3D printing has greatly changed how we create objects for fun or functional use. However, 3D printers can be very costly, especially if you’re on a tight budget. In this article, I will explore some of the best ways to get a free 3D printer and some affordable options.
To get a free 3D printer, you will need to participate in contests, giveaways, or crowdfund for a new one. You can also search for one in online 3D printing communities or participate in tech-related workshops.
Alternatively, you can get affordable 3D printers from online platforms like Amazon, Craigslist, Microcenter, eBay, and Comgrow.
Keep reading to find out more about these methods.
How to Get a Free 3D Printer
One of the main challenges that most beginners face when they begin their 3D printing journey is the high cost of printers. Luckily, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best avenues to get a free 3D printer. They include:
- Contests and giveaways
- Local libraries and shared workspaces, g., Makerspace
- Online 3D printing forums and groups
- Promotions and sponsorships
Let’s dive deeper into these methods:
1. Contests and Giveaways
One of the best ways to get a free 3D printer is by participating in contests and giveaways. 3D printer manufacturers and dealers organize such events to increase awareness of their brands and improve customer relations.
A good example is the Creality Cloud Shoe Design Contest. Here, the person with the best-designed, wearable shoe takes home $2,000, an Ender-5 S1, and 2KG of TPU filament as a prize.
The prize for second place is $1200, an Ender-5 S1 and 2KG of TPU filament, while the prize for third place is $800, an Ender-5 S1 and 2KG of TPU filament.
The process for joining the contest was as follows:
- Sign up on the Creality Cloud website by clicking the log-in button in the top-left corner and choosing “Sign Up” from the pop-up window that appears.
- Design a shoe model to the best of your ability.
- Upload your model to the shoe contest page.
You can monitor the site for similar contests and enter if you have the required skills.
One user advised 3D printing enthusiasts to participate in competitions Creality holds to win a free printer. To be eligible, you have to upload a model you’ve designed to Creality Cloud.
The person whose model gets the most votes wins the competition and will receive a 3D printer from the company. This takes place every week.
Another similar contest is the Bambu Lab P1P design contest. In this contest, the participants are supposed to remix mod plates, develop new enclosures, create unique spool holders, and much more.
If you emerge as the winner, you’ll get a brand new Bambu Lab P1P printer.
Giveaways, on the other hand, just require you to fill out a form or share a post to potentially get a printer as a prize. For example, Snapmaker regularly partners with 3D printing influencers to offer printer giveaways to people who like and follow their posts on social media.
Note: You should always be careful when searching for contests and giveaways online since many fraudulent sites exist.
Always check the legitimacy of the site offering the giveaway or contest. One way to do that is to look up reviews of the site online. Too many negative reviews should be a red flag.
Another way you can get a free 3D printer is through crowdfunding. It has become very popular recently as it is a relatively straightforward method of raising funds for companies or individual projects from many sources.
To get a “free 3D printer,” you can launch a campaign to raise funds through one of the several crowdfunding platforms available, such as Indiegogo, Kickstarter, or GoFundMe.
However, I’d suggest GoFundMe because you may need an innovative piece of tech or an interesting project to crowdfund on the first two sites.
This might be difficult if you’re just raising funds to purchase a 3D printer. GoFundMe only requires you to share a compelling story on why you need funds for a 3D printer before you can launch a fundraiser.
3. Local Libraries or Shared Workspaces
One place where you can get access to a 3D printer for free is public libraries. This option is suitable for people who just want to print stuff from time to time but aren’t ready to purchase a printer.
Many libraries have tech equipment that is open to the general public. To start, you need to do a Google search for local libraries near you that offer 3D printing services.
After finding one, visit them to get a chance to use their 3D printers for free. However, you may be required to purchase your own materials.
Alternatively, if you really love 3D printing, then I would advise you to join a shared or community-operated workspace, e.g., Makerspace. This is one of the best ways to get free access to resources such as 3D printers.
