A solid 3D printer that’s very easy to get up and working with. I’ve learnt a lot about 3D printing during this roadtest and hope to print lots more different things.
This roadtest report has been delayed as it was discovered part way through that the model provided was a pre-production model. The printer was recalled and a replacement provided early in February.
The printer is mechanically very well made, obviously a lot of though has gone into making it robust but easy to repair. The software has evolved slightly throughout the test. It is simple to work out and because of the smart cartridges it’s possible to print straight out of the box without needing to understand the different settings needed for different materials.
There were some issues with this model and I managed to pop off the bowden tube connector whilst testing. I also had issues with the filament take up and the material not sticking to the bed. CEL were very helpful and sent me an upgraded tube and also a replacement bed. However once the fan FET popped there was little to be done other than send it back to be swapped out with a production model.
Cosmetically the printer looks very similar but there are quite a few changes under the surface. I don’t have a detailed list of these but the electronics, filament feed and bed are changed. I’ve only worked with a single material so far but the bed has very good adhesion. The software has been improved since December and is easier to understand what is going on.
There was a few things I specifically wanted to look into to uncover the strengths of the printer but also see how I could use it for my own projects.
Speed of printing
The printer is quick to print and the dual nozzles helps with this. However I have discovered that speed is also dependent on the cooling speed of the plastic so you can’t always just print as fast as you want. Typical print times for the objects I’ve created are in the 1-2 hour range, objects such as my lamp housing I’m having to simplify so that the print time is reduced as I don’t really want to leave the printer running all night. It is fairly quiet but in a silent night-time house it is quite noticeable.
Quality of finish
The fine nozzle produces excellent prints and there was minimal need for finishing post printing. The draft prints are obviously 3D printed with a the lines of print clearly visible.
Ease of deployment and packing up
It’s a simple as using a regular printer in this respect with just a power cable and USB. I have been ejecting the spool at the end of each session and popping it back in the bag so that takes a few seconds more than a regular printer. I think that I did not realise I was using ABS rather than PLA until a long way through the test is a good indication that the automatic settings with the print cartridges are doing their job well.
Thin items such as the clock hands to check for warping
My tests on this have demonstrated that you can’t just print small items on their own. I don’t think this is a limitation of the printer but it isn’t just something you can do “out of the box”. I hope to do more tests to print small gears to work out best practice for those kinds of parts.
Moving parts such as bearings and concentric shafts to check for accuracy and surface finish
The phone stand had a clip together part and that worked with minimal clean up. I’ve read that you should allow 0.5mm spacing between moving parts as a generic “fit”. I will likely investigate that more in future and look at tolerances and fits for 3D printing on my own Workshopshed blog.
The models I’ve used are listed on Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory. The ones I’ve created are at https://github.com/Workshopshed/3DPrinting
You can indeed print out of the box and a several of the example model’s I’ve picked work very well in that aspect. I have even managed to print one of the three challenge prints successfully on the standard settings. There are things that are trickier to 3D print and the thin gears that I wanted to check for accuracy seem to be one of those. The accuracy of parts does however seem to be dependent on the heating/cooling characteristics of the material rather than the accuracy of the printer. For example the die I printed did have some distortion and ended up not totally square. The gears also suffered badly from this.
I do plan to use the printer for a range of other things so if you enjoyed following the blog posts then you can expect a few more in the future with a slightly different title. I also know that a few of the other Element14 members have Robox printers so we can help each other out with any issues.