools, libraries or STEM encouraging parents!

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
10/27/2020 07:11 am UTC

Read More:

QIDI Tech X-Maker

qidi technology 3d printer

Here’s another plug and play option right out of the box. It was also built with children and education in mind. It has automatic bed leveling, a touchscreen, built-in software, Wi-Fi, an internal camera for monitoring progress, and a completely enclosed design.

The primary difference is the build volume. On the QIDI, it’s 170mm x 150mm x 160, so it’s slightly larger than the Inventor 2. For the price, you’re better off getting a QIDI Tech X-Maker, but you will be giving up the mobile app and exotic filament choices.

Monoprice Voxel

monoprice voxel

Despite its enclosed design, nozzle changes on the Monoprice Voxel are very easy. While other enclosed 3D printers take around half an hour to change nozzles, this one doesn’t.

It also includes auto-leveling, but the cool thing about this one is that it comes enabled with cloud services right out of the box. Set it up quickly and you can control and print from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection.

FAQ

The world of 3D printers is confusing to some, and if you’re a beginner or you want to use one for education, here are some frequently asked questions that may have you wondering.

Can kids use 3D printers?

It is safe for kids to use select 3D printers, and always with supervision. Companies like Makers Empire are intentionally building 3D printers designed with the classroom in mind.

However, not all 3D printers are right for all kids. 3D printers have very hot components and very complicated mechanisms. Until the child learns how to use it appropriately, it’s important that an adult is there to help.

Any of the 3D printers listed in this review are safe to a certain extent. They’re enclosed and made with certain safety features that do what they can to protect little hands.

Safety should always be your first concern when getting a 3D printer for children to use, so do your research and choose wisely.

What is the best 3D printer for a beginner?

Flashforge makes some of the best 3D printers for beginners, including the Finder, the Inventor 2, the Adventurer, and the Dreamer. Not only that, but they’re backed by a company who has a heart for education and designs their printers with that in mind.

Outside of the Makers Empire models, you’ll find great beginner 3D printers in a lot of different places. Monoprice and QIDI are just a few of the other options.

Can you make toys with a 3D printer?

Speaking of children, many people want to know if they can print toys in their 3D printer. Since many toys are made of plastic, it’s natural that you might want to design your own if you have a 3D printer, and you can.

You can create your own designs or download models from the internet and create them at home. It’s easy to make almost anything with a 3D printer. The sky’s the limit, toys included.

Is PLA kid-safe?

If you’re going to be letting kids use the 3D printer, you may wonder if the filament is safe for them as well. PLA is bioplastic, so it’s non-toxic. It’s the safest material for kids to learn to print with. While there are 3D printers out there for kids that have interchangeable filaments, most come standard with PLA, which is the best option.

The Verdict: Flashforge Inventor 2 Review

Beginners, students, and teachers alike will find that the Flashforge Inventor 2 is one of the best 3D printers for kids to learn. It’s geared toward education and built with the safety of children in mind.

It’s easy setup and quiet printing make it ideal for the classroom. The build volume is larger than its predecessor, but it’s also more expensive. This may turn some people off, but it’s well worth it for the safety features.

It also includes a mobile app and a camera to monitor progress remotely, so even if the class is over before the build is done, your students can keep tabs on their projects. If you’re in the market for a beginner 3D printer for kids, this is one of the better options available.

Why go with the Inventor 2?
$699.00

The Inventor 2 is a great pick for KIDS or beginners looking to get familair with 3D printing in a lower stress environment. A great buy for schools, libraries or STEM encouraging parents!

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
10/27/2020 07:11 am UTC

Recommended Reads:

How to Find the Best Multi Color 3D Printer [2020]

As technology continues to evolve, lesser-known markets are beginning to come into their own. One such area that is starting to spread its wings is 3D printing. This industry has shown that it has a place in the world of consumer technology during the past few years.

Even though this industry isn’t as mainstream as other technologies yet, it is still making significant noise in the tech sector. But what about those that aren’t as familiar with 3D printing?

That’s where we want to help. Choosing the right color 3D printer can be challenging. So, with that in mind, what should you consider when selecting a color 3D printer? Let’s take a look at some criteria to consider as you make your decision.

Best Multi Color 3D Printers

Now that you have an idea of what to look for as you search for the ideal multi-color 3D printer, here are a few of the top options to consider.

XYZ Printing da Vinci Color – Best Desktop Option

Our Pick
da Vinci Color
$2,999.95

One of the only true desktop 3D printers for full spectrum color printing, the da Vinci also is one of the easiest to use out of the box.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
10/27/2020 10:10 am UTC

First up on our list is the XYZ Printing da Vinci Color. This multicolor 3D printer uses its jet technology to print out full color 3D printed objects. Base material used with this printer is white PLA, which the printer colors by using its CMYK filament cartridge.

So that it doesn’t waste ink, the Da Vinci only colors the filament layers that are visible on the print bed, rather than the entire item. If you’re interested in a smaller version of this printer, it also comes in a mini. However, the smaller option only uses one cartridge whereas the bigger version uses four.

If you have a home office, this is the ideal multiple colors 3D printer for you. It allows you to have a 3D printer in your home without taking up a lot of space. Plus, the option of an even smaller unit makes this printer appealing to anyone who doesn’t have a lot of room to maneuver.

Where to Buy? Pick this one up via this Amazon listing here.

Read More: XYZprinting da Vinci Mini Review: Does it Work?

3D Systems ProJet CJP 660 – Best for High Build Volume or Large Scale Projects

3D Systems ProJet CJP 660

The ProJet 660 offers a full color 3D printing experience that will have you creating high-quality pieces in no time. By depositing liquid color and using it as a binding agent, the ProJet makes use of its Color Jet Printing process to print amazing items.

This multicolor printer offers a capacity of 508 x 381 x 229 mm, which makes it one of the most productive options on our list. With this ProJet CJP660, you’re getting both a high-resolution print and high build volume. Using the CJP 660 means you can easily create large-scale concepts and models at any point during the development process.

ProJet says it can print faster than other technologies and multicolor printers on the market (multi color print, single batch). Whether or not that’s true, you can create a large 3D model (using the excess build volume) within just a few hours. Plus, if you’re creating a project that doesn’t require filament color, the CJP 660 will print 35% faster if you’re only using black and white.

HP Jet Fusion – Best for Intricate and Complex Designs

HP Jet Fusion

The HP Jet Fusion multicolor 3D printer focuses on allowing various binding agents to deposit onto plain materials in the additive manufacturing process. With this process, which HP calls “Voxel Transforming Agents,” you can manipulate not only the color or your project, but also the texture.

Additionally, you control the density, translucency, and many other features that allow you to print exactly what you want the way you want it. There are up to eight various agents to choose from, all giving you the 3D print you desire.

If you’re color 3D printing intricate designs with integrating complex parts, then the HP Jet Fusion multicolor 3D printer is a great option. You’ll be able to produce functional, fully-formed pieces with plenty of detail. This 3D printer is great for small or medium-sized businesses that want to focus primarily on design and functionality.

