Since FDM’s invention in the late 1980s and commercialization in the 1990s by Stratasys, FDM 3D printers have advanced to become smaller and more affordable. No longer industrial machines the size of fridges, you can now buy a desktop FDM 3D printer for just a couple of hundred dollars.
FDM 3D Printer Buyer Guide
|Name and Brand||Build volume (mm)||Dual extruder?||Price||Best Price At:||Alternative Purchase Option|
|Creality Ender 3 V2||220 x 220 x 250||No||$249||Creality Store here||Amazon here|
|Creality Ender 5 Pro||220 x 220 x 300||No||$399||Creality Store here||Amazon here|
|Monoprice Voxel||150 x 150 x 150||No||$359||Amazon here|
|Anycubic Vyper||245 x 245 x 260||No||$429||Anycubic Store here||Amazon here|
|QIDI Tech i-Mate S||260 x 200 x 200||No||$449||Amazon here|
|Prusa i3 MK3S||250 x 210 x 200||Can be upgraded||$749 / $999||Kit available on Prusa store here||Prusa Store here|
|Qidi Tech X-Max||300 x 250 x 300||Yes||$1,099||Amazon here||3DJake UK & Europe|
|Snapmaker 2.0||3 size options||No||$1,199-$1,799||Snapmaker|
|Ultimaker S3||230 x 190 x 200||Yes||$3,850||Dynamism Store here||Matterhackers here|
|Raise3D Pro2||305 x 305 x 300||Optional||$3,999||Dynamism Store here||Amazon here|
|Ultimaker S5||330 x 240 x 300||Yes||$5,995||Dynamism Store here|
What is FDM 3D printing?
- For the full, more in-depth guide, check out our FDM technology explanation here.
FDM 3D printers use an extruder to deposit melted filament according to instructions determined by the 3D printer model dimensions you have set.
The most common 3D printer filaments are PLA and ABS, though there are a wide range of other materials like flexible filaments, and even professional filaments like PEEK for 3D printing aerospace parts.
The material is extruded layer-by-layer over the preset dimensions — once one complete layer is finished, the 3D printer moves up by the designated layer height (for example 50 microns) and does it all again. This continues until the part is finished!
The easiest way to think of FDM 3D printing works is like icing a cake with a pipe bag. Rather than with icing, melted plastic filament is pushed through the nozzle, and deposited in the set pattern. Once once layer is finished, the extruder lifts up by one layer (or the print bed moves down) and the process is repeated, as if you were icing multiple layers of a cake, gradually creating a three-dimensional object.
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Our Ranking: the FDM Printer Buyer Guide 2021
First thing to note is this is a subjective list — we don’t claim to be the ultimate authority on 3D printing, just a guiding voice. However, we are knowledgeable and have used and built a large number of FDM 3D printers.
Criteria used to evaluate the best FDM 3D printers included:
- Print quality
- Versatility: number of materials available, compatible slicers, and ability to be upgraded
- Ease of use
Part 1: FDM 3D printers under $1,000
11. Creality Ender 3 V2
- Price: $240 — Available on Creality Official Store here / Available on Amazon here / 3DJake UK & Europe here
- Size: 220 x 220 x 250 mm
Currently one of the world’s most popular 3D printers, the Ender 3 V2 costs under $300 yet brings sturdy reliableness and good quality 3D printing.
It’s a 3D printer kit, but it takes less than 45 mins to assemble and even most beginners will find the building process simple enough.
- View the full specs in our Ender 3 review.
For standard home printing in PLA and ABS or flexible filaments like TPU, it works well. And if you do run into trouble, there are owners’ groups on Facebook and other platforms you can ask for assistance in, or talk to Creality’s customer service team.
The Ender 3 V2 works great for printing the odd useful piece and any standard projects, like 3D printing 28mm miniatures or D&D tabletop toys, and other 3D printing projects. Overall, it’s a great FDM 3D printers and one of the best under $500.
10. Creality Ender 5 Pro
- Price: $399 — Available on Creality Store here / Available on Amazon here
- Build volume: 220 x 220 x 300 mm
The larger, bigger brother of the Ender 3, the Creality Ender 5 prints taller prints than the Ender 3 (by 50 mm) and has a redesigned cubic structure for better stability overall.
As we all know: stability = reduced vibrations = better part surface finish and quality; and it shows with how accurately the Ender 5 Pro can print for such an inexpensive FDM printer.
