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Best 3D Printer Under 500 Dollars: A review of the CR-10S

Is the CR-10S the best 3D Printer under 500 Dollars?

When it comes to 3D printer DIY kits, it takes large build areas, ease of setting up and a decent print quality to earn a sworn following in the 3D printing community. Chinese manufacturer Shenzhen Creality 3D Technology certainly seems to have got that formula right and used it to spin out affordable 3D printers under 500 that have become landmarks in their own right in the realm of 3D printing. If you look at Creality’s creations, one thing is clear – it likes its 3D printer kits big. That’s precisely the core reason why its printers have found favor with 3D printing enthusiasts worldwide as they have.

Soon after creating ripples with its Cartesian-style Creality R-10, a DIY 3D printer best known for its impressively large build area and an under $500 price tag, Creality rolled out an upgrade to this popular machine in the form of Creality 3D CR-10S. Much like the CR-10, the CR-10S too is a large Cartesian-style DIY 3D printer with a massive build area of 300x300x400 mm.

When Creality launched the CR-10 and hit a sweet spot with customers, many thought the perfect balance of good build quality and low price point couldn’t get any better than this. Then, the Chinese manufacturer rolled out an upgrade to its most popular printer in form of the CR-10S. It had the 3D printing community wondering what difference can an ‘S’ bring to an already seemingly perfect machine. Soon, the answer was out there for everyone to see.

The sub $500 CR-10S entered the market with a promise of an improved 3D printing experience at a marginally higher price point than the CR-10 and almost instantly took over the reins of the gauntlet of online hype from its predecessor. And as you work closely with this Creality offering, you realize that it is worth the hype. The Creality CR-10S enjoys an enviable reputation for being a great, affordable 3D printer and it has more than earned it. Let’s find out what makes it the best 3D printer under 500, in our opinion at least:

A review of the CR-10S 3D Printer

best 3d printer under 500 cr-10s review The CR-10S is yet another proof of Crealilty’s deep understanding of 3D technology. Before the launch of CR-10S, Creality had already produced an impressive line-up of 3D printers that includes five plastic extrusion models and a resin-based SLA printer, offering a mix of pre-assembled and DIY 3D printer kits. What makes this feat impressive is that Creality has achieved this in a short span since its launch in 2014.

Creality’s CR-10S happens to be a DIY kit and also the company’s flagship machine meant to stand out in the crowd of desktop 3D printing machines that are priced at under $500. However, the CR-10S is not your typical DIY 3D printer kit. It can even take a few hours to assemble, requiring you to cobble your way through a jumble of wires, nuts, bolts, and panels.

In fact, the makers claim you need only ‘ten minutes to install and test’ the CR-10S, which certainly seems like a lofty claim. Nonetheless, the CR-10S is a rapid machine to set up. Even if you are fairly new to the world of 3D printers, you can put together the CR-10S in 30-60 minutes, depending on your experience. It, basically, requires plugging in a few major components instead of actually building the printer from the ground up. The connectors given for joining the different components are top-grade and the bolts so smooth that you can actually tighten them by hand. The bottom line is – if you are a newbie in 3D printing, don’t let the term ‘DIY kit’ discourage you from exploring the CR-10S. It is one of the most user-friendly 3D printer kits you can work with.

Upon finishing the setup process, you get a plastic extrusion 3D printer built on the Bowden extrusion technique. The CR-10S comprises a heated build area with a glass print surface cover, making it best-suited for PLA printing. It can also support printing with ABS filament fairly well. But the most stellar feature of the CR-10S is its huge size. The machine sports a basic build volume of 300x300x400 mm, and you can even order a model with a build volume going up to 400x400x400 mm or 500x500x500 mm. This is an extraordinary feat for which Creality deserves credit, as most other 3D printers in this price range top a build volume of nearly 200mm.

Supporting this large build volume is a linear bearing system fitted with extruded aluminum struts, designed to offer a sturdy yet smooth operating motion. These specs combined set the CR-10S up for impressive print quality.

Another striking feature included in the CR-10S is the filament-out detection, which makes this machine suitable for large, long-running prints without the need for you to watch over like a hawk for the inevitable eventuality of running out of filament. The CR-10S pauses printing operations as soon as the filament runs out, allowing you time to load up another spool. It then resumes the print job right from where it paused.  

As with any other 3D printer kit, there are some easy hacks cut out for the CR-10S to optimize its print performance. The most notable of these is the scope to switch nozzles as per your print requirements. For instance, you can swap the standard 0.4mm nozzle with 0.8mm when working on large prints to speed along the printing process.

The real proverbial icing on the cake here is the under 500 price point. Given the specs and features of the CR-10S, one would expect a premium price tag on this machine. Creality springs a pleasant surprise by packing in all these amazing functionalities and yet pricing the CR-10S in the budget segment. There are varying prices for this machine on different online outlets. Gearbest is currently selling the standard CR-10S model for $459.99, with models with larger build volume more steeply priced.

