Friday, January 24, 2014

Review of the Printrbot Simple

Image courtesy of "Printrbot"
Let me start by saying I have a love hate relationship with the Printrbot Simple.  Whenever it works flawlessly I love it, whenever its doesn't, not so much.  I will judge it on the following criteria, quality of print, speed, and reliability.

The quality of a print of this printer when it works well is actually quite good, it has an advertised layer resolution of 100 microns, however, I got better results at 150 microns, at 100 microns you really have to have everything tuned perfectly which is nearly impossible to do on a $300 printer.  I actually regularly print at 300 microns because it gets it done much quicker.  Then after printing at 300 microns you can give it 10 second dichloromethelyne bath and it can bring it up to the quality of plastic injected.   Because it uses strings as belts(I know, its weird) there are some very small vibrations that occur throwing off the layer stacking by around 100 microns on some of the layer.  

This printer is slow, one of the slowest printer on the market.  I can run around 30 mm/second for perimeters, and 70mm/second for infil.  To put this in a cogent perspective, its took 2 hours to print my spanish project, and about 45 minutes to print the 1 inch tall halo statue. This was printing at 350 microns, if you were to do 100 microns it would take roughly 3 times as long, which I might add makes it nearly impossible to print the spanish project because I do not trust this printer to run for 6 hours unhindered.

Want to hear a funny joke: reliability!  But seriously it is unreliable.  I blame this mostly on the strings that are used instead of belts.  With belts, you simply tighten once and are good to go, this is not the case with the string at all.  It is constantly vibrating itself loose from the two holding screws, it must always be tight( get some pliers wrap it around the string and twist the pliers as hard are you can, then and only then can the quality of prints be reasonable).  Also the sand paper that should be super glued to the plastic wrap of the belt motor sometimes gets loose.  The point is that you have to constantly tighten the belts, around pretty much every other day.  The bed also has to be "leveled", I say "leveled" because it is not really leveling, it is getting the Y axis angle parallel to the print bed. You have to do this because unlike most $1000 3d printer that use dual support on both ends of the Y axis, the simple just uses it on one end, this would be okay if it wasn't held together with wood and zipties.  So to sum it up the Y axis leans about 6 degrees.

Software, the software is what is used on pretty much all open source 3d printers, Repitier Host.  It is pretty simple to use if you know what you are doing, all you must do is scale it to fit perfectly(it is a little harder on a printer like this with such a tiny print bed).

In conclusion, despite the unreliability and slow print time, I still must recommend it if you are willing to deal with the lack of reliability and constant repairs.  Also I have a plan to make this printer amazing, stay tuned next week for how I plan to do it.

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