The Ender 5 Pro features a range of quality of life-improving features. Firstly there’s the quieter mainboard and more powerful firmware for a more reliable and less noisy experience. New thermal runaway protection features prevent the printer from overheating and potentially burning you or affecting the battery, and the improved metal extrusion system and better PTFE tubing make more a more dependable 3D printer overall that clogs and jams less often, and prints flexible filaments better.
It’s one of the few FDM printers under $1,000 that makes this list and it absolutely deserves it. Despite the low cost, the Ender 5 can print layers as small as 50 microns, and can even be sped up slightly without a noticeable drop off in quality — if you’re in a rush or just plain impatient!
That being said, sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry and leave the print speed as is. Overall, it’s fantastic and one of the best FDM printers you can buy for less than $500.
9. Monoprice Voxel — Low Cost FDM 3D printer under $500!
- Company based in: USA
- FDM 3D printer price: $359 — Available on Amazon worldwide here
- Build volume: 150 x 150 x 150 mm
Monoprice are different to most FDM 3D printer manufacturers in that they aren’t new startups – they’ve been here since 2002. That extra time to research and create has clearly helped, as Monoprice have given us some of the best cheap 3D printers in recent times. This shows with the Monoprice Voxel, a fantastic, low-cost 3D printer for beginners and experienced makers alike.
This Cartesian FDM 3D printer is accurate for the price, offering a minimum layer thickness of 50 microns. It’s portable too, it’s both compact and lightweight, and won’t take up too much space in a cramped room. In addition, the Monoprice Voxel can print in a wide variety of 3D printer materials, including ABS, PLA, HIPS, PET, PVA and more.
This is aided by the closed build chamber, a rarity for an FDM 3D printer at such a low price. The heated chamber means ABS and other materials like Nylon can be printed with little warping and improved accuracy. The 150 x 150 x 150 mm build volume is not the largest, but for a low price FDM 3D printer that is easy to use, works consistently, and with an enclosed print area, it’s a great option overall.
More recently, Monoprice have been prolific in releasing the Monoprice SLA 3D printer, the Monoprice MP10, Monoprice Voxel, and more.
8. Anycubic Vyper
- Price: $429 — Best price on Anycubic Store / Also Available on Amazon
- Build volume: 245 x 245 x 260 mm
The Anycubic Vyper makes it onto our low cost FDM 3D printer list as were impressed with it when we recently tested it for our review. For such a compact 3D printer you get good build volume, you can build it in just 5-10 minutes (it comes almost fully assembled), and the 4.3-inch touchscreen and intuitive UI makes it super simple to get right to printing.
The Vyper’s 1-click auto leveling makes life easier, and the magnetic spring steel build platform can be removed after printing to more conveniently remove your finished prints, and helps with adhesion.
Perhaps the most interesting addition is Anycubic’s double-fan cooling system for rapidly cooling prints, which they say allows you to print at faster speeds than you’re expected to on an FDM 3D printer. They say you can print at 100mm/s without issue, but we kept to standard speeds on our test and cannot verify this. We recommend you test this on larger models first.
Overall, the Vyper is a consistent and reliable FDM printer for the money.
You can read more about the Vyper in our Anycubic Vyper review
7. Qidi Tech i-Mate S
- Price: $449 — Available on Amazon here
- Build volume: 260 x 200 x 200
A rare pre-assembled FDM 3D printer in a price range where the majority are DIY kits, the Qidi Tech i-Mate S takes over where the X-Pro left off. It’s enclosed, so you can better maintain the temperature when printing tougher filaments like ABS, and the robust frame is made from strong metal — improving stability and preventing vibrations from affecting print quality.
Counter to almost all other printers that ship with a 0.4mm nozzle, the i-Mate ships with a 0.2mm nozzle for super intricate and precise detailing, ideal for 3D printing miniatures and other parts with detailed elements. You can switch it out for a standard 0.4mm nozzle if you want (it comes with both), but it seems like Qidi Tech have positioned the i-Mate S as a precise, accurate 3D printer for hobbyists.
Overall, the Qidi Tech i-Mate S offers great safety and durability with the pre-assembled, enclosed metal frame, and builds on Qidi’s stellar reputation for workhorse reliability.