It is also a good way to meet like-minded people who can help you improve your 3D printing skills. Just search “makerspaces near me” on Google to find one and join.
One user asked how he could use a 3D printer for free or for a small fee. Someone responded that they needed to visit a public library near them to get one.
However, he was cautioned that 3D printers in public libraries might not be in perfect working condition since many people use them. Also, most of them aren’t high-quality machines.
Another user advised him to look for a nearby Unallocated Space (a nonprofit makerspace). He added that there was a Google calendar on the events page of the website where you could view which dates it was open so you could go in and use a 3D printer.
A user commented that the best way to get a free 3D printer was to search on Google for “library <your city> 3D printing” or “hackerspace|makerspace|fablab <your city>.” They added that these organizations had open days when anyone could go in and use the printers.
4. Online 3D Printing Forums and Groups
Another method of getting a free 3D printer is by joining and asking on online 3D printing forums and social media. Members of these groups usually upgrade their printers regularly.
Subsequently, they may be willing to dispose of their old model for free or cheaply. By inquiring regularly, you might be lucky to find someone willing to give you their old printer for free.
Additionally, members of 3D printing groups may provide you with valuable information on where you can get a free 3D printer. For example, they may highlight giveaways that you weren’t aware of.
They can also mention active promotions that you could participate in to earn a free 3D printer. Some of the best forums and groups to join include:
- 3D Printing: One of Facebook’s largest and most active 3D printing groups.
- r/3Dprinting: This is a Reddit community that discusses 3D printing, its challenges, and solutions.
- 3D Printing Today: Among the largest 3D printing groups on LinkedIn
- 3D Printing for Noobs: This Facebook group is dedicated to helping people who are starting out on their 3D printing journey.
5. Promotions and Sponsorships
Another great way to get a free 3D printer is through company sponsorships. Many prominent companies sponsor people to review their printers or promote them. However, you’ll need to have a decent following before they can approach you.
So, if you already have a large following on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube and have good knowledge of 3D printing, then this method will suit you.
Send your proposal to one of the companies that manufacture 3D printers (if they haven’t approached you already) to either review or promote their product on your social media pages or YouTube channel.
In exchange, the company may pay you or offer you a free 3D printer. These companies send several YouTubers, such as the 3D Printing Nerd and CHEP, free 3D printers, and other gear to test and review.
How to Get a 3D Printer for Cheap
If you have exhausted all avenues of getting a 3D printer for free, but you’re still unsuccessful, you can opt for a cheap one instead. Very few 3D printers come at affordable prices when they are brand new.
However, you can get used or refurbished printers at relatively low prices ($200 and below). Here are some of the main sources:
- Micro Center
- Classified ads like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace
One of the places you can get a 3D printer for cheap is Amazon. Being the largest online retailer, they offer a variety of products, including 3D printers.
To get a cheap printer on Amazon, filter your search parameter by price and go through the results to find the one you prefer, add it to your cart, and then check out.
You can also keep an eye out for Amazon’s annual Prime Day event, where they offer steep discounts on various products, including 3D printers. One good thing about Amazon is that they allow for easy returns of defective products.
One user said they bought a Photon Mono X 4K resin printer from Amazon for $180. They said that it provided great quality prints despite its price.
Another user stated that you should ensure that your 3D printer ships from Amazon, not the seller. This is because dealing directly with Amazon makes it easier to return the product if anything is wrong with it.
Additionally, don’t make a mistake when making an order to avoid return shipping fees.
Here is a comprehensive review of the Easythreed X1 Flexible Filament 3D printer that can be found on Amazon for around $130.
2. Micro Center
Micro Center is a prominent American retailer that deals with computers, 3D printers, and other electronic devices. Pop into one of their store locations countrywide or go to their website and search for affordable 3D printers.
One user recommends an Ender 3 Pro for only $99 from any nearby Microcenter using the coupon sale they are running. He adds that you can upgrade it to compete with high-end machines, but you will have to invest a good amount of time and mods on it.
