cube 3 printer review
Thinking about buying one of the inexpensive cube 3 printers?
Over the past few years many company's have tried and failed to get into the consumer 3d printing market. They produced OK 3d printers marketed as consumer 3d printers but tried selling them at low end professional 3d printer prices. Past this they also tried to introduce into the 3d printing space DRM. So not only did you have to spend $1600 on a printer, but you had to continue to purchase filament from them. To my knowledge 2 companies did this and failed. 3d systems and XYZprinting. Now XYZPrinting still seems to be in the business of consumer 3d printers, but I think that may be because they had a decently hack-able machine. Making it easy to modify the machine to take non proprietary filament, and they made their filament reasonably priced making it less of a nightmare to use their filament. As well as the fact that they focused on the market in a different way.(If you want to reach the masses don't act stuck up in interviews.) But that is neither here nor there. Today we are covering a printer from the second company 3D Systems. Since they dropped their line of consumer 3D printers the prince of their printers has plummeted from ~$1000(Mind you they started trying to sell at ~$1600) all the way down to ~$150. Making (I assume unintentionally) 3d printing finally available to the masses. Gotta love corporate greed :)
Now to the point
Should you buy the cube 3?
Yes and No
Let me explain. The cube 3 is still completely proprietary. It even uses a processor(pic32) that to my knowledge no open source projects have ever been built on. Making it very difficult to hack if you only have experience with arduino.(if your reading this and know how to program pic micro controllers please contact me.) So unless you are decently skilled at hardware modification, you will still need deep pockets to use this printer. Below is a list of skill required to use this printer if you don't have deep pockets.
- A desire to get into 3d printing (Duh)
- Hardware Modification skills IE: soldering, general knowledge of low voltage circuits, a light touch
Not a long list but if you don't have those skills already don't waist your money
Next is a list of skill you will want to learn because you are also stuck using their closed source software
- Cad of some sort
- How to fix files to make them ready for print(their software will crash if the file is to big or has an error)
- Knowledge of proper print orientation to hid stop/start line(Because their software doesn't allow you to hid seems)
If your still reading and think you may have the qualifications necessary either skill wise or money wise, I am now going to highlight the good and bad things about this printer.
- Super easy to set up and use. (ready to print right out of the box mostly)
- Built in auto bed leveling(I'll get to this later)
- Built in wifi making it easy to send prints to the printer(Kinda spoils other inexpensive open source printers for you to be honest)
- Prints look great for the most part(this is where understanding print orientation and file fixing comes in handy)
- Low barrier to entry (cost wise if you have to skills to hack the filament cartridge)
- Will make great parts for an arduino/ramps printer :D
Over all this printer has been fun and a great way for me personally to get into 3d printing.
- Cost of filament
- Filament Cartridge like to jam
- Closed source
- Many skills already needed to make cost effective to use
- Auto bed leveling sucks
- Filament Cartridge likes to jam
- Print bed moves around
- Print surface likes to break and separate from the rest of the bed.
- Not enough active cooling
- Did I mention the Filament Cartridge like to jam?
My biggest frustration with this printer is the filament cartridge system. Not only can you not get away from it. But out of the 14 cartridges I got with my 7 printers, Maybe 4 printed all the way without issues. This takes a bunch of time to fix and sometimes you break the cartridge in some way shape or form.
#1: Even if you don't have deep pockets, you will still need to buy a cartridge every once in a while just for the parts. You will inevitably break a needed part in your hacked cartridge and have no choice but to dole out the cash just for the parts :(
#3: Everything about this printer is closed source. From the hardware to the software. You can only use the cube print slicing software. And There is no guarantee they wont put out an update making using the bulk filament hack impossible as this corporate giant tries to squeeze every penny out of this failure.
#4: The skill set needed for using this printer in a way that won't break the bank keeps it slightly out of reach for the average consumer. Making it less of a consumer printer and more of a geeky toy.
#5: The bed leveling system only works as far as bed leveling goes. You will want to adjust the bed height manually.
#7: The print bed is held on by magnets!!! Way cool in concept, But a pain in use. Mainly because the print be will move when the nozzle gets caught on a bit of over extruded plastic leading to layer misalignment issues and failed prints. This however is fixable by printing this file and gluing them to the bottom of the plate.
#8: The print surface as it is with the glue does a great job hold the print. However it does such a good job it refuses to separate from the print and can break away from the rest of print bed leaving you with a problem.
#9: If you are trying to print high precision prints you will not get them without lots of active cooling. You will need to create a fan hood and fix fans to the hood to blow on the print. I have not yet successfully done this.
In summery should you buy this printer?
The answer for most people is a resounding no. To the few who could get this printer and succeed with it. You will have endless hours of fun dealing with clogged nozzles, It will work well enough to let you dream big but fall flat on your face and realize you need to take what you know and save up for a better printer. Great entry for someone with the skills necessary to convert it to ramps 1.4 But you wont want it for anything past that. When all is said the good points of this printer don't out weight the bad. They are about equal. Making it a tossup in my mind. I don't have a problem telling someone with the adequate skills to buy it. But if you are someone who will need an easy to use low cost of use printer. This is not the printer for you.