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SIP06_BuyGuide_Solidoodle_pi

Solidoodle 3

Solidoodle / solidoodle.com

Price as tested $799
Print volume 8″×8″×8″
Heated bed? Yes
Print materials ABS, PLA
OS supported Windows, Mac, Linux
Print untethered? No
Open source hardware? Yes
Open source software? Yes
Printer control software Repetier-Host
Slicing software Slic3r

3DPrintingSIP Widget Final More Printers: At a Glance

The Solidoodle 3rd Generation attracted us because of the price point, but otherwise did not make a great impression. The construction is clap-trap and looks a bit shoddy. Hose clamps hold two of the Z-rods in place and we were skeptical about the use of fused-filament parts on a metal-framed printer. Why invest in the materials to make a metal frame if you’re going to use low-accuracy fused filament mounts for the X-Y carriage?

We had trouble with prints not sticking to the build platform due to excess vibration. The y-axis pulleys mount on the flimsy side of the sheet metal housing, which causes flexure, a slack y-axis belt, and the problematic vibration. Sometimes a loud stutter would cause the extruder to skip off-track, ruining the print.

Solidoodle’s customer support did reply to my Saturday-morning inquiry within about 3 hours. If there were no other 3D printers under the $1000 mark, I could be more excited about this machine. But there are better printers out there that cost less.

–Chris McCoy and Eric Weinhoffer


SIP06_BuyGuide_MendelMax_pi

MendelMax 2.0

Maxbots / mendelmax.com

Price as tested $2,195
Print volume 7.75″ × 12.25″ × 8.75″
Heated bed? Yes
Print materials ABS, PLA
OS supported Windows
Print untethered? No
Open source hardware? Yes
Open source software? Yes
Printer control software Printrun
Slicing software Slic3r

This printer has a sturdy “machine” frame made out of aluminum extrusions and plates. A heated glass bed with underside aluminum heat spreader allows even distribution of heat; print quality in the plane is pretty good, but the Z-axis had problems. We saw large gaps between layers and Z-ridging. The fan is underpowered and the design uses some weakly designed fused filament parts that break easily. Leveling the bed requires reaching underneath with a hex key and is a bit tricky. The provided speed settings are on the high side; we saw quite a bit of vibration using them. The Mendel Max 2.0 is available both kitted and fully assembled.

–Eric Chu


SIP06_BuyGuide_MbotCubeII_pi

MBot Cube II

Magicfirm LLC / mbot3d.com

Price as tested $1,399
Print volume 10.25″ × 9″ × 7.75″
Heated bed? No
Print materials ABS, PLA
OS supported Mac, Windows, Linux
Print untethered? Yes
Open source hardware? No
Open source software? Yes
Printer control software Replicator G
Slicing software Skeinforge

This printer is an unfortunate example of how an open-source project can be exploited to produce overpriced, inferior hardware. Its sleek exterior belies shoddy workmanship and poor design—a kind of hasty mashup of MakerBot’s Replicator 1 and 2 designs. To make it print ABS without a heated build platform, they’ve used a specially-engineered plastic that hot ABS sticks to. Unfortunately it sticks rather too well, and much patience and/or uneasy amounts of force are required to remove a printed part. At a lower price point the this machine might be interesting as a hackable platform, but for $1400 it just does not deliver sufficient value.

–Tom Burtonwood and Derek Poarch


SIP06_BuyGuide_LeapfrogCreatr_pi

Leapfrog Creatr

Leapfrog BV / lpfrg.com

Price as tested $2,500 (€1,848.28) with VAT, $2,030 (€1,500) without
Print volume 9″ × 10.5″ × 7.8″
Heated bed? Yes
Print materials ABS, PLA and PVA
OS supported Windows and Mac
Print untethered? No
Open source hardware? No
Open source software? No
Printer control software Custom proprietary version of Repetier-Host
Slicing software Slic3r

On the surface the Leapfrog Creatr seems like it should be the greatest deal of all the printers we tested. The hardware is well arranged, solidly-built, big and LOUD. It feels professional and substantial and takes up considerable space, so the fact that it costs the same as some laser-cut wood printers makes one wonder how they can even hit this price target.

Despite the impressive parts list, we had trouble getting any prints longer than one hour to work successfully on the unit. We tried both extruders but had filament feeding issues on both. The documentation is great and highly detailed, but only for Windows systems. It seems like getting it to work on a Mac shouldn’t be hard. With tuning or filament changes it seems like it could be a great unit if you’ve got the space for it.

The Creatr would be ideal in an environment where it’s going to get a lot of handling – public spaces, retail environments, and the like. No other machine seems as durable in the long term. If the out-of-box experience and first prints were better it could be a great fit in a school. As it stands, our unit needed some work to print well.

–John Abella
Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014These reviews first appeared in MAKE’s Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014, pages 88-89. Check out the full issue for more!


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