ComeTrue T10 – Best for Faster Print Speeds

ComeTrue T10

This multi color 3D printer utilizes sandstone as its base material. This plater-like and neutral powder is colored and solidified with the ComeTrue process that allows for the colored liquid to bond to the agent itself.

At that point, you’ll need to put the pieces into a dry vacuum device – which you purchase separately – to get rid of any remaining powder by using an airbrush. The ComeTrue10 is a solid multicolor 3D printer, but the entire process takes some getting used to.

If you want to print your pieces quickly, then the ComeTrue T10 might be the right multicolor 3D printer for you. Of course, remember that sometimes you’ll sacrifice print quality for speed. However, the T10 does provide additional features like multiple use cases, a wide range of applications, and the ability to print complex parts.

Rize XRIZE – Best for Beginners

xRize

If you’re in the market for a professional multi-color 3D printer, then take a serious look at the XRIZE. This unit uses a combination of ink-jetting technology, along with its proprietary Augmented Deposition process to provide pieces that are strong and vibrant.

Additionally, the XRIZE multicolor printer also deposits Release Ink – a special proprietary material – into the support structures and the piece itself. This makes it easy for users to quickly disconnect the support materials. Doing so leaves the piece smooth, which means users don’t have to mess with a lot of post-processing.

Even though this multicolor 3D printer offers professional-grade print quality, it’s still a great printer for beginners. It’s easy to use and setup and doesn’t require a lot of pre and post-process effort. The XRIZE works with environmentally friendly and recyclable materials and makes things simple for those that are unfamiliar with the world of color 3D printing.

What Will You Use It For?

3d printer

This Is arguably the most important item to consider while you’re making your choice. What do you plan on doing with your color 3D printer? Are you going to make large or small items? Do you plan on 3D printing in batches?

What applications do you plan on using? What types of moulds will you use? What about tooling, fixtures, and casting? You’ll want to answer these questions to have a solid idea of which color 3D printer will work best for you.

What Features Are Most Important to You?

After you decide what you’re going to do with your multicolor 3D printer, you’ll want to determine which features are a priority. Different products offer different features with different qualities.

Each 3D printer is going to provide a different level of surface finish, resolution, and accuracy. Which of these features are most important to you? Determine that and you’ll have a solid idea of which 3D printer fits your needs.

Color 3D Printing Surface Finish

Surface finish is important for a few pieces. Keep in mind that you can smooth the surface of your item after its done 3D printing, however, it’s usually best to choose a 3D printer that does this for you.

There are a few reasons you want to select a printer with this feature. First, it reduces the total amount of time it takes to produce an item since nothing needs to be done post-processing. Plus, if the smoothing process isn’t done properly there could wind up being problems.

Color 3D Printing Resolution

Next up on the list of features to consider is the printer’s resolution capabilities. Some 3D printers only print with the minimum resolution possible. However, there are also options on the market that offers excellent resolution, so determine how important this feature is to you.

Remember that the layer height (layer thickness) is what tells your 3D printer what resolution to print. The lower the designated layer height, the higher the resolution you’ll get on your printed item.

Color 3D Printing Accuracy

Last, but definitely not list, is the accuracy of your multicolor 3D printer. You want complex pieces and geometrical parts to print just the way you expect them to, so you want to be sure you’re getting a 3D printer that can handle it.

Additionally, if you plan on 3D printing pieces that will need to be put together later, accuracy is of the utmost importance. Accuracy is definitely something to keep in mind as you decide which 3D multicolor printer makes the most sense for you.

3D Printing Speed

3d printing speed

If you’re unfamiliar with 3D printing speed, it’s measured by inches printed each hour. Of course, the amount of time it takes to print your item depends a lot on the size and complexity of its design.

Oftentimes, speed will also depend on the type of different material you’re printing with. Take all these factors into account before you settle on a multi-color 3D printer. Sometimes the ones that brag about their speed aren’t the ones that can handle heavy workloads.

Also, remember that just because you’re getting higher speeds doesn’t mean you’re getting precision. Some 3D multi-color printers sacrifice on accuracy in favor of higher speeds. So, if you’re planning on printing parts that require extreme accuracy, a high-speed printer may not make sense for you.

3D Printer Build Size

When it comes to the size of your printer, you’ll want to primarily think about how much room you have and what you plan on printing. That’s because you can find multi-color 3D printers that are big enough to fill a closet while others are small enough to sit on a desk.

Most 3D printers specify their build size, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding the right one. Just be sure you don’t ignore the printer’s build size. If you wind up printing items that are bigger than your 3D printer build size, you’ll wind up with a useless printer.

Multi Color 3D Printer Material

printing materials

Next, let’s take a look at what type of material you plan on using with your multi-color 3D printer. Were you aware that today, there are a wide variety of materials available to choose from? And the list keeps growing!

When 3D printers launched, the only option was photosensitive resin. But as 3D printing technology has progressed, multiple materials and options have come into the picture.

Of course, selecting the materials for your 3D printer may depend entirely on what you plan on printing. So, for instance, if you need to print items that need to be durable or flexible, you want to be sure you choose a material that allows for those capabilities.

In today’s 3D printing market, there are a wide variety of materials available. There’s even a good possibility you’ll find varying degrees of print quality with the type of material you select. That’s why it’s critical that you know exactly what you’re printing and what type of material you’ll need.

For example, if you plan to print using PLA filament (vs PETG filament, ABS filament, or a different filament), then your 3D multi-color printer will have to work with that type of material. Chances are you’ll want to use various types of materials for color 3D Printing, so try to find a printer that will accept different color and material options.

FAQs About 3D Printers

Can my 3D printed items be sanded?

Plastic parts made of FDM (FDM 3D printer vs SLA printer) are capable of being sanded with belt sanders or by hand. Think of it as sanding down an automotive part of a piece of wood. The nice thing about sanding is that it doesn’t cost a lot and is and effective method for getting a smooth finish on your print.

Sanding is one of the most commonly used techniques for finishing a 3D-printed part. You can sand and smooth nearly all your pieces with the exception of a few tiny parts.

What is the life expectancy of a PLA print?

A decent 3D printed piece will take roughly 6 months to start showing signs of stress and decay. This will show up in the form of cracks and lines in your piece. Of course, the length of time it takes depends largely on the conditions in which the piece resides.

While you may notice that the piece isn’t as perfect as it once was, in the right conditions, your printed project may last up to a decade and a half.

Are the parts I printed on my 3D printer airtight?

With a high-quality 3D printer, you can now print watertight printed object such as canisters, cups, and containers. This type of technology makes it possible to create 3D prints that will float or even hold water.

So, what are you waiting for? Go print that 3D boat you’ve always wanted and give take it for a swim!

Can I make money using my 3D printer?

Sure, you can! One of the simplest ways to earn a little extra money is by using your multi-color 3D printer to create items and 3D object models and sell them. There are sites available online through which you can sell your goods, or you can always create your own.

