In the era of 3D printing, quality has always been the most important factor. Achieving good quality prints always came at the cost of speed, but that was okay because a 14 hour print was still better than the days it would take and the cost it would cost to get something made in factory.
However, with the advent of new, fast 3D printers, we can cut that 14-hour print time down to seven hours or less, saving you time and money and letting your creative juices flow at a much higher rate. If you already own several of the current the best 3D printers you may not want to upgrade to a faster printer still and that’s OK. But if you’re looking for a printer that offers excellent quality and can blow you away with its speed, we’ve got the goods right here.
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What is the best fast 3D printer?
Balancing in that sweet spot between accessibility and usability, P1P by BambuLab is currently the best fast 3D printer to buy. It’s not the pinnacle of fast printers on the market – that would be its big brother X1C — but it’s significantly cheaper, making it a better proposition than the X1C.
Fast 3D printers are still relatively new, so this list will be updated regularly from here on out. Keep an eye out as we add new printers as testing is completed.
The best fast 3D printers
The P1P from Bambu Lab is currently one of the best 3D printers you can buy. At $699, it’s not the cheapest printer, but it’s incredibly fast and the print quality is consistently excellent. Although the P1P is immaculate on the outside, it comes with a host of advanced features such as automatic bed leveling, thread leakage sensors and power loss detection. It even has a camera that creates time-lapse videos for social media.
Because Bambu Lab makes the P1P, it’s compatible with the company’s AMS, an add-on device that lets you print in more than one color or material. The addition of AMS makes the P1P almost as flexible as Bambu’s flagship printer, the X1 Carbon, at a significant savings.
Read more: Bambu Lab X1 Carbon vs. Bambu Lab P1P
Although I wish the P1P had a better LCD, and the SD card that comes with it is shockingly slow (I recommend replacing it immediately), these negatives do not overshadow how excellent this 3D printer is. I use mine every day and it’s amazing.
While not as fast as the P1P or X1C, the Kobra 2 is about the same speed as the AnkerMake M5. It will happily produce prints at 250mm/s, although the best quality seems to hover around 150mm/s in my testing. It also comes with a thread leak sensor and bed leveling which works extremely well.
The big selling point of the Kobra 2, however, is the price. It has all the benefits of a faster printer for under $300, which is amazing. This is my recommendation for any first time buyer or someone on a budget.
One of the first consumer 3D printers to break the 250mm/s speed barrier, the AnkerMake M5 recently had a software update to boost its speed to 500mm/s in its ultrafast mode. The M5 uses an AI camera to help you spot problems so you can stop a failed print before it wastes a lot of material. The AI is particularly poor, but the camera gives you some fantastic time-lapse videos to share on social media.
Read more: AnkerMake M5 Review
If you’re looking for a fast printer that doesn’t take up much space, this is an excellent choice for beginners.
Of all the fast 3D printers I’ve tested, the X1 Carbon is supreme. In every category I test, it comes out on top. The only thing that keeps it from being my top pick is the price. This educational package, while offering a lot of value, is still $1,599, almost three times the price of the AnkerMake M5.
The X1C is custom made for exotic materials that require a hardened nozzle. Things like carbon fiber materials require a stronger nozzle or they will wear out very quickly. When you combine this with the lidar bed leveling, AMS color system and AI fault detection camera, you have a great machine.
Read more: Bambu Lab X1 Carbon vs. Bambu Lab P1P
Fast 3D printers on the way
While these printers seem to be in the same ultrafast direction as the others, we have yet to fully test them the way we’d like to. Because of this, we can’t fully recommend them, at least not until our full testing is complete.
The Prusa MK4 is currently sitting on my workbench churning out excellent prints by the bucketful. I’m not quite done with the full review yet, but so far the MK4 lives up to Prusa’s excellent reputation. Almost every aspect of the MK4 is an upgrade from the MK3S Plus, with a new movable nozzle setup, a new extruder and an automatic z-height adjustment system that promises “perfect first layers every time”.