6. Prusa i3 MK3S+ — Best FDM 3D printer under $1,000!
- Company based: Czechia
- FDM 3D printer cost: $749 as a kit — Available on Prusa store here / $999 fully assembled — Available on Prusa store here
- Build volume: 250 x 210 x 200 mm
The undisputed champion 3D printer kit, Prusa 3D printers blow away the competition in almost every way. They’re so good, that they got Josef Prusa into Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list! Known as the best FDM 3D printer from the RepRap movement, the i3 MK3S+ is capable of printing even the toughest filaments, including Polycarbonate, Nylon, ABS and more.
It’s precise, fast and versatile, with layer heights starting at 0.05mm, travel speeds of up to 200mm/s+, and can be upgraded to print in 5 colors simultaneously if you purchase Prusa’s Multi Material Upgrade Kit. The high quality extruder and E3D V6 nozzle make 3D printing reliable and simple, and the MK3S can recover where you left off in the event of a power outage, and detects when filament has run out.
With a very impressive build volume of 250 x 210 x 200 mm, the Prusa i3 MK3S+ can print almost any object within reason. With layer resolutions of up to 50 microns achievable, it is also one of the highest quality FDM 3D printers on the market. Moreover, you can choose whether to buy own Prusa 3D printer pre-assembled or buy it in kit form.
Overall, the Prusa is a fantastic printer which outperforms most of its more expensive competitors outright. Its stats really don’t do it enough justice for how good this printer really is.
Part 2: FDM 3D printers above $1,000
5. Qidi Tech X-Max
The X-Max is Qidi Tech’s largest 3D printer, and the big brother of the highly rated X-Pro, offering a huge 300 x 250 x 300 mm build volume and heavy metal structure for stable and reliable 3D printing.
The X-Max performs the role of a low cost industrial 3D printer, with the features and accuracy for professional 3D printing, but without having to pay $5,000+ upfront before being sure of a return on investment. The enclosed chamber makes printing difficult filaments like ABS and Nylon far easier, and you can also print filaments like carbon fiber and PC for industrial rapid prototyping.
- We also have a ranking of the best enclosed 3D printers.
The X-Max is easy to use with the user-friendly and large 5-inch touchscreen, and the ability to print via WiFi. It’s known for great reliability, but if you do run into any trouble, Qidi have a full after-sales service team to assist you with any problems you may be having. Overall, it’s a great, reliable and high quality FDM 3D printer.
4. Snapmaker 2.0 – 3 in 1 FDM 3D printer & laser cutter / CNC machine
- Price: $1,199 to $1,799 — Best price on Snapmaker Store here / Also Available on Amazon here
- Build volume: A150 = 160 x 160 x 145 mm / A250 = 230 x 250 x 235 mm / A350 = 320 x 350 x 350 mm
Following on from the runaway success of the Snapmaker Original, the Snapmaker 2.0 had big shoes to fill. However, it’s even managed to encompass the Original, raising an incredible $7.85M on Kickstarter.
Beyond just a 3D printer, the Snapmaker 2.0 can be quickly switched out into a CNC mill or laser cutter, offering all these methods within a smaller, desktop 3D printer and at half the price of the more premium Zmorph Fab.
Now fully available in three different sizes based on how large your 3D printing dreams are, the Snapmaker 2.0 is much improved across the board, with a tougher metal structure and more durable metal parts that not only keep the printer stable, but also improve precision and surface quality of parts by preventing any vibrations or other factors affecting your prints.
Even on the smallest of the three models — the A150 — the build volume is larger than the original Snapmaker 3D printer, so you can print larger parts, as well as laser cut and CNC machine larger wood designs.
As a 3D printer, you can comfortable print standard filaments like PLA and ABS, as well as flexibles, with the WiFi printing a nice touch for a smoother and more efficient printing experience.
As a CNC carver, it’s all set up to carve designs on a variety of types of wood, including walnut, PCB woods, hardwoods, and other materials like acrylic and fiber sheets. If you want to use the laser engraver, you can comfortably cut and create images on fabrics, woods, acrylics and leather.
It’s also faster than the original, a very important factor to many makers who want to create their dream 3D printer projects or CNC projects as soon as possible. Overall, we’re hugely impressed with what the Snapmaker team have been able to develop across all three areas: 3D printing, CNC and laser cutting, and if you’re looking for a jack of all trades FDM 3D printer, the Snapmaker 2.0 could be ideal for you.
We recommend picking up the enclosure to keep yourself safe while making, as well as some spare parts for CNC. Snapmaker’s store has all these in one place, which you can visit here.