List your multi-color 3D printer as a service available to others and have them pay you for any items or pieces that you print.

Final Thoughts: Best 3D Printer for Color

Getting started with color 3D printing is not an easy thing to do, which makes it all the more important that you find the printer that fits your needs. It is a difficult task, but one that needs to be taken seriously.

The fact that 3D printers and the materials they need can be costly makes the decision that much more important. Chances are you don’t have an unlimited budget, so buying a multi-color 3D printer more than one time likely isn’t an option.

That’s why it is crucial that you consider each and every feature you want prior to making your final decision. These printers are costly and are designed to serve specific purposes and functions. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth it.

Be sure to find one that meets your needs and expectations. Focus on the details. What requirements does your multi-color 3D printer have to have? As you do your research, you’ll discover that the choices will be narrowed down to less than a handful of options.

Once you’ve found a few you like, you’ll be able to find the one that fits what you need. If need be, make a list and check off the items as you complete your search. Remember, you don’t need a multi-color 3D printer that has all the best bells and whistles.

You need one that has the features and functionality that suits your purposes. Look for that, and you’ll wind up with exactly what you want.

Our Pick
da Vinci Color
$2,999.95

One of the only true desktop 3D printers for full spectrum color printing, the da Vinci also is one of the easiest to use out of the box.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
10/27/2020 10:10 am UTC

Recommended Reading on Desktop 3D Printer Options and 3D Print Filaments

Best Thingiverse Alternatives: Which is Right for You?

Even though 3D printing is just starting to become more of a mainstream technology, it has been around for a while now. Users can print many different items, pieces, and parts, ranging from medical supplies to personal collectables. There really is no limit to what this technology is capable of doing.

If you’re already in the 3D printing game, then you have a decent idea of what you want to print and how to go about printing it. But what if you need some new, fresh ideas? That’s where platforms like Thingiverse come into play.

What is Thingiverse?

Thingiverse Review

For those not familiar with Thingiverse, it’s a platform that provides various 3D printing designs to its users. These are designed by other 3D printing users and shared on Thingiverse. The site launched in 2008, however at that time it was a companion app to the MakerBot website.

Those who like to use their 3D printer need clean and professional layouts. With Thingiverse, they not only have printables with these requirements met, but they also receive helpful information while learning more about their craft.

The problem nowadays is that Thingiverse is a victim of its own success. Due to its popularity, users on the platform wind up waiting for a while, even if all they want to do is check out a few models or printables. Unfortunately, this leaves the user with a poor experience.

But don’t worry! Thankfully, you’ll find a wide range of alternatives to Thingiverse. These options offer high-quality designs along with a wide collection of choices. We’re here to break these down for you, so you know exactly what to expect from each one.

So, let’s get started. Here’s our list of the best Thingiverse alternatives.

3Dagogo – Best for Beginners

3dagogo Best Thingiverse Alternatives

To be completely honest, I put this one first because I think the name is fun. But don’t let the name fool you, it’s an excellent platform that provides prints in a wide variety of categories. Whether you want to pay for the designs or need free ones, you’ll find great choices with 3Dagogo.

The designs available on the platform range from artistic pieces to aesthetic designs, so you’re sure to find something appealing. Also, with 3Dagogo, if you find and pay for a printable that isn’t compatible with your printer, you can request a refund as long as it’s been less than 14 days.

3Dagogo works together with Astroprint to provide creative 3D printables, which can be downloaded from any device that has internet connectivity. Or, if you prefer, you can download them to the cloud for safekeeping until you’re ready to print.

Chances are good that you’ll like using 3Dagogo. It’s easy to use, even if you’re new to 3D printing. The platform is categorized, so you can quickly find what you’re looking for and there are plenty of designs so you’re sure to discover something that you like.

MyMiniFactory – Best for Those Who Like Community Engagement

MyMiniFactory

Next up on our list of Thingiverse alternatives is MyMiniFactory. Started in 2013, this site has grown from the ground up into the platform it is today. It started as a testing ground for selecting and shared 3D designs.

Eventually, the site became so popular that it began collaborating and working with 3D designers, giving them a way to share their designs with others. Users can find roughly 60,000 prints throughout the site that are either free or ask for a small fee.

However, where MyMiniFactory sets itself apart is through its vetting process. The platform says that all files must pass a software verification check that is also verified by the community before published. This helps in reducing errors in printing and ensuring all files are valid.

In an effort to gain more traction, the site opened an e-shop in 2018. This platform offered members of the MyMiniFactory community the ability to earn money from their designs. The site also has competitions, allowing users to enter their designs to win prizes.

This type of interaction with its users means the community stays engaged with both the platform and with one another. Plus, MyMiniFactory has an easy to use interface that makes navigation simple and engaging.

Pinshape – Best for Those Who Like to Have Fun

Pinshape thingiverse alternatives

It might be a little unorthodox to put it under the category of “Those Who Like to Have Fun,” but Pinshape has the word in its mission statement. It wants to make 3D printing fun and simple for everyone.

Pinshape touts itself as a marketplace for designers who want to be connected with those who want to use their 3D printing designs. With this platform, designers can showcase their work in an engaging environment, interacting directly with those interested in what they have to offer.

Along with a wide range and variety of designs from which users can select, Pinshape also offers a feature that sorts projects by various filters, such as popularity, maximum price, and free designs. There are also categories users can sort by to browse by sections relevant to their search.

Further features include a very impressive hub that focuses on education for users. This area provides information related to hardware and software projects, tutorials provided by experts, and additional data that addresses post-processing techniques and processes.

Users will find extensive detail within the education section, which provides a lot of value. Also, part of the Pinshape platform is the review section. In this section, users can find reviews and information on various 3D printers.

Within the review section, users will get an idea of what to expect from certain 3D printers, how to select the right model for their needs, along with advice for which brands are more reputable and reliable.

3DExport – Best for Educational Tutorials

3DExport educational tutorials

3DExport is arguably one of the longest established options on our list of Best Thingiverse Alternatives. The platform originated in 2004, and since that time has grown to support more than 200,000 different designs and over half a million members.

One nice feature that 3DExport offers is its educational projects. This area offers quality tools that provide in-depth looks into 3D printing subjects and how they relate to areas such as physics, engineering, biology, math, and many other fields.

Users can select from a drop-down menu that allows them to sort by free or paid designs to find one that works for them. Additionally, 3DExport provides a step-by-step guide that will walk users through various 3D printing processes.

With this feature, users on the 3DExport platform can replicate exactly what they need to do when printing their design. Along the way, they can stop, pause, and rewatch anything they aren’t sure about until they’ve mastered the project.

3DExport also offers a great incentive to designers for using their platform. They’ll retain nearly 85% of all their sales, which is competitive when compared with other sites offering the same services.

Plus, users are free to sell their designs on other platforms, should they want to. For other users who are having difficulty finding the design or file type they need, 3DExport provides a method to convert files.