Setting Up the CR-10S

The CR-10S arrives in a plain cardboard box packaging much like its predecessor. In fact, the box carries a bold a Creality 3D CR-10 label, making you wonder if you’ve ordered or received the wrong printer. If you look closely, you’ll find a small CR-10S label stuck in an obscure corner. Perhaps, Creality is using the CR-10 packaging to ship the CR-10S as well, and that’s hardly a problem. In fact, it is quite an environment-friendly thing to do. Other than the labeling bit, parts of the printer are neatly tucked in foam trays and well-secured from all sides, bearing a hallmark of Creality packing style.

best 3d printer under 500 cr-10s review setup

Upon unboxing, you’ll find the printer divided into four parts:

  • the lower and upper frames,
  • the control box,
  • the filament-out detection switch and
  • a smaller carton containing other components such as micro USB and card reader, filament remover, filament holder, PLA filament, nozzle cleaning needle, frame parts, tools for assembly, spare parts, USB and AC cables and a quick start manual.

If you’ve worked with the CR-10, you’d probably know that user manuals are not Creality’s strong point and the one included with the CR-10S is no different. There is certainly a lot of room for improvement there.

On the bright side, the micro USB contains enough information and detailed step-by-step instructions for setting up this printer, something amateurs and beginners could benefit from greatly. If this is your absolute first time working with a DIY kit, you may have to turn to YouTube tutorials and online forums for help. For anyone who has a fair idea of how to build up a 3D printer kit, putting together the CR-10S is as simple as it gets. The only thing that requires special attention is the adjustment of the six bearing wheels placed on the Z-axis, as ensuring that they are configured such that they move under the same amount of force is crucial for keeping the movement of the glass print bed smooth and jerk-free. Not getting this bit right will make the print bed wobble and affect the print quality. Once you get past this crucial stage, putting together the rest of the printer’s body is a matter of minutes.

The CR-10S’ Design

In terms of design and looks, the CR-10S is a spitting image of its predecessor, the CR-10. Just like the CR-10, the design is minimalistic with clean lines and overall ergonomic appeal. It sports the same build area – 300x300x400 mm – as the CR-10 and also comes with a glass print bed. While Creality has not made any visible changes in the design elements here, it has certainly fine-tuned the design to make CR-10S a sturdier, well-built device. For instance, the glass plate on the print bed of the CR-10S has nicely rounded edges and has been re-sized to fit the underlying aluminum plate perfectly.

The paper clips are another great addition and come in handy when placing the glass plate on the print bed and also make removing prints from the print bed far easier and hassle-free. Another great improvement here is the addition of an aluminum frame that brings greater stability and an element of sturdiness to the structure. And a sturdy structure translates into high print quality.

The stability of this printer is further enhanced by the dual lead screw design that helps in holding the printer’s frame in place when working with tall or large-sized models. The movements are dominated by the Z-axis with its six bearing wheels. The entire frame moves front and back on these linear bearing that themselves go to and fro on the tracks.

Features

The CR-10S carries the trademark simplicity and reliability that Creality’s 3D printers are known and loved for. It is a plastic extrusion 3D printer that has been built on the Bowden extrusion technique. You get a heated bed with a glass print surface, making the CR-10S ideal for printing with PLS filament.

The USP of this machine is its bigness, not just in terms of its size but also its print volume. Just like its predecessor, the CR-10S comes with a base build volume of 300x300x400 mm, packing in a great element of versatility to the range of items you can build with this printer and the level of detail you can get on your prints. The fact that Creality has managed to accommodate these specs in a sub-500 price point is what makes this 3D printer downright extraordinary and aspirational.

The linear bearing system coupled with extruded aluminum struts does a fine job of streamlining the motion system such that you get steady and smooth movements that translate into high print quality. Of course, one of the most celebrated improvements of the CR-10S is the filament-out detection, which automatically brings a print job to halt when the filament runs out – which is a very real possibility with a printer of such large build volume used for running large print jobs – and sends out alerts for replacing the spool. The CR-10S also comes with a print resume feature that gets it to resume a print job right from where it was stopped. The feature can be quite a savior in case of power outages.

The option to switch nozzles also adds to the efficiency of this printer. By switching from a 0.4 mm nozzle to a 0.8mm nozzle for larger prints, you can speed along the printing process without compromising on the quality and level of detail. You get a separate LCD control box that makes operating this printer and keeping track of an ongoing print job a hassle-free process. The inclusion of SD Card support means the CR-10S can be used for offline printing by transferring the design files onto the SD Card. The USB adapter helps in linking the printer to a computer, in case you wish to print a design directly

Filament

As mentioned before, the heated bed with a glass print surface make the CR-10S best suited for printing with PLA filament. While CR-10S definitely works best with PLA, it does not mean your choices are limited to this filament alone. The printer is compatible with a wide range of other printing materials, right from ABS to TPU, PETG, PC, Wood and Copper filaments. The molten plastic extruder is sturdy and fitted with a strong spring that rules out the risk of filament skipping.

