Formlabs Vs. MakerBot: Which 3D Printer Is Right For You?

3D printing has exploded in popularity in recent years, with more affordable desktop models making their way into makerspaces, schools, small businesses, and homes. Two of the biggest names in desktop 3D printing are Formlabs and MakerBot.

But which one is right for you? This comprehensive guide examines the key differences between Formlabs and MakerBot to help you decide.

A Brief Comparison Table

Print QualityExcellent, professional grade using SLAGood for FDM, professional grade with Method X SLA
Print SpeedSlow, up to 1 in/hrFast, up to 200 mm/s with FDM
Build VolumeMedium, max 7.3 x 5.7 x 7.3 inLarge, max 11.6 x 7.6 x 6.3 in with FDM
MaterialsProprietary resins, limited selectionOpen filament system, wide selection
SoftwareIntuitive PreForm, simplerRobust MakerBot Print, more advanced features
CommunityActive forums, great resourcesHuge user base, vast knowledge pool
Affordability$$$, moderate initial cost$, lower initial cost
Ease of UseDesigned for simplicitySteeper learning curve
ReliabilityVery reliable, minimal issuesProne to more maintenance needs
SupportEmail, guides, videos, paid phone supportEmail, guides, videos, some phone support

Overview Of Formlabs And MakerBot

Formlabs and MakerBot take different approaches to desktop 3D printing.


Formlabs focuses on stereolithography (SLA) resin printing, known for smooth, high-detail prints. Their printers like the Form 3 and Form 3L use a laser to cure liquid resin layer-by-layer. Formlabs started out catering to professionals but has expanded to the prosumer market.

MakerBot offers both fused deposition modeling (FDM) filament printers and SLA printers. FDM printers like the MakerBot Replicator extrude heated plastic layer-by-layer to build prints. MakerBot initially targeted consumers and educators but now also serves professionals.

Both companies offer proprietary slicing software – Formlabs PreForm and MakerBot Print. Their printers are enclosed for safety, and use wifi and USB connectivity. Customer support includes knowledge bases, video tutorials, and active user forums.

Also Read: Comparison Between Snapmaker 2 and Prusa i3 MK3S+

Detail Comparison Of Formlabs And MakerBot

Print Quality

When it comes to print quality, SLA resin printers have a leg up over FDM. Formlabs SLA printers produce smooth prints with incredible accuracy and detail. MakerBot’s Method X SLA printer can match the print quality of Formlabs models.

However, MakerBot’s FDM printers like the Replicator+ simply cannot compete with the fine resolution of SLA. FDM prints have more visible layer lines and less accuracy. For hobbyists, the Replicator+ offers good enough quality, but Formlabs delivers professional results.

Winner: Formlabs for best overall print quality but the Method X does rival Formlabs SLA.

Print Speed

Resin printers are generally slower than FDM printers, since each layer requires laser curing time. The Form 3 maxes out at about 1 in/hour speed.

MakerBot FDM printers are significantly faster, with the Replicator+ capable of 200mm/s speeds. The Method X SLA printer is slower than the FDM models but faster than Formlabs printers.

If you need quick prints, a MakerBot FDM model like the Replicator+ is the way to go. For more detailed prints, Formlabs printers deliver despite longer print times.

Winner: MakerBot for faster overall print speeds.

Print Size

Build volume determines the maximum size of objects you can print. Formlabs offers two sizes:

  • Form 3: 4.7 x 2.7 x 6.9 in
  • Form 3L: 5.7 x 5.7 x 7.3 in

MakerBot also provides two build plate options:

  • Replicator+: 11.6 x 7.6 x 6.3 in
  • Method X: 7.9 x 7.9 x 7.9 in

The MakerBot Replicator+ has a significantly larger build area than either Formlabs model. The Method X is more comparable to the build volume of the Form 3L.

If you need to print large prototypes, MakerBot’s Replicator+ allows bigger builds. For small to medium detailed prints, Formlabs build plates are sufficient.

Winner: MakerBot for larger maximum print sizes.


Supported Materials

Formlabs utilizes proprietary resin formulas optimized for their printer models. They offer a variety of resins in Standard, Tough, Durable, and Castable choices. Their resin cartridges are compact and easy to load.

MakerBot FDM printers use PLA, PETG, TPU, and composite filaments from various brands. The Method X uses MakerBot LABS experimental resins. You have more material options but loading filament can be tricky.

Overall, Formlabs resins produce higher quality and more consistent prints. MakerBot gives you more flexibility but requires more tuning.

Winner: Formlabs for better performing materials that are easy to load.


Formlabs PreForm software prepares and slices prints for Formlabs printers. It uses straightforward controls and provides detailed print settings. The clean interface makes it beginner-friendly.

MakerBot Print is an all-in-one program for managing and monitoring MakerBot printers. The software can feel cluttered but includes ample features for preparing, optimizing, and customizing builds.

Both solutions allow remote print monitoring. Overall, PreForm’s elegant simplicity wins over MakerBot’s busy but powerful software.

Winner: Formlabs for its intuitive and streamlined PreForm software.

User Community

As leading 3D printer brands, both Formlabs and MakerBot have cultivated large user communities:

  • Formlabs Forum: 260k+ members
  • MakerBot Thingiverse: 2 million+ members

These active forums allow users to share prints, troubleshoot issues, and learn about their printers. Both companies also offer training content and video tutorials for beginners.

The broader adoption of MakerBot printers results in a larger knowledge base. But Formlabs users are just as engaged in the community.

Winner: Tie – equivalent helpful user communities.


