What Are Tabletop 3D Printers?
As crazy as it might be to believe, they have been able to build 3D printers in recent years that are so big they’ve even been able to print an entire tiny house. A step down from that, you’ve got industrial 3D printers that make big products, complete assemblies, or parts for big pieces of machinery. Then you have professional-grade printers that are still pretty large but aren’t used to create anything of ridiculous size.
And then for most DIY or hobbyist 3D printing enthusiasts, we have tabletop 3D printers, or 3D printers for miniatures. These small-scale 3D printers, as the name suggests, are small enough to sit right on top of a table or a desk without taking up too much space. After all, you don’t want to have a massive 3D printer taking up half of your garage space or anything like that!
Tabletop 3D printers are perfect for creating miniatures for that exact reason — they’re small printers, so the ideal thing to print is, well, small things! Without these tabletop printers, it would be tough for hobbyist 3D printers to have gotten into 3D printing to begin with. So we have a soft spot for these awesome little printers!
9 Best 3D Printers For Miniatures And Small-Scale Models
Now that you have an idea of what tabletop 3D printers are and why they’re perfect for DIY enthusiasts, let’s get into the good stuff. There are so many 3D printers out there to choose from, we know it can be frustrating to try to sift through the “junk” and find the right printer for you. So we’ve narrowed it down to the nine best options on the market for you below.
While compiling this list of the top nine 3D printers for miniatures, we kept a few things in mind. Namely, we considered the cost (with one exception), how easy it was to use, the type of printer it is, what you can make with it, the print quality, and even reviews from others who have used them.
Without further ado, let’s get into it. Here are the nine best 3D printers for miniatures that you can get your hands on today!
Anycubic Photon Mono X
Gone are the days of needing to shell out thousands of dollars for an industrial-quality printer or paying for printer services for your resin printing needs. For those of you looking for a resin 3D printer that’s capable of handling complex designs and providing high-quality prints, the Anycubic Photon Mono X is for you.
Perfect for printing miniatures to your heart’s desire, the Photon Mono X has a build volume of 7.55” x 4.72” x 9.84”. This nice-sized print bed is combined with monochromic LCD technology to offer fast cure times for each layer of resin, enabling you to print quickly and efficiently.
Overall, the Photon Mono X offers great print quality and some of the best value you’ll find in large resin 3D printers. But even with how great it is, there’s one problem with this printer. The slicer that comes with the Mono X is not great, and you might have to pay some more money for an upgraded one from a third-party source.
- Easy to use
- Fast cure times with mono LCD technology
- Excellent print quality
- Great value for its price
- Higher upfront cost than other hobbyist 3D printers
- Included slicer isn’t great, might need to upgrade
Monoprice Maker MP10
One of the best budget-friendly 3D printers on the market is the Monoprice Maker MP10. Coming in at less than $250, you won’t find too many printers available today that can do what the MP10 does at a better price.
The MP10 has an open-frame print bed instead of an enclosed build space, which is great for FDM printers and allows for more space and freedom to print exactly what you want. The heated print bed is a great feature that reduces the chance of warping or bending during the cooling process.
This printer also comes mostly assembled out of the box, so there isn’t too much work required on your end. Just make sure the frame is attached and secure and you’re ready to get printing. Monoprice also includes some sample filaments in the box, so it comes with everything you need to get started and get a feel for how the printer will work.
- Easy to set up and simple to use
- Large build space
- Heated print bed
- Sturdy frame to reduce vibration issues
- Some parts might need to be upgraded right away
- Can be difficult to level
- Has trouble printing small details and small figures
Wanhao Duplicator 7
If you’re getting into 3D printing to print some larger-scale miniatures — even though that’s a bit of an oxymoron — then the Wanhao Duplicator 7 is the perfect printer for you. With its larger print bed than most other tabletop printers in its class, you’ll be able to print a bit larger prints than with some of the other options on this list.
But on the flip side, the Duplicator 7 offers less resolution than other printers in its class. So it largely comes down to what you value more — slightly large prints or slightly better print quality. With this printer, you won’t be able to print the most detailed and intricate designs ever, but it does more than enough for most users.
In any case, the Wanhao Duplicator 7 is fairly easy to use, so you don’t need to be an expert to fire this one up and start printing.
- Large print bed, great for bigger prints
- High print quality
- Sturdy construction, no vibratory issues
- Worse resolution than other options, especially resin printers
- Materials can be a bit more expensive
- Customer support is not as available as other major brands
Creality Ender 3 V2
As you can probably guess from the “V2” in its name indicates that this printer is a new and improved version of the original Creality Ender 3. So while it’s not a totally new printer design, we can’t stress how big of fans we are of the Creality Ender 3 V2, and we’re confident that you would be too!