Alternatively, you could live with it like that since it produces decent prints for a sub-$300 machine. Another user
A user suggested spending $10–$15 on small mods like stiffer bed springs and an aluminum extruder for a start. Later on, they could add a silent motherboard, fireproof tents, fan upgrades, and a glass bed if they prefer.
For example, you can upgrade the stock extruder to an Upgraded Aluminum Drive Feed Extruder. In addition to being more durable than the stock extruder, the drive feed extruder provides a smoother and stronger filament feed.
You can also change the gear’s pressure easily to ensure that it doesn’t squish the filament while feeding it in.
Another great upgrade for your stock Ender 3 is the Aokin 3D Printer Bed Springs. Most 3D printing enthusiasts recommend this as one of the first upgrades for any Ender 3.
These springs are stronger and more stable than stock springs. As a result, your bed will stay level for longer and wobble less during printing.
Check out the video below to see a user who reviews the $99 Ender 3 Pro from Microcenter.
One user commented that he picked up his Ender 3 Pro from there and even 3D printed some upgrades to make it a direct drive 3D printer.
You can also get a cheap 3D printer from Comgrow. This is an online retailer that sells used and refurbished Creality 3D printers and their related accessories for extremely low prices. Check out their site to see some of the printers they offer.
One user who bought an Ender 3 S1 from Comgrow for $299, tax included, said they were happy with the purchase and would buy from Comgrow again. The only blemishes they found were a couple of scratches on the frame and firmware that wasn’t updated, which they fixed easily.
Check out the review I did on the Creality Ender 3 S1.
Another user said that they purchased a Creality Ender 3 for $79 from Comgrow, and it was printing well so far. However, he noted that it was missing some screws and needed a new x-axis belt.
eBay is a good source of 3D printers at pocket-friendly prices. This is because eBay focuses on selling refurbished and used goods.
Before purchasing any printer from eBay, ensure you read its description, specifications and carefully review its condition.
Also, confirm the seller’s reputation by looking at their reviews. This will help you avoid fraudsters who could potentially sell you a defective product.
One user asked where he could get cheap returns or refurbished printers and was advised to go to eBay to find a good deal. He was told he could find a used Ender 3 for $120–160, tops, since people upgrade their printers and give away their current ones at lower prices or for free.
The only thing they needed to do was ensure the seller was reputable by looking at their reviews. Another user warned them that 3D printing was expensive since they would also need to buy tools, upgrades, and filaments (which cost $10–20+ per kg), just to mention a few.
He recommended the inquirer find a Makerspace or someone who owned a printer and use theirs instead of purchasing one.
Keep in mind that there is more of a risk when buying used from a seller that doesn’t have much of a reputation, especially with these electrical devices.
5. Classified Ads like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace
The final place you can get a 3D printer for cheap is on classified ads sites such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Browse through the electronics section of those sites and search for 3D printers.
You will find several printers that have been listed at low prices. Although their condition may not be new, you can still get fully functional 3D printers to work with.
One user was delighted after bagging a Monoprice IIIP for only $20 from Craigslist. This is after the original user threw it away due to a minor malfunction and purchased a new one.
To get it up and running, he needed to clean the base with rubbing alcohol and level the bed slowly.
Here’s a video of this type of 3D printer at work.
Someone advised him to purchase new nozzles, clean everything else on the machine, re-grease the rails, and tighten all bolts. In addition, he needed to reseat wiring plugs, dust electronic boards, and ensure that all the belts weren’t loose or worn out.
Another user who had a Monoprice Maker Select i3 for about a year and a half bagged a Wanhao i3 for $150 after searching on Facebook Marketplace.
He said that a lady had bought it for her young kids, but they didn’t use it, so she decided to sell it. He messaged her and was able to pick it up at the end of the day.
These are all our top leads for free and cheap 3D printers. You can also keep an eye out for great offers, giveaways, and sales in your location to see if you can find one!