3D Printing & Imaging
Can a 0 3D Printer Beat a ,000 Machine?


The internet is such an incredible and beautiful place: Two strangers with amazing toys came together to give us a showdown that is sure to amuse and inform. In one corner, we have Scott Hanselman, armed with a $600 Printrbot simple metal he got two weeks ago. In the other corner, we have Brandon Potter, armed with a $22,000 Stratasys Uprint SE +.  The two chose a file, printed it, and shared the results with the world.

The first step of this process was to establish exactly what kind of printers they were comparing.


Stratasys Uprint SE+ 

This information was taken directly from Brandon Potter’s blog:

  • uPrint SE Pro Printer and Dissolving Bath – about $22,000
  • 1 Spool of Model Material (Black) – $205 (produces 42 cubic inches of printing)
  • 1 Spool of Support Material – $200 (42 cubic inches worth)
  • Box of Build Plates – $125 for 24 (you need one for each print, so it costs about $5.20/each)
  • Soluble Concentrate – $149 for 12 bottles (dissolves support material, aka fancy Drano)
  • Warranty Support – $2,000/year (because it does break from time to time)

Add a little bit for shipping, and for a mere $25K you’re ready to print your very own coffee cup.


 Printrbot Simple Metal

This information was taken from Scott Hanselman’s blog:

  • Printrbot Simple Metal from Amazon that I got for $599
  • Raspberry Pi and Raspberry Camera to watch my prints and do time-lapse videos with Octoprint. Figure $60
  • A spool of RioRand 1.75mm PLA Filament in Black for $28
  • Digital Calipers for measuring stuff, $20

Next, lets take a look at the file they chose to compare: this coffee cup designed by “Barspin” on Thingiverse.

This file isn’t incredibly complex. There aren’t interlocking or sliding parts, but it does have some curves and a fair amount of overhang (more on this aspect later).

Off To The Races! 

The first to print was Potter with the Uprint SE+.

He did a fantastic job of outlining his process and sharing many images in his blog. Here are just a few:

printing away
printing away
dissolving the support
dissolving the support
all gone!
all gone!

And here is his final result.



At this point, he shipped his final print over to Hanselman for comparison.

Hanselman, who had only had his Printrbot Metal+ for two weeks was ready to go. You can find his complete breakdown of his printing process on his blog as well.

The results, as you can see from Hanselman’s pictures below, are very similar. Keep in mind that the Printrbot was printing at .2mm layer height in PLA and the Uprint was printing at .1mm in ABS.

Printrbot on left. Uprint on right.
Printrbot on left. Uprint on right.
Printrbot on left. Uprint on right.
Printrbot on left. Uprint on right.

For this specific test, the results were very comparable in quality. In cost however, they differed greatly. Not only in the cost of the initial printer, but also in material. Hanselman had this breakdown:

In real one-time costs my cup cost me 21.02 meters of filament, costing me perhaps $2 maybe a little more if you count the few pieces of tape. For Brandon and his pro printer, in direct costs, he used $23.62 in model material, $2.06 in support material, and $5.20 build plate, for a total of $30.88 for this cup.

While this was a fun and useful exercise, it would also be interesting to follow this up with a print that utilizes more of the strengths of one printer over the other. For example, these brain gears by “Hoeken” print just fine with soluble support material but would be nearly impossible to print on the Printrbot in a single piece.






Senior Editor for Make: I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity of the masses! My favorite thing in the world is sharing the hard work of a maker.

I'd always love to hear about what you're making, so send me an email any time at caleb@make.co

View more articles by Caleb Kraft