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I've been using a resin printer for some time now, and am looking for a filament printer to compliment it. It will mostly be used to print scenery or bases to match 3-6" models printer on the resin printer.

I'm aiming for an entry level printer, or possible a mid level one on black Friday sale if I can find one.

Should I limit myself to looking for one with a heated bed or auto-bed leveling, or should I mark these down as being bonus features that are nice to have but which are not essential for the kind of printing that I will be doing?

I will probably be using basic budget filament to print items under 6". Probably no more than 2 prints a week.

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Most "auto-leveling" is not leveling but compensation for a non-flat or non-level bed surface. It's helpful to beginners who don't understand bed leveling or evaluating bed surface flatness and replacing a bad bad, for the sake of being able to get started without prints failing to adhere, but it will necessarily give you moderate to severe accuracy problems in the first cm or so of your print unless you manually level the bed right too. (This is as opposed to real three-point, three-motor leveling systems, which do really level and are great, but won't be found on entry-level printers.) Decide whether you want to spend money on that accordingly.

Personally, I find heated bed unnecessary unless you'll be printing ABS, ASA, or maybe PETG (it's hard but not impossible to print PETG without it). Heating the bed kinda makes PLA print worse (at least there are tradeoffs; it does help adhesion though), and flexible materials never need heat. However, pretty much all popular printers nowadays offer a heated bed anyway, so I don't think you'd be saving anything by going without it, and you're likely enough to want it at some point that you should just get it.

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  • $\begingroup$ I can almost print PETG without a heated bed, but need to heat the bed up enough that the bed temperature stays constant during the print. If the bed is not heated the printed PETG will cause the bed temperature to rise. $\endgroup$
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 20 '21 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ @PerryWebb: That sounds like roughly the same issue I described in 3dprinting.stackexchange.com/questions/16337/… $\endgroup$ Sep 20 '21 at 13:35
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Both features are "nice to have" bonuses, BUT are worth it if you can afford it.

They will save you time and money from print problems and on occasion, disasters.

Both make your prints more consistent and have less issues with larger (or taller) prints by cutting a lot of prep time and also ensuring your first couple base layers are done correctly (if those first couple layers mess up, then your entire print likely will be messed up). They also help a lot with materials that have issue with warping or bed adhesion.

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FWIW, what I consider the primary entry-level filament printer, the Creality Ender 3 (under $200 any, sometimes lower depending on daily exchange rates) is sold with heated bed included.

Beyond that, a so-called self-leveling system is IMO overrated. For 20-25 dollars you can get a glass build surface, which eliminates non-planar build surface; combine this with proper tramming technique using a feeler gage set that costs under $10 and you can pretty easily achieve results equal to or better than what a "self-leveling" setup would give on a poorly trammed or warped bed.

Conversely, if your idea of "entry level" is the few sub-$100 printers, their tiny build volume and lack of any option to install either heated bed or upgraded extruders and hot ends takes them out of the running for anything other than toys.

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