Did you know that the RepRap Prusa i3 is the most popular 3D printer in the world? It’s more widely used than machines made by Ultimaker, Zortrax and other big hitters of the desktop 3D printing world.
How is this possible? Two words: “open” and “source”.
Developed for the RepRap project by Josef Prusa, the i3 — short for iteration 3 — is a fully open source 3D printer. The design of this fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer is versatile, reliable and, crucially for this list, openly available for replication and iteration. That and pretty much all of its non-3D printable components (or “vitamins”, in 3D printing parlance) are cheap and easily sourced.
As a result, a veritable explosion of Prusa i3 clones is available for purchase. Some are large, some small, some fast, some easy to use, but most of them have one thing in common: they’re cheap.
Here we present the most interesting of the Prusa i3 clone alternatives, categorized according to what makes them unique from each other.
Before getting on to the clones, a special note regarding features: For each of the Prusa i3 clone alternatives, the supported filaments are based on the printer’s maximum nozzle and print bed temperatures.
(Main Image Credit: Prusa Printers)
The Original Prusa i3 MK3 kit comes directly from the company founded and owned by Josef Prusa — Prusa Research — and this machine adheres to his exact specifications and quality assurance. The latest iteration, the MK3, features a raft of improvements over the MK2S, including filament sensors, power outage recovery, enhanced control electronics, a removable magnetic bed, and a more reliable aluminum y-axis.
From our point of view, it doesn’t get better than the original (read our full Prusa i3 Mk3 review here).
But most importantly, by buying this Prusa i3 kit, you will be supporting its continued development. Not only is it the best Prusa i3 kit, it’s also one of the best 3D printers on the market right now.
As of early 2018, the Prusa i3 MK3 has features that you won’t find in most Prusa i3 clone. Still, most of the features of the predecessor, the Prusa i3 Mk2S, are available on the printers of this list.
As the title suggests, this section contains the cheapest Prusa i3 clone alternatives. Note that some that belong here have been placed in more relevant sections, like the massive Creality CR-10.
Given that the following are the most affordable models, it should come as no surprise that they mostly resemble each other.
The machines are sorted by popularity, based on their search volume on Google.
The Anet A8 is one of the most popular Prusa i3 clones available. It is held together with a piano-black acrylic frame, and all rods, gears, bearings, and connectors are made out of stainless steel. This is important for the stability of this Prusa i3 clone to ensure smooth operation. The print volume of 220 x 220 x 240 mm³ is rather generous and unconventional for an i3 rework. Other features include a heated print bed and an LCD screen interface.
With a simple and sturdy construction, the Tevo Tarantula is relatively easy to assemble and has both good performance and quality. Optional extras include automatic bed leveling and a larger build volume (200 x 280 x 200 mm³). The auto-leveling version uses a proximity sensor to detect the aluminum print bed, whereas the standard Prusa i3 kit uses a microswitch to detect the end of travel for the Z-axis movement.
As the name suggests, this mini Prusa i3 kit is geared towards people just starting out with building a 3D printer. In actuality, the Startt is a Tronxy XY-100, a now difficult to find Prusa i3 clone. It offers a print volume that beats out the popular MonoPrice Select Mini, but lacks a heated bed, limiting it to printing in PLA only. It’s a bare-bone machine designed to do one thing: come in under that magic $100 mark.
The Startt can be purschased on iMakr’s website.
This standard Prusa i3 clone comes from Chinese manufacturer Raiscube. As usual, the key aspect of this device is its low price, which is notable give its stability, heated bed, and LCD screen. A variation with an aluminum frame also exists, called the A8R. Naturally, the added stability comes at a slightly increased price. Just be wary of the stated maximum nozzle and print bed temperatures of 260 and 120 degrees Celsius, which should support much more than the advertised support for only PLA and ABS.
Well-known for their Mega 3D printer, Anycubic also offers this more standard Prusa i3 clone. As with several others on this list, the main advantage with this machine is its low cost. That said, the Modular i3 does come with a few small extras, including a metal-reinforced frame and Anycubic’s patented Ultrabase print bed. The Modular i3 is advertised as supporting only PLA and ABS, but should be able to print with several other varieties of filament given its maximum nozzle and print bed temperatures of 260 and 100 degrees Celsius.
Look no further for the Prusa i3 clone alternatives with the largest print volumes. Also, these 3D printers are ranked by their popularity on Google’s search engine.
