Getting your ideas printed straight out of your imagination is an engaging and fun hobby that you don’t have to empty your savings account to enjoy.
A few years ago, it’d have been a dream to put your hands on a good 3D printer with a price that can buy you a smartphone or a mid-range laptop. But now, the new era has granted us with an endless array of possibilities.
Whether you’re a hobbyist, whipping up face masks and smartphone cases, or a professional architect looking for a machine to create mockups and rapid prototypes, we’ve got your back.
We rounded up the best 3D printers under $500 to share with you today, followed by a comprehensive guide on how to choose the best one for you.
|Model||Type||Layer resolution||Build volume|
|Creality Ender 3 Pro||FDM||100-400 microns||220 x 220 x 250 mm|
|Anycubic Photon UV LCD||DLP||25-100 microns||115 x 65 x 155 mm|
|AdimLab Updated Gantry Pro||FDM||50-300 microns||310 x 310 x 410 mm|
|Da Vinci Jr Pro||FDM||20-400 microns||150 x 150 x 150 mm|
|JGAurora A5S||FDM||100-400 microns||305 x 305 x 320 mm|
The 5 Best 3D Printers Under $500
With a multitude of great 3D printers available at this price point, we narrowed down our choices to these top five models, taking into account different skill levels and users’ needs. So, take a look at what we have to say about each of them.
1. Creality Ender 3 Pro – Our Top Choice
Creality has been a leader in the field since 3D technology broke into the mainstream crowd and their affordable yet reliable products are always worthy of attention.
The FDM model at hand features a build volume of 220 x 220 x 250 millimeters, which enables you to produce huge figures and prototypes in the X, Y, and Z directions. Using a layer resolution that ranges from 100 to 400 micron, the printing quality matches that of top-tier printers.
You’ll love the smooth surface and fine details on your objects, and the fact that it’s capable of processing a wide variety of filament materials is a plus.
Moreover, it works with a maximum speed of 180 millimeters/second, which is the highest on our list. However, bear in mind that the highest speed may get your prints done in no time but at the expense of quality.
Featuring a build plate that holds the prints on the surface magnetically, you’ll no more have to scrape the prints off to remove them. The model also includes a power recovery mode, and a tight filament pathway to facilitate your work with flexible filaments.
Unfortunately, this unit doesn’t come assembled, which is something a beginner doesn’t want to deal with. It takes much work to bolt all the pieces together, however, once it’s set up, it’s super easy to use.
The software is approachable, and the screen shows an intuitive interface with simple steps. Although the manual bed leveling is tiresome, the big adjustment knobs make up for it as they allow you to adjust the bed height without effort.
- High maximum speed
- Large build volume
- Easy print removal
- User-friendly interface
- Excellent print quality
- Works better with PLA than ABS filaments
- Requires assembling
This model is oriented toward hobbyists who have experience under their built, as it comes unassembled and with manual bed leveling. Yet, it’s the best choice you can aim for at this price range with on-point print quality, broad build area, and lightning print speed.
Read also: Best 3D Printer Under $300
2. Anycubic Photon UV LCD – Best Resin 3D Printer
It’s no secret that resin printers cost a fortune when compared to FDM, yet Anycubic Photon is quite the deal when it comes to affordability and superb DLP technology.
Instead of heat, this model uses liquid resin and UV rays to create 3D structures, making it a safer option than heat-based printers. The merit of this technology is that the machine works with flawless precision. This results in highly detailed prints with clean surfaces and nearly invisible layers, even with a resolution that doesn’t exceed 25-100 microns.
Small detailed pieces like jewelry and dental prosthetics will be a joy to create. Although its 115 x 65 x 155-millimeter build area is considerably small, it’s incredible for the price of a resin printer. Aside from that, it’s enough space to experiment with small objects if you’re still new to this type.
As far as the speed goes, the unit can accomplish 20-30 millimeters of the structure per second, which is far slower than that of Ender 3 Pro. Yet, the resulting designs incorporate fine layers that can’t be noticed by the naked eye.
Straight out of the box, it’s almost preassembled and comes with pre-sliced models on the flash drive to start experimenting immediately.
