What Are Open Source 3D Printers? Explanation & Buyer’s Guide

A black, rectangular 3D printer printing out green "3D."

3D printers literally take printing to another dimension! However, when it comes to these printers, they are classified as either closed or open source.

If you’re not sure what that distinction means in terms of 3D printers, then this article is for you.  

What are open source 3D printers? 3D printers that are classified as open source are more versatile machines in terms of compatible software, materials, and settings. Open-source printers can use a wide array of software programs, the temperature can be adjusted, and a variety of materials can be used. 

The options with open-source 3D printers are endless due to their versatility in terms of settings, software, and material.

Whether you’re looking to get an open-source 3D printer or you’re just curious about them, this article will tell you what you need to know about these devices! 

What Is an Open-Source 3D Printer?

To fully understand what an open-source 3D printer is, you first need to understand what a 3D printer is and how it works.

This will allow you to understand how the hardware and software of these intricate machines work, especially in terms of closed and open-source 3D printers. 

This type of printer is not all that different from the home printer you know and love; they just differ in terms of what they output.

In terms of input, your regular ink printer and an advanced 3D printer both receive data from a computer as an input in order to create the output. 

The output here refers to that which you are printing. On an ink printer, this would be a document or photograph printed onto paper.

The process utilized by 3D printers allows it to build objects layer by layer. This process whereby a 3D printer ‘prints’ a digital 3D model is known as additive manufacturing. 

To ‘print’ these objects, 3D printers can use a variety of different materials.

Due to its diverse nature and affordability, plastic is perhaps the most common material used in 3D printing.

There are different types of plastic used in 3D printing, and they come in a variety of colors. Other materials used for 3D printing include resin, metal, and even graphene. 

However, when it comes to 3D printers, they can be categorized into two categories: closed and open-source 3D printers.

Key Differences Between Closed and Open Source

While both open and closed-source 3D printers use additive manufacturing to produce 3D models, they differ in some core ways. 

With closed-source 3D printers, you do not get a choice in the software and material you use with the printer.

You will need to use a certain software and buy a certain material from a particular supplier. These printers also work at fixed temperatures. 

While closed-source 3D printers may seem limited in certain regards, they are well thought out and reliable.  

Open-source printers, on the other hand, come with a wider variety of options.

There are a wide variety of software programs that can be used with this type of 3D printer.

In addition to this, you can use a wide array of materials, which gives you more freedom in terms of getting the materials you need from suppliers.

This means you can source material that is within your budget as opposed to being limited to one supplier with a set price. The temperatures of these printers can be adjusted. 

Due to their versatility, open-source printers come with many possibilities, from trying out different software programs to trying different materials for your 3D printed prototype.

With an open-source printer, you’ll open yourself up to many inventive and resourceful possibilities. 

What to Look for in a 3D Printer 

If you’re looking to get an open-source 3D printer, these are a few considerations you should keep in mind.

Type

There are a few different types of 3D printers available on the market. The most common type of 3D printer utilizes what is referred to as Fused Deposition Modeling.

FDM 3D printers function by heating and extruding plastic and creating your prototype layer by layer. Of the 3D printers available, this is the most common type you’ll come across. 

The other options available are more expensive and are designed for high-quality outputs.

Stereolithography, another 3D printing process, utilizes UV light to harden liquid that is photosensitive.

The other process, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), utilizes a combination of lasers and powders instead. 

Price

Just as there are a wide variety of 3D printers to choose from, these models can differ greatly in price.

Firstly, the price depends on whether you buy an assembled 3D printer or build one yourself.

There are 3D printer kits and instructions available, which could save money but take more time. (Find the best DIY 3D printer kits here.)

If you’d like to jump right into 3D printing, there are a wide variety of 3D printers.

Depending on the type of 3D printer you get, you could find one for as low as $100. However, the lower the price, the lower the quality of your final product will be.

As a general rule of thumb, the 3D printers that print higher quality prototypes are typically priced above $1,000 but can be more than $3,000 in some instances. 

When browsing 3D printers, you want to ensure that you choose the right one for your budget and the quality you need.

Remember, these printers don’t come with any material, which takes us into our next consideration.

Material 

If you’re going the open-source 3D printer route, you already have more options than you would have with closed-source printers.

As mentioned earlier, closed-source printers – although reliable – require you to use a specific material bought from a certain supplier to use your 3D printer.

Open-source 3D printers, however, allow you to use an array of materials for your projects. 

There are two primary materials that are commonly used in 3D printing.

Both of these materials are thermoplastics, and they are used because of their ability to become malleable when heated and hardened when cooled down.

Both polylactic acid (PLA) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) are sold in filament spools that cost around $30 each. 

The Best Open-Source 3D Printers 

As mentioned earlier, the price range of 3D printers can be anywhere from $100 to more than $3,000.

Here, I’ve given you three of the best open-source 3D printers from within that price range. 

Monoprice Mini Delta  (Under $200)

Monoprice 121666 Mini Delta 3D Printer With Heated...

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This open-source 3D printer is a great entry-level machine for beginners, and it comes fully assembled.

The printer even calibrates itself, so you won’t need to struggle with it; you can get right into printing! 

Creality 3D CR 10 V2 Printer (Under $500) 

High Precision Creality 3D CR 10 V2 Printer, FDM...

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This high-precision FDM open-source 3D printer is a great mid-level entry. Due to the size of this printer, you can print larger objects than other similar printers could handle.

Coupled with the fact that this printer is open source, the possibilities are endless! 

Sindoh 3D1AQ – 3DWOX 1  (Under $1,600)

Sindoh - 3D1AQ - 3DWOX 1 3D Printer - Open Source...

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This open-source printer features assisted bed leveling, filament detection, a flexible build plate for easy print removal, a self-cleaning nozzle, and a HEPA filter for safety.

The fully automated filament loading is an added bonus that saves you time and effort. Best of all, this printer is quiet, operating at only 40 decibels.

It works with a variety of slicing software and is compatible with PLA, ABS, ASA, and PETG filament.

Conclusion

There are many great open-source 3D printers available on the market today!

These versatile devices can have their temperature settings manipulated, are compatible with various different software programs, and can use a wide variety of materials for printing.

There are many options available, ranging between $100 and $4,000, so there’s bound to be a model that fits your needs and your budget! 

Sources: 

https://techterms.com/definition/3d_printer

https://www.sharrettsplating.com/blog/materials-used-3d-printing/

https://dddrop.com/blog/closed-versus-open-systems/

https://www.protolabs.com/resources/blog/types-of-3d-printing/

Last update on 2021-05-18 at 17:29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API