Looking at it, one can easily see that the Creality CR-10 diverged to become its own genus of Prusa i3 clone. It’s most unique characteristics are its print volume, which is one of the largest in this list, and its racing stripes. Likely you’ve seen those same stripes before; due to its popularity, clones of this clone have flooded the market.
If you want to go even bigger, there are two larger variations at 400 x 400 x 400 mm³ and 500 x 500 x 500 mm³. This Prusa i3 clone is advertised as having a maximum nozzle temperature of 270 degrees Celsius, which should be enough to print with materials as fickle as nylon, though it doesn’t appear in the printer’s list of supported filaments…
Look familiar? That’s because the Tevo Tornado is inspired by the CR-10, making it a clone of a clone. That being said, it does come with a few unique features over its competition. For a slightly reduced price tag, you get dual Z screws and a powerful extruder from E3D’s Titan. It also has a separate power supply for the heated bed. That means less time waiting and more time printing!
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Confusingly, the Anet A6 is a model upgrade over its wildly popular sibling, the Anet A8. Despite a raft of improvements to its frame structure and makeup — including switching the x-axis carriage rods from one on top of the other, to side-by-side — it is still entirely a Prusa i3 clone. Additionally, Anet added a larger LCD screen paired with a rotating knob, which supposedly gives an easier experience navigating the printer’s menus.
Representing a greater departure from the standard Prusa i3 clone, the JGAurora A5 is the upgraded cousin to the A3. For a little more money, you get much much more than just an aesthetic overhaul. The sturdy metal from is still there, but now with all the controller electronics stored in the base, which is topped off by a user-friendly touchscreen. (Indeed the overall appearance is quite similar to Monoprice’s Maker Select Plus.) Yet the most notable features of this Prusa i3 clone are its large build volume, power outage recovery, and filament detection.
This Prusa i3 clone was bred for size, possessing the second largest build volume in this list. Other unique features of this Tevo kit include CNC-milled aluminum plates, providing exceptional rigidity, and an all-metal hot end.
Here, stability refers mostly to the 3D printer’s construction. The Prusa i3 clone alternatives in this list have metal frames or heavy bases, or both! As a result, fewer vibrations should result from movements by the print head. Once again, the sorting of the Prusa i3 clones was done according to their popularity on Google.
Though not a direct Prusa i3 clone, Anycubic’s i3 Mega[/product_overlay is based on the familiar RepRap model, and features a few unique features. They include a rigid metal frame, electronics stored in the base, and a touchscreen. Despite it’s strong physical appearance, this machine is smart, too, offering a filament outage sensor as well as print resume after power loss. The Mega comes partially assembled, and the rest of the steps are easy.
The JGAurora A3 has nearly all metal parts, which makes for a nice and sturdy design. The build volume of this Prusa i3 clone is a solid 200 x 200 x 180 mm³ and it also features a heated print bed (making printing with ABS possible). And while the maximum print resolution of 100 microns is fairly standard, the LCD screen interface allows the printer to be operated using an SD card only, without the need for a computer in close proximity.
The name of this RepRap 3D printer is misleading: there’s no such thing as a Prusa i4. Or, at least, Josef Prusa hasn’t gotten around to designing one. Sunhokey are guilty of being over-excitable in trying to distinguish their Prusa i3 clone from the rest of the pack. Which is a pity, because the machine itself looks like a neat refinement, with a heavy metal base and a unique X-axis rotation design with the motor mounted to the extruder housing. It also claims to have incredible maximum nozzle and print bed temperatures, at 280 and 130 degrees Celsius. If true, this machine should allow you to print with more difficult materials such as nylon and polypropylene.
FLSun’s Prusa i3 clone is a sturdy machine with an aluminum frame. Thanks to recent upgrades, there are now two fans to cool the extruder and filament. The build volume of this Prusa i3 clone is a standard 200 x 200 x 200 mm³ and it features both a maximum resolution of 100 microns and a heated print bed. Available upgrades include an LCD control panel and an SD card reader.
Appearing in this first list are the Prusa i3 clone alternatives we consider to be most “reputable” (sorted on their Google search rank). By that we mean the companies are well-trusted within the 3D printing community.
