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best 3D printers to buy for christmas

Christmas is fast approaching so lots of us are scrabbling around in a panic trying to get good Christmas present ideas. Now we are a bit biased, we sell 3D printers, so as you can guess our suggestion is to give a 3D printer as a gift. So why would you buy a 3D printer we hear you ask.

Why buy a 3D printer?

There are a number of reasons why getting a 3D printer is a good idea.

To start off with they are great fun. You can make all sorts of things your self and there are vast repositories of 3D printer model files that allow you to download 3D model files for free. The breadth of types of models you can download is also staggering. Admittedly there are lots of mobile phone cases and elephants and things of that nature but there are also practical objects and interesting toys. So the fun of owning a 3D printer is not limited to just having fun using it but it also leads to producing other things that can be practical or fun or decorative. So give a child a toy and they will be occupied for a day, give them a 3D printer and they will be occupied for a lifetime as they could make a different toy everyday if they wanted to. If you want to take a look at where you can get 3D printer model files we have created a list.

The second great thing about owning a 3D printer is that they are very educational. Ignoring the running of the 3D printer for the moment, you can choose to design and print your own 3D models. There are lots of free CAD and bespoke 3D printing design apps out there, some easy, some more involved, that allow you to design and create your own 3D models. 3D design skills are a very important commodity in the work force, it’s importance is only going to increase as 3D printing becomes more mainstream. People won’t be buying ready made objects any more but 3D designs which they will print out at home. Companies are going to need experience 3D modellers, or alternatively, those that can create 3D models will save themselves an awful lot of money as you can your own manufacturing plant. Buying someone their own desktop 3D printer is going to give them an incentive to develop their 3D modelling skills. Additional to the 3D modelling aspect of 3D printer there is also an engineering aspect. Much of the ethos of 3D printing is in not just open software (freely available software) but also Open Hardware, i.e. freely available plans for building hardware, in this case 3D printers. Asking someone to build a 3D printer from scratch is not much of a present but it is possible to buy 3D printer kits. If you buy someone the kit they will gain an intimate knowledge of the engineering involved in building a 3D printer and how it is controlled, they will have to learn about how computer code is used to control machines. Manufacturers all over the world use the same techniques, learning it will be a great advantage to anyone looking for work in this sector.

Lastly, 3D printers are tools. To some extent they are seen as toys but this formed from a limited understanding of their capabilities. If you have the design skills then you can create real functioning objects. Perhaps the knob on the washing machine is broken, just print a new one. There are lots of examples where people have encountered an everyday problem were they need to make a replacement for a broken part or want to make a new object to solve a problem and just simply make it themselves.

What you can do with a 3D printer is limited to a great extent only by the imagination of the user, there potential as a tool in our lives is nowhere near fully realised so when giving a 3D printer for Christmas you are giving someone the opportunity to be one of the first explorers of this technology.

What 3D printers to buy for Christmas?

We are going to suggest 4, we are going to keep the price approximately < £1000. That seems a lot but some are more expensive than others. You can of course take a look at the full range of 3D printers that we sell. We are going to list them, starting with what we think is the best option.

1st: The UP Mini 3D Printer – £528 (was £558)

UP! Mini 3D Printer with Rocket

We think that this is probably the best buy for a 3D printer gift. The price is reasonable at £528.00 and it’s also a great 3D printer with a great reputation. The manufacturers of the UP range of 3D printers PP3D have a reputation for making reliable and easy to use 3D printers. The UP Mini is probably the easiest 3D printer to use, it is Plug’n Play, turn it on, press print and walk away. It is well known for being a work horse of the 3D printing world and will just keep truing out quality prints. We have a great review of the Up Mini printer on the printer’s page, written by someone with a lot of experience of this 3D printer.

The advantages of it, apart from its reliability is that it can print in both ABS and PLA, the two most common forms of plastics used in 3D printing. All the printing is done in an enclosed print chamber. The advantage of this is that it means the print takes place in an environment that does not change much, this means that during a single print there is not much change in the quality of the print. Variations in the temperature during a print result in differences in the extrusion process as it relies on the plastic melting and solidifying and constant temperatures. The software that is bundled with the UP mini is very good but it is proprietary software so you cannot use your own software solutions. The advantage is that it is designed for the printer and aids in the plug’n play versatility of the software. UP software is generally thought to be of good quality. It can print quite fast and you can also vary the thickness of each layer so you can print fast with more visible layering or slower with less visible layering. The nozzle diameter, the smaller the nozzle diameter the smaller the minimum feature size, is standard at 0.4mm.

The advantages over the other listed printers is really its price, ease of use and reliability. The Up mini is an ideal first time 3D printer.

  • Print properties

    • Technology: FDM printing
    • Print heads: Single extruder
    • Maximum creation size: 12 x 12 x 12 cm
    • Compatible Material: 1.75mm PLA plastic and ABS plastic
    • Print surface: Yes
    • Enclosed build chamber: Yes
    • Nozzle Diameter: 0.4mm
    • Layer thickness: 0.20mm – 0.35mm
    • Print speed: 10-100cm3/h
    • Auto levelling: Yes
    • Connectivity: USB

2nd: The Printrbot Simple Metal – £528 (was £552)

Printr simple metal

Next we have the Printrbot simple metal, also well know for it’s print quality and reliability. it comes in at the same price as the UP mini but it is different in that it is a bit more hands on and more in keeping with the open hardware ethos of desktop 3D printing. The model we have is the basic model but there are lots of upgrades for this printer, for instance you can add a heated bed. It’s also available in kit form so whoever you buy this 3D printer for will have the added pleasure of putting it together and learning how 3D printers work. Although there is not so much control over the process of plastic extrusion as in the UP mini and Robox, which have enclosed build areas, if you add a heated bed it will give you enough control to produce good quality ABS prints. This printer won Make 3Ds Thin wallet award 2015 the Printrbot simple Metal desktop 3D printer, for print quality at a cost saving price. The other advantage over the UP mini is it’s larger build volume.