The site also extends a full refund on all purchases made on the site, given that it is requested within 24-hours of the initial purchase. Overall, 3DExport is a simple and easy to use site that’s great for anyone who wants to learn more about 3D printing.

CGTrader – Great for 3D Printing Hobbyists

CGTrader

The CGTrader platform was established in 2011 with the intention of providing an online market for those who wanted to sell their 3D print designs. On the platform, 3D designs were sold and purchased, providing instant value for the designer.

One cool feature available with the CGTrader platform is the ability to take 2D designs and turn them into 3D content. With this feature, users can create designs that pertain to many different areas which can in-turn make them more appealing to buyers.

CGTrader also has a very high number of high-quality designs available on its platform. Users can select from over 950,000 free and paid designs, which means there’s essentially something for anyone who pays a visit to the site.

The site also offers a cool feature it refers to as its “Trader Loyalty Discount.” Users can put this discount toward designs that are marked with an icon in the shape of a piggy bank. The intention behind this type of program is to reward users who purchase multiple designs over time.

CGTrader is an easy to use platform that tries to make itself project-oriented. There are plenty of designs from which users can choose, and the site tries to make navigation as simple and straightforward as possible.

For example, there are various subheadings beneath each drop-down menu that will allow users to find exactly what they want. Although, fair warning, you may end up hours browsing in an area that sounded interesting and completely forgot what you were looking for in the first place.

Users will also find plenty of community interaction, as CGTrader offers different challenges they can participate in. There are plenty of opportunities for both novice and experienced printers, so finding one that fits your needs shouldn’t be an issue.

YouMagine – Best for Creating 3D Designs

YouMagine

If you’re the type of person that likes to create 3D files, then YouMagine is the platform for you. This site focuses on providing its users with a way to take existing designs and ideas and turn them into 3D printing designs.

However, something to bear in mind is that the site takes its content seriously and protects original content. So, if you have something on the YouMagine platform, you can rest assured that the site will investigate anyone who tries to copy your designs.

While there are only around 16,000 designs from which users can choose, YouMagine does provide a spectrum of genres that make it a solid contender as an alternative to Thingiverse. On the platform, users can filter by certain categories such as featured, recent, popular, and trending.

The site also provides manuals for various 3D printers. These manuals include helpful maintenance tips, along with some tutorials that will help newer users get started. The manual section is technical, which is ideal for users who want to bring their 3D printing game to the next level.

YouMagine offers support to educational partners and developers as well. The platform is dedicated to helping students learn more about 3D printing and wants developers to feel welcome in an effort to encourage them to use YouMagine as often as possible.

You’ll also find a blog on the site, which is helpful if you’re looking for the most recent information about 3D printers. This will include things like new designs that have recently been added, 3D printer reviews, and a wide range of articles.

Overall, YouMagine is a solid alternative to Thingiverse, even if it doesn’t have any many designs for users to choose from. It’s easy to navigate and provides help to those who are new to the world of 3D printing.

Cults – Best for Those Who Want a One-Stop Shop

Cults

Last on our list of the Best Thingiverse Alternatives is Cults. This independent 3D printing marketplace is a great place for anyone who likes promotions. More on that in a bit.

First, you should know that there are over 80,000 members on the site who have shared more than 85,000 different designs. Those are pretty impressive numbers for a site started in 2014 and managed by a small team.

Aside from the number of members and designs available, there are also a few neat features that make Cults a little different than other Thingiverse alternatives. For starters, Cults offers discounts on 3D printer accessories like filament, blue tape, and more.

Plus, more often than not, the site is running a discount or promotion on these accessories. You might also stumble across some discounts on 3D printers if you’re lucky. This is perfect for anyone who likes to have everything they need located in one central location.

Additionally, Cults hosts many different competitions throughout the year so users can challenge one another in various types of skillsets. Prizes are offered on a regular basis, so if you join this platform, be sure to keep your eyes peeled.

Lastly, the site is clean and streamlined so users will have no trouble navigating the platform. It’s a pleasant user experience for anyone looking to further their knowledge about 3D printers while finding anything they want.

FAQs

Here are a few of the more often questions asked about alternatives to the Thingiverse platform.

How strong is PLA plastic?

While PLA is a biodegradable material, it is still remarkably durable and strong. PLA is harder than other materials you’ll find in the 3D printing market, such as ABS. But, since it has a lower tensile strength, ABS is usually more the more brittle of the two.

What are some fun things to print with a 3D printer?

There are all sorts of exciting objects you can print with a 3D printer. The sites mentioned here will give you a good idea of just how many designs there are out there. Some fun items include a carabiner, keyholder, and bowls, and much, much more.

What type of files are 3D printing files?

The industry standard file type for printing 3D files is STL, or Standard Triangle Language. Nearly all modern Computer Aided Design (CAD) software allows you to create an STL file and export it. This file type is then translated into machine code through slicing, which makes your 3D model ready for printing.

Wrapping Up

No matter what you need for your 3D printing design needs, it’s fair to say that there is more than likely a platform that will work for you. Whether you’re a novice or a professional, there is no shortage of options available.

I really like Pinshape, if for no other reason than the site promotes fun, which is something I believe 3D printing should be. Sure, there are serious reasons to use 3D printing, with serious printing needs, but sometimes it’s nice to just kick back and have a little fun.

The platform also offers educational resources for those that want to broaden their knowledge base, so it’s more than just a playground for 3D printers.

It’s tough to go wrong with any of our choices, so find one that works for you and happy printing!

 

Onshape vs Fusion 360 [2020]: Which Software is Best?

As technology continues to become more and more prevalent in our lives, we discover that we have more and more options for the things that we use on a regular basis. For example, we can now choose between several smart assistants: Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomePod.

We also have multiple options for our thermostats. Do you want to use Nest, Honeywell, or Ecobee? The same goes for streaming content. Which among Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime do you prefer?

The same is true for CAD software, an industry that previously only offered a few options. Nowadays, as design becomes an increasing need throughout a wide variety of industries, CAD software with ranging features and capabilities is now available.

Now, the problem is no longer finding CAD software, and it’s finding the right one for your needs. An option that is particularly suited for one application may not be compatible with another one, so ensuring you select the right one is important.

As a result, we wanted to provide you with a comparison article discussing two of the more popular options on the market: Onshape and Fusion 360. We’ll explore who they are, their features, and who they would be best suited for.

Bottom Line Up Front Summary: I recommend the more user friendly, widely adopted, and better supported Fusion 360 product here, if I have to pick just one.

But before we get into all that, let’s take a look at the differences between the two.

