3D Systems Cube 3D Printer Review
The 3D Systems Cube Printer is one of the few mid-range 3D printers that has the capability of producing products with incredible accuracy, detail and smooth layers using PLA filament. Not only is the printer very easy to use, but it’s a great pick for the average consumer that wants to experience great print qualities in an office or school setting. Looking at the 3D Systems Cube Printer as a whole, we see that it comes equipped with two extruders. This enables the printer to have dual-color printing functionality in 20 different shades when using either ABS or PLA filament. It comes with WIFI capability and you can control the printer directly from a PC, Mac, iOS or Android device by using their app. The one downside that I would like to mention off of the bat is that you’re required to use the 3D systems print filaments, which can be a bit more expensive than other, generic filament.
The 3D Systems Cube Printer is quite different than most printers. For those of you with experience in the 3D world, you should realize that a printer normally features a separate or multiple extruders that melts the plastic directly on the print head. 3D Systems differs by building part of this feature into the actual filament cartridge itself near the end of the plastic tube into which filament is loaded. In a sense, this is very similar to specific ink-jet printers. The print head is located within the ink cartridge, so the head is actually located in the cartridge. The purpose of this is to avoid having to clean out the extruder constantly since you’re always getting a new one. The con of course is the extra cost that’s associated with buying a new cartridge. It costs $39 for each new cartridge and they’re all of PLA material. Other 3D printers that come with a print head built into the printer itself enable you to buy filament for around $20 – $25. For those of you who don’t want to constantly clean your print head and are willing to pay a few extra dollars, this would be the perfect choice for you.
I personally feel as if the design is very sleek and modern. While it doesn’t look the prettiest in the form of a box, it definitely gets the job done. One problem that I did happen to find is that the mechanism for printing that locks the end of the tube sometimes didn’t snap correctly into place. This causes the print material to not melt properly. Fortunately they recognized this downfall and an error message pops up. You can easily fix this by removing and reinserting the metal end, but it’s a tad annoying at times. When printing you’ll notice that the print head moves in a horizontal fashion while the bed controls any vertical or back-and-forth motion. This helps maximize the total print volume of 6 in x 6 in x 6 in with a maximum volume of 216 cubic inches. In comparison to other printers such as the MakerBot Replicator 2, it is a bit on the small size, but for its cost it’s definitely not bad at all. This size tends to be sufficient for most of my projects, and if I need something bigger I can always print modules and snap them together.
A Fully Automated Setup
There’s a reason why the 3D Systems Cube Printer is meant for beginners – it’s one of the easiest printers that I’ve ever had to setup and within 30 minutes I was starting my first print. Most of the time you’ll be watching the printer run its own calibration process. This is typical with most printers since during shipment the parts tend to get a bit out of line. Furthermore, sometimes you have to do this manually, but fortunately the cube has this down. This seems to be a common theme with this printer: hiding most if not all of the technical aspects of 3D printing. If you don’t want to deal with configuring your printer but still want to get involved, this would be a great way to start, or at least a great way to begin. One thing I would like to mention is that when you do print, be sure to apply a bit of glue from a glue stick to the print bed since it’s not heated.
The Software Is Cloud-Based
I wasn’t sure how I felt about the software being cloud-based at first. After all, it is a printer for novices and the sound of the cloud tends to scare those who aren’t quite as used to technology. However, I found it really easy. The printer only has a power button along with a 2.5 inch touch screen. From here you can choose your model, connect to WiFi, or load filament. All of the controls are located in their network (or the cloud), meaning you don’t have to do any of the work. The only thing you need to do is upload your models to their service. You’ll be able to download software for free that does this for you, and it’s incredibly easy to use.
The Print Quality
Now was the time to put the printer to the test and inspect what really matters: the print quality. I was surprised at the pace at which the Cube printed. I would like to forewarn you that you may find it a bit noisy with a clank sound that goes off when the print bed moves up and down. Like I said above, if you want to adjust anything, you may have a difficult time doing so since the design is completely enclosed. This printer is definitely not for those who want to manually adjust any inner-workings of the Cube.
When the Cube worked successfully, the prints were of excellent quality, very smooth, and they had curves and layers that synced well together. The models that I printed looked almost as if they did in the design files, and I found that even complex designs and intricate details were well-done. Given the fact that the printer is a bit noisy and that their cartridges are expensive, I was very excited to find out that at least the print quality is superb for the price you’re paying. For that matter, I wouldn’t want to adjust anything enclosed within the printer.
That isn’t to say I didn’t have any failures. When this happened, I printed the model again and it usually worked out fine. Sometimes the printer would produce models without edges for whatever reason, or sometimes the models were a bit stringy. Most of the time this shouldn’t be a problem, and if it ever is just feel free to restart the print. It may also help to do another calibration. The above image took about 5 hours to print in total. While it’s not as quick as other printers, it’s very fast for its price.
The only thing I noticed in terms of detail on the downside is that with incredibly fine detail there were some edges that were a bit rough. This won’t be visible to the naked eye unless you lean in close, and it most likely won’t be of much importance if you’re just making something simple as soap dishes in your home. For those of you wanting to experience extreme precision, you might have to fork over another $1,000. The prints only print at either 200 or a 70 micron layer of thickness, and there’s no way to change this.
I really like how easy it is to maintain the Cube. The filament is really easy to change and very quick also. If you want to clean the print bed, you simply pull it out since it’s magnetically attached, and there’s no need to snap anything back into place. In case of excess filament, there’s also small waste bins that will catch it so you don’t have to clean any of it up. If you ever do happen to need parts repaired, 3D Systems has some of the best customer service in the industry. The one downside is that since it’s all enclosed, you won’t be able to upgrade it much either, but that’s not what it was designed for.
If you’re one of those people who likes to tweak and learn about technology, you may have a difficult time doing so with the 3D Systems Cube Printer. The inner-workings are hidden and enclosed within its steel case with the purpose of keeping you out of there. The goal of the printer is to take care of everything automatically or in the cloud so you don’t have to – even the print head is out of your hands, meaning you never have to clean it since you always replace it each time you buy a new one. For complete beginners, this is a great choice since the price also isn’t that expensive. Simplicity of use is definitely this printers #1 feature, and I was still happy I was able to check it out.