The software used isn’t what you’re used to, so there will be a learning curve. It lacks an explanation on what each setting does, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to use. The screen’s resolution and intuitive interface are a useful aid in this learning process.
One thing we don’t like is that the post-processing procedure is a bottleneck with all the washing and curing it demands. Besides, the objects may stick to the plate, so you’ll have to remove them with a scraper or a knife.
- Unmatched precision and print quality
- Easy setup
- Custom slicer
- Quality doesn’t fall down with speed
- Amazing screen resolution
- Prints stick to the plate after they’re finished
- Small build volume
- Tricky post-processing
Anycubic Photon isn’t the perfect start for someone new to the whole game, but definitely a good one for users who want to switch from FDM to resin printers without burning a hole in their pockets.
3. AdimLab Updated Gantry Pro – Largest Build Area
With a whopping build area of 310 x 310 x 410 millimeters, this model outshines its competitors at this price range and even higher ranges. An area this massive opens the door for mind-bending possibilities for prosumers and businessmen to accomplish their largest projects.
But the impressive features don’t stop here. Gantry Pro solves Anycubic Photon’s problem of jobs sticking to the plate by using a glass bed that holds the prints still during the process and ejects them easily after they’re finished.
Not only that, but it’s also stable to the frequently changing temperature of FDM printers and gives the objects a smooth bottom finish, thanks to its perfectly flat surface.
Speaking of the print quality, the model guarantees consistent top-class quality whether you use PLA, ABS, HIPS, PC, or any filament that comes in your mind. Its compatibility with a wide range of materials gives you the freedom to create anything starting from small miniatures to giant manufacturer’s prototypes.
On top of that, it operates at a speed of 150 millimeter/second, which means you’ll get your prints done quickly. And wherever you use your machine, you won’t have to worry about its noise. That’s because it’s outfitted with a motor silencer so that you can keep your progress without bothering your neighbors or roommates.
Overall, the unit offers an easy-breezy user experience for all experience levels, and the setup won’t take more than an hour so that you can get to your first job as fast as possible.
- Sturdy construction
- Fast operation time
- Ideal for all experience levels
- Compatible with plenty of materials
- One-year warranty
- Glass bed can break
- Temperature issues
Big 3D printing dreams require a printer with equally big build volume, and that’s what you get if you decide to go for Gantry Pro. That’s besides its reliability, fantastic build quality, and competitive price.
4. Da Vinci Jr Pro – Best for Beginners
To help kids, students, and novices start on the right foot, this plug-and-play model offers minimal hand-holding and easy setup, taking all the necessary measures to control the safety aspects of 3D printing.
For starters, it uses a non-heated print bed in a fully enclosed chamber that offers stability at high temperature and protects the clumsy hands of beginners from burns and cuts. It also limits the machine’s noises, making it suitable to be used in homes and classrooms.
The unit takes a few minutes to be assembled, and it’s super easy to use thanks to its calibration-free design. The printing bed is adjusted automatically, so you won’t need to interfere with anything. It’s also removable so that you can detach your jobs easily.
The glass window at the front allows you to follow your work in progress without exposing you to any danger. Although the company’s software is a tad slow, it’s a breeze to understand, and you’ll be able to get to your first print quickly.
Featuring a build area of 150 x 150 x 150 millimeters and a layer resolution of 20-400 microns, the unit allows you to create structures with high quality and smooth surfaces. However, you may notice obvious layering in complicated designs. Furthermore, the 160 millimeters/second operating speed will keep your kids interested until the end.
- Closed frame design
- Easy setup
- Speedy operation
- Auto-leveling bed
- Flexible filament choices
- Mediocre print quality
- Slow software
Da Vinci Jr Pro is set up to be fun and non-intimidating to beginners who want to get into the world of 3D printing but limited with a skinny budget. It offers sufficient build volume, fast operation time, and full safety features at a breakthrough price.
5. JGAurora A5S – Best Bang for the Buck
JGAurora indeed hits a sweet spot with its affordable price and features. Featuring a vast build volume of 305 x 305 x 320 millimeters and 100 to 400-micron layer resolution, there will be no limitations to your projects. And with a speed of 150 millimeter/second, you’ll start seeing your ideas coming to life in a flash.
