Rubric for Grading Printers for the Guide

What makes a successful print? For each 3D printer, our reviewers considered the following questions ranging from initial setup and documentation to user interface and print quality.

Note: All questions answered with a 1-5 (1 = Strongly Disagree, 5 = Strongly Agree)

Assembly (Kits Only)

  1. Assembly Instructions easy to locate.
  2. All pieces can be identified from instructions.
  3. Any tools required for assembly were indicated clearly before purchase.
  4. No pieces are missing from the packaging.
  5. Parts fit as expected without sanding, trimming, or re-fabrication.
  6. Placement, positioning, trimming instructions are precise measurements where necessary.
  7. Time for assembly suggested by the kit is accurate.
  8. Assembling the kit was worth the discount (compared to a pre-assembled equivalent).

Initial Setup for “Christmas Morning Experience”

  1. Setup tasks are clearly documented.
  2. Tools required were indicated clearly before purchase.
  3. Setup was completed successfully on first attempt
  4. Setup takes < 30 minutes for successful completion
  5. Setup takes <  1 hr for successful completion


  1. Docs easy to locate.
  2. Docs easy to follow.
  3. Docs covered the process up to (and including) the first print.
  4. Docs include essential troubleshooting topics.
  5. Docs indicate where to get additional help or support.
  6. Additional customer support available for users.

Hardware User Interface

  1. User controls are easy to locate.
  2. User controls are well-marked and intuitive.
  3. Machine provides clear feedback about its state.
  4. Machine can print without tying up a computer.

Machine Control Software

  1. Software is easy to obtain on disc or online.
  2. Software installation is easy.
  3. Clear procedures guide user how to install tools and dependencies on any computer available.
  4. Software is adaptable/open
  5. Software UI is comprehensible to average humans.

Model Slicing Software

  1. Software is easy to obtain on disc or online.
  2. Software installation is easy.
  3. Software is cross-platform and can be installed on a range of computer hardware.
  4. Slicing profiles are included or easy to locate externally.
  5. Good results available with default settings

Calibration Stage

  1. Documentation for job calibration available
  2. Calibration process can be easily followed and leads to satisfactory results.
  3. First printed parts were of acceptable quality.

Quality and Performance Producing Parts By First Time User

  1. Print job horizontal surfaces are “true”/no rippling/level.
  2. Top layers of horizontal surfaces “cap” successfully, without gaps.
  3. Vertical surfaces are “true.”
  4. Vertical surfaces lack gaps.
  5. Vertical surfaces lack tool / layer-completion seams.
  6. Print remained fixed on plate.
  7. Registration of layers was consistently accurate.
  8. Plastic was consistent color.
  9. Overall, this machine had good precision.
  10. Layer-height remains consistent.
  11. Discernable detail resolution approximates vertical resolution.
  12. Layer-height resolution allows for organic curves and folds with minimal stair-stepping.
  13. Scale Accuracy – Size and shape of resulting parts match intention. (Note: minimal cooling and shrinking.)
  14. Machine can handle overhangs with minimal dropped loops up to 45º overhangs.
  15. Machine accurately reproduces sharp corners.
  16. Output has no ripples or wobbles.
  17. Surfaces are clean and smooth in places the artist intended.
  18. This machine is fast.
  19. The machine interface was reliable.
  20. I rarely had to retry failed parts.
  21. I can hit print and the machine will work without nudging or babysitting.
  22. Print can be removed easily with tools or by hand.
  23. Post processing (clean-up, support/raft removal) was quick and easy

Device Qualitative Assessment

  1. The machine enclosure looks nice.
  2. The machine control software looks nice.
  3. The slicing software looks nice.
  4. The build platform/parts stage looks nice.

After Market Add-ons and Extensibility

  1. This machine can print using open-source software.
  2. This machine is open-source hardware.
  3. This machine has a strong community of users.
  4. This machine’s software is cross-platform (Win, Mac, Lin, others?).

How does your printer stack up?

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