Hi - my son is turning 13 next month and we wanted to get him a special gift for this milestone. For years he has been interested in 3D printers and has been asking for one. However, he would be a true beginner (and so would I). Any recommendations for good machines for a beginner, or even a good guide for how to get started as a complete novice? I have no idea where to start in terms of software/hardware/materials, etc. He is mostly interested in it for printing specialty board game pieces. I know thingiverse exists, but don’t understand how to actually use that to 3D print anything. I am a tiny bit techy but this is a brand new space for me. Basically any help would be appreciated.
I have been a bit instrumental in people at work getting their kids into 3D printing.
Budget is the biggest but also if the child has any hands on skills with small tools helps.
Never go small, as everyone wants to build bigger but stay in budget.
An Ender 3 is a good start, never mind on all the upgrades people say you need, that may come later.
If you need more info contact me, I am retired and have time.
Here is a good introduction to 3D printing and how it’s used followed by a getting started guide with more technical detail:
From here, you should have enough of a background that will help you to figure out how to get the answers that you are looking for.
As for what is the best 3D printer to start with, I’m going to suggest that budget shouldn’t be your primary consideration. Cheap printers are generally hard to assemble and set up as well as being difficult to get working correctly unless you know what you’re doing. I should also point out that cheap printers often end up getting expensive add ons and accessories so they can be something of a money pit and frustrating for a 13 year old and his parents - it’s not unusual to spend double the cost of the printer buying upgrades to get it working efficiently.
I would recommend that you look at something that is basically assembled at the factory allowing for a minimal unboxing to first print time and has most of the basic functions automated so that you don’t have to implement them yourself and you have a line of support when something doesn’t work.
The printer that I’m seeing that seems to best fit these requirements and is not outrageously priced (although it’s 2x the cost of the cheapest options) is the Bambu Labs P1P:
Now, I don’t have any affiliation with Bambu Labs, nor have I ever seen one in action but it has all the basic built in features that I think make ideal for a first time user. I believe it’s only been on the market for a short while but it has been very positively reviewed.
I am with @mykepredko I think the race to the bottom has generated poor quality and poor assembly products that require a huge amount of frustration or expertise.
The Bambu seems a good alternative, Prusa XL if it was readily available too.
I might make a second suggestion, a Prusa MK3, MK4, or mini. It is you need to build it. It could be a great thing to do together. The instructions are beyond the best instructions I have ever seen, and it comes with fun gummy bears to reward every step. After that is complete they are capable and fantastic printers with exceptional support. Also if you built it tinkering if you need it is easy and not daunting at all. Here is the link for the guides look it over and see what I mean.
If his main focus is miniatures then a resin printer would be better then a filament printer BUT these have there own problems like toxic resins, cleaning those resins which are not cheap. A filament printer can print miniatures reasonably well when set to the finest resolution but usually with a lower resolution then a resin one (on the newer models anyway). A good filament printer would be an Ender 3V2 or a newer version of it. Fully upgradable if wanted or needed and are relatively cheap.
Thank you everyone for your recommendations! I have found some of these models on my local Facebook marketplace, meaning it is already assembled and with some upgrades.
A second question: does each model generally only work with that brand’s proprietary slicing software, or are there more “universal” type software that work with most printers?
Depends. Some printers are what is referred to a walled garden, they control all the parts and often use their ‘own’ software. Usually it is lifted from software that was developed by someone else, and modified. Bambu Labs is the most current example. Many of the components and slicer software is theirs moving out side the ‘wall’ is a bit of a battle.
Many other companies use ‘open source’ software and components. These do not carry copy writes and can be used changed and modified as needed. They often benefit from many minds many hands tweeting and altering them the best ideas ‘stay’ the poor are dropped. is an evolution of sorts.
It is likely you have something that is a clone of something else. Most of the printers are. That is by its own definition fully open source. So yes it is likely most software will be at least partially compatible.
The issue can be with many manufacturers the open source environment is so rich that there is no drive for development so the best versions of the software are not from the manufacturer. That is great, and terrible all at once. If you understand how what when where, it is good as you can take advantage of the brilliant minds of a community. (hive mind in some ways) if you are not as savvy the range of possibilities are so vast and the manufacturer so lax it is daunting and difficult.
The big catch 22 of the industry. The clone type printers often need major changes to work well both hard and soft war. They are cheap. The more closed it gets the better the support and out of the box function.
It is why I suggested a middle ground.
Thank you for your advice! I messaged someone selling a nice Ender 3 V2 and he suggested that I get the Ender 2 Pro instead for ease of use and a simpler learning curve. What do you think of that recommendation? I don’t want to spend money on something he will immediately outgrow but I also don’t want it to be too difficult right off the bat.
The Ender 2 pro is a ok 3d printer but for the price it goes at these days and the limited amount of mods/upgrades you can do, I would say you should get a Kingroon KP3S pro. It’s in the same price range as the E2 pro but has a lot more upgradability paths, better print quality out of the box and a bigger community. It’s also a “low maintanence” machine so it’d be good for him. I’m 14 and got my printer around my birthday. It’s an excellent gift for anyone in the STEM space or is interested in building cool things.
I don’t see how the Ender 2 pro would be that much easier to use. I have the Ender 3V2 and it works well and isn’t hard to use. It is also very upgradable so you can modify/improve it over time if you wish.
There is a leaning curve with all printers, cheap or expensive. Mistakes will be made,problems will be had. It is just a matter of sticking with it for a short period until you get the hang of printing. YouTube is your friend here especially for the Ender 3 series printers, there is an abundance of how to videos available.
I second this,
I would say that there is minimal to no difference between the 2 printers. Well… in terms of functionality that is. The actual build of the printers is quite different, but there isn’t one that would be easier to use than any other ones.
It seems rather odd to me that someone selling their printer on FBMP wouldn’t want to sell it to someone interested and would redirect them to something else but
The biggest concern to watch for is the condition. If it has worn wheels or belts they will give trouble and bad prints, cheap and easy to fix but if you are not familiar withe the how too then it may lead you to give up.
I really hope it works out for you. I would suggest you ask the seller to print something, like a chep cube and leave it attached to the bed. If it is a mess you will know there is an issue.
I agree with the KP3S. I have a non-pro and I love it. It is printer #4 for me, but it is my most reliable and best printing option.
Easy to assemble, around 5-10 minutes. Low entry cost, yet a good value.
As with any printer, they have some quirks, but for a beginner they are a good place to start.