Getting Started Guide 1 – 3D Printer Shopping Guide

Getting Started Guide 1 – 3D Printer Shopping Guide

So you want a 3D printer. We can help.

If you’d rather skip over the details, here is the short list of printers to consider.

Best Price vs Performance – Ender 5 S1

On the scale of performance per dollar this printer is hard to beat and will serve your gat-lab well.

  • Not very expensive
  • Most stable design
  • Common replacment parts
  • Easy setup and tuning
  • Slow print speed
  • Not the cheapest printer

Best for the Budget – Ender 3 V3 SE

You could spend a little less money on a similar printer from other brands but their firmware has proven less stable than Creality’s. I’m sure this will improve over time but for now this one reigns as king of the cheap printers.

  • Increadibly cheap
  • Easy tuning and setup
  • Common replacement parts


  • Slow print speed

Top of the Line – Bambu Lab X1 Carbon with AMS

Bambu Printers have taken the top seats since their release of the X1 Carbon with AMS. At $1500 its by far the most expensive printer (5x as expensive) but you print 2x as fast on a fairly plug and play printer. (Not at all saying its perfect and flawless, its got some issues of its own, but it is as good as it gets right now)

  • 2x as fast printing vs E5
  • Almost no configuration required
  • Easy multi-material setup
  • Decent customer service and a good troubleshooting wiki.
  • Expensive
  • Like – a months rent expensive
  • Several car payments expensive.
  • Proprietary Chinese send all your data to the cloud slicer. (You can use orca slicer as an offline alternative)
  • Some

Generally speaking, 99% of printers on the market are capable of printing a firearm. That said we do have a few minimum standard features to look out for when shopping.

The Essential: – If you have a printer with these specs you should be good to proceed. Dont chase the trendy meta of what’s popular. See if you like printing with what you have first.

  • First are foremost. A price under $400. Some folks wont like printing. A $400 mistaken investment is a lot less painful than a $1500 mistaken investment. Start small. The fancy printers will still be around later.
  • A minimum factory print area of 220x 220y 240z – Most of GunCad was designed with the Ender 3 machine envelope in mind, It also has the most common bed size for a 3d printer.
  • Minimum 230C Hot End – PLA+ commonly prints around 215-200.
  • Minimum 80C Bed – PLA+ usually requires 55-60 to adhere properly.
  • Stable firmware – If the code running your printer is unstable then the printer cannot be trusted. Some of our prints take 2 or 3 days to finish. Having a firmware crash in the middle of it is not acceptable.
  • UI level step calibration – Plugging a computer into your machine to do something trivial like machine calibration is unacceptable. (web based UI calibration is acceptable.)
  • Removable Build Surface – You shouldn’t have to tear your print off the bed when its still attached to the machine. Were not cavemen any more.
  • 1.75mm Filament – The most common dimension for filament.
  • Cartesian controls – Cartesian g-code is more commonly used and easier to understand than other forms.
  • Active part cooling – Your hot end must have a controllable part cooling fan. Period.

The Optional:

  • Automatic Bed Leveling – Leveling is annoying, its nice to make the machine do it.
  • Multi Material Support – Just so. Very nice for complicated parts. Certainly not required
  • Filament Runout Sensor – Can often save a print if youre trying to use the ends of spools.
  • Enclosure – Good for temperature control.
  • Direct Drive Extruder – Great for printing fast.
  • Easy to find replacement and aftermarket nozzles – Nozzles are wear items.
  • Networkable – Not having to get up to check the machine or start a print is nice,
  • Steel nozzles – Filament can be abrasive.
  • All metal hot end – Better temperature control, higher temps, nicer extrusions.

If you really want to be the vanguard, I cannot stop you from going onto Amazon or AliExpress and building your own printer like they did back in the day (my first printer was a DIY RepRap). It is a path plagued with headbrake, heartache, and woe. It is not for the faint. Far better to stick to the list below until you know what you are doing.

CTRL Tested, Pew Approved

These printers have seen use in the Pew Print Farm or broader network, have preformed well and currently represent good value to a new printer as well as meeting all of the essential requirements listed above.

RecommendMFG & ModelEstimated PricePurchase LinkBrief Review
YCreality Ender 3 SE~$200 model 2024 Ender 3 with direct drive extruder, dual z
YCreality Ender 3 SI Pro~280 with an all metal hot end.
YEnder 3 V3 KE~$300 with 300c Print temps and linear rails.
YBambu X1 Carbon~$1000
~$1500 with AMS System
As close to an out of the box experience as you can get. Expensive though.
YCreality Ender 5 Pro, DiscontinuedMore stable than the 3 due to its frame design. Still the minimum.
Anycubic Vyper, Discontinued
YCreality Ender 3 Pro~$160 bare minimum acceptable printer bur for the money look at a V3.
Anycubic Kobra 2 Pro~$260 a nice entry level printer but I think its outshined by the new E3V3
YEnder 3 S1 Plus~340 with a not substantially larger print volume. Not an S1 pro upgraded.
Ender 3 V2 Neo~180 on value. Released as a cheaper alternative to the E3S1. Loses value compared to the Ender 3 V3 series printers.
Ender 3 Max Neo~340 went a little mad with the side versions of the Ender 3. This one has some utility, but why?
Ender 3 Neo~180 on value – At launch it was the value option. It has been superseded
Creality Ender 3 S1Fails in value Ender 3 with auto bed leveling and direct extrusion.
YEnder 3 V3~360 in value unless you have developed a dependency on networked printers like I have.
YCreality K1C~$600 a nice alternative to the Bambu Printers.

Failed Testing

Even though they failed by my testing they are still capable printers and more likely than not very capable of any type of 3D printing you need to do.

MFG & ModelTest DateFailure ReasonPricePurchase Link
Creality Ender 5 Plus10/2022Could not calibrate e step from control panel and its abl failed to compensate for the factory bed warps.
Sovol SV07+4/24Multiple firmware level printer failures. Hardware faults. bad qc, bad design.$350

Under Review

MFG & ModelPurchase LinkWhat I’ve Heard
Elegoo Neptune 4 MaxA solid speedy printer once calibrated.


2 responses to “Getting Started Guide 1 – 3D Printer Shopping Guide”

  1. […] Now get your printer and get started. For a deeper dive into printers and tech read through – Getting Started 1 – 3D Printer Shopping Guide. […]

  2. […] you haven’t gotten a printer yet head to Getting Started Guide 1 – 3D Printer Shopping Guide for a rundown of the market and our recommendations. Otherwise head to Getting Started Guide 2 – […]

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