I decided to buy a 3D printer to help me finish some projects at home. Buying a 3D printer requires some research, so I’m sharing mine here to help you.
Why buy a 3D printer?
If you’ve spoken to me over the past couple of years, you’ll know I bought and renovated a home, keeping just the shell and re-building from there. Although the building work has finished, there’s still work to be done inside the house, including furnishing and automation.
On the automation side I am working on three projects.
- Mounting Android tablets in hallways and bedrooms to provide smart home control with a custom mount
- Replacing wireless window sensors with wired ones using custom mounts
- Automating Velux blinds by modifying their controller with an ESP32 control and putting together a new case for the components.
Picking up these projects each weekend, I realised that I either needed to buy pricey components or needed to build something custom to get them done. The mounts for the 4 Android tablets would cost ~£200 and I didn’t have a good solution for creating the custom components for the other two projects without a 3D printer. It’s possible to buy a cheap 3D printer for around £200, so I decided to research and buy one.
With a 3D printer, I could design and print the mounts I needed for a fraction of the cost (yes, I know I need to invest time in 3D modelling, but that’s fun and self-development) and I could try to model and print the custom components I needed for mounting the wired window sensors and housing the modified velux controller.
Which printers did I consider?
I started researching and narrowed down to three choices.
- The Creality Ender 3 V2
- A BambuLabs printer (P1P or X1 Carbon)
- Prusa MK4
|Creality Ender 3 V2
|Prusa MK4 Kit
|Price (Feb 2024)
|£219 on Amazon UK
|£790.80 on Prusa3D
|£549 + £10 Delivery from BambuLab
|£49 on Amazon UK
|Optional extra £256
|Optional extra £143
|Total Price inc enclosure
Note: P1S has an enclosure by default and costs £639
X1 Carbon has an enclosure by default and can print harder materials costs £1,099.00 GBP
|Delivery lead time (at time of writing)
|Next day (Amazon prime)
|220 × 220 × 250mm
|250 x 210 x 220 mm
|256 x 256 x 256 mm
|~ 1 hour to print a benchy
|Less than 20 minutes to print a benchy [video]
|Less than 20 minutes to print a benchy [video]
|Not included, but possible via raspberry pi (octoprint) or other add-on
|Optional module, included with purchase
|Bed-slinger / Cartesian
|Bed-slinger / Cartesian
|CoreXY (newer technology, higher quality prints and faster)
|PLA, PETG, ABS
|PLA, PETG, ABS, ASA, Flex, HIPS, PA, PVA, PC, PP, CPE, PVB, NGEN, composites and more
|Ideal: PLA, PETG, TPU, PVA, PET
Capable (Enclosure required): PA, PC, ABS, ASA
|Auto Bed Levelling
|MMU3 (£292.80)Not yet released
|Included with enclosure
|Assembly required before printing?
|2-4 hours + fine-tuning
|Micro USB / TF Card
|USB drive / LAN / internet via Prusa Connect
|SD Card, WLAN, internet via BambuLabs
Note: Since buying a printer, I’ve read some positive reviews for the Creality K1, but I haven’t looked into that machine. Looking on Amazon, it is cheaper than the Bambu and Prusa. The K1 MAX would be the one that meets my requirements but is more expensive than the Bambu P1S (with enclosure), but less than the Prusa MK4 (with enclosure).
My gut instinct was to buy the top-end printer just in case I like 3D printing and don’t want FOMO in the future. Mulling it over, I decided to fight my urge to overbuy and go for a cheaper printer.
Reading many reviews online, there was one question asked that stuck in my mind:
“Do you want a hobby building and maintaining 3D printers, or do you want a hobby printing 3D things?”
Whilst I probably would enjoy building and tinkering with the printer, that’s not what I want. I want to print parts to finish my projects and tick them off my to-do list.
For this reason, I discounted the Creality Ender S3 V2 because the reviews made it seem that this printer required a lot more fine tuning to get high quality prints. The print speed is also slow. That left me with the Prusa MK4 and the BambuLabs P1P.
The MK4 was recently released, but uses older technology (bed-slinging) than the BambuLabs (Core-XY). I hit the buy button on the Prusa website but the 5-6 week lead time made me hesitate before paying. I watched a couple more YouTube reviews and consulted wirecutter to help build conviction in my choice. Both nudged me to reconsider BambuLabs – and I did.
I bought the BambuLabs P1P.
Why did I choose the BambuLabs P1P 3D Printer?
Given the high price tag of the Prusa MK4 with enclosure (£1040), I was initially considering the Bambu Labs X1 Carbon. It offered more value for money (£1099 inc webcam & lights) than the Prusa. I wasn’t sure how much usage I’d get out of the printer though. I’ve never owned a printer before and I didn’t know how good the prints would be or how often I’d use the printer. For this reason, I started to consider the cheaper BambuLabs P1P and P1S. I bought the P1P because it was the cheapest option, and if I liked it I could add an enclosure – effectively turning it into a P1S – for £138 more. The P1P cost me £559 delivered.
So other than price, why did I choose the P1P?
Printer didn’t require assembly.
I took the printer out of the box and I was printing within 20 minutes. My first print from the supplied SD card was a failure – I think I lowered the temperature on the build plate by mistake. I downloaded BambuStudio, retried the print and success! In comparison, the Prusa MK4 Kit would require ~8 hours of assembly before I could print anything.
