We’ve seen several iterations of the “Belt Printer” concept over the last few years. The concept is that the bed of the printer is a belt, allowing for you to print objects that stretch off into the distance theoretically as long as you have space and can keep feeding it filament.
Creality has brought this concept to life in a consumer product with their latest successful kickstarter. The Creality Cr30, aka Naomi Wu’s 3D Print Mill, comes in at around (or possibly under) $1000.
Out of the box, assembly was very quick and easy. It really is something like 12 bolts and then you’re done. The printer I had was a pre-production unit, so my assembly may not be identical to the final product but I can’t imagine they’d make it any more difficult.
Basically, you’re connecting the two support beams on the front, then attaching the entire corexy gantry onto the back. You plug a few wires in and you’re ready to start printing.
I was able to quickly level the bed and begin printing immediately. You have to use a special slicer because the physical configuration of the printer is so unique. The creality belt slicer is basically just cura with a few tweaks.
Initial print quality was fine, not something I’d brag about compared to other modern printers, but in line with what you’d expect from extreme budget systems out there. It is passable, but could really use some refinement.
I did notice some recurring print artifacts that must be tied to some mechanical aspect of the build because they repeat with regularity.
It is worth noting that the community is already updating and making refinements on this machine. More on that in a later section.
One strong selling point to this printer is the ability to automate the production of multiple prints. The software has an option to simply set how many copies you want, and it will just keep printing and ejecting prints until it is done. I tested this on both big and small items and found it worked quite well. Someone in production of 3d parts may find this to save a lot of time in between prints.
A common question I saw was “why not line up more items to print at the same time?” This being in reference to the fact that I print one robot at a time.
The answer is a bit more interesting than you might think. I initially did it simply because I thought it would get me a cool video segment much quicker. However, if you look at how a 3d printer works, you’ll see that printing one at a time will save time even if you needed to do mass quantities.
If you had multiple robots on each line, there would be transitional movements as the printer completed each layer on each item and shifted to the others. Over time, these transitional movements add up. When printing a single file at a time, the printer has only the transition from one file to the next. It may seem inconsequential on most printers, but when you’re pumping out tons of files that time can add up very quickly.
Another strong point for the belt system is that you can print very long objects. We’ve been seeing lots of people on youtube printing cosplay swords, a job that seems like a perfect fit for this machine.
I didn’t need a sword so I printed a very large articulated arm to hold lights or cameras. The printer was perfectly capable of printing these, though on longer prints the print artifacts become more evident. You will also need to consider supporting your prints as they hang off the end of the printer. At some point the weight of the long print will either dislodge the whole thing from the printer, or simply snap.
Creality is best known for making cheap printers. They aren’t particularly high in ratings for customer service or printer refinement. The community has been incredible at stepping in to produce print profiles and things of that nature. There is already a new firmware update (which I have not installed) and some new printing profiles for higher quality (which I have not tried).
I think this belt printer, and even it’s competitor the iFactory, will become much more ubiquitous in home 3d printing. Cosplayers will pick them up simply for the ability to produce larger longer items without spending the tens of thousands a gargantuan printer costs or having to glue multiple smaller pieces together.