Another pre-assembled Prusa i3 clone, the Monoprice Maker Select Plus is the rebranded Wanhao’s Duplicator i3 Plus. It therefore incorporates the exact same features, such as a sturdy steel frame and a number of improvements over its predecessor, the Maker Select V2 (Duplicator i3 V2). They include housing all of the electronics in the base (instead of in an external box) and a touchscreen interface. For a little less dough, the earlier model is still available for purchase.
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Despite being an upgrade over the original Hephestos, the Hephestos 2 is now almost two years old. (Where’s the Hephestos 3?) It’s age shows in its lack of a heated bed, now a standard Prusa i3 clone feature. You can, however, purchase a heated bed add-on, and the core machine is nevertheless a reliable 3D printer. It’s very clearly based around the Prusa i3 kit open frame design, but with a carefully considered approach to assembly and features, including an auto-leveling sensor probe and a powerful hot-end that’s perfect for printing with flexible filaments. Most impressively, BQ claims that this Prusa i3 clone can be assembled in less than an hour.
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The Pulse is a high quality product with reliable hardware and software. Though not a Prusa i3 kit, MatterHackers’ take on the RepRap 3D printer stays true to the original design. Each device is assembled, tested, and guaranteed by MatterHackers professionals, based in California. Impressively, the Pulse is the only Prusa i3 clone in this list claiming to have a layer resolution of less than 50 microns, beating out even the MK3. Although the core 3D printer is already a decent machine, several upgrades are available, including an Olsson Ruby nozzle and an LCD screen.
eMotion Tech, also known as RepRap France, recently “facelifted” their original Rework 1.5. The result is a metal masterpiece. The steel frame offers sturdiness and requires fewer parts than must be assembled with a typical Prusa i3 kit. The company even opted to remove several 3D printed components to further ensure stability. Thanks to its machined aluminum nozzle, this Prusa i3 clone can accommodate a wide variety of materials and prints with a high precision of 50 microns.
The i3 Metal Motion can be purchased on eMotion Tech’s website.
We admit, “special features” is a bit of a catch-all term. Here you have Prusa i3 clone alternatives that are unique in some other way than price, build volume, and stability. Keep in mind that some of the identified features are not different from the Original Prusa MK3, but from other clones in this article.
Hictop’s Prusa i3 clone features an auto-leveling print bed, so you’ll never need to trial and error the calibration to nail a perfectly flat bed. One other aspect that makes it special is its larger-than-average build volume of 270 x 210 x 190 mm³.
This Prusa i3 clone takes a leap over others with the ability to print three different filaments through three nozzles on the same print head. For a remarkably affordable price, you get the ability to print multiple colors, provided the software you’re using can handle such complications. The EI3 has a maximum resolution of 50 microns, an LCD screen and a build volume of 200 x 280 x 200 mm³. And thanks to its heated bed, it’s possible to print with different materials like ABS.
RepRap Guru offer a complete Prusa i3 kit that doesn’t require altering, drilling, soldering or cutting. It even includes a square plate of borosilicate heated bed glass, something that’s missing from the Folger Tech kit, for example. Version 2 is much the same as its predecessor, apart from the addition of an LCD screen, which allows you to adjust settings and monitor print progress. This Prusa i3 clone has a frame that comes in either transparent or black acrylic. The advertised maximum nozzle and print bed temperatures of 280 and 120 degrees Celsius seem a little unlikely, especially given the printer claims to be able to print with only PLA and ABS.
The Pro C is yet another Prusa i3 clone from Geeetech, but with one major difference: dual extrusion. It also offers a number of other useful features. First and foremost is the onboard control panel, where users can manage print jobs and general settings like build platform calibration. Monitor hot end and print bed temperatures as well as the progress of a print job. The only thing missing is an auto-leveling feature — perhaps something to explore as the next DIY project in your 3D printing odyssey?
Folger Technologies offers an elegant but affordable Prusa i3 clone, with a frame constructed from laser cut acrylic plastic. This Prusa i3 kit comes with almost everything you need to build your own machine, with the exception of an 8″x 8″ glass surface for the print bed. An LCD screen with an SD card reader is also available as an optional extra. This machine claims to be able to print with ABS, but its advertised maximum nozzle temperature of 230 degrees Celsius might have difficulties doing so. The same company offers another Prusa i3 clone with an aluminum frame that’s not so pleasing to the eye (but it is easier on the wallet).
License: The text of "2018’s Best Prusa i3 Clone – 27 Clones vs Prusa i3 MK3" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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