The Prusa printer had a 5-6 week lead time. The Bambu one was in my hands 2 days after ordering. Remember, I want to print parts to complete other projects, I didn’t want to wait for the printer to arrive.
A lot of reviews were positive about both the Bambu and Prusa printers. People described the Prusa’s as workhorses. Others described the Bambu as ‘it just works’. I chose ‘it just works’. Since getting the printer, I must say the Bambu has churned out print after print with only a couple of failures due to my own error.
Bambu took Prusa’s open source PrusaSlicer and skinned it to create BambuStudio. It works great and is well optimised for the machine.
Bambu’s P1P, P1S and X1 Carbon are all CoreXY printers. Reddit tells me that CoreXY is the newer technology for 3D printers and should give higher quality prints in less time. The Prusa and Creality are ‘bed-slingers’ meaning the entire printing bed moved back and forth. On the Bambu the bed moves up and down (z-axis) and the print head moves on the x and y axes.
The Bambu P1P included a webcam and LED light as standard.
The Bambu P1P and the Prusa can both be upgraded to have an enclosure. For the Bambu you have a choice of printing or buying an enclosure. The enclosure from Bambu Labs is cheaper than the one from Prusa.
The bambu can print 256 x 256 x 256mm. The max dimension of the Prusa was 250mm. I want to print a case for a wall mounted tablet which requires a design 255mm in width. that means you can print in any any layout on on the on the print bed which is really great for printing slightly bigger things and also if you want to print lots of things you have a little bit of extra wiggle room in space and print them all in one go without the the slicer complaining about them overlapping
To print on the Prusa, I’d need to design a case in two halves with a way of connecting them together. Once connected you’d also see a line where the two pieces meet, which doesn’t work for me.
The AMS is already available and can do up to 16 colours, if I wanted to increase the capability of my machine.
What I wish Prusa would do
I do wish I could have bought a Prusa machine because I like to support local businesses (in Europe) who are providing a quality service for the community through their open source machine. I believe Prusa were competitive for many years, but now their devices seem expensive and lack some bells and whistles when compared to Bambu. Here are my request for Prusa (in case they read this post)
- Open source – keep it up
- CoreXY – make a new printer with this technology
- Price – I know Europe is more expensive, but the printer needs to be in the same ballpark as the BambuLab ones
- Extras – camera, LEDs etc should be included as standard
- Enclosure – reduce the price, it’s not competitive vs BambuLab
My experience with the BambuLabs P1P so far
The P1P is a solid machine – I’m really happy with it! And no, this isn’t a paid review.
I’ve been using Bambu Studio to print objects from printables.com. I am teaching myself Fusion 360, so I can design parts for my personal projects. I’ve already designed a working print for my window sensor project. With the BambuLabs I was able to quickly print several iterations of my design, finding the perfect one for my use case.
What I dislike
Unlike the Prusa, BambuLabs machines are closed source. Which means it may be hard to get replacement parts if BambuLabs goes out of business.
I prefer devices with local control because they’ll continue to work even if the manufacturer goes out of business. With BambuLabs, their cloud service is required for sending prints, using the mobile app and viewing the camera. It is possible to send prints locally, but I’m not sure the camera or app will continue to work, which makes it hard to monitor prints when you’re away from the printer.
Lack of failed print detection
Unlike the X1C, the P1P doesn’t detect failed prints.
Also, it isn’t currently possible to get the video feed from camera. If and when this is possible, it might be possible to set up failed print detection by monitoring the camera feed.
Inability to resume failed prints
I’ve had a couple of instances where my filament became tangled and the print failed. It would be nice to ‘resume’ the print from the last good moment to avoid wasting half printed objects.
Waste of filament on change of colour
The printer discards a bit of filament each time it starts printing. When using an AMS it discards filament each time it switches colour. It seems rather wasteful.
Was it worth the money?
Contact sensor project
A pack of 10 spacers cost £7.80 + £4 delivery. I need 36 in total, so that’s 4 packs (£35.20 inc delivery). It’ll cost me less than 10% of that in filament to print all 36 spacers I need AND mine are made to the exact size I require.
Wall Dashboard Project
The two tablets I mounted to the wall cost me ~£50 per 3D printed wall mount. I want to mount at least 2 more tablets. Printing both mounts will save me ~£100.
This is an illustrative example only. I’m not running a 3D printing business. I know there are other costs to factor in e.g. electricity, my time learning 3D modelling, time and filament spent on prototypes etc.
That said, across the two projects I’ve saved about £135. I’ve also been able to print custom gifts for family members e.g. figurines or christmas tree decorations with their name on them, which adds to the value I’m getting from the 3D printer.
Would I buy it again?
In hindsight, I wish I had actually bought the P1S with enclosure or the X1 Carbon. I’m really enjoying learning how to model and print 3D objects. The X1 Carbon can detect if the print fails and stop itself, which will save filament, but I’m not sure if that alone is worth the price difference. The screen on the X1 looks much better versus the one on the P1P / P1S.
For now, I’m going to buy the P1P -> P1S upgrade kit to add an enclosure to my printer. I’m also going to upgrade the nozzle and gear so I can print harder materials like carbon fibre or ABS. If I find myself really pushing my printer, I may upgrade to the X1 Carbon in the future, but don’t think it necessary for now.