Main Differences Between Onshape vs Fusion 360

The Main Differences Between Onshape vs Fusion 360 are:

  • Onshape requires 3rd party applications to perform these functions, whereas Fusion 360 offers simulations and visualization features.
  • Onshape is cloud-based and will run on certain browsers, whereas Fusion 360 requires a web app to access the cloud
  • Onshape provides plenty of security for files stored in the cloud, and their files are encrypted while requiring two-step authentication, whereas Fusion 360 only offers moderate security for its files
  • Onshape supports Android, Linux, iOS, Mac, and Windows, whereas Fusion 360 only supports Mac and Windows.
  • Onshape only supports MCAD, whereas Fusion 360 supports MCAD, ECAD, and CAM.

Who are Onshape and Fusion 360?

Let’s take a closer look at the history and development of these two companies.

Onshape

onshape

Onshape is a well-known CAD software development company that launched in 2012. Initially called Belmont Technology, the company later changed its name to Onshape as it began to grow and gain market share.

In 2015, Onshape released its first mobile app for Android OS, later launching its own app store that offered simulation and rendering features. A year later, Onshape began to offer a free version of its software to educators and students.

Since that time, the company has also launched its Feature Script product, which is used to create and customize CAD features through an open-source platform. We’ll talk more about that a little later.

Fusion 360

fusion 360

Fusion 360 is a product of Autodesk, which launched in 2009. The intention of Autodesk at the time was to create a cloud-based CAD software option to its already existing lineup of options. It was at this time that Fusion 360 was born, initially called Inventor Fusion.

In 2011, Autodesk announced that its Fusion software would integrate with some of its already existing products like MidFlow, AutoCad, and Inventor. During that same year, Autodesk launched a new product, Product Life Cycle Management, known as PLM 360.

A year later, Autodesk decided to integrate all its software offerings into one complete, cloud-based solution, called Fusion 360. Since that time, Autodesk has many updates to the software, as it now supports CAD, CAM, and CAE.

What Do They Do?

So now that we have an idea of how these two software solutions started, we can dig a little deeper into what they do.

Onshape

Onshape is known for being one of the first CAD solutions to deliver its content through a Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, model. Its cloud-based modelling software is useful for data management, collaboration, and CAD.

Both Onshape and Fusion 360 offer services that reside in the cloud. However, with Onshape, you don’t have to have a web app to access certain features. Onshape doesn’t require its users to install or download anything to get to the software users need.

The only thing you need to start using Onshape is a stable internet connection and a web browser. This capability is one of the best features available with the Onshape platform, which is compatible with Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, and Windows.

Fusion 360

On the other hand, Fusion 360 offers much more depth when it comes to design that its counterpart. Those who choose Fusion 360 will have access to CAD, CAE, CAM, and 3D programs.

These programs have the ability to amalgamate designs, manufacturing, and engineering all into one package. While Fusion 360 only supports Mac and Windows operating systems, it does offer an amazing simulation and visualization feature that any user is sure to enjoy.

Onshape Features

Onshape classifies its features and capabilities into the following categories: CAD, Analytics and Reporting, Collaboration, Security and Audit, Data Management, and Integration and Partners. With these features, users can create a wide variety of models for both standalone and assembled parts.

With these features, users are able to create high-quality 2D drawings that contain datum, tables, dimensions, parts lists, and dimensions. Users can also import and export certain files based on industry-standard formats for use.

Additionally, Onshape provides sheet metal tools, content libraries, customization features, and options for configuration as part of its CAD features library.Onshape Features

Analytics and Reporting

Onshape’s analytics feature allows you to manage and follow project status as it moves throughout different phases. These phases include Project, Activity Overview, Release, and User.

With these dashboards, users can see detailed reports, provide analysis, view documents, additional projects, and much more. Users can also view a complete design changelog of the project itself within the analytics and reporting feature.

Security and Audit

Onshape is one of a few CAD applications that provide security and audit control capabilities. All project data and files are stored securely in the Onshape cloud. Additionally, the platform uses AES-256 encryption, plus two-factor authentication for extra security.

With these types of security measures in place, your data and designs are protected against unauthorized access. Onshape also provides a feature that allows users to review and reverse changes and modifications to designs as needed.

Collaboration

With Onshape’s collaboration tools, teams can work with one another by communicating in real-time and designating tasks as needed. Users can review their work together while also sharing project information with suppliers, customers, business associates, and other team members.

Additional features in the collaboration tool include live chat and review and editing models.

Data Management

An important aspect of any product development methodology is the way data is managed. Doing this properly aids in diminishing the effort and time required for the product development process.

Onshape makes the data management portion of its solution comprehensive, which means it’s built into its platform and won’t require additional software. With this feature, users can handle advanced workflows, merging and branching, version control, and release management.

Integration and Partners

There are plenty of features to like about Onshape; however, it does have some drawbacks when it comes to creating models. Users can make up for these limitations using the integration and partner features available with the software.

With these features, users can increase functionality through the Onshape CAD, along with other add-ons available through the Onshape app store. One nice feature with this feature is that none of the apps requires downloading, installation, or maintenance on the part of the user.

Fusion 360 Features

Features included with Fusion 360 include Electronics, Visualization and Documentation, 3D Design and Modeling, Data Management, Manufacturing, Simulation, and Collaboration.

Fusion 360 Features

Electronics

Fusion 360’s electronics package is so thorough and robust that it requires its own category. Included with the electronics package includes PCB layout, PCB components, and schematic capture. Fusion 360 caters to everything a user may need f3or electronics, including combining ECAD and MCAD.

Visualization

With Fusion 360’s visualization feature, users can share and present their realistic photo images, along with animations created within the model. Additionally, users can develop detailed 2D drawings for sharing.

3D Design and Modeling

Fusion 360 offers a 3D design and modelling feature that provides integrating parametric modelling, mesh modelling, surface modelling, direct modelling, and free form modelling, no matter how complex or intricate the design.

Users have the ability to develop standalone components, plus components that require assembling within the 3D design and modelling package. This option also allows users to import and export certain file types as needed.

Data Management

The data management features provided by Fusion 360 offer the administrative tools needed to control and manage project data. With this feature, users can control how others interact with their projects while exporting files for collaboration with others.

User data is kept in the cloud for security purposes. Additionally, users can mitigate errors while increasing efficiency within the project by keeping tabs on notifications as they occur throughout the project workflow.

Manufacturing

The manufacturing feature with Fusion 360 provides support for both machining and 3D printing. Using the 3D printing functionality, users can view slices, create toolpaths, or send their model right to the 3D printer.

If you prefer machining, Fusion 360 gives users the ability to program your machine while generating toolpaths. This includes support for milling, turning probing, water jet cutting, plasma cutting, and laser cutting.

With these features, users can confirm their design prior to manufacturing. This helps reduce the need for design changes, which in turn creates a reduction in production time.

fusion 360 manufacturing

Simulation

Fusion 360 also includes a substantial portfolio that houses its simulation features. These features allow you to view how the model would behave in a real-world environment. With the simulation feature, you can test modal frequency, nonlinear stress, static stress, and buckling.

Collaboration

With the Collaboration feature, users can create an environment that allows teams, customers, vendors, and stakeholders to work together from anywhere on the globe. Users can discuss project timelines in real-time, which allows for the centralization of all project activities.

