3DPRinter-1

Photo credit: Chris Yohe

m46_3DPrinterReview-2

Printrbot Metal Plus | printrbot
Price $1,199 single extruder
$1,599 double
Build Volume 254mm×254mm×254mm
Bed Style Mic 6 heated aluminum bed, works with induction leveling probe
Temperature Control? Yes, software adjustable on bed and extruder
Materials PLA; heated bed allows for ABS. Tested with supplied Printrbot PLA, Proto-pasta carbon fiber, Taulman t-glase, SainSmart wood PLA, Taulman flexible PCTPE
Print Untethered? Yes, from SD Card. OctoPrint and AstroPrint compatible
Onboard Controls? External LCD add-on kit available. Otherwise control from software or OctoPrint/AstroPrint
Host Software Cura and Repetier are both recommended. Cura offers the easiest starting point, and Repetier is useful for more intimate control later on
Slicer Tested with Cura. Also used Slic3r with Repetier
OS Windows, OSX, Linux
Firmware Printrboard Firmware from Printrbot
Open Software? Yes
Open Hardware? Not truly open source, but CC ShareAlike 3.0

Following the metal-framed makeover of its smaller simple sibling, the Printrbot Metal Plus transitions from a laser-cut wood frame to a new, beautiful powder-coated metal housing. The sturdy frame offers a number of upgrades over the previous generation, getting great results in our tests. It holds a z-axis that’s been beefed up from the last model, and both the x- and y-axes are now running on linear rails and carts, giving the printer very smooth movement. Our unit shipped with the ceramic Ubis hot end and the aluminum extruder, as well as an aluminum build plate and heated bed that were quite responsive and quick to heat up thanks to the use of the standard ATX power supply. The pre-applied Kapton tape worked great with the flexible filament we tried, although for most of the tests we went with the commonly used blue painter’s tape.

Easy Setup, Greater Style and Stability

The Metal Plus ships in a robust double carton. Unboxing is simple: After removal from the inner carton and plastic wrap, one zip tie is all that remains. Keyed power connectors make setup a snap. We went from box to print in about 30 minutes, including downloading and installing Cura and following the Z-Probe tutorial. The metal frame provides a much more stable and rugged printer, helping to achieve the smooth surface finish. The powder-coated metal also puts it in line with a lot of the more design-conscious printers we’ve seen of late, but still keeps the design open, and not overly complicated. The included ATX power supply comes in a metal tower that matches the look of the Plus and has a built-in filament reel. The coordinating tower makes for a nice combination and helps to create a homogenous look in your work area.

Fantastically Filament Friendly

The included PLA printed quite well, providing a good surface finish with the default settings, even on curves. The overhang test proved to be the most challenging requiring multiple setting adjustments, and our results for the X/Y Resonance test were measured using 1mm walls.

We cranked off print after print, the vast majority of which were successful including many multi-hour torture tests. We ran a series of Makey robots in different filament materials and were surprised at how well it made the transition with just minor temperature fiddling. The aluminum extruder, with its extra support, even handled the flexible filament, although as usual, flexible material requires you to spend some time adjusting your print settings to avoid binding.

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 1.27.23 PM

PRO TIPS
– Make sure to check out Printrbot’s great Z-Probe Calibration guides. Don’t ruin your bed out of the box.
– Don’t hesitate to tweak the advanced retraction settings in Cura. A little extra rise will keep your head from catching.
– If the support site falls short, head to printrbottalk. Also keep an eye on YouMagine for “official” DIY add-ons.
– Have fun! Whether carbon fiber, t-glase, wood, or flexible, this printer took the filaments we threw at it.
WHY TO BUY
The large build area finally meets the ease of use and setup of its smaller brother, the Metal Simple. Solid results, quick warm-up, and auto-leveling make this printer a highly recommended machine.

Accessible and Upgradable

Our testing wasn’t entirely problem-free, but the issues we experienced using an early machine have already been fixed in the production models along with a few other additions. Both the single and double extruder versions have heated beds, with the associated heat shielding to prevent binding due to expansion. Wiring fatigue has been reduced with a Delrin extension on the x-carriage that allows for better strain relief for the harness. We took the issues we did encounter as a chance to get inside the machine, letting us see what future maintenance and upgrades will require. The machine is laid out in a fairly straightforward manner and the wiring was easy to follow. While a machine of this size is far from simple, it is well within the wheelhouse of an average Maker, thanks to the mechanical diagrams and assembly instructions available online. This is good news for those looking to add an LCD panel, or even an extra cooling fan for the electronics, both of which already have the necessary access points built right into the base.

Conclusion

The Metal Plus delivers exactly what one would expect from Printrbot: a solid, robust package at a comparatively affordable price. It has a large print bed, performs well out of the box, and can be adapted by advanced users for more exotic purposes. Really, this printer could fit into almost any user category: educators, artists, and designers, those looking to get started with a bit more capable machine, or those looking to add a larger workhorse to their stable.