3D printers have come an incredibly long way since the early 2000s when they were room-sized behemoths that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now increasingly democratized, cheap 3D printers can cost just a couple hundred dollars. These shiny new 3D printers owe a lot to their heritage, especially to the RepRap 3D printer movement which pioneered these low cost alternatives.
What is a RepRap 3D Printer?
A RepRap 3D printer is one designed in line with the RepRap ethos; to create 3D printers that can self-replicate and create low cost versions of themselves to democratize 3D printing. The RepRap movement has been around for over a decade, having being kickstarted by Dr Adrian Bowyer in 2005 at the University of Bath.
Best RepRap 3D Printer: The Criteria
Judging these printers was different to how we usually rank our printers. This is because many printers that were revolutionary in their time have since been outclassed by newer and more powerful machines. We therefore graded these RepRap printers on:
- Price-performance ratio
- Cultural impact and importance at the time
- Must be a RepRap printer or inspired by the RepRap movement
Here’s our top 10 RepRap 3D Printers of all time – where does your favorite stack up?
10 – RepRap Fisher
- Price: $300-400
- Print volume: 150 x 150 x 180 mm.
Years after the original Fisher design, this RepRap 3D printer still holds up against some of the newer printers, and is still in production. Designed by Jean-Marc Giacalone and named after British mathematician Ronald Fisher, this open source 3D printer is a delta printer worth taking note of. The hours put it to assemble it will make you feel as if your hard work has earned you your printer, and when you see the results, it will all be worth it.
Featuring a bowden extruder and a 12.5μm print resolution, the RepRap Fisher is pretty accurate for the price, too. You can print via micro SD card, USB, or Ethernet cable, and is therefore a versatile 3D printer for beginners and experts alike.
9 – Anet A8
- Company based: China.
- Price: Around $200.
- Print volume: 220 x 220 x 240 mm.
We feel the Anet A8 counts as a RepRap 3D printer since it is Anet’s spin on the Prusa, one of the most famous RepRap kits. It’s cheap and cheerful – you get what you pay for with this DIY 3D printer kit, with extra marks for its consistency and reliability.
Despite the cheap price, the Anet A8 comes with a few neat features. It comes with a heated bed, meaning it can print ABS, PETG, as well as PLA. It’s also got quite a large printing volume, at 220 x 220 x 240 mm. Overall, if you’re looking for a RepRap 3D printer which doesn’t break the bank and gets you started in 3D printing, the Anet A8 is a great option at just $200.
8 – BQ Hephestos 2
- Company based: Spain.
- Price: $990.
- Build volume: 210 x 192 x 220 mm.
Known for a variety of interesting machines and devices, BQ are a Spanish company who manufacture smartphones, tablets, and even the BQ Ciclop DIY 3D scanner! They also sell a number of cheap 3D printers, including the Hephestos 2 which was modified from an original RepRap 3D printer kit.
Similar to many 3D printer kits, the Hephestos 2 has a large print volume, at 210 x 192 x 220 mm. It’s also decently accurate, with a minimum layer thickness of 0.06mm. Therefore, at a retail price of just under $1,000 the Hephestos is not a bad choice, and offers a consistent and reliable mid-range price option.
7 – Mendel
- Price: around $500.
- Build volume: 200 x 200 x 140 mm.
The first RepRap 3D printer on this list chosen because of its legacy rather than present performance, the RepRap Mendel is a true veteran of the game. The second iteration of the RepRap machines, the Mendel was the successor to the Darwin machine. It was designed and created by Ed Sells, a student of Dr Adrian Bowyer.
Named after Gregor Mendel, the ‘father of genetics’, this RepRap 3D printer weighs around 7kg and can print a fairly large 200 x 200 x 140 mm. Though it has a number of improvements over the Darwin, the sheer nostalgia and impact the Darwin has had since its introduction over a decade ago puts it above the Mendel for us.
6 – Darwin
- Price: A few hundred dollars worth of materials.
- Print volume: 230 x 230 x 100 mm.
A 3D printing icon, the Darwin will live on in the hearts and minds of every 3D printing and RepRap fan as the first simple reproducible 3D printer. The Prusa and many others owe their existence to this fantastic engineering achievement, created when technology was far more basic and 3D printing knowledge was scarce.
The Darwin plays an important part in the history of 3D printing, and allowed people to now 3D print from home provided they had the technological know-how. It wasn’t pretty and it doesn’t hold up against the far superior RepRap 3D printers that are about today, but in 2008 the Darwin was a big deal, and is looked back upon fondly today.
