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As of writing this article I have two Prusa MK3 printers and two Prusa MINI+ printers. It’s a small and growing farm that will one day be upwards of 15-20 printers. It was three years ago (2018) that I chose the Prusa brand, bought my first MK3, and haven’t looked back.
There are a plethora of reviews of Prusa printers online. The vast majority doing a much better job than I could at detailing the pros and cons of owning a Prusa machine. This article will highlight my decision making in choosing Prusa printers and my experience with them (the good and the bad) but is in no way a comprehensive review.
TL; DR: Prusas are the best bang for your buck. They are consistent, reliable, and have saved me hours of tinkering. Print quality is exceptional for the price range and the printers are overall a solid investment for my printer farm. Nearly every single issue I have had with a print was due to bad filament or my ignorance. Prusas aren’t perfect. But they just work when setup correctly. That is why I love them.
The following are things that are important to consider when building out your printer farm. And ultimately why I chose the 3D printers I did. At the end of the day it’s a numbers game (as all businesses are).
The significant numbers are time and money. How much time and how much money goes into running the farm? How does that translate into value that I can make a profit with?
My Time is Precious
The whole point of the printers is to grow a side business. Something that steadily rakes in the dough once everything is setup and running. I want to spend as little time tinkering, maintaining, or fixing the printers as possible. Prusas are known to be reliable and to date I have had great luck with them.
To be fair, I am type of guy who is better suited to work on spreadsheets and business ideas than to be troubleshooting machines. Someone with more hands-on troubleshooting skills may be able to make less reliable printers work just fine. That is just not a problem I want to have to solve.
Print Quality is Paramount
I’m proud of these prints. They are exceptional and I’ll confidently add them to my Etsy store. They were all printed on Prusa machines.
To be profitable at selling a 3D printed product the model coming off the printer has to be consistent and require little time post-processing in order to save time and effort. That being said, in general 3D printed parts have layer lines and will never be as smooth as an injected molded part. But for 3D printing, the Prusa printers hold your hand and help you avoid all the pitfalls that might make your print uglier then it should.
I’m talking about blobs, burns, shifting layers, stringing, under-extrusion, etc. Especially when used in tandem with the slicer software that Prusa has developed and recommends for their printers, there is little room for error.
Here are some examples of poor quality prints.
Money is Limited
Prusas don’t come out of China. But they also aren’t expensive. I only buy the MK3 kits or the preassembled MINI. Both these options are reasonably priced and worth the investment for the reliability alone.
At $800 for a MK3 kit shipped to the U.S. I get a minimum of 2,500 to 3,000 hours of print time before machine failure. That is between $0.27 and $0.33 per hour of print time. Not bad when you consider the hundreds of hours I save not having to constantly tinker with the machine. With the calculator that I use to price my products on Etsy or for wholesale this depreciation of 2,500 – 3,000 hours is perfect.
The MINI+ printers has an even better ROI proposition at only $450 shipped to the US. The only problem here is that the build plate is only large enough for about 2/3 of my orders. I can’t get away with just MINI+ printers. I need MK3s as well.
There are definitely superior printers on the market but the ROI on them for a printer farm is suspect. From what I can tell, the really expensive printers “consumer” printers in the $1,000+ range are made for one-off hobbyist or prototypers. They aren’t well-suited for a printer farm. Not saying that there aren’t other printers out there that are, but cost-wise the Prusas appear to have them all beat.
Concerns Over Being Stuck in a Brand Ecosystem
Prusas are built on open source hardware and can work with just about any filament on the market that can be printed under 300 celsius. In other words, you are not locked into proprietary technology when sourcing filament or replacement parts. Everything is thus less expensive and you have more options to choose from.
The Prusa team behind the brand has been incredible with their ability to continually innovate year after year and expand their product offerings and support. With over 300 printers in their printer farm constantly churning out new printer parts they have proven, and continue to prove, their innovation process. They have great support resources with an active forum and even a platform for sharing models. There are thousands of models on their platform. They also have a weekly livestream where they showcase prints, deliver news and updates, and interview interesting people in the 3D printing space. All-in-all they have become a leader in consumer level 3D printers.
These are still “consumer” grade printers. Although arguably the best printers in their price range, they lack extra features that another, more pricey printer, might have. For example, they don’t have enclosures and some filaments print best inside a heated chamber or enclosure. They also aren’t the fanciest looking printer. This doesn’t matter for my farm but I have seen some nicer looking printers out there.
One feature that they do have that hasn’t worked very well for me is the filament sensor on the MK3. This has supposedly been upgraded and fixed on the MK3S+ (their latest iteration) but for me the filament sensor would sometimes be unable to identify white filament or semi-transparent filament and stop the print. I ended up disabling the sensor on both my MK3 machines and haven’t had an issue since.
Another issue is that the company is based in Eastern Europe and if I want to purchase their unique flavor of filament or upgrades for my printer (like a new build plate) directly from them then I the shipping costs start to get out of control. It isn’t worth it. This hasn’t been a real issue since I have found filament from third parties that works really well. Also, I have not yet needed a new build plate although I foresee wanting a few extra for convenience in the near future.
They still require getting to know the technology and the hardware. They still require learning software to interface with them. They still require a level of familiarity and comfort with troubleshooting and tinkering. Just much less (from what I have experienced) than other printers. In any case, although I don’t have an affinity for the hardware side 3D printing, it has been a rewarding journey learning how it all works. One that would be required of any printer you buy and not just a Prusa.
Due to the hardware being open source there are a lot of clones on the market. They often look like a Prusa printer but have cut corners on build quality to make it less expensive. I haven’t had any experience with these but since I am trying to run a business I would avoid them. I like knowing exactly what I am getting, especially when expecting superior build quality
I realize as I read through the above points I make that I tend to evangelize the Prusa printers a bit. Still, I have had an amazing experience with them and am excited to be purchasing a few more in the upcoming months.
As my farm grows I will continue to update this blog with my experience with Prusa machines and hopefully provide more some helpful content.
Thanks for reading!