3D Printer Buyer’s Guide

The Make: 3D Printer Shootout — How We Test

Our annual Digifab shootout is an event that each member of the testing team looks forward to every year. This year, we brought the event to my (Matt Stultz’s) home hackerspace, Ocean State Maker Mill (OSMM), in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. OSMM gave us the space we needed, and our loading dock made it easy for us to test some larger machines that were logistically difficult in the past.

Hosting it at OSMM also meant we could tap two east coast testers, Shawn Grimes and Chris Yohe, to involve more members of their spaces. While in previous years, our team was made up of experts from around the country (and even around the world), this year our team came from three groups: Digital Harbor Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland, HackPittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Ocean State Maker Mill. Our team consists of professional designers, engineers, fabricators, and educators, all with a diverse background in digital fabrication.

Over the years we’ve refined our 3D printer testing process and for the first time, we used the same models and procedures from last year to allow for direct comparisons against the previous round of machines, as well as those that we looked at individually throughout 2016. For fused-filament printers, we print nine test probes and one overnight print on each machine. The probes target individual aspects of a printer’s performance, such as surface quality or ability to print overhangs. The overnight print shows us what to expect out of the machine with an average print scaled to 8 hours of printing, or as close as the machine will allow us to get to that.


In this Buyer’s Guide:

  • compare specs and prices for all 18 printers  and easily find all our category winners on the Compare tab
  • compare scores for 9 separate print quality tests on the Scores tab
  • find a full-review, more detailed specs, and zoom in on a 360-degree view of a sample print on the individual Reviews under the Reviews tab

Most importantly, we maintain blind judging. As each print is created, an ID number is affixed to it and a data entry is made. When our judge scores each print, they do so only knowing the type of probe it is and that ID number, but not which printer the print came from. This ensures that in the end, there is no bias in our judging. While the opinions expressed in our reviews reflect the experiences of our testers, the scores you see are entirely isolated from their viewpoints.

The Make: Testing Team

Adam Bouhmad
Claudia Ng
Jim Rodda
Kelly Egan
Madelene Stanley
Samuel Bernier

Best Overall, 4 Category Winners

In addition to a best Overall winner, look for the winners in each of these categories:

Best Value

Greatest cost-to-features ratio

Best for Schools

Safety features and ease of use

Most Portable

Mobile or space-saving machines

Outstanding Open Source

The beginning and future of 3D printing

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Best Overall, 4 Category Winners

In addition to a best Overall winner, look for the winners in each of these categories:

Best Value

Greatest cost-to-features ratio

Best for Schools

Safety features and ease of use

Most Portable

Mobile or space-saving machines

Outstanding Open Source

The beginning and future of 3D printing

 



ADVERTISEMENT