3. Ultimaker S3
- Company based: Netherlands
- FDM 3D printer cost: $4,030 — Available on Dynamism here / Available on Matterhackers here / 3DPrima Europe here
- Build volume: 230 x 190 x 200 mm
Dutch FDM 3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker thoroughly deserve their position due to how excellent the Ultimaker S3 is. Featuring a dual extruder as well as being accurate up to an incredible 20 microns, the Ultimaker S3 is the perfect printer for prototyping, small business solutions, makers, and more.
You can remotely monitor your prints with its built-in camera, and print multiple high quality parts in its good 230 x 190 x 200 mm build volume. It’s also a very versatile FDM 3D printer, operable via USB stick, WiFi, or Ethernet, and is designed to look sleek — it looks like it belongs in an Apple store!
Though one of the more expensive options, the Ultimaker S3 is a fantastic printer for those who prioritize reliability, consistency, and great quality.
2. Raise3D Pro2
- Company based: China
- FDM 3D printer price: $3,999 — Available on Amazon here / Available on Dynamism Webstore here
- Europe: available on 3DPrima Europe here
- Build volume: 305 x 305 x 300 mm
Also selected as one of our best 3D printers of 2021, the Pro2 is the definition of a workhorse 3D printer. Raise3D built this printer for industry, which shows as online 3D printing service Voodoo Manufacturing uses Raise3D printers to produce parts for their customers. The fact that it is being used as the go-to printer for a FDM 3D printing service shows just how highly rated this printer is.
- If the Pro2 isn’t big enough for you, Raise3D also sell the Pro2 Plus. You can check it out here.
Offering a large 305 x 305 x 300 mm print volume, the Pro2 has a dual extruder option for those who need to print multiple materials and colors, though this reduces dimensions to 280 x 305 x 300 mm. With its very accurate 0.01mm minimum layer thickness, the Pro2 proves large print sizes and accuracy can both be achieved simultaneously.
The Raise3D Pro2 is also very simple to use, boasting an ergonomic 7-inch touchscreen to control the printer with. At $3,999, the Pro2 is a solid industrial FDM 3D printer that can handle print after print after print with ease — the printer has been tested over 100,000 times, it can handle it!
1. Ultimaker S5 – great professional FDM 3D printer
- Company based: Holland
- FDM 3D printer price: $5,995 — Available on Dynamism Store here / Available on Matterhackers here / 3DPrima Europe here
- Build volume: 330 x 240 x 300 mm
We didn’t envy Ultimaker’s position in the run up to the release of their newest printer, the Ultimaker S5. Why? Because one of the problems with delivering such a fantastic product that takes the market by storm, is that expectations rise. Having released what is viewed by many as the pinnacle of FDM 3D printing, where could they go from there? Expectations were through the roof, and anything below incredible would be at risk of being deemed a failure.
But of course it was great. With the general consensus being that the prints are impeccable, the larger size useful and its effective dual extruder making it versatile, the Ultimaker S5 was met by fanfare. Undoubtedly the S5 would be on our list if it were not for the higher price, so we included it here as a special mention out of respect for this stellar machine.
Types of FDM 3D printers
Though they all utilize the same technology, there are 4 main varieties of FDM 3D printer: Delta, Cartesian, Polar & Scara 3D printer (robotic arm). Polar and Scara are fairly obscure still however, so we’ll explain the main two.
- We have written a more in-depth guide to all four (Cartesian, Delta, Polar & Scara) types of 3D printer which you can view here.
Cartesian FDM 3D printers — The most common type of FDM 3D printer, Cartesian 3D printers include the legendary Ultimaker 3, and printers made by American 3D printer giant Makerbot. They use X, Y and Z-axes to extrude filament on the right co-ordinates.
Delta FDM 3D printers — Less obscure than they once were, Delta FDM 3D printers are more commonly seen in RepRap 3D printers such as the Rostock. They use three arms to control the extruder, allowing for extra flexibility and faster 3D printing.
Whereas the print bed usually moves depending on the co-ordinates in a Cartesian 3D printer, it remains stationary in a Delta printer. This is because Delta printers are more flexible and can reach the edges of the print bed, negating any need for it to move.
Some articles we think you would be interested in:
- The best dual extruder 3D printers ranked.
- The best large 3D printers — for those who want to build larger models.
- The best DIY 3D printer kits — most are FDM printers.
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