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BeeTheFirst 3D Printer: Smartly designed consumer-grade hardware, with a little something extra.
Image by Brian Kaldorf.

Looking for a truly consumer-grade printer that integrates looks and portability with smart design? You’ll find it in BeeTheFirst. Portugal’s BeeVeryCreative provides a fantastic out-of-the-box experience that allows anyone to painlessly enter the world of desktop 3D printing. Neophytes will be up and running quickly and this portable, polished machine is sure to look great on any desktop or coffee table, but even seasoned veterans will find some interesting software Easter eggs if they peek below the shiny surface.

M42_TestPrints-F

BeeTheFirst
beeverycreative.com
Price as Tested $2,172
Build Volume 190x135x125mm
Bed Style Unheated acrylic
Temperature Control? No
Materials BeeTheFirst PLA only
Print Untethered? Unplug USB, wi-fi via BeeConnect
Onboard Controls? No
Host Software BeeSoft
Slicer Integrated CuraEngine
OS Mac, Windows, Linux
Open Software? BeeSoft GPL v2.0, BeeTheFirst firmware GPL v3.0
Open Hardware? No

BEAUTY AND BRAINS

Upon unboxing, it’s immediately clear that this is something new. But it’s not just the hip, modern, minimalist design, the clever built-in handle, or magnetically removable build plate that piqued our interest — we were impressed by the forward-thinking industrial and user-experience design.

OCCAM’S RAZOR

It’s refreshing to see a machine that’s been designed from the ground up with equal focus on aesthetics, ergonomics, user experience, and functionality. BeeTheFirst also defies the current trend of adding fancy extruder sensors and auto-levelers to solve common printer problems, instead applying the tenet of Occamʼs razor: Good design solves problems in the simplest way possible, instead of cramming in more tech.

The cleverly integrated, magnetic/kinematically coupled bed with large accessible knobs is hands down the easiest we have ever leveled. The thick acrylic build platform sits upon a sturdy metal arm, which unlike the flimsy plastic parts present on many desktop machines, will never warp or twist. We popped it off and on dozens of times throughout our testing without the need
to re-level.

CLEAR BEGINNER DOCUMENTATION

The user guide is well written, brief, and surprisingly informative. It gives a concise breakdown of the machine and clearly sets new-user expectations. There are also numerous troubleshooting videos on BeeVeryCreative’s site, including how to take apart the case (it’s easier than it looks) to clear a jammed extruder.

MATERIALS MATTER

Another interesting design feature is the tiny, magnetically attached internal spool that holds proprietary (but unchipped) filament. Like Afinia, BeeVeryCreative seeks to eliminate nozzle jamming by operating at higher temperatures of about 220ºC. We fed ours non-OEM orange Ultimachine which produced part of a very stringy print before jamming completely. Bee-VeryCreative materials have been limited to eight colors of PLA, but recent software update options reveal that more are on the way soon.

bla

PRO TIPS
– The BeeConnect software is continually updated and released in two parallel versions, one production, one beta. Check out the beta for the newest features.
– BeeTheFirst can print with Afinia’s new PLA (green worked well for us)
– Want to print wirelessly? Grab a Raspberry Pi and check out “Bee-Connect”: github.com/beeverycreative
WHY TO BUY
An easy-to-use, attractive, portable machine with stripped-down, custom open-source software. Uses smart hardware design (instead of sensors) to make bed leveling easy.

STRAIGHTFORWARD SOFTWARE, NO ADVANCED SETTINGS

When it comes to printing, they couldn’t have made it simpler. The custom BeeSoft host software has all of the standard placement, scaling, and rotation options, but the print dialog deliberately restricts layer height and infill to a few simple choices in order to streamline the experience. BeeSoft is in active development and provides both regular and beta releases frequently. Since the Shootout, the low (0.3mm) and high (0.1mm) slicing options have been expanded to include a 0.05mm setting and additional infill density options, plus the ability to print untethered after kicking off a print via USB.

Shootout prints run at 0.1mm ranked within the top third of printers tested. This machine also had very little Backlash, but had some trouble with Fine Features and scored poorly on the Tolerance test.

EASTER EGGS!

Hardcore enthusiasts don’t despair! While not advertised, there are plenty of software hacking opportunities under the hood. Here’s where it gets interesting: BeeSoft’s interface is derived from ReplicatorG and slices with CuraEngine. Both BeeSoft and the BeeTheFirst firmware are completely open-source and GPL-licensed: point your browser to github.com/beeverycreative and clone away!

They’ve also forked OctoPrint and created their own BeeTF variant of OctoPi that works with the BeeTF’s speedy R2C2 printer controller (ARM 32bits running at 100MHz) over USB native. They plan to offer their own BeeConnect Raspberry Pi kit, followed by assembled versions and mobile apps.

CONCLUSION

With hand-holding for beginners and a GitHub repo full of open-source software for advanced users, BeeTheFirst has something for everyone.