Perfect for hobbyist 3D printers, the print bed allows for sizable prints with a build space of roughly 8.7” x 8.7” x 9.8”. This is one of the bigger build volumes you’ll find in an affordable 3D printer, enabling a bit more creativity than printers with smaller build spaces. The Ender 3 V2 can also be used with a variety of filaments including PLA, PETG, and even TPU.
As the refined version of the Ender 3, the V2 offers fewer options for customization using add-ons. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, enabling you to quickly get printing as long as its capabilities are what you’re looking for. And with the new TMC2208 stepper motor drivers, the V2 operates in near silence. So you can have it anywhere in your home and it won’t bother you during operation.
- Exceptional print quality
- Great value for its price
- Quiet operation with TMC2208 drivers
- Improved version of the Creality Ender 3
- Fewer options for add-ons and customization than other printers
- Tough to use TPU filaments, but it can be done
- Support structures are hard to clean
Prusa i3 MK3S+
Without a doubt, one of the best 3D printers on the market that you can get your hands on is the Prusa i3 MK3S+. For about $750, you get the 3D printer kit, which we recommend. But if you want it to arrive fully assembled and ready to print, you’ll need to shell out $999.
While that price tag might be a bit higher than most of the other 3D printers you see in this guide, the i3 MK3S+ actually offers great value! With the phenomenal print quality and class-leading calibration and print monitoring technology, you’ll get prints that are just as good as what you could get from printers that cost thousands of dollars.
Prusa Research also offers firmware updates consistently, so the i3 MK3S+ will only get better even after you purchase it. This printer is compatible with Prusa Research’s slicer, of course, so it’s super easy to ensure easy compatibility and get everything you need. This printer can even be upgraded straight away with add-ons from Prusa Research, so you can really customize it to get the perfect printer for what you’re planning on doing with it!
- Best FDM printer under $1,000
- Great print quality
- Top-notch monitoring and calibration systems
- Prusa community is active and full of knowledge
- Commonly updated by Prusa Research to constantly improve the printer
- Have to assemble or spend an extra $250 to have it arrive ready to go
- More expensive than most options on this list
Phrozen Sonic Mini 4k
To step up your 3D printing game from some of the slightly cheaper options on this list, you can get your hands on a Phrozen Sonic Mini 4k for about $250. This is the perfect option for beginners since going straight to a 4k resin printer like this won’t be a problem. On that same note, getting a 4k resin printer is even something that experienced hobbyists will want to do at some point due to the ease of attaining high-quality prints.
For its size, the Sonic Mini 4k offers some of the best resolution in its class with just 35 microns in both the X and Y directions. This enables you to get some super detailed prints with intricate design features that you wouldn’t be able to get with a lower-quality printer
- Great print quality
- Fast printing operations
- Affordable price
- Easy to use for beginners and veterans
- Small build space, even for miniatures
- Tad bit more expensive than some other options on this list
While some of the other printers on this list are a bit more affordable and offer exceptional print quality (we’re looking at you Ender 3 V2), those printers require a bit more work and experience. But for a total plug and play option that requires nearly no setup and is perfect for complete beginners, there is no better option on the market than the Monoprice Voxel.
The Monoprice Voxel is known for its ease of use, requiring users to know very little about 3D printer use or setup. With how easy it is to use, totally enclosed build space, and reliable print quality, the Voxel is a great choice at this price point.
If you’re a bit more advanced and you’re in the market for a 3D printer to make some high-quality miniatures with intricate design features, then you may want to look elsewhere. While the Voxel does a great job with fairly basic prints, it’s not designed to handle intricate features and pump out top-notch prints like other printers can.
But for beginners, the Monoprice Voxel is the best option on the market!
- Super easy to use
- Plug and play operation
- Good print quality
- Great for beginners
- Advanced hobbyists will want more out of their printer
- Many other printers offer better print quality
- Typically best for basic prints without intricate design features
Elegoo Mars 2
If you’re on a budget but looking to get into 3D printing, then the Elegoo Mars 2 is the perfect option for you and your miniatures. For just under $200, you can get this resin 3D printer straight from the manufacturer, and you’ll be ready to get your 3D printing journey started.
The Mars 2 is definitely a printer that’s designed for miniatures, with a build space of just 5.1” x 3.1” x 5.9”. Within this build space, the Mars 2 has a resolution of 51 microns, which is right at the average resolution you’d see for a printer of this size. It also utilizes monochromic LCD technology to offer fast cure times for each layer of resin.
The Elegoo Mars 2 is compatible with ChiTuBox, making it easy to work with for most 3D printing enthusiasts. This printer has a single-bolt print bed that’s designed to be easily leveled to make the entire process even better. For the price, you can’t really beat the Mars 2.
