best open source 3d printer guide

Open source previously meant users had permission to use and modify software code, and improve it however they wished. Today, the open source philosophy and community has grown immensely to include physical products, and open source software powers billions of devices worldwide.

Open source 3D printers helped launch the affordable 3D printer range we have now, starting from the RepRap movement more than a decade ago. Therefore, we ranked our favorite open source 3D printers, with links to the 3D printer source files, and where to buy them.

What is open source?

Open source encourages collaboration and the sharing of improvements with the community, leading to faster innovation and better technology for everyone. Without any IP holding people back from experimenting and improving open source 3D printer designs, fantastic new developments can occur.

How can open source improve 3D printers?

An example of this is the development of the Olsson Block. Anders Olsson, in trying to get his Ultimaker 3D printer to print boron carbide, accidentally created a block that made switching a 3D printer’s nozzle far quicker. Now, Olsson Blocks are used by thousands of 3D printers to reduce nozzle switching time.

Best Open Source 3D Printers for all price ranges

NameBuild Volume (mm)PriceBest price available at:Alternative purchase option:
Monoprice Mini Delta110 x 110 x 120$169Amazon here
Anet A8220 x 220 x 240$160Amazon here
Creality CR-10 / V3300 x 300 x 400$499Creality Store hereAmazon here
Prusa i3 MK3S+250 x 210 x 200$749 / $999Kit available on Prusa store hereFully assembled on Prusa store here
BCN3D Sigma D25420 x 300 x 200$3,995Dynamism Store hereMatterhackers here
Ultimaker 3 / S3215 x 215 x 210$4,080Dynamism Store hereMatterhackers here

At the start of the consumer printing revolution, courtesy of RepRap 3D printers, open source 3D printers were the norm. Passionate makers across the world modified existing open source 3D printer designs or created their own for others to improve. They were effective yet cheap, costing just a few hundred dollars back when an equivalent 3D printer would cost thousands.

Open Source vs Closed Source 3D Printers

Makerbot, Printrbot, Lulzbot (by Aleph Objects), Ultimaker, BCN3D and several other 3D printer companies were formed championing the open source 3D printer movement. However, some have since struggled.

Printrbot closed down in July 2018 citing low sales, while Lulzbot laid off the majority of their staff in October 2019, facing closure before they were rescued and bought out. Makerbot, perhaps the most successful 3D printer company to emerge from the DIY 3D printer revolution, famously turned their back on the open source philosophy, and now their 3D printers are closed source and IP-protected. The company was acquired for $400M by Stratasys.

makerbot now a closed source company
Makerbot printers are now closed source and IP-protected.

However, some open source 3D printer companies continue to show strong growth and prove that open source is not only well-loved, but also a profitable strategy. BCN3D continue to produce high-quality printers including the Sigma D25 and Epsilon, while Ultimaker have grown to become one of the most respected 3D printer companies in the world.

We have a full list of open source 3D printers at the end of this article. First however, we have our recommendations of the best open source 3D printers with links for purchasing. We also include links to the open source 3D printer designs on GitHub.

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Best Desktop Open Source 3D Printers

Monoprice Mini Delta — Introductory open source printer

The Monoprice Mini Delta is known for being one of the best budget 3D printers around, with great precision (up to 50 microns), speed (up to 150 mm/s) — and it’s open source!

An open source delta 3D printer, this differing type of 3D printer allows for faster print speed, as with less weight on the print head, faster speeds and quicker acceleration can occur without overshooting. Higher print speeds can therefore be maintained without any loss of accuracy.

Unlike many delta printers, the Monoprice Mini Delta comes fully assembled, so you can get printing in less than an hour from opening the box. The heated bed means you can print ABS and other trickier 3D printer filaments, and you can print via WiFi as well as by USB or SD card. The sturdy metal frame improves part print quality by anchoring the printer down so external factors like vibrations don’t impact quality, and overall it’s a fantastic open source 3D printer for a low price.

Anet A8 – Low cost open source 3D printer

A low-cost open source 3D printer, the Anet A8 is a 3D printer kit that you will have to build yourself. It will take a few hours (up to six, actually), but once it’s up and running, not only will you be able to print magnificent 3D models, but you’ll also feel accomplished and appreciate it more having built it yourself.

