For the first time, the Make: team also tested Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines, which are the newest entry to the world of home digital fabrication with a number of desktop mills making the grade. This issue also extended its look at the emerging market for resin printers, as well as identified machines best suited for educational purposes and the classroom.
Traditionally the best-selling issue of the year, its timing for the Q4 holiday season is purposeful in that ease-of-use, smaller footprints, and attractive price points make these machines an exceptional gift option for Makers of all stripes.
"The world of 3D printing has changed dramatically since 2012, when we first started this annual roundup devoted to showcasing the best machines in the industry," said Mike Senese, executive editor for Make: magazine. "The rapid evolution of the technology over the past three years has completely changed the landscape for 3D tools. Price has come down, product features such as auto bed-leveling are de rigueur, and the footprint has become smaller, especially for CNC mills. Now people -- from home hobbyists to entrepreneurs -- can use these tools for fun projects or for prototyping the next great invention."
Testing the machines is no easy feat. A team of Make: editors and staff, as well as recognized experts in the 3D printing field, with direction from Matt Stultz, Make:'s own 3D tool guru, gathered for a weekend-long "shoot out" and put the machines through rigorous controlled testing. The battery of tests created side-by-side comparisons of each product by class, and allowed the team to identify each attribute in order to categorize the top performers.
The best overall scoring printers include TAZ 5, Zortax, and Rostock, which each received accolades across several categories, including "Best Value" and "Outstanding Open Source." Other printers that scored across several categories include Printrbot Play, Ultimaker Go/Extended, and Shapeoko 3.
The full list of the 2015 winners:
By the Numbers -- Top 3 Scores
1. TAZ 5 - "The fifth version of the TAZ shows LulzBot's commitment to excellent engineering."
2. Zortrax M200 - "If you care about 3D prints more than the process of 3D printing, you need to look at the Zortrax M200."
3. Rostock Max -"Makes huge and beautiful prints. You won't break the bank with the Rostock Max."
Best Value (Greatest cost-to-features ratio)
Rostock Max -- "The huge print volume combined with the cost savings from coming as a kit makes this machine an easy standout."
Best For Schools (Safety features and ease of use)
Printrbot Play - "Its low cost and safety conscious design elements make the Play a great machine for classrooms."
Most Portable (Mobile or space-saving machines)
Printrbot Simple - "Still one of the best starter printers and now, with the included handle, a great on-the-go machine."
Outstanding Open Source (The beginning and future of 3D printing)
TAZ 5 - "Lulzbot keeps striving to make the TAZ line better while still holding true to their open source roots."
Best Large Format (Sizeable machines for those who want the biggest prints)
Ultimaker Extended - "The Ultimaker Extended gives you a great print area while not taking up your entire desk."
Best Large Format - Big machines ready to cut your next piece of furniture
Printrbot Crawlbot - "No other machine on the market can touch it for cutting size vs. stored footprint."
Best Mid-Size - Great hobby mills that can make tons of projects and get you into the CNC world
Shoptbot Desktop - "A well-built and easy-to-use workhorse; then again, you also pay for it."
Best Desktop Mill - PCBs, molds, and small parts are a click away with these desktop workhorses
Nomad 883 - "It may look pretty with its bamboo case, but the fantastic clamping system makes it a machine for serious use."
SLA RESIN PRINTER SELECTIONS
With a growing number of choices, two machines stand tall in this field.
Formlabs Form 2 - "A large print area, auto-fill resin, open resin compatibility and Wi-Fi connectivity - just a few things that put the Form 2 on the top of the resin printer market."
LittleRP - "If you are interested in getting started with resin printers, the Little RP is a low-cost, easy-to-build kit. Toss in your own DLP home theater projector and you are off and printing."
To see more on 2015's top 3D devices, download the "3D Fabricator Quick Guide," for more details and specifications.
About MAKER MEDIA
Maker Media is a global platform for connecting makers with each other, with products and services, and with our partners. Through media, events and ecommerce, Maker Media serves a growing community of makers who bring a DIY mindset to technology. Whether as hobbyists or professionals, makers are creative, resourceful and curious, developing projects that demonstrate how they can interact with the world around them. The launch of Make: magazine in 2005, followed by Maker Faire in 2006, jumpstarted a worldwide Maker Movement, which is transforming innovation, culture and education. Headquartered in San Francisco, Maker Media is the publisher of Make: magazine and the producer of Maker Faire. It also develops "getting started" kits and books that are sold in its Maker Shed store as well as in retail channels. The Make: brand caters to a universe of more than 25 million makers collectively across its Make: magazine, makezine.com, Maker Faires, and Maker Shed properties.
Contact: Brita Muller firstname.lastname@example.org (415) 949-1423