"2012 was a breakout year for 3D printing. Several changes began happening, not least of which was the flurry of manufacturers bringing printers to market, at both the high-end and low-end," said Dale Dougherty, founder and publisher of MAKE magazine and CEO of Maker Media. "As a result, this year we see even more solid options for buyers. So today, there probably is a 3D printer that's right for every maker, from the casual enthusiast looking for a family printer to the maker pro who's churning out prototypes for his or her Kickstarter project."
The issue hits newsstands around the country, including Barnes and Noble bookstores, on November 12. The 2014 MAKE 3D printer buyers' guide identifies seven standout models based on feature set, ease-of-use, and value. However, in the personal 3D printer market, usability has a whole different connotation than ordinary printers.
"Many of the 3D printers do a good job at printing objects. While there are some differences in design and performance, the biggest factors for usability are the software and documentation, which still favor the enthusiast willing to spend lots of time figuring things out," added Dougherty.
The MAKE 3D printer test team, recognized experts in the 3D printing field, and team leader Anna Kaziunas France, MAKE's digital fabrication editor, put the printers through a battery of rigorous tests, to create side-by-side comparisons of product attributes in order to identify the top performers.
"This was an incredible effort by everyone on our team of testers who represented a great cross-section of 3D printing gurus, from engineers to designers and artists to technology and 3D printing instructors," said France.
The Standout Printers are:
Best Value: Printrbot Simple; price as tested: $399 assembled
"This surprising little printer is perfect for the classroom or anyone on the go."
Best in Class: Prosumer FFF (fused-filament fabrication): MakerBot Replicator 2; priced as tested: $2,199
"Last year's impressive machine improves -- with key upgrades from the open source community."
Best in Class: Just Hit Print: Up Plus 2; priced as tested: $1,649
"Automatic platform leveling takes this trusty printer to the next level."
Surprise Hit: Felix 2.0; price as tested: $1,949
"Smart design, quality construction, and immaculate prints out-of-the-box."
Best in Class: Resin: Form 1; price as tested: $3,299 assembled
"Formlabs has created a modern marvel -- a thoroughly enjoyable user experience and fast, high quality prints."
Best Documentation: Lulzbot (company recognized v. specific model)
"The TAZ manual is not only the most thorough, nicely bound, and well-designed in the bunch, it's also a great primer to 3D printing."
Best Open-Architecture: Ultimaker (company recognized v. specific model)
"With all their design files freely available through Creative Commons licenses, Ultimaker invites you to build, repair, and modify any of their machines."
MAKE published the first-ever guide to personal 3D printers last year to explain the relatively new phenomenon of personal 3D printing, and to help early buyers make smart choices. The inaugural guide featured 16 personal 3D printers on the market, with the lowest priced one around $500.
About MAKER MEDIA
Maker Media is a global platform for makers, connecting them with each other, and providing them with valuable resources, products and services. Through media, events and ecommerce, Maker Media serves a growing maker movement that is global in scope. Whether as hobbyists or professionals, makers are creative, resourceful and curious, developing projects that demonstrate new ways of interacting with the world around them. The launch of MAKE Magazine in 2005, followed by Maker Faire in 2006, jumpstarted a worldwide Maker Movement, which is transforming innovation, culture and education. Maker Media also develops "getting started" kits and books that are sold in its Maker Shed store as well as in retail channels. Maker Media spun out of O'Reilly Media on January 1st, 2013 and received venture funding from O'Reilly AlphaTech Partners, Floodgate Partners and Collaborative Fund. The company is located in Sebastopol, CA.
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