We are a bit spoiled that some of the best 3D printers available are completely open source. There’s the LulzBot TAZ 6 and Mini, or Ulitmaker 3. All three are great 3D printers that are fully open sourced systems. While it benefits the whole, I am sure companies don’t make nearly as much as they would if their systems were closed. However, they know by advancing the industry there will be more lucrative opportunities down the road.
Take, for example, Original Prusa i3 MK3. This is probably the most commonly imitated of 3D printers. The original is hands-down one of the best 3D printers year in and year out. While there are many duplicates, not many can truly match the overall performance of the original.
Most knock-offs don’t come close to the original printers they are based off due to companies cutting cost to offer a cheaper product. This is just the case with Wanhao and their Duplicator i3 3D printer. But one thing that set Wanhao apart from the competition? They produce a quality, but still inexpensive, Prusa i3 Replicator.
Wanhao is a Chinese based 3D printer supplier. They have been around since mid-2012. Their goal is to provide better and more affordable 3D printers to the world. They surely have seen their very first model, the Duplicator One. Now that they have mastered their supply chain and have a better understanding of what’s important in a 3D printer.
The Duplicator i3 might be the best budget 3D printer you can find. The best part is you can easily upgrade the machine yourself and make it even better. Let’s dive in now to the details and see why it is so great.
Cores Features of the Duplicator i3
- Design and Structure: The all-metal frame is where the Duplicator i3 sets itself apart from most other Prusa i3 inspired 3D printers. Often you will see plastic or acrylic frames. The all-metal Duplicator i3 is much stronger and more stable than the plastic frames. This leads to the more steady printing process and ultimately, better looking final prints. As well, the parts show that the company truly cares about their product. Often times, we see these low dollar printers with missing parts, holes that don’t align, or unthreaded screws. All the parts supplied from Wanhao are professional looking. Everything lines up perfectly and you get everything you need to assemble the machine. Any cost-cutting by the company is not apparent in their final product.
- Value: for roughly $300 this 3D printer meets or exceeds our expectations when it comes to overall design and appearance. The decently sized build area of 8″ x 8″ x 7″ is larger than most of the printers in this price range. As well, you will receive a heated bed as the standard which is a great addition for those looking to do some of the more advanced 3D printing.
- Display: An easy to use knob and navigation screen make controlling the printing process a breeze. It is a well-designed and easy to follow the menu on the screen. The transitions between each page are smooth and let you get prints started in the blink of an eye.
- MK10 Extruder: A great beginner extruder to get you started with 3D printing. Can easily handle a large selection of filaments, which allows you to get much more creative with your designs and the objects you want to print. Be sure to see our list of all the best hot ends you can find if you ever want to upgrade (LINK).
Key Specs of the Duplicator i3:
|Build Area||8” x 8” x 7”|
|Print Speed||100 mm/s|
|Filament Types||ABS, PLA, Wood, Nylon PVA, PP, Luminescent|
|Layer Resolution||100 – 300 microns|
|Nozzle Diameter||0.4 mm|
Pros of the Duplicator i3
Pre-assembled: I really enjoy the partially assembled pieces of the Duplicator i3 ships as. It gives you the chance to still get hands-on and partially put together your machine, and it doesn’t take a whole weekend to build. You can be up and running in about an hour after unboxing everything. There are a few screws to insert and a little leveling is about all the assembly it requires. The box includes written instructions but you can also find many videos online if you need any help or just want more information.
Community: I am a big fan of 3D printers that have a large online following. It makes troubleshooting much easier. Also, it’s a breeze to find a replacement or upgradable parts and models you can create on your own. The large online communities enable you to harness the creative capability of thousands of other users. It is a great way to learn and take your 3D printer and your skill to the next level. The Duplicator i3 has multiple outlets that are loaded with information. You can check out the 3Dprinterwiki page (LINK) or the “Wanhao/Monoprice/Cocoon i3 Facebook Group” (LINK).
Cons of the Duplicator i3
Manual leveling: something we get spoiled with on a lot of 3D printers these days in an auto-leveling bed. Manually leveling the bed after each print is one of those tedious tasks where it really isn’t doing much harm as it is fairly simple, most of the time. But it is very nice to not have to worry about doing the job yourself each time. As well, removing some prints will often knock the bed off, which typically means it needs to be leveled every time.
I have mentioned a couple of times the large online presence of Duplicator i3 users. Of course, when you combine all these creatives in one place you get some great tips and tricks to upgrade your machine. I will highlight a few of the most popular or crucial to performance for this 3D printer. One of the most common themes with the Duplicator i3 is that it is a decent 3D printer right out of the box. However, with a few upgrades, you can take it from decent to great.
Glass bed and thumb wheels – A quality glass bed gives a truly flat and level surface for printing. This prevents warped surfaces and you can get prints to stick much better.
Thumb Wheels – These will save a lot of headaches when leveling the bed in between prints. They make it much easier to handle the screws and adjust them to the right height.
Cooling fan – Cooling is a necessary aspect of printing the more difficult and advanced parts. You can find tons of models and ideas on Thingiverse or the online communities.
IKEA Enclosure – This simple but very effective upgrade that will vastly improve prints. The enclose provides a controlled environment for printing, which makes it easy to maintain temperatures. Even temperatures avoid warping and improve the overall print quality. It is a must-have for those who are looking to print with ABS filaments.
Final Take: Top of the Line Budget 3D Printer
One of the best budget 3D printers available, if not the best. It is hard to find a 3D printer for $300 with an all metal frame, good build area, heated bed, and so much more. Not to mention a few quick and easy upgrades and the Duplicator i3 can out-perform some $1,000 3D printers.
This is a great 3D printer if you are looking to gift one. Or for those looking to get into the industry without emptying out your bank account. The quality of the machine and the performance you can get from the Duplicator i3 really makes it a great addition to anyone’s collection of 3D printers. I highly recommend the Duplicator i3 to all 3D printers. It is the perfect balance between tool and toy. Now, go get yourself one and be ready to never want to stop using this machine.