This means that no matter what team you’re on if you have a vested interest in the project, you can be aware of what’s going on throughout the product development lifecycle.

Onshape Users

Who would typically use Onshape? Most likely uses include designers or mechanical engineers from markets that use manufacturing. Because of its Software-as-a-Service model and high-quality collaboration tools, Onshape is on a popular choice for designers and design teams.

Fusion 360 Users

Fusion 360 is primarily used by mechanical engineers and designers across several different industries. These could be robotics manufacturers, design and product development firms, micro-precision shops, or drive train producers.

FAQs

Here are a few of the more common questions asked about Onshape vs. Fusion 360.

How hard is it to learn Fusion 360?

It is not too difficult to learn Fusion 360, so long as you can understand the basic differences between CAD software and modelling software. A novice user can learn the ins and outs of Fusion 360 in 6-9 months, depending on the amount of time and effort committed to learning.

How do I import files into Onshape?

To import files into Onshape, click on the icon that looks like a plus sign. Then, open the Create Tab option and choose Import. Browse to the location of the file you want to import.

You can import files from several locations, including cloud-based sources like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. At this point, just select the file you want and click on Import.

Do you have to have internet connectivity to use Fusion 360?

Installing Fusion 360 on a device requires an internet connection. With Fusion 360, the installation is streamlined through the internet via the Autodesk servers. Essentially, you’ll want to connect to the Autodesk servers every few weeks to ensure you have the most recent version of Fusion 360.

How is Onshape used?

With the Onshape system, several users can access the same design at the same time. This is done via the cloud and can be done with any type of connected devices, such as a tablet, smartphone, or laptop.

Keep in mind that Onshape is a CAD software platform that is delivered via an online connection through the Software-as-a-Service model.

Onshape vs. Fusion 360: Which One Do You Need?

When it comes to these two software options, you’ll notice a few similarities. For starters, they’re both cloud-based, and they both offer multi-part design as part of their 3D modeling options.

However, you may have noticed that there are several distinct differences, which we covered at the outset. For example, Fusion 360 only supports a couple of platforms, while Onshape is available on several more.

Really, the one you need will boil down to what you plan on doing. If you only need 3D modeling with the ability to collaborate, then Onshape might be the software solution you need.

But if you need ECAD capabilities, visualization, simulation, and many other features, then you should go with Fusion 360.

Bottom Line: I recommend the more user friendly, widely adopted, and better supported Fusion 360 product here, if I have to pick just one.

Both are solid options; however, the one that makes the most sense for you will depend on your expectations and needs.

Further Reading on CAD Software & 3D Printing Product Design Tools:

X-Carve Review [2020]: Is This CNC Machine Right For You?

Inventables X-Carve Review

The X-Carve is a 3D carving machine that can handle a variety of materials. It’s a versatile machine that’s built with quality parts and comes at a great price.

Whether you’re a beginner hobbyist who wants to dabble in the world of 3D carving or you’re a seasoned professional with a lot of experience in AutoCAD, you’ll enjoy using this machine with all of its bells and whistles.

Why Go with the X-Carve?

It's easier to use with more bells and whistles than competitors, including a built-in dust collector, an established support community and frequently updated cloud-based software.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Configuring the X-Carve

Before you get started, you’ll have to order your product. However, there are several ways to go about this. If you already have a SHAPEOKO 2, you can upgrade it to an X-Carve. This method is quick and easy. It’s the most affordable solution, and the kit comes with everything you need to upgrade your existing machine.

The basic X-Carve kit comes with all of the essentials you need to build a working machine. You can upgrade individual components as you like based on your needs or your budget. This is the best way to get the custom machine you want without spending all of your money.

You can upgrade drive chains, extension rails, spindles, wiring switches, and anything else you’d like to improve, without improving everything you don’t need.

The fully loaded X-Carve kit comes with all of the upgrades, including the largest machine size, ACME Z-axis lead screw, Nema23 steppers, and everything else that makes the X-Carve top-of-the-line.

X-Carve Review

Set-Up

The X-Carve doesn’t come fully built. That’s large because you can pick and choose what you’d like it to come with. You can choose from the smaller size, 500ml x 500ml, or the larger size, 1000mm x 1000mm. It comes in a series of boxes that you have to assemble upon arrival.

Depending on your configuration, you’ll be dealing with up to several hundred parts during assembly, so it’s important to prepare yourself for two or three days worth of assembly before getting started with your first project.

It seems daunting, but don’t let that scare you. The instructions are thorough and will guide you through the setup of the entire machine step by step.

While it’s not necessarily a hard machine to build, it can be tedious, so patience is key. It comes with almost all of the tools you need to assemble it, but you may need to invest in an M5 tap because it can help make threading the extrusions in the rails a lot smoother.

The parts are all manufactured from high-quality materials, and you may notice during setup that they feel substantial in your hands. They don’t feel flimsy or cheap. They’re well-made, which enables greater functionality of the unit.

Everything fits together exactly as it should, and you’re getting a great value in this machine rather than paying high dollar for something that doesn’t fit together properly or work quite right.

One complaint users have when setting up the machine is the concentric nuts used to fit the sliders to the rails. They can be difficult to figure out, but once you get it, they fit great, and they’re exactly what’s needed to get the sliders on just right.

x-carve project setup

Wiring is also easy once you get the machine assembled. There’s no soldering or crimping required, which is a nice touch for beginners or those who don’t want to put in the extra effort. All you have to do is connect the terminals, and the instructions are clear about where each connection goes.

A lot of users think soldering isn’t going to be a big deal, but making even one mistake is irreversible and can be detrimental to your usage of the final machine. Taking out the soldering step is a huge improvement over a lot of other machines, including the previous generation X-Carve machine.

Software

Inventables created software in-house to run the X-Carve. It’s called Easel, and you’ll first notice that the user interface is simple and easy to use. It’s great software for beginners because of its simplicity.

However, well-versed 3D CAD users may find that it leaves a bit to be desired. It’s as if Inventables didn’t think the people purchasing their machines would understand how to use complex design software to create and execute their projects.

Easel is really designed for people with no 3D CAD experience at all. For getting your machine up and running as fast as possible, an Easel is a great tool. It can do very simple things, and it can help you troubleshoot problems with your machine in most cases.

The problem with the Easel software is that it’s almost entirely two-dimensional. You can only cut flat planes. There’s no way to cut anything with a radius. This really limits the potential of a machine as powerful as the X-Carve, because it’s capable of so much more.

The good news here is that you can run your X-Carve using any other G Code sender. Universal G Code Sender and Chili Pepper are great options. If you have a preferred G Code sender, you can likely use it by sending a G Code you’ve generated from any CAD-CAM program.