5 – Kossel
- Based: USA.
- Price: around $300.
- Build volume: 260 x 260 x 275 mm.
The Kossel is an upgrade on the original Rostock and is designed by Seattle-based designer Johann. It was named after the German biochemist and geneticist Albrecht Kossel, and is able to print fairly quickly at 320mm/s.
Though a fantastic printer for experienced makers, the Kossel is a RepRap 3D printer that beginners may struggle to master. For that reason, newer members of the maker community may prefer a Prusa or similar which is easier to master. This doesn’t take anything away from the Kossel – it is an accurate (30 micron min layer height) and reliable machine – it’s just not as simple to use.
4 – Cupcake CNC
- Company based: USA.
- Price: $700-$1,000.
- Build volume: 100 x 100 x 130 mm.
Why is the Cupcake CNC special? It was the first ever Makerbot 3D printer, back when they championed the open source ethos and first made noise in the 3D printing scene back in 2009. One of the first DIY 3D printer kits available after the Fused Deposition Modeling patents expired in 2009, the Cupcake’s parts can be downloaded entirely from Thingiverse.
Soon after releasing the Cupcake RepRap 3D printer, demand exploded and Makerbot found they couldn’t supply enough Cupcakes and had to take the drastic step of asking customers to print parts to help fill their backlog of orders! Again, this RepRap 3D printer is more on here for its cultural significance, but was an excellent printer back in 2009 which led to Makerbot becoming the $400M valued company it was when it was purchased by industrial 3D printer giant Stratasys in 2013.
3 – Rostock Max V3
- Company based: USA.
- Price: $999.
- Print volume: 265 x 265 x 400 mm.
The Rostock Max is an enormous machine, with the RepRap 3D printer kit able to print a remarkable 265 x 265 x 400 mm maximum volume. It’s a delta FDM 3D printer, and features a number of upgrades on its predecessor, the Rostock Max V2, but still costing under $1,000. Another advantage is that the Rostock Max is made in the USA, so US citizens may find it easier to source parts and get help with any problems they encounter.
In terms of accuracy it’s pretty good too with laser resolutions of up to 50 microns, comparable to printers five times as expensive. Based on the laser resolution and print volume alone this makes the Rostock Max V3 a great cheap 3D printer, and the printer is a real workhorse.
2 – Printrbot Simple Metal
- Company based: USA.
- Price: Unavailable.
- Build volume: 150 x 150 x 150 mm.
Printrbot was a 3D printer manufacturer founded by Brook Drumm back in 2011. Following the original Printrbot’s successful Kickstarter campaign, raising over $800,000 and becoming the most funded tech project ever on the site at the time. The Printrbot made its name by undercutting the comparatively expensive open source 3D printers, with their cheaper yet functional model.
A few years later, a number of other models including the Simple Metal were released. Featuring a steel frame and aluminium extruder, the Simple Metal was steadier, more reliable, and just a joy to 3D print with. It could level itself automatically, and was accurate to the fairly respectable figure of 100 microns. However, in July 2018 Printrbot announced that the open source 3D printer company would be shutting down, citing low sales. This means the Printrbot Simple Metal will likely eventually go extinct – a true legend of open source 3D printing.
1 – Prusa i3
- Company based: Czechia.
- Price: $600-900.
- Build volume: 250 x 210 x 200 mm.
The myth. The printer. The legend. The Prusa RepRap kit is the unmistakable king of RepRap 3D printers. There’s a reason why Josef Prusa’s invention shot him into the 3D printing stratosphere and landed him a place on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list – the printer is incredible.
Sporting a 250 x 210 x 200 mm print volume as well as a layer resolution of up to 50 microns, the Prusa i3 comes equipped for any 3D printed challenge. It’s designed to be simple to use, and true to the RepRap philosophy can print all the polymer components of itself. As a result of its success, Josef Prusa has had to print himself over 200 Prusa 3D printers, so this Prusa farm can print enough Prusa 3D printers to keep up with demand! Prusaception.
If you’re looking for a consistent and high-quality RepRap 3D printer or 3D printer kit, look no further. You can buy your Prusa 3D printer pre-assembled if you’re not DIY oriented, or assemble your own to save a few hundred dollars. Overall, we cannot recommend it enough, and it will go down in the 3D printer hall of fame in years to come.