As I’ve mentioned a few times recently, I’ve been tinkering with some 3D printers — in part for fun, in part for a specific need I won’t bore you with. On the fun side, I’ve printed dinosaurs, dragons, fully articulated slugs (TikTok made me do it), puzzle boxes and more — and I continue to be amazed by what these machines can do.
If you’re interested in finding out for yourself, start here: For a limited time, Woot has the SainSmart x Creality Ender-3 3D printer for $140, with free shipping for Amazon Prime subscribers. (Amazon owns Woot.) That’s just about the lowest price I’ve seen on this model; not long ago it was in the $160-$170 range.
So a quick bit of clarification: Creality is the manufacturer; SainSmart licenses that brand under its own umbrella. I’m not sure if there are any functional differences between SainSmart’s version and the one you’d get from Creality proper, but they look the same in photos and on paper.
Here’s what you need to know: This is about as basic as 3D printers come. It requires assembly, and you’d be well-served by watching a couple YouTube videos before getting started (and along the way). There are models that come mostly assembled, so you can get down to business much faster, but they cost about twice as much.
Next thing: There’s a lot to learn. Again, YouTube videos can help you get started, but don’t expect much help in the form of printed instructions. When your first print won’t stick to the bed or starts coming out a stringy mess, it’s easy to get frustrated.
So be prepared for all that and you’ll be in good shape. As for the Ender-3 itself, it’s a solid, capable machine. If you think you might want something a little more versatile, the Ender-3 Pro is on sale for $190. Among other benefits, it has a flexible, magnetic print surface that makes it much easier to remove your prints.
Read more: The best 3D printers for 2021
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