When it comes to upfront costs, MakerBot edges out Formlabs. The MakerBot Replicator+ retails for $2,499 versus the Form 3 at $3,499 and Form 3L at $5,999. But resin costs even out long term expenses.

MakerBot filament spools cost $30-60 and last dozens of prints. Formlabs resin cartridges cost $149-199 for 1 liter, good for 18-40 prints. For very high volume, FDM remains more affordable. But at moderate volumes, the material costs even out.

MakerBot’s lower initial investment makes it more accessible for schools and hobbyists. Formlabs printers represent a greater up front cost but deliver premium professional results.

Winner: MakerBot for more budget-friendly initial purchase cost.

Ease of Use

Formlabs printers are designed to be user-friendly, with simple resin cartridge loading and intuitive controls. MakerBot Replicator+ requires careful filament loading and leveling, but includes assisted setup features. The Method X offers a similarly straightforward process to Formlabs printers.

MakerBot’s open filament system allows greater flexibility but can create inconsistencies. Formlabs printers virtually calibrate themselves with automated resin loading and profiling.

Overall, Formlabs SLA printers provide an easier printing experience for beginners. MakerBot FDM printers have a steeper learning curve.

Winner: Formlabs for simpler printer operation.

Reliability and Durability

Both MakerBot and Formlabs use high-quality components in their printers for reliable performance. Formlabs SLA printers contain fewer moving parts than MakerBot FDM printers, improving durability.

MakerBot had problems with some earlier models but has stepped up quality control in recent years. Their printers can still require more maintenance and troubleshooting than Formlabs.

For businesses and schools who need workhorse printers, Formlabs reputation for reliability makes them a trusted choice. MakerBot is sufficient for occasional use but power users may encounter more issues over time.

Winner: Formlabs for more rugged, durable construction.

Customer Support

Formlabs offers email technical support, community forums, documentation, and video tutorials to help users. But phone support requires a paid service plan.

MakerBot provides guides and videos online with email support. Their Pro and Education customers get quicker email response plus phone and live chat support.

Overall, tech support is solid from both companies. MakerBot just edges out Formlabs by offering phone support on some printer models.

Winner: MakerBot (on select models) for phone tech support.

Also Read: Is 123inkjets Better Than 4inkjets?

Who Should Choose Formlabs?

  • Jewelry designers, dental labs, audiology clinics, or companies needing high precision prints.
  • Engineers, product designers, or researchers needing accurate prototypes with fine details.
  • Sculptors and artists creating miniatures or intricate works.
  • Schools and universities conducting complex research projects.
  • Businesses wanting reliable in-house printing with minimal fuss.

Who Should Choose MakerBot?

  • Hobbyists and tinkerers on a budget wanting good enough quality.
  • Schools needing an approachable intro 3D printer for students.
  • Entrepreneurs and startups seeking fast concept models.
  • Engineers wanting to rapidly iterate working prototypes.
  • Small businesses needing in-office basic printing capabilities.

Which Should You Buy?

Buy a Formlabs printer if you:

  • Require extremely high resolution and precision prints.
  • Prefer an enclosed, low-maintenance printer that just works.
  • Mainly print small to medium-sized objects with intricate details.
  • Appreciate simplicity and print reliability.

Buy a MakerBot printer if you:

  • Prioritize affordability and wider material selection over print quality.
  • Want to print large prototype models.
  • Enjoy tinkering with settings and customization.
  • Need fast print speeds for iterations and concept models.

For most professionals, the premium print quality and hassle-free experience of Formlabs SLA printers make them the best choice despite the higher price tag. The precision and surface smoothness match what you would expect from a commercial printer.

MakerBot FDM printers appeal to schools, hobbyists, and startups that don’t require professional prints. The lower costs and larger build area allow more experimentation and rapid prototyping. But quality is not on par with industrial printers.

Overall, Formlabs takes the crown for professional use while MakerBot has advantages for basic printing needs. Let your specific needs and budget guide the decision.

Also watch the review of Formlabs!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is MakerBot still relevant?

MakerBot remains one of the top brands in desktop 3D printing thanks to improved reliability and strong value. While their FDM print quality can’t match SLA, MakerBot printers are accessible for beginners. The large user base ensures continued relevance.

Is MakerBot overpriced?

MakerBot printers are competitively priced versus other consumer FDM printers with similar build volumes and features. You can find cheaper options than the Replicator+, but MakerBot delivers reliability the budget brands often lack. For SLA, the Method X costs more than comparable printers.

Is Formlabs a good printer?

Formlabs makes some of the best SLA resin 3D printers for the prosumer market. Reviews consistently rate their printers as reliable workhorses that deliver exceptional print quality. The integrated resin system also makes Formlabs printers easy to use.

Who is Formlabs biggest competitor?

Within desktop SLA printing, Carbon and Prusa are Formlabs’ biggest competitors. But Formlabs dominates the prosumer market while Carbon targets enterprise clients.
Lower cost printers like the Anycubic Photon also compete for hobbyists. In the broad 3D printer industry, MakerBot, Ultimaker and Markforged are key FDM competitors.

Also Read: Differences Between Ultimaker And Makerbot.

The Final Verdict

Formlabs and MakerBot both make excellent printers – they simply excel in different areas. MakerBot prioritizes affordability and ease of use, while Formlabs focuses on delivering professional quality prints.

Consider your specific needs and budget, but for most professionals, Formlabs SLA printers offer superior results. Hobbyists will appreciate the lower costs and hackability of MakerBot FDM models.

Either brand provides quality printers, outstanding customer support, and access to a knowledgeable user community to help unlock the full potential of desktop 3D printing.

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