The Perfect First 3d Printer -- Does it exist?

Followers of this forum and my YouTube channel know I have searched for the perfect beginner’s 3d printer for three years. My requirements include:

  • A reasonable print volume of at least 200mm cubed
  • Fully assembled and/or trivial to assemble
  • Right out of the box, slicer support
  • Auto bed leveling -- with no complex ABL setup
  • Easy to load filament
  • Good bed adhesion and release
  • Heated bed and hot end capable of printing at up to 230c
  • Support for PLA, PETG, and TPU
  • Very clean and easy to use menu controls
  • Ender 3 print quality.
  • $300 or less
The Ender 3 is not my selection because it is just too hard to assemble, maybe not for many people on this forum, but for many non-technical folks. It is also very hard to print flexible filaments on the Ender 3 and threading the filament through the extrude is hard for some people.

I am currently reviewing the Mingda Magician X and it is close but maybe not quite there. The setup took about 5 minutes. The ABL is fully automated and easy to use. The touchscreen menus are in color and clear with nice graphics. It uses a direct extruder and has dual Z-axis stepper motors. The print bed is the new textured glass many manufactures are using. The print quality is very good. It sells for about $330 US.

The video about this printer should be out in a few days. Here is a quick look at Yoda printing.

[video=youtube_share;h6pW6jTiVng]Mingda Yoda Print - YouTube


The trivial/easy to assemble part is IMHO a two sided sword. Yes, it makes the start easy, but once the user gets a simple problem, the problems pile. The user does not know anything about the printer beside maybe the fact he needed to raise the bridge and connect some wires.

He has no clue how to remove the hotend, when a clog couldn´t be resolved. The print results aren´t perfect, they replace the nozzle and it starts leaking or a thermistor wire breaks. I know several people whom started with 3D printing and sold their printers as broken again. In fact one of my printer is a “broken” one I got from ebay. It was fine, but the setup was wrong.

Frustration is the key element deciding about success or fail in 3D printing. Noone wants an hobby to get frustrated.

This is a super difficult topic. The easy-to-do aspects of course conflict with the less-than-$300 requirement. It could well be that the new Prusa XL will meet almost all of the easy-to-do requirements, but it certainly won’t satisfy the $300 price tag.

I often wonder how many people buy printers and then give up on them. Is there a good market for printers that people couldn’t get to work?

My techie friend wanted me to print something so I finally put in my new fan on my Ender 3 pro and managed to print the most difficult print I ever did.

On my second false start after printing beautifully I realized that the file needed repair so I fixed it and it got past tyhe part where the falt was and got fouled up at the top because

of my poor cable organization It is now very good. The print took a volume of 20 x 20 x 20 centimeters And I was watching it as it was finishing with more than a little anxiety

because it was so tall and flimsy. It is a fan but it is like a piece of modern art and would make a great lamp.

Here it is on thingiverse vertical windmill helix by karete - Thingiverse. and here it is on my build plate when it finished printing.


I noticed that you don’t talk about your Prusa too much. Do you still like and use it?

There are different beginners; crafters, mechanics, electronics nerds, miniature enthusiast, etc. There are likely different ideal starting places for each.
It would be interesting to try to construct personas of the most popular beginner personalities, but I have no idea where one would get the data to begin such a task.

“It would be interesting to try to construct personas of the most popular beginner personalities” I have no idea what you are referring to.

I can’t speak for @vankichline, but I took it to mean “to get an idea of what types of people decide to try 3D printing. What are their backgrounds, what motivated them to try it, what are their interests, what skills and knowledge do they have?”.

That would be an interesting study. I have a feeling that only the wannabe computer geeks have the tenacity to make their printers work. U have noticed that most people in the forums regularly are very techie inclined, myself excluded.

You may not consider yourself techie oriented, but you do have a background in construction and engineering (blueprints, plans, etc.) and, as such, you are also familiar with having to resolve problems and find solutions.

that was befoire I got hit by lightning and lost a third of my brain functionality. I have to wing it now.

That may be, but no longer having techie capabilities isn’t the same as not being techie oriented. :wink:

@Ender5r got me right; sorry for using jargon.
Basically, I mean that there are several different categories of beginners. We may all seem alike, but that’s because those coming from other backgrounds have other social groups.
Crafters may discuss printing on Pintrist for example. Birds of a feather…
Personas are basically a simplification of the data where you create characters to represent each major category. That way you can use shorthand like ‘Fritz’ instead of ‘people with electronic, computer and mechanical backgrounds lacking an advanced degree but possibly including job experience’.
Then you can easily express things like ‘Printer X is great for Fritz and Einstein, but not so good for Mork and Mindy.’

Yes, I’m sure Mindy was heavily into 3D printing :smiley:

It is really amazing how my doddering around with 3d printing and plating plastic has encouraged my friend who is a super techie to make some things. He was the guy I made the big wind turbine for. Big for my Ender printer. I’m waiting for the bearings to see how well it works. I have enough pieces to make four little ones that could prove interesting too. He comes to visit me every day now to see what’s going on and discuss projects.

I also discovered for the first time that I had a vast difference between two printing filaments that needed to be addressed. They both print well but have a full 15 degrees difference in their ideal printing temperatures. I had never noticed that before. I guess I will have to wait for summer to see if my new fan solved my heat creep problems.
-21 with a -31 C wind chill will not make my heat creep happen again soon. I wish I was still in the Dominican Republic. I hate being cold and my 110 yo appartment is as drafty as a barn

I have noticed that different filaments, of the same type (e.g. PLA, PETG) can have quite different printing characteristics. In fact, I am currently printing 2 more Nintendo Switch game racks/trays. I was printing with 1 red filament and was having some issues with layer adhesion. On a whim I switched to a new spool of a different brand and it’s printing beautifully. On top of that, it’s actually a better, richer red color.

Why are you concerned about the freezing temperatures? Are you printing outdoors? :wink:

I guess I should have paid my electric bill… just joking.

I am now getting a "heating error- all the time. I thought it might be the thermostat but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

in your apartment or on your printer?

@roon4660; if the thermocouple is in place in the hole in the heater block and you are getting heating errors, it seems that something must be wrong with the thermocouple itself (have you had it out of the block, subjecting it to stress?) or the wiring between the thermocouple and the controller board. Any joints in the wiring? Are the connections to the board sound?
New thermocouples and heaters are cheap and easy to get on Amazon, but the reviews indicate that they all come with wiring too short for an Ender 3.
To avoid extending the 40W wiring of the heater and the resistance-sensitive wiring of the thermocouple, I ordered and entire new Creality hot end to get a properly wired heater and thermocouple. It was only $15. If your time is worth $1 an hour, it seems like the cheapest way to go to me.