The best 3D printers and scanners for makers and creators in 2020

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The maker culture is alive and well, thanks to an army of creatives who have a passion for making things by hand. And with innumerable YouTube how-to videos on any project imaginable, along with new, lower-cost hardware, 3D printing is easier than ever. 

In 2018, I got pretty deep in the weeds with 3D printers, creating everything from smartphone stands to tabletop game accessories to a sweet mini Millennium Falcon. Since then, I’ve doubled down, getting into 3D scanning and even laser cutting, which lets you sculpt real-world designs from wood and leather. 

There are plenty of 3D printing options to choose from, so finding the best 3D printer that meets your needs and is within your price range can be tricky. That’s why we’re here to help. We’ve considered the pros and cons of each device, along with printing speed, print quality, noise level, design, resolution, and more. These creative tools, which range from affordable (under $300) to high end (over $3,000), are awesome gifts for a creative person in your life — or even better — they’re great for you to craft your own personalized designs.

Once you find the best 3D printer and you end up getting completely addicted to 3D printing, don’t blame me. (But if you do, here’s a handy 3D printing FAQ that should answer some of your questions). 

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Despite the low price, this is a pretty damn full-featured 3D printer, and a favorite affordable first step for testing the 3D printing waters. Print quality and speed are excellent. Just be sure to purchase extra filament since you’ll use up the sample filament very quickly. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re set on a resin printer, this is the best 3D printer for you. Resin printers are the next step up in rapid protoyping design technology when you want your printing to look as high quality as anything assembled in a factory. Just be warned: The resin is harder to work with, and resin requires good ventilation. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

This is my go-to best 3D printer for balancing price, easy use and print quality. Setup is easy, and I had it assembled and was ready to start printing in less than 30 minutes after opening the box and gathering materials.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Recreate pretty much anything by putting it on this 3D scanner, where a rotating base and built-in camera create a 360-degree copy, which is then editable in any 3D program and printable on your 3D printer. Simply scan the object, import the scan into your slicing software for cleanup, and print. The included software alerts you of next steps in the printing process with either sound or texts. Scan quality and resolution are great, and setup is easy. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Printing technology doesn’t get much better than this. Glowforge laser cutters can sculpt projects from wood, leather, lucite and other materials, making it an interesting printing alternative to filament-based 3D printers. Even better, what would take a FDM 3D printer hours to do, takes just minutes in the Glowforge. 

Originally published in 2019 and updated periodically.

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