  • Print properties

    • Technology: FDM
    • Print heads: Single Alu (direct drive) extruder with Ubis hot end
    • Maximum creation size: 15 x 15 x 15 cm
    • Compatible material: 1.75mm PLA
    • Print surface: Not heated
    • Enclosed build chamber: No
    • Nozzle Diameter: 0.4mm but additional nozzles of 0.2mm, 0.75mm and 1mm can be fitted to this hot end.
    • Layer thickness: 0.1mm
    • Print speed: 80mm/sec max recommended
    • Auto levelling: Auto-Levelling Probe works with software to calibrate Z axis height
    • Connectivity: USB

3rd: The Cel Robox 3D printer – £958.80 (was £999.90)

The CEL ROBOX desktop 3D printer

The cel robox is a little more expensive but it is a great British design with great print quality, some high end features not normal for desktop 3D printers and it is part of a development program that will allow for future addons as it uses interchangeable tool heads. It is a step up in price but you get a lot of nice features. It is designed so that the print head is easily removed with the idea that in the future there will be additional print heads available that have different functions, for example a classic CNC cutting head. It is also designed for printing in finer detail. To this end, not only does it have a very high z layer resolution of just 0.02mm (very thin layers) but also it has a smaller nozzle diameter of 0.3mm which means that you can print objects with a smaller feature size. Additionally it has a heated bed, enclosed build chamber and, revolutionary amongst 3D printers, it has a needle valve incorporated in the extruder that stops “stringing” of filament as the head lifts and moves to a new position. It’s a great bit of British design work with the aim of making and extremely practical and very user friendly 3D printer. The robox can also use its own cartridge system in which each spool has a chip on which you can record the material used and how much is used. The Robox also uses it’s own proprietary software.

  • Print properties

    • Technology: FDM
    • Print heads: Single extruder can be upgraded to Dual extruder
    • Maximum creation size: 21 x 15 x 10 cm
    • Compatible material: 1.75mm PLA, ABS, HIPS Nylon, PC, PVA
    • Print surface: Heated ‘TapeLess’ High Performance PEI Bed Material
    • Enclosed build chamber: Yes
    • Nozzle diameter: 0.3mm and 0.8mm
    • Layer thickness: 0.02 / 0.1 / 0.2 / 0.3mm
    • Print speed: ?
    • Auto levelling: Yes
    • Connectivity: USB

4th: The Cube 3 – £1032.00

3D systems 3rd generation Cube - white

Cubify have made great pains to create a simple, easy to use 3D printer system. Again a plug’n play 3D printer that comes with dual printer heads as standard, that means that you can use two different colours or materials during the same print. This comes into its own when you use Cubify’s new Infinity water soluble filament which allows yo to print very complex 3D objects. One of the limitations to printing complex objects is that the plastic, as its extruded, may need to be supported underneath otherwise it will collapse on itself, it is in a molten state after all. It has a heated bed so that it can print in plastic and ABS. The Cube 3 uses proprietary filament cartridges which, on the down side, limits you to using their cartridges but, on the up side, it enhances that plug’n play utility as the printer and pause printing when it knows the cartridges is about to run out. Also the nozzle is incorporated in the cartridge so some of the parts only experience wear and tear commensurate with the length of time the cartridge is used. The Cube 3 also uses it’s own proprietary software.

  • Print properties

    • Technology: FDM
    • Print jets: Dual Jets
    • Maximum creation size: 15.25 x 15.25 x 15.25 cm
    • Compatible Material: Cubify 1.75mm ABS, PLA or Soluble filament cartridges
    • Print surface: Yes
    • Enclosed build chamber: No
    • Nozzle Diameter: 0.4mm
    • Layer thickness: 70 microns, fast mode: 200 microns
    • Print speed:
    • Auto  levelling: Yes
    • Connectivity: USB, WiFi

So in conclusion we have 3, very much, plug’n play desktop 3d printers, the UP Mini, The Robox and the Cube 3 and one 3D printer that is a bit more for the tinkerer the Printrbot Simple Metal. Two have enclosed build areas, the Robox and UP mini and two can use two different filament sources at the same time, the Robox and the Cube 3. If you are think of getting someone started in 3D printing this Christmas then one of these printers would be a good place to start. They all have their positives and negatives so remember to do some thinking about which one would suite best. We have written some helpful guides on 3D printing if you want to learn more: What is 3D printing; A guide to 3D printer materials; How to choose a 3D printer; a Guide to 3D printing software. Take a look at this brief articles to learn a bit more, it will help you in your choice.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch, we are always happy to help out were we can.

Best regards,



Fantastic service. Goods received within 24 hours of placing order. Will be purchasing more stuff. Would definitely recommend.
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First class service and support, purchased some spare parts for my printer and they were glad to help with an unrelated problem I was having with the printer, even though it was not supplied by iDig , I would recommend them without hesitation.
Have had a lot a of problems setting up a 3d printer at our school, idig3d printing contacted me through a forum and have been brilliant ,giving advice and guidance. Thank you