1. Best 3D Printer For Business Use: Makerbot Replicator Z18
The Makerbot Replicator Z18 3D printer comes with a hefty price tag, but it’s the most flexible and reliable printer available for business use. This massive printer has a build volume of 12.0 x 12.0 x 18.0 inches, or 2,592 cubic inches. This makes it ideal for printing larger projects, models, or sales items. If you need a business expense write-off in the neighborhood of $6,500, this is the 3D printer for you.
The Replicator Z18 lets you print multiple projects at once, which makes it a real time-saver. In addition, this 3D printer won an award for Best Tech at CES 2014. The Z18 can be controlled from your smartphone, and is currently on its fifth generation, which ensures that all the bugs have been worked out. Makerbot is the Cadillac of 3D printers, and the Z18 makes it easy to see why. A one kilo spool of filament will set you back less than $50.
2. Best 3D Printer for Artists: Printrbot Simple 2014 3D Printer Kit
The Printrbot Simple 2014 3D Printer Kit is ideal for artists for two main reasons. Because you can buy this printer as an unassembled kit, it’s a bit cheaper than an assembled 3D printer. That makes it budget-friendly for “starving artists.” Additionally, the DIY nature of assembling this printer allows artists to easily put their own artistic flair on the machine itself. You could easily paint over the laser-cut birch wood used on the frame, or even use a wood-burning tool to make this printer look unique.
The Printrbot Simple 2014 3D Printer can be purchased as an assemble-it-yourself a kit for about $350, or about $450 assembled. This printer has a folky, homespun look to it that will appeal to certain types of artists.
3. Best 3D Printer for Foodies: Foodini
3D printing technology can be used to make a variety of foods, including pizza, pasta, cookies, and more. There are several 3D food printer options out there, including the RepRap Mendel, ChefJet and Chef JetPro, and the Foodini.
Unlike the ChefJet line of 3D printers, which only print with sugar or chocolate, the Foodini lets you use fresh food to make a wide assortment of food items, both savory and sweet. Foodini’s Kickstarter page argues that Foodini will appeal to dieters or people who want to start eating a more balanced variety of foods:
“Too many people have abandoned food made with fresh ingredients in favor of pre-made processed food with lots of preservatives and additives. Now, 3D printing technology allows us to recover healthy habits by making homemade food preparation healthy, easier, and fun!
Foodini takes on the difficult parts of making food that are hard and time consuming to make fully by hand. One of our goals is to streamline some of cooking’s more repetitive activities – forming dough into fish-shaped crackers, or forming ravioli – to encourage more people to make fresh healthy foods. “
4. Best 3D Printer for People on a Tight Budget: XYZprinting Da Vinci 1.0 3D Printer
The XYZprinting Da Vinci 1.0 3D Printer costs slightly more than the Printrbot model we discussed earlier in this article, but it’s still a great value at $500, especially since it has nearly double the build volume of a Printrbot Simple.
The Da Vinci 1.0 is also appealing because it won the CES 2014 Editors’ Choice Award for Most Affordable 3D Printer. This 3D printer is ideal for classroom use or use in households with small children, as the case is designed to prevent exposure to hot areas during printing. On top of that, there is no external filament movement while the device is in use, so there’s less chance of someone getting their hair or a tie caught in the printer. Additionally, the Da Vinci 1.0 works with both Windows and Mac computers.
5. Best Overall 3D Printer: Makerbot Replicator Mini
Makerbot is the leading name in 3D printers, and the Replicator Mini is well worth owning. Its mid-range price of around $1,375 makes it ideal for a ton of different uses, from the classroom to a small business to general home use.
You can use this 3D printer to create replacement parts for household appliances, favors for your holiday parties, rainy day crafts for your kids, or choose from one of 28,000 projects available on Makerbot’s Thingiverse database. The Thingiverse archives have plans for printing everything from violins to wearables to toys.
The Replicator Mini is also extremely user-friendly, making it ideal for techies, non-techies, kids, and even seniors. The Makerbot Printshop app for tablets provides an intuitive way to interface with the printer. For people who want to start experimenting with all that 3D printing has to offer, the Mini is a solid option that will suit the needs of most people.
Considering getting someone an electronics gift this holiday season? Check out our Gifts section for tons of great gift recommendations, or visit our ultimate guides to the best gifts for women and best gifts for men.