3D Printer Review: Prusa XL With 5 Tool Heads

3D Printing & Imaging

Manufacturer: Prusa 3D

price: $3,999 as built (5 heads, assembled)

link: https://www.prusa3d.com/product/original-prusa-xl-2

summary

The Prusa XL is the much awaited large, multi head, Core XY printer that has been in development for quite some time. With the capability of up to 5 independent tool heads, you can use multiple extruder sizes or even work with multiple materials at a time.

Tech specs from Prusa:

  • Printer design: Core XY
  • Build volume: 360×360×360 mm (14.17’’×14.17’’×14.17’’)
  • Printer dimensions800×800×900* mm (31.49’’ ×31.49’’× 35.43’’)* including side spoolholders and top enclosure cover (separate future add-on)
  • Filament diameter: 1.75mm, wide range of thermoplastics supported (including, but not limited to PLA, PETG, ASA, ABS…)
  • Extruder: Planetary 1:10 gearbox with no-slip drive gear, Load Cell sensor
  • Tool Changer with up to 5 tool heads (optional upgrade via built-in expansion port)
  • Bed: Segmented heatbed with 16 individually controlled segments
  • Print surface: Removable magnetic steel sheets with different surface finishes
  • Electronics: 32-bit custom-made board with an expansion slot, single-cable communication with tool heads, network features, one-click printing
  • Mesh bed levelling: Load Cell-based fully automatic first layer calibration with no Live Z adjustment
  • Power panic: Hardware-based, single G-Code line accuracy
  • Ethernet connection: built-in; network connectivity not required for setup or operation
  • Wi-Fi module: built-in; network connectivity not required for setup or operation


Unboxing and Assembly

Though I got the “assembled” version, there was still a bit of assembly required. If you’ve ever built a 3d printer kit before, this is extremely simple. However if you’ve only used machines like Ender3 or similar, you may find the installation of the toolheads a little daunting. Ultimately, the guided process is pretty impressive and gets you through everything.

There is then a lengthy calibration process where the machine learns where its parts are, and verifies everything is functioning within specifications. As usual, Prusa really shines with their assembly guides and error handling. If something goes wrong, there’s a nice little QR code there you can scan which will result in a page with specific tips for the error you’re encountering.

In Use

The first print I ran was a print-in-place herringbone planetary gear. the quality is fantastic. My machine came with .4mm nozzles pre-installed on all the tool heads. It is my understanding this is a change, as the first units all shipped with .6mm nozzles.

Outstanding quality when switching materials and barely any waste.

I then tried the supplied g-code for a CT scan of a hand, designed by Karel Penicka . This one is particularly interesting because it uses two different PLA colors as well as a flexible material together to make an anatomical model. The flex is super flexible (fiberflex 40D). This material absolutely would not work in any of the multi-material systems like a Bambu AMS or Pallette.

The results are fantastic. The print quality is incredible, and there’s barely any waste. I really expected some print issues around where the materials join but it came out pretty much flawless.

All tabs move freely

I wanted to do some simple tests for tolerance. As I’ve seen on my tests, most cheap printers can make things that look good, but fail the most tight tolerance on this test coin. The XL passed with flying colors, all bits are totally free and as you can see, there are no ringing or banding issues at all. It’s a beautiful print.

This has become one of the models I use to benchmark printers fairly consistently. It’s a single handed gaming kit designed by Akaki Kuumeri, and I print a ton of them for my charity TheControllerProject. Many printers can pop these out that look pretty, but when assembled, the parts fit too snug and don’t move freely. More often than not, it is the result of aggressive filtering to make the machine move faster at the cost of sharp internal corners and things like that. However, this model popped off of the machine so perfectly.

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The “drop test”. If I drop this piece and it doesn’t fall smoothly, it’s going to be a problem for the end user. Most machines print this with at least a little friction. This is probably the cleanest drop test I’ve done, and that includes my Prusa Mk4, which was the previous king.

It might even be smoother than my Prusa Mk4. It is probably now the machine I can use the most for this very demanding print.

Multi-Material Slicing and Printing

Once you tell prusaslicer that you’ve got an XL with 5 tool heads, it automatically adds some features that allow you to design for multi material printing. You can select each toolhead and specify what is loaded, then there are a whole suite of tools for taking a model and “painting” it to determine the color or material to be used on that part.

This is surprisingly easy and the software handles all kinds of tricky things in the geometry so you don’t have to think about it. Once you load the file in the printer, it displays what materials have been selected in each toolhead, allowing you a chance to correct or modify things right before printing, and then it just goes.

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The toolhead change is fast and fascinating. Though this change can feel like it takes a while, it is a fraction of the time period other methods use to change filaments.

Printing multi-color on this machine is so much faster than using something like an AMS. Let me just give a quick example for comparison:

The Bambu (left) shows a total time of over 2 hours, and will result roughly 9.5 more meters of filament wasted than the Prusa. The Prusa (right) prints in less than 45 min and will have minimal waste.

I do have some concerns about what printing items with materials that work best in an enclosure will be. This is an open machine, so big ABS prints might suffer from breezes. I know there’s a “breeze shield” coming but as it sits on my workbench, it does not have that.

Let’s Nitpick

I’ve been dealing with Josef Prusa for years, and he’s personally supported my 3D printing charity. That could lead some folks to feel that I’m too biased in my review of this machine. To help alleviate that, I’m going to nitpick some stuff here to a level that I don’t typically do with other brands. Usually, I let little stuff like this slide, or else these reviews would just be a very long list of annoyances.

During the setup process I found several items that I think would have stumped a less experienced person. If this were your first 3d printer, these issues might be very scary and frustrating.

  • “Clogged” extruder
    When I started loading filament, one extruder behaved as though it were clogged. There was nothing wrong with it, it just had material in it from testing that needed a hotter temp to purge than PLA. It’s an easy problem to solve. However, if I were a beginner, I might not have realized I just needed to purge super hot, and assumed my machine was botched from the factory.
  • Filament path meets some hard catches
    Loading filament on this machine would be tricky for a beginner. As it passes through the filament guide on the side of the machine, and also as it goes into the filament sensor, there is a ridge it can catch on giving the impression that you’ve pushed it as far as it can go. This little annoyance is actually something I may need to remedy. It is obnoxious, especially with flexible filament and so far, it has been a frustration every single time I load a filament. A tiny one, but a frustration nonetheless.
  • Resuming calibration after a failure takes experience
    If any test fails during the machine calibration, the whole machine reboots. It gives a nice little qr code with information on that failure, which can help you get back on track. However, if you’re not familiar with where to dig in the menus, getting that calibration to resume might present a frustration.

Conclusion

The XL took a while to get into my hands. Even so, I’m lucky because there are some early folks that I think are still waiting for their orders. During the period of release, I’ve seen a few videos pop up on youtube that were showing issues with print quality and I was very concerned. Maybe the folks at Prusa saw those videos too, and made changes as needed, because this machine has performed stunningly well.

The XL truly is a massive feat of engineering, and makes all the other machines I use feel like fancy toys in comparison to this sturdy tool. Let’s be clear, this is a $4,000 investment. That alone will make it really tough to decide between something like this or a cheaper machine that performs pretty well and can do multiple colors for 1/4 or even 1/8th the price. However, to me the answer is quite clear. If you are seeking the absolute best print quality on a machine that stands alone in its capabilities for multi-material or multi-extruder size, the XL delivers.

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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. find me at CalebKraft.com

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