You may not know it, but the best 3D printers can be brilliant tools for photographers, as well as for other creatives and DIYers. They enable you to make attachments for your cameras, such as lens hoods and caps, and because you're the one designing them, their dimensions will perfectly fit your devices.
Even better, the best 3D printers can quickly print out your designs, so you don't have to go to a shop, or wait around for an online order. With a bit of time and imagination, the best 3D printers can allow you to create totally unique tools and accessories that can really benefit your photography.
There have also been examples of people using 3D printers to create their own retro large format cameras. And it is even possible to print your own 3D textured plastic photographs, known as lithophanes with a 3D printer.
In fact, 3D printing technology has come a huge way in the past few years, and there are some brilliant 3D printers out there that are both affordable, and small enough to fit in studios and on desks.
The quality and cost of 3D printouts has also improved over the years, which makes 2020 the perfect time to shop around for the best 3D printer for your needs.
In this guide we'll show you the best 3D printers money can buy in 2020 for a variety of uses and budgets. From affordable and compact 3D printers that are ideal for hobbyists and anyone who wants to get started in 3D printing, to larger professional 3D printers that can create professional 3D printouts at large sizes and volumes.
If you're looking for a budget 3D printer, then there really is no better option than the XYZprinting da Vinci Mini+.
Compared to some of the other 3D printers in this guide, the XYZprinting da Vinci Mini+ has a price that won't make a big dent to your bank balance, but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on print quality.
In fact, the 3D printouts are very impressive considering the low price and small size of this 3D printer.
When it comes to size, the XYZprinting da Vinci Mini+ (as the name suggests) is small enough to fit on a desk or in a studio, so you're not having to make room for a huge 3D printer.
Ultimaker is a company that proves you can make stylish and desirable 3D printers. While many of the 3D printers in this guide have rather barebones and functional designs, the Ultimaker S3 offers a touch of class – without skimping on the features or print quality.
It can handle a wide variety of 3D printing tasks, and the quality of the printouts is superb. There is also a large number of accessories that help you turn the Ultimaker S2+ into an essential tool for your needs, and it features swappable cartridge hotends, a brilliantly easy-to-use touchscreen UI and the Cura slicer software for designing your 3D prints.
All this comes at a high price, however, which may put some people off. But, if you have the budget, this is easily one of the best 3D printers you can buy right now.
MSLA (Mask Stereolithography) printers are becoming ever more popular, and but they can still be quite pricey. If you want to try the new technology, which offers faster print speeds and better accuracy, then the most addorable option is the AnyCubic Photon.
While it doesn't have many of the more advanced features such as resin bath tilting, temperature or resin level sensors that you'll find on more expensive models, it's a great entry point into this type of 3D printing. The software that's included is good, and will get you up and printing in no time. Just be aware of the additional maintenance needed with MSLA 3D printing - you'll need to carefully clean the parts between each print.
Many of the 3D printers on this page are very expensive, but if you don't want to spend a fortune, then there are some brilliant budget choices as well, like the Crazy3DPrint CZ-100, which is ideal for beginners. Even though it has a low price tag, it offers one of the largest print platforms of any 3D printer at 300 x 300 x 300mm. It's also pretty easy to set up, and in no time at all you'll be making some great 3D printouts with impressive quality, considering the low price tag.
The open design also means you can watch your 3D models getting created - a fascinating process.
Prusa Research is a well known name in 3D printing, and its i3 MK3S kit is its flagship model. Powerful new features such as filaments sensors, Bondtech extruder, P.I.N.D.A. 2 probe and market-leading E3D V6 nozzle ensure that the print quality is top notch, which is why the Prusa i3 MK3s is one of our favorites.
At around $900/£700, this certainly is an investment, but it's not the most expensive 3D printer out there, and represents a good balance, offering advanced features without coming with a sky-high price tag which could put many people off. Not that this price is for the kit, which requires a bit of assembly. You can also order it ready-built and tested for $1200/£899.
The LulzBot Mini 2 as the best 3D printer for people who want something compact and easy to carry. The new version 2 improves on print speed and reducing noise, and it's open-source, which means there's a community that are working on updates and accessories for the printer, and continually improving it.
It's smaller and more portable than many of its 3D printer competitors, but that doesn't mean you're stuck with only producing smaller printouts.
In fact, the LulzBot Mini 2 offers a 20% larger build volume than the previous model, without increasing the actual size of the printer. That makes it a great choice for people with limited amount of space.
If you want the best 3D printer that offers you a bit more flexibility compared to the budget options on this page, but you still don't want to pay the sort of prices professionals and enterprise users will pay, then a mid-range 3D printer is probably best suited for your needs, and in our option, the CEL-UK RoboxDual fits the bill perfectly.
The RoboxDual has been designed to adapt to any user level, from beginners to more advanced users, and offers features such as swappable tool heads, auto filament loading and bed levelling, which will get you up and running in no time at all.
If you want a bit more flexibility with your 3D printing, then an SLA 3D printer like the FormLabs Form 3 is the way to go. Whereas many 3D printers use FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling), SLA (Stereolithography Apparatus) 3D printers can be used with more durable and specialised materials - including heat resistant ones - which can be useful for photographers who are looking to make their own camera and lighting attachments. SLA printers can also print at higher resolutions, so they are more accurate and can make more intricate designs - but they are also a lot slower.
The Form 3 is the smallest of FromLab's 3D printers, and uses a high precision laser that ensures unparalleled print quality, far surpassing FDM printers, and the print quality on offer here is excellent. It is expensive, however.
The DeltiQ 2 is one of the best looking 3D printers we have in this roundup, and it's also one of the most feature-rich as well. Unlike other 3D printers, this has a print head that's suspended from three fully articulated arms. That means the printout is completely still when printed, leading to much improved print quality. It also means the 3D printer takes up a lot less horizontal space. It also comes with a huge amount of features, including a Duet 2 wireless mobile control and interface.
The RoboxPro is from the same team that makes the RoboxDual featured earlier in this guide. This one is aimed more at professionals that require large scale printouts, and it comes with some brilliant features, such as auto filament loading, auto bed levelling, Wi-Fi, network printing and swappable tool heads.
This is a great 3D printer for creating products that you'll eventually sell, so if you're not looking for a commercial 3D printer, then this probably won't be the one for you - there are plenty of great budget alternatives. However, if you have big ambitions for your 3D printouts, this is the one to get. As long as your budget stretches to it.
2D printing guides:
• The best large format printer
• The best photo printing online: top services from around the web
• The best photo printer 2019: desktop photo printers compared
• The best portable printers