3D Printing & Imaging CNC & Machining Digital Fabrication
Here Are This Year’s Winners from Make:’s Digital Fabrication Shootout

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This is the fourth year of Make:’s 3D Printing Shootout, and as we’ve watched printing mature, we’ve also observed the emergence of other desktop digital fabrication tools. And so for this year, along with our printer reviews, we’ve expanded our reviews into CNC mills, laser cutters, and vinyl cutters. It’s a desktop fabrication revolution!

Make: editors and our hand-selected crew of 3D experts tested a variety of fabrication tools across several price points, pitting them against one another to evaluate their quality based on user experience out of the box, print quality (you can test your own machine with our test prints here), value, and overall product quality.

But out of the 39 machines we tested there had to be standouts; some doubled down by improving solid year-over-year performance, while others nailed the introduction of features that the community has been clamoring for. And some just flat-out blew us away.

Without further ado, here are the best performing desktop digital fabrication machines from this year’s Make: Shootout.

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The Best FDM 3D Printers

For the designer, teacher, tinkerer, and engineer, these are the standout machines in each class.

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Best Overall

The machines with the best total score.

Best Overall Taz 5, Lulzbot
Best Overall: Taz 5, Lulzbot

3dPrint_Badges_2016_Taz51st: Taz 5 — The fifth version of the Taz shows LulzBot’s commitment to excellent engineering. Total score: 35
2nd: Zortrax M200 — If you care about 3D prints more than the process of 3D printing, you need to look at the Zortrax M200. Total score: 34
3rd: Rostock Max — Makes huge and beautiful prints. You won’t break the bank with the Rostock Max. Total Score: 33

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Best Value

Greatest cost-to-features ratio.

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Best Value: Rostock Max, SeeMeCNC

3dPrint_Badges_2016_Rostock1st: Rostock Max — Its large print volume combined with the cost savings of a kit makes this machine a sure bet.
2nd: Printrbot Simple — Expandability at a low price. This is one of the top machines for getting started in 3D printing.
3rd: Printrbot Play — Great prints for just $399. Need we say more?

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Best for Schools

Safety features and ease of use.

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Best for Schools: Printrbot Play

3dPrint_Badges_2016_Play1st: Printrbot Play — Its low cost and safety oriented elements make the Play a good machine for students and teachers.
2nd: UP Box — Fully enclosed, good safety features, and ease of use should make this a classroom hit.
3rd: BeeInSchool — This sturdy machine designed for schools offers educational pricing.

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Most Portable

Mobile or space-saving machines.

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Most Portable: Printrbot Simple

3dPrint_Badges_2016_Simple1st: Printrbot Simple — Still one of the best starter printers. And now with the included handle, a great mobile machine.
2nd: Ultimaker Go — The shipping foam doubles as a carrying case to take the Go on the go.
3rd: Printrbot Play — Small and light, the Play is easy to transport.

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Outstanding Open Source

The beginning and future of 3D printing.

Outstanding Open Source Taz 5, Lulzbot
Outstanding Open Source: Taz 5, Lulzbot

3dPrint_Badges_2016_Taz5_21st: Taz 5 — LulzBot keeps striving to make the Taz line better while still holding true to its open source roots.
2nd: Rostock Max — Huge print area, great prints, and open source — it’s a 3D printer trifecta.
3rd: Ultimaker 2 Go/Extended — Ultimaker brings design and beauty to a machine that you could still largely build on your own.

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Best Large Format

Sizeable machines for those who want the biggest prints.

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Best Large Format: Ultimaker 2 Extended

3dPrint_Badges_2016_Ult1st: Ultimaker 2 Extended — The Ultimaker Extended gives you a great print area while not taking up your entire desk.
2nd: Rostock Max — If you want to go tall, this is the machine for you.
3rd: Taz 5 — Big beautiful prints — if you have the desk space.

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Notable CNC Mills

Your best bets for cutting and routing projects, big, medium, or small.

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Best Large Format

Big machines ready to cut your next piece of furniture.

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Best Large Format: Crawlbot, Printrbot

3dPrint_Badges_2016_Crawl1st: Crawlbot — No other machine on the market can touch it for cutting size vs. stored footprint.
2nd: X-Carve (1,000mm) — This is a nice-sized machine if you don’t have the room to cut full sheets.
3rd: Shapoko 3 — Decent size out of the box that can be expanded easily thanks to its heavy-duty rails.

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Best Mid-Size

Great hobby mills that can make tons of projects and get you into the CNC world.