- Cheap and affordable
- Great print quality for the cost
- Easy to set up and easy to use
- Basic resin printer, lacks innovation
- No charcoal filter like the Mars 2 Pro
- Small build space, even for a desktop printer
Formlabs Form 3
Even though that price tag will likely put the vast majority of hobbyist printers off, we felt the need to include arguably the single best 3D printer for miniatures that money can buy — the Formlabs Form 3. This printer has become the benchmark among 3D printers, where if a cheaper one can produce something at least comparable, then you might be getting a good value.
But let’s be honest, for $3,500 you better be getting the best tabletop 3D printer that money can buy. And that’s exactly what you will get. The Form 3 is pretty much the only industrial-grade 3D printer that’s offered in a tabletop size perfect for printing the most intricate miniatures that you can imagine.
The real question just becomes do you really need to spend all that money on a 3D printer for miniatures? Truth is, it’s likely not necessary for the vast majority of people getting into 3D printing. Most of us that like to use our 3D printers for miniatures don’t really need anything as detailed as what the Form 3 can provide. But if you want the best of the best, then this is the printer for you.
- Industrial quality desktop printer
- Light Processing Unit improves accuracy
- One-year warranty
- Bundle with other products from Formlabs
- Super expensive
- Unnecessary for most people
Tabletop 3D Printer Buyer’s Guide
While we do strongly recommend any of the nine printers listed above, we understand that you might have something else in mind. And that’s totally okay! There are so many great 3D printers out there that we simply could not include all of the good options in this list. So if you have a printer in mind that you’ve been dying to get your hands on, we don’t blame you!
That said, there are some things that you want to keep in the front of your mind when you’re looking for the perfect tabletop 3D printer. We took quite a bit more than this into consideration when making our guide above, but these are four of the main things to consider when buying a 3D printer: cost, the type of printer, the dimensions of what it can print, and the associated software.
Let’s dive into each one a little deeper to get a better idea of how they all affect the perfect 3D printer choice.
This one is kind of a given. When you’re buying anything, especially something that can potentially cost a lot of money, it’s important to consider the price. Before you get too far into your search for the perfect 3D printer,sit down and really try to figure out a budget for how much you’re willing to spend. It’s important to do this early on before you start seeing some really nice printers that catch your attention and make you want to spend more!
As you saw above with our favorite options on the market, 3D printers for miniatures can range in price from a few hundred dollars up to a few thousand dollars or more. And the printer itself isn’t the only cost. You’ll need equipment, 3D modeling software, printer software, and more. So figure out how much you want to spend before you fall in love with a printer that you can’t afford!
There are a lot of nuances between all the various types of 3D printers and how the different technologies work. But for the sake of being concise, there are really just two types to keep in mind. We’re talking about FDM vs SLA 3D printers. Those acronyms stand for Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Stereolithography (SLA), respectively.
We won’t get into any nitty-gritty details here, but it’s definitely important to keep in mind what type of printer you’re buying. Nine times out of ten, you’ll be looking for an FDM printer. This is the type that uses plastic filaments and fuses them together as it prints; likely what you think of when you think about 3D printing.
SLA printers use liquid resin and a laser that causes it to cure and harden. While SLA 3D printing is far more popular among professionals and those in the industrial printer categories, there are still tabletop SLA printers available. For the vast majority of our readers and their projects, we recommend sticking with FDM printers.
This is something to consider no matter what size or kind of printer you’re buying. But it’s especially important if you’re shopping for a 3D printer for miniatures. Because even if you’re planning on just making small-scale prints and products, you don’t want to run into the issue of your printer being too small to be able to give you what you want.
During your search, check the print bed dimensions of the printer(s) that you’re interested in. Typically, this will be presented in three numbers such as 6”L x 6”W x 7”H or something like that. This means that you can print a model that’s 6” x 6” in length/width and up to 7” tall, or anything smaller. For most miniatures, print bed sizes around this range or what you’ll typically see.
3D Printing Software
As we mentioned briefly a couple of times in this article, there is more to 3D printing than just buying a 3D printer and being good to go. One of the additional things that you need to consider is the 3D printing software that the printer is compatible with. This includes the software that runs the printer itself as well as the 3D modeling software you’ll be using.
Oftentimes, 3D printers are only compatible with certain types of software, and then that software might only accept model files in certain formats. In most cases, printers will accept the most common 3D model file formats (STL files) and you won’t have any major problems. But when you’re looking for a printer, just pay attention to what it is and is not compatible with.
There is really nothing worse than spending a bunch of time creating the perfect 3D model only to go upload it to your brand new printer and… nothing is compatible. So just be mindful of it!