Testing isn’t quite complete yet, but the Prusa has a great track record, so it’s not likely to be a bad machine.
Read more: The Prusa MK4 follows the best in the business
The K1 and K1 Max are Creality’s new flagship 3D printers. The company promises 600mm/s—the fastest speed of any printer to date—at a price that’s hard to believe: $600 for the K1 and $999 for the K1 Max, a higher-volume printer, seems too good to be honest.
We haven’t put any of these out for testing yet – no one has – but I’m excited to try it out and see how it stacks up against the more expensive competition. Of interest is the full enclosure and lidar bed leveling that is standard on the K1. This is something you would normally only find on a much more expensive machine.
Read more: Creality K1 is its answer to Bambu and Prusa
How we test
Testing 3D printers is a thorough process. Printers often do not use the same materials or even the same process to create patterns. I test SLA, 3D printers that use resin and light to print, and FDM, printers that melt plastic onto a plate. Each has a unique methodology. The main qualifications I look at include:
Appearance and accuracy of prints
Company and community support
A key test print representing the (now old) CNET logo is used to evaluate how a printer bridges gaps, creates accurate shapes, and handles overhangs. It even has small towers that help measure how well the 3D printer handles temperature ranges.
When testing speed, we slice the pattern using the standard slicer that the machine comes with with its default settings, then compare the actual print duration to the slicer statement completion time. 3D printers often use different slicers, and these slicers can vary greatly depending on what they consider completion time.
Then we use PrusaSlicer to determine how much material the print should use and divide that number by the actual time it takes to print to give us a more accurate number for the speed in millimeters per second (mm/s) that the printer can run.
Many other anecdotal test prints using different 3D models are also run on each printer to test the longevity of the parts and how well the machine handles different shapes.
For the other criteria, I research the company to see how well it responds to customer support requests and how easy it is to order replacement parts and install them yourself. Printers that only come semi-assembled as kits are rated for how long and difficult the assembly process is.
3D Printing FAQs
What material should I use for printing?
Most home 3D printers use PLA or ABS plastic. Professional printers can use any material, from metal to organic filament. Some printers use liquid resin, which is much more difficult to work with. As a beginner, use PLA. It is non-toxic, made primarily from corn starch and sugar cane, easy to handle and inexpensive. However, it is more sensitive to heat, so don’t leave your 3D prints on the car dashboard on a hot day.
Which brand of PLA is best?
Which brand is best will depend on the job you are trying to do. If you want to print something that looks amazing without post-processing, Polylite from Polymaker is a great choice with a wide range of colors and finishes.
If you’re printing something that will be sanded and painted, like armor for cosplay, I’d go with MatterHackers Build PLA. It’s easy to sand, holds paint well, and is cheaper the more you buy.
What settings should I use?
Most 3D printers include or link to recommended software that can convert 3D STL or other files to formats supported by the printer. Stick with the suggested presets to get started, with one exception. I’ve started adding a raft or bottom layer of thread to almost everything I print. It has drastically reduced prints not adhering properly to the bed, which is a common problem. If you continue to have problems, rub a standard adhesive on the print bed immediately before printing.
Your 3D models probably need help to print correctly, as these printers don’t do well with large overhangs – such as a hand sticking out of a figure. Your 3D printer software can usually automatically calculate and add supports, meaning little stands that hold all those protruding parts of the model. After printing is complete, and file away any burrs or rough edges with hobby files.
Where can I find things to print?
Thingiverse.com is a huge online repository of 3D files for anything and everything you can think of. Pokemon chess set? There it is. Dyson vacuum wall mount? You bet.
You can also try Printables.com for the latest patterns. Printables uses a gamified rewards system that can earn you a free thread just for uploading pictures of the things you make.
When you’re ready to create your own design, there are many software packages to choose from, but the easiest place to start is with Autodesk’s free, browser-based TinkerCad application.
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