Since it requires some tech know-how, this may not be the ideal 3D printer for beginners. But for those with enough experience to handle any issues and who can modify their open source 3D printer based on what they want to print, it’s fantastic for such a low price.

Once it’s up and running, it’s a fairly large 3D printer, able to print 220 x 220 x 240 mm parts without issue. It can print standard PLA and ABS, as well as wood-filled filaments and others including Nylon.

Overall, it’s reasonably reliable, accurate, and does everything you could possibly expect for such an affordable 3D printer. And with the open source firmware, you can unleash your creativity and change anything you want to improve.

anet a8 open source 3d printer

Creality CR-10 / V3 — Great Open Source 3D Printer Kit

The Creality CR-10 has been one of the best-selling and highest-rated 3D printers under $500 of the last few years, with many iterations and updates continuing to build on the original CR-10’s success.

The original CR-10 is now fully open source, with Creality 3D having released all the files on their GitHub for anyone to view. Though this CR-10 is being phased out in favor of the newer CR-10 V2 models, many 3D printer parts will be identical across models, and the CR-10 V2 files are also available.

The open printing area means there is no protection from unpleasant fumes, and this open source 3D printer can also be fairly noisy, so you may want to keep it in a separate room from the one where you work or relax in. The quality and reliability of the Creality CR-10 however shines through and is the main reason for its popularity, and overall it’s a great open source printer.

creality cr-10s

Prusa i3 — best open source 3D printer under $1,000

Whereas some desktop 3D printer brands have turned their backs on open source, Prusa is still committed to the open source 3D printer philosophy, and you can access everything you need on their GitHub.

Known as one of the best 3D printer kits ever made, Prusa 3D printers have won boatloads of awards. Solid printing speed, accuracy, great reliability and compatibility with a variety of filaments (especially with the Multi-Material 2.0 upgrade) make it competitive with printers costing far more.

Designed to save you hassle and time, the Prusa i3 printers will save your current progress in the event of a power outage so you can resume where you left off, it will pause in the event of filament running out so the print doesn’t fail, and can even detect when the filament is clogging. Overall, it’s a fantastic open source 3D printer and we highly recommend it.

prusa i3 mk3s open source 3d printer

Professional Open Source 3D Printers

BCN3D Sigma D25

Barcelona, Spain-based BCN3D remain committed to open source 3D printing since their inception in 2012. All their printers have open source 3D printer files for firmware, process, software, and more published on the BCN3D GitHub.

BCN3D printers are known for their reliability, and the Sigma D25, their newest printer, is no different. Featuring their signature IDEX dual extruder system which can print in two special modes, Mirror and Duplication, each extruder can function separately, as either a multi color 3D printer, or for printing with a soluble filament for supports that can be easily removed.

Whereas the Sigmax R19 has a completely closed, enclosed build chamber, the Sigma D25 is semi-open. It’s easy to use, reliable, durable with its high-quality stainless steel frame, and prints very consistently and accurately at up to 50-micron layer heights on E3D hot ends. D25 models now have access to WiFi 3D printing, and can automatically install new firmware updates to keep your printer up to date.

Any keen makers or small businesses looking to print fun projects or accurate plastic prototypes, that is also open source, may find the Sigma D25 the perfect 3D printer for you.

bcn3d sigma d25 open source

Ultimaker 3 / S3

12 months after the Ultimaker 3’s release, the Dutch company released the hardware source files for both the Ultimaker 3 and Ultimaker 3 Extended here. This was no surprise; Ultimaker had previously released the files to other printers including the Ultimaker 2 Go, leading to innovation breakthroughs such as the Olsson Block. Ultimaker also develops Cura, the popular and open source 3D slicer.

Known as one of the best 3D printers of its generation, the Ultimaker 3 is incredibly accurate and widely adopted for rapid prototyping precise plastic parts. It comes fully assembled and almost ready to print; you can get it all started within just a few minutes.

It works with Ultimaker’s open source 3D printer software, Cura, and features a built-in camera for monitoring your print’s progress remotely. It’s not the fastest, but prints with flawless accuracy for an FDM 3D printer, and the dual extruder also adds to its offering.

Ultimaker has not yet (as of August 2021) released any source files for the Ultimaker S5 or S3, but some of the parts are near identical to the Ultimaker 3.

ultimaker 3 open source

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