The unit is compatible with nearly all materials, and its print quality will never cease to amaze you. Despite lacking automatic bed calibration, the whole manual operation is straightforward. Also, the fact that it comes pre-assembled makes it worth the price even more.
However, what really makes this model stand out is the extra bells and whistles that come with it. For instance, it incorporates a coated glass heated bed that improves the adhesion of prints during processing. And to make things more fun, the objects will pop off with your fingers immediately after the platform cools.
The colored touchscreen is idiotproof and easy to navigate, making it easier to control the machine. The print resume is another interesting feature that resumes your work after power outages.
We especially like the filament run-out alarm that beeps to remind you that you need to change the filaments. And to top all of that, the unit runs quietly to the point that you won’t feel its presence in the room.
- Heated glass bed with diamond coating
- Large build volume
- Full-colour touchscreen
- Filament run-out sensor
- Print resume feature
- Superb print quality
- Steep learning curve
- Slow bed leveling
JGAurora is one of the best 3D printers you can get at this price point, thanks to its top-quality features that are unheard of in the realm of budget 3D printers.
How to Pick an Affordable 3D Printer – Buyer’s Guide
Reading the reviews, you might have gotten lost in all the technical talk. But don’t worry, we understand that “3D printers” is a heavy topic so we’re going to shed some light upon the specs you should be looking for with easy-to-follow tips.
3D Printers use a variety of technologies, but mostly you’ll encounter either FDM-based or resin-based printers.
The former, which stands for Fused Deposition Modeling, is the most popular among hobbyists and tinkerers as it’s beginner-level and comes at affordable prices. It simply works by taking a thin plastic filament, melting and reshaping it into the desired structure.
It doesn’t cater to the taste of professionals since the plastic is meant to have a minimum thickness, which means that the resulting product will have visible layers and rougher edges.
On the other hand, resin-based printers like DLP (Digital Light Processing) and SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) produce smoother parts with fine details. Instead of heat, they use resin, which is a light-sensitive liquid that hardens when exposed to light.
The resin doesn’t have a minimum thickness, so it allows for better results in general. However, bear in mind that this type tends to be more expensive than FDM, so you might not find plenty of appealing options on the market at this price point.
This indicates how much room you have to print on the printer. Usually, it should be larger than the largest object you’re going to create to avoid building your figure on several stages then bringing them together with glue or screws.
If you usually print small spare parts, jewelry, or tiny salt and pepper shakers, a small build volume will do. However, if you’re an architect who prints large prototypes, you’ll need at least 300 x 300 x 300-millimeter build volume.
Measured in microns, the layer’s resolution indicates how delicate and smooth your final product will be. 3D Printers which sports higher layer thicknesses will print models with smoother and more detailed surfaces.
Each printer features a nozzle that can be adjusted on an array of thicknesses. The least you can aim for is a resolution of 100 microns. However, at this price range, you can find resolutions up to 400 microns.
You don’t want to spend the whole day printing one piece, especially if you’re working on a critical or last-minute project. For this reason, opt for the highest printing speed you can find, all the more if you’re building a highly detailed figurine with multiple colors as these usually take the longest time.
Always check the type of filaments with which the FDM printer is compatible. Most machines accommodate popular materials like PLA, ABS, and nylon. However, some are compatible with only one type, which can be limiting if you like to experiment with different plastics.
Ease of Use
Finally, make sure that the model you choose is suitable for your skill level. The model’s software can make all the difference. If you’re a beginner, make sure that the printer’s software is easy to use and gives you control over the print quality.
The machine’s screen can be a major helping factor to newcomers as it will guide them intuitively through the setup and other adjustments like bed leveling and layer resolution.
Cutting to the chase, Creality Ender 3 Pro is our recommendation for the best 3D printer under $500, owing to its reliable performance with any material, bang for the buck, large build volume, and speedy operation.
AnyCubic Photon is your best pick if you’re looking for a high-functioning resin printer with a price tag that won’t put a burden on your bank account.
Finally, Da Vinci Jr Pro is the right and safest choice for newcomers who want to get acquainted with 3D printing without injuring themselves or setting the house on fire.