Software

You get a fair deal of versatility in software compatibility as well. There is a lot of scopes to experiment with different 3D printing software before settling on one that works best for you. The range of software that you can work with on CR-10S include:

  • Cura,
  • Slic3r,
  • Repetier Host and
  • Simplify3d.

Ease of Use

3D printing is a process that requires great precision, patience, and long-drawn print jobs. A printer worth its salt must, therefore, be designed to simplify the works, right from the unboxing and setup stage to changing filaments and leveling the build plate. A machine with cumbersome processes not only hampers the end quality of prints but also takes the joy out of the printing experience.

The Creality CR-10S delivers reasonably well on this parameter. Of course, the initial assembling process is short and simple, despite the fact that the supporting manual isn’t reliable and the instructions are divided between digital resources that come pre-loaded on the SD card. As long as you can put together these instructions stored in different places, you get a step-by-step manual for assembling the CR-10S. If you don’t have the patience to delve into this vast cluster of information, there is always enough help available online. The assembly process literally involves five steps:

  • attaching the vertical frame to its horizontal counterpart,
  • placing the glass on the print bed,
  • connecting the wires and securing all connections,
  • mounting the spool holder, and then,
  • installing the filament sensor.

This is as easy as it gets.

Leveling the print bed is as easy as setting up the printer, perhaps more. It is a semi-automated process, as the nozzle moves to the correct location all by itself. All that is left for you to do is to set it at the desired height by manually turning the knobs. However, you have got to be quick, as the process times out and brings you back to the home screen in case you take too long to move from one step to the next.

Similarly, swapping the filament is fairly easy too, even though the process lacks any degree of automation. You need to activate the heat up setting for extruder before pulling out the old filament manually. The new filament can be fed in by holding the extruder lever down. Alternatively, you can also engage the motor to perform this task. If you are a novice, this process can be a bit of a trial and error experience as the chances of filament getting hung up are fairly high, if you do not work through this step with absolute precision. Having to pull out and straightening the filament after every failed attempt can get a tad frustrating.

Even though the CR-10S support both offline and direct printing options, it does not have any wireless support. This does not in any way hamper the easy-of-use but it is certainly an advanced functionality that could have positioned the CR-10S as a future-ready machine. The display is more than satisfactory, giving you real-time updates on time lapsed, the percentage of print job completed, besides a few other printing metrics.

Print Capabilities

The print capabilities of a 3D printer are the ultimate litmus test for a 3D printer and ride on a combination of factors that include build envelopes to build plate quality, filament compatibility, temperature range, number and positioning of cooling fans and software support. The CR-10s scores exceptionally well on all these counts, outdoing all other 3D printing kits in its price range.

Leading the way, of course, is the massive build volume of 300x300x400 mm that allows you to whip up absolutely massive prints. The glass print bed is fully equipped to support this design structure. The masking tape provided with the printer does a decent job of adding adhesion to the bed. However, when working with materials like ABS, you may feel the need to supplement it with other options such as blue painter’s tape. The fact that the CR-10S supports any 1.75mm filament and does not have any proprietary brand restrictions also adds to its versatility and widens the scope what you can print with it. The extruder here tops a temperature of 260 degrees C, which further enhances its compatibility with a range of filaments.

Even though the manual recommends using the Cura software as the primary slicer for the CR-10S, it works equally well with Repetier-Host and Simplify3D. While Cura and Repetier-Host are free to download, Simplify3D costs around $150 but also offers greater precision and control for improved performance.

Support

The one thing that the CR-10S – and all other Creality printers – lacks is adequate customer support. In fact, the after-sales support for these printers in nearly non-existent. Creality does publish customer support numbers and email ids on its manuals and website but you can never reach them. It is amusing, then, that the CR-10S ship with 1-year limited warranty. The fact that you cannot contact customer support defeats the purpose of a warranty. So, basically, once you have ordered a CR-10S, you are pretty much on your own and have to brace yourself for some troubleshooting.

Value

Despite some minor flaws and drawbacks, the CR-10S is a fantastic 3D printer kit with great value for money, capable of holding its own even when stacked against printers priced five times higher.

Verdict

If you are looking for a reliable, sturdy 3D printer with good print quality on a budget, you cannot go wrong with CR-10S. The enormous build area and the exceptionally high print quality of this printer are impressive in their own right, and mind-blowing when viewed vis-à-vis the price point of this printer. Creality has added three major improvements to the CR-10S in comparison to the CR-10:

  • a filament-out detection system,
  • print resume feature and
  • Z-axis threaded rods.

Besides, there have been some minor design tweaks to incorporate these functionalities and improve the overall print quality of the printer.

The question is whether these upgrades are worth the $100 price difference between the CR-10 and CR-10s. If you look from the technical and performance perspective, the answer is yes. But it also boils down to personal requirements. If you need a 3D printer that can be tweaked to suit your personal requirements and offers great depth and detail in the print results, the CR-10S is definitely a front-runner in the best 3D printer under 500 category. Gearbest have it on sale at a discount.

About The Author
Noah
Noah is a technology enthusiast at heart. He writes about tech, various topics trending on digital media and offers solutions to everyday gadget issues