This gives you the flexibility you need to use the software you’re already familiar with. You don’t have to use the Easel software it comes with, and you can still enjoy the full functionality of the machine by using tools you know how to use that are more three-dimensional than Easel itself.

easel x carve software

Design and Features

The design of the machine is simple and elegant. Each axis has its own Nema23 stepper motor to drive it for smooth, deliberate movements independent of each other. The X-axis has two stepper motors driving it for greater stability and precision because it’s supported on both sides of the machine.

Wiring

The cool thing about the wiring configuration is that all of the wires connect to a terminal, and then the terminal snaps into the back of the controller unit box. Everything is clearly labeled, and this sort of configuration makes it really easy to troubleshoot and fix problems later.

There’s a significant amount of power coming through the controller unit, so it can handle the machine more efficiently. Operations are smoother, and the controller unit can support more labor-intensive projects without skipping a beat.

Buttons

The emergency stop button is a huge asset to your complex projects. When the machine hiccups, instead of maneuvering your mouse over to the computer screen on Easel, simple press the emergency stop, and you can eliminate further mistakes until you get the project corrected.

Worse yet, if you send a G Code to the machine from software other than Easel, there’s not an easy way to stop the project in the middle if you need to. With the emergency stop button, you can always stop your project and then pick up where you left off when you’re ready.

The controls on the front of the controller box include several buttons. Along with a power button, you have a pause button, a resume button, and a reset button.

The pause button will allow you to pause your project without losing steps. The resume button will continue your job after a pause. The reset button ends the job and clears the planner of future steps.

The controller box is mounted directly on a sideboard, making it more stable and easy to keep right next to your machine.

Drag Chain and Gantry Arm

The drag chain on the X-Carve is large enough to fit custom wiring. It’s also easy to pop each segment of the drag chain out individually to access wiring underneath for troubleshooting or improvements.

The drag chain also rides on its own bar in the back of the machine, so you don’t have to worry about it getting hung up. It stays a safe distance away from the project area and out of the way

The solid gantry system provides a sturdy arm for the router to run along, so you don’t experience skipping or any other stability problems. This creates better projects with fewer mistakes.

x carve dust collection system

Dust Collection

When working with any project, you may experience a significant amount of dust. Inventables eliminates this problem with a dust collection attachment at the bottom of your spindle. It attaches with rare earth magnets and has a clear top so you can see when it’s time to empty it.

This is a huge improvement over the original X-Carve machine and allows you to keep a cleaner workspace. Not only does it keep you healthy, but it allows you greater visibility to your working projects so you can monitor their progress without having to blow the dust out of the way first.

Support

Inventables has a fantastic support forum. You can expect some problems with any large machine, especially when you’re first getting started, and Inventables recognizes that. Even when there’s nothing wrong with your machine, sometimes the learning curve to start CNC projects it steep, and you may need a little help.

In fact, any problem you’re having with your machine, someone else has probably already had. The support forum is a comprehensive resource for anything that could go wrong. From assembly and upgrades to troubleshooting hardware or software issues, you’ll find just about everything online.

Why Go with the X-Carve?

It's easier to use with more bells and whistles than competitors, including a built-in dust collector, an established support community and frequently updated cloud-based software.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

What Can You Do With X-Carve

It may be an obvious question, but every CNC machine is different. The X-Carve can cut almost anything, with the exception of hard metals and soft fabrics. With the standard spindle, you can cut anything from soft foam to aluminum.

Simply change the bit out to handle the material you’re cutting, and the machine is powerful and dynamic enough to cut anything in between.

Simple projects, like phrases engraved on planks of wood, only require booting up Easel, inputting the specifications of the wood piece, and then writing out the letters and formatting them the way you like.

Easel will do everything else from calibrating the machine to carving the entire piece.

For more complex pieces with radii, you may need to use a more advanced CAD or CAM software like Fusion360, but the X-Carve can certainly candle the complexity. Simply design your piece and then use a G Code sender to send the code to the machine.

The machine will do the rest of the work reading the G Code and getting started on your project.

x-carve projects

Value

For the money, the X-Carve is absolutely worth every penny. If you can get past the tedious setup, during which you’ll find that you’ve purchased a quality machine with durable parts, you’ll be able to take advantage of a comprehensive support forum as well as create complex designs.

The machine itself is well-made. Springing for all of the upgrades doesn’t set you back much more than what the basic package costs, and you’ll be able to increase your usability and notice right away that the upgrades are quality, and they enable you to do a lot more with your machine.

The build area for this price point is huge. A lot of machines that are twice as expensive or more don’t give you such a large build area as this machine does.

While it can sometimes be frustrating to get it to do what you’re asking it to do, it gets the job done most of the time and is overall very easy and fun to use.

FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions about the X-Carve so you can make a better buying decision.

How much does an X-Carve cost?


The X-Carve can cost anywhere from $200 to $1500 (see MatterHackers here for latest bundles), depending on the upgrades you choose. To upgrade your SHAPEOKO 2 only costs around $200 for the extra parts. To purchase a fully loaded X-Carve, it costs around $1500.

If you’d rather purchase the basic kit, you’ll spend around $950, but you can also upgrade individual parts if you’d like. For instance, you can get the basic package with an upgraded spindle. It won’t cost the full $1500, but you’ll pay a little extra for the upgraded parts you want.

What can you make with the X-Carve?


Because the X-Carve can handle materials from a soft foam all the way up to aluminum, you can make many different kinds of projects. Gifts for friends and family are the most fun. Home decor items like signs, kitchen accessories, and furniture can be simple or complex.

You can also make toys, instruments, games, and so much more. For the hobbyist, this is likely what you’d do most of the time. However, students and professionals can also get great use out of the X-Carve’s capabilities.

How big is the X-Carve?


The X-Carve comes in two sizes. The large size is 1000mm x 1000mm. The maximum material size that can be cut on the large workspace is 800mm x 800mm. The material can only be 65mm in thickness, and most bits can’t reach a full two-inch thickness, so keep depth in mind when choosing your materials.

The Verdict: Is the X-Carve Worth it?

The X-Carve is a relatively affordable machine, offering great value for users. It comes with high-quality parts and materials so you can feel confident that when assembled properly, the machine will work how it’s supposed to.

Assembly is easy, and Inventables provides thorough instructions, but it does take some time to set up. Once everything is set up, the functionality is excellent, and you have complete control over the machine and its operations with easy buttons on the front and an emergency stop button on top.

While the Easel software leaves something to be desired, you can use any 3D CAD program you like and simply send the G Codes to the machine for production. This gives you versatility and ease of use.

Bottom Line: The X-Carve is a fantastic machine for the price and great for hobbyists, students, and professionals alike.

Why Go with the X-Carve?

It's easier to use with more bells and whistles than competitors, including a built-in dust collector, an established support community and frequently updated cloud-based software.

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Further Research

Creality CR 10 Review [June 2020]

The Creality CR 10 3D printer came out in the summer of 2016, but it catapulted to the top of a lot of lists in 2017. The Cartesian-style 3D printer has go-faster stripes, a large build area of 300mm x 300mm x 400mm, and a separate control box. While the standard version already has a large build area, there are even larger versions with 400mm cubed and 500mm cubed areas.