Best Mid-Size: Shopbot Desktop
Best Mid-Size: Shopbot Desktop

3dPrint_Badges_2016_Shopbot1st: Shopbot Desktop — A well built and easy to use workhorse. But you pay for it.
2nd: Shapoko 3 — Simple and rigid, exactly what you want in a CNC mill.
3rd: Printrbot CNC — The Printrbot team threw out the CNC-making playbook to bring us this sturdy beast.

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Best Desktop Mill

PCBs, molds, and small parts are a click away with these desktop workhorses.

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Best Desktop Mill: Nomad 883, Carbide 3D

3dPrint_Badges_2016_Nomad1st: Nomad 883 — It may look pretty with its bamboo case, but the fantastic clamping system makes this a machine for serious use.
2nd: Carvey — Quiet and easy to use, perfect for a desktop mill.
3rd: Othermill — When you want a highly portable mill, the Othermill is your best option.

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SLA Printer Selections

With a growing number of choices, two machines stand tall in this field.

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SLA Printer Selections: Form 2, Formlabs

3dPrint_Badges_2016_Form21st: Form 2 — A large print area, auto-fill resin, open resin compatibility, and Wi-Fi connectivity — just a few things that put the Form 2 on top of the resin printer market.
2nd: LittleRP — If you are interested in getting started with resin printers, the LittleRP is a low-cost, easy-to-build kit. Toss in your own DLP home theater projector and you are off and printing.

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6 thoughts on “Here Are This Year’s Winners from Make:’s Digital Fabrication Shootout

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  3. My conclusions and observations are:
    1. Compared to the closed source printers reviewed by Make, the open source LulzBot Taz 5 and Rostock Max v2 have better print quality for the price, less expensive filament, more filament options, a bigger build volume and the freedom to make hardware and software modifications.

    2. LulzBot Taz 5’s only weakness in the test results is on the minimum gap (negative space) test, a weakness it shares with LulzBot Mini and Taz 4. Using a nozzle with an opening smaller than .5mm might improve the results on this test.

    3. Magicfirm ZYYX and Makeblock mElephant were the quietest printers tested. The maximum noise of Magicfirm ZYYX (51 dB) is about half as loud as normal conversation and mElephant (46 dB) is even quieter. mElephant doesn’t have a print cooling fan. A print cooling fan improves print quality but increases noise. The maximum noise of LulzBot Mini (86 dB, hearing damage level) is the loudest of all printers tested and is more than 10x louder than Magicfirm ZYYX and mElephant.

    4. PowerSpec Ultra 3D ($800) did significantly better on every test than last year’s PowerSpec 3D Pro ($1000). The remaining weak spots are the overhangs test, the minimum gap test and its closed source design. The strengths are dual extruders, a fully enclosed print area with acrylic windows, support for third party filament and a midrange price of $800.

    5. The new version of Deezmaker Bukito ($800 kit, $850 assembled) did significantly better on most tests than last year’s version. The strengths of Bukito are portability, low maximum noise (56 dB), support for third party filament and a midrange price. A weakness is dimensional accuracy (.3 to .4mm), which is in the bottom 15% of printers on this test.

    6. At the low end, da Vinci 1.0 Jr. and M3D Micro are only $350 but they both stumbled on print quality compared to Printrbot Play ($400). The maximum noise of Printrbot Play (82dB, near hearing damage level) is 4x louder than da Vinci 1.0 Jr. (62dB, conversation level).

    7. Fully enclosed print areas are provided by the closed source Zortrax M200, PowerSpec Ultra 3D, Dremel Idea Builder, Afinia H800, Magicfirm ZYYX and da Vinci 1.0 Jr. Afinia H800 has a HEPA filter and Magicfirm ZYYX has a carbon filter.

  4. Here are Google spreadsheets of the test results and printer features:

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1gZ8gm-KSzJH7uXDafecAdNh-h6nnkJkQ89OSO3yDW4Q

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12wScObdFJNPTUD8yecPBKijWEapZ7HkN5nHgFsqur2w

    To sort a spreadsheet by particular columns:

    1. With the mouse, select all columns in rows 4 to the last row with a printer. Be sure to include the bottom row of labels (row 4) in the selected data.

    2. Click Data>Filter views>Create new temporary filter view.

    3. Click the boxed triangle in the column you want to sort and select Sort A->Z for increasing numbers or Sort Z->A for decreasing numbers.

    4. To sort by multiple columns, repeat step 3 doing the least important column first and the most important column last.

    When printing a spreadsheet, in the print dialog select “Actual size” and deselect “Fit to page” to make the font bigger and the margins smaller.

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