Creality did something right because now many manufacturers are emulating their style. For more information on design, functionality, and features, read on. We will also briefly discuss the differences between the standard version, the CR-10S, and the CR-10 Mini.

Creality CR 10 Evolution

The Creality CR-10 is available directly from Shenzhen Creality 3D Technology. They offer a transparent lineup of 3D printers and other technology that can be easily found online. Their website is a bit popup-heavy, which can be annoying, but you’ll be able to find all of the information you need about the company and its products.

The Creality CR-10 was developed in 2016 after the success of the CR-7 and the CR-8. The CR-8 featured an integrated control box and an x-axis that seemed a bit unwieldy and insecure. However, the CR-10 has a separate control box, and the x-axis is now securely attached to the frame for excellent stability.

CR 10 Design

If we’re judging by looks alone, which we know we’re not supposed to do, the Creality CR-10 is quite appealing. It’s simple and clean. It has black-coated aluminum rails for a sleek look, and the plain 300mm x 300mm bed is neat and beautiful.

The control box is all neatly contained out to the side and has a mounted filament holder. The entire unit is slim with a large printing area and mustard color go-faster stripes. Don’t be fooled by the slender frame. It takes up a lot of room because of the height and position of the control box. It needs to sit a considerable distance away from the frame in order for the filament to feed correctly into the extruder.

The footprint of the Creality CR-10 is as wide as it is tall. The frame supports all z-axis movements while the V wheels ride up and down the tracks. The print head moves according to the x-axis only, and the rail is driven by just a single screw, giving it the mobility it needs to create complex projects.

CR-10S and CR-10 Mini

Creality 3D Technologies has optimized the CR-10 in many different forms that feature upgrades and different sizes. The standard CR-10 model has a single rail for the bed to ride along the y-axis. For the larger versions, there is a dual rail that gives it extra stability.

The CR-10 Mini is smaller, as made evident by the name. This compact version requires you to sacrifice the build volume, but you’ll pay a lower price. The bed accommodates 300mm x 220mm x 300mm of space, which is about half that of the CR-10. It offers the same quality otherwise.

The Creality CR-10S is a new and improved CR-10. It costs a bit more but it has a dual lead screw-driven z-axis for more stability and a filament runout sensor in case you leave the printer unattended, and it runs out of filament. The CR-10S is also available in three different sizes.

CR-10 Features

The primary selling point of the CR-10 is the huge print area and three size variants. The only difference in the three variants is size, so the features and capabilities of the different options are consistent across the board.

It has a 0.4mm nozzle and a maximum resolution of 100 microns. The industrial-quality board makes it super durable for up to 200 hours of continuous operation. This high number of operation hours allows you to create large projects, most of which will probably never come close to needing 200 hours to print.

The heated bed distributes heat evenly across the glass surface without heat propagation issues like some other 3D printers might experience. It offers SD card and USB connectivity so you can manage your printing from multiple locations and the control box has an LCD screen and a control wheel so you can easily navigate the machine and its settings.

You can switch between 110 volts and 220 volts for your power supply, making the Creality CR-10 even more flexible and operable anywhere in the world.

Creality CR-10 Unboxing and Setup

The Creality CR-10 comes in a plain cardboard box with foam packaging to secure its many parts. Unboxing the unit is relatively uneventful, and assembling it is straightforward. It’s a good thing setup is easy because the instructions, unfortunately, are not great. The good news is, better instructions aren’t hard to find online, and highly recommended for beginners.

It does come with all of the tools and accessories you need to build and set up. The control box cables are organized and pre-shrouded with tidy male and female connectors. The wiring is pretty simple, and the connectors are labeled for easy assembly. Give everything a once over to make sure it’s connected and assembled correctly before you begin.

Creality CR-10 Filament

The filament feeds into the printer right next to the lead screw, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem. The setup is robust and works great. If you are worried about the lubricant on the lead screw making its way into the hot chamber, you can buy aftermarket extruders to keep the filament from touch the lead screw at all.

Creality says the CR-10 is capable of handling TPU flexible filament, which is nice considering that never 3D printer has that option. It also takes a handful of PLAs and other common filaments, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one that you like.

Creality Software

One of the best things about the Creality CR-10 is that you can use any software you want. The tool doesn’t demand a particular program and offers the user much more flexibility than a lot of other affordable 3D printers. It’s open-ended, so you have a better experience.

You’ll likely find the settings you need online to load the print profile onto your machine, and you can save your settings to the microSD card, so it’s easy to swap from your computer to the printer and back. The Creality CR-10 comes with a USB adapter specifically for this purpose.

Printing

Before getting started with a new print job, you need to auto-home the CR-10 every time. Forgetting this vital step causes friction between the print head and the print bed that could cause damage to the machine. It will take some time to break the printer in before you get it working quite right, which is to be expected from printers of this kind.

You may notice some ringing or layer skipping at first, but you and your new printer will soon be in the groove of flawless printing with a little practice. Tightening up your screws and connectors before you print will also help.

Aside from these minor issues, large-scale printing objects bring to light why so many people review the Creality CR-10 so highly. It can create virtually anything you set out to design from lampshades to coat hangers.

While the CR-10 takes a while to heat up to the higher end temperatures and may require an extruder cover to maintain these high temperatures,  it only prints as well as your settings, so if you dial into them correctly, it can achieve excellent prints.

CR-10 Modifications

Sometimes, one of the most fun things you can do with a 3D printer is to print your own parts and modifications for the machine itself. You can find community-designed modifications and accessories all over the internet to help you with your future printing projects.

You can make the extruder cover we mentioned above for enhanced printing at higher temperatures as well as a filament guide to keep the filament away from the lead screw as we touched on earlier. You can also employ the use of strain relief devices for the heated bed cables at the backside of the printer, which is prone to more wear and tear as your printing hours increase.

The options are endless from heated bed cable guides and frame stiffener attachments to belt tensioners and LED lighting. One of the best benefits of the CR-10 is the highly upgradable nature of the machine with an endless array of aftermarket parts and accessories.

Creality CR-10 Pros:

  • Large print volume
  • Easy assembly
  • Good print quality overall
  • Simple design
  • Navigates fine detail easily
  • Removable glass print bed
  • Go-faster stripes
  • Intuitive control box
  • Great value

Creality CR-10 Cons:

  • Inconvenient extruder placement
  • Filament holder prone to tangling
  • Tedious print preparation
  • Long heat up time

Summary: Does the Creality CR-10 Offer Enough Value?

The Creality CR-10 executes high-quality prints with ease and excitement with a print volume large enough for most projects. At the price point, it offers extremely high value for all users, even beginners. While the preparation process can be a bit tedious, it truly lives up to the hype when you use it consistently.

There aren’t many other printers in this price range that offer this exceptional quality. The design is neat but large, and it provides the flexibility of many different filament types and software preferences. These large results take patience, but in the end, the rewards are greater.

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