CraftBot 3D Printer Review
Here we give go in-depth with our CraftBot 3D Printer Review. We’ve been testing the Ultimaker Original 3D Printer ever since we’ve owned it way back in 2012. It has proved to be a reliable powerhouse, but there a couple of features that we felt as if they limited its use. For starters, there’s no heated print bed, making it extremely difficult to work with a wide variety of filaments such as ABS or nylon. Furthermore, it comes with a bowden extruder which isn’t really ideal for flexible print material.
We frequently test many different types of filaments, and we needed to step it up a bit with better technology using a heated print bed coupled with an extruder with direct drive capabilities. That’s when we decided to test out the CraftBot 3D Printer. It prints models at a large volume and comes with all of the features I was looking for in order to get some additional testing done. I finally got around to purchasing it, and at a price of just over $1,000 we had some quite high expectations that were met immediately out of the box. Here we give a full review of the CraftBot 3D Printer.
The Founders of the CraftBot 3D Printer – CraftUnique
The company CraftUnique is the founder of the Craftbot, and they’re based in Budapest, Hungary. They originally specialized in the field of electronics, and it’s as of recently that they’ve been gravitating toward including 3D printing in the mix. Back in 2014 they launched a crowdfunding campaign to start off their their model with the goal of raising $40,000 USD. They succeeded and received more money than they asked for at a whopping $245,000 USD for funding purposes.
The goal of CraftUnique was to not just make a printer, but rather a printer that was in line with their true vision: take all of the features found in the current machines that are highly ranked and combine them into one, incredible 3D printer. It’s to say without a doubt that they’ve succeeded and continually are making adjustments in order to improve their printers.
Who Should Purchase A CraftBot?
While the CraftBot comes with excellent quality and structure, it does come at a hefty price range. This makes it incredibly tempting to get a budget 3D printer for just $300 – $400 USD, less than half of what it would cost to buy a CraftBot. However, I would highly advise against purchasing any 3D printer that has not proven to be reputable and durable within the 3D printing industry.
I really excited to make the purchase of the CraftBot and give it my best review, but the price held me back for a while. I finally went through with it and decided that the risk was worth it. What attracted me to make the purchase is that I knew I was getting a quality product, and in fact getting it at a discount if we compare the price to its actual value. It seemed to have everything I needed, from a solid design, a heated print build, a build volume much larger than the average printer, an extruder with direct drive capabilities and slicer software. Given all of these attributes, I was actually getting a bargain.
When ordering my machine directly from the company, the shipment was a couple of days late, but CraftBot immediately apologized for the delay in shipment which led me to believe that they keep up-to-date on their shipments and genuinely care about their customers.
The CraftBot 3D Printer is a fused-filament fabrication printer built around a three-axis type design. The machine itself is quite large at 40 x 36 x 37 cm and comes with one of the biggest build volumes in the 3D printing industry at 10,000 cubed centimeters. The frame is mostly made from metal, giving a sense of security, sturdiness and heaviness, weighing in at a total of 14 kg.
As for the design, there’s only an opening at the top and near the front. The sides are encapsulated with windows in order to help block the bed from cold air currents that would impact heat flow and alter printing. This still allows the user to observe the printing process. There’s also an option to turn on white LED lights to brighten up the interior.
The printer uses an extruder with direct drive capabilities and works with two different cooling fans. It takes in both PLA and ABS filament at 1.75 mm. Not only is the print bed heatable, but it’s quite easy to remove it by hand. On the front panel is a LCD touchscreen allowing you to take command of on-board controls along with a USB port if you wish to take part in cordless printing – great if you need to use your computer for something else.
Setting Up The CraftBot
I was pretty content to find that my printer came packed in a solid cardboard box surrounded with plenty of foam padding. I take great care in noticing what comes in the box when I order such an expensive piece of equipment. Usually the better the packaging, the better the quality. Fortunately, my model arrived without any damages, and this comes from a person who has had many shipping in the past with 3D printers.
In the box you’ll also find a spool holder, a guided tube, 5 hex wrenches, a USB cable, a power cable, a USB flash drive for tethered printer and finally some spacer cards with 1 spool of ABS filament. The first thing that was revealed to me when opening the box was their Quickstarter guide, so I figured I should go through this first before getting involved with the 3D printer. I was surprised by the amount of detail it made me walk through in order to get it up and running. The manual is very well illustrated and does a great job in transitioning to next steps, making sure you’re never left out.
During the setup process, the manual instructs you to first install the filament tube holder to the CraftBot frame. From there insert the tube and place the other end into the extruder. Next, place the spool holder on the printer frame. In order to do this, you’ll have to loosen a hex nut. Once you place the spool holder in place, tighten it again to lock it in place. Once this is done, all that you’ll need to do is connect the printer to your computer with the included USB cable and power it up. A lot of users report that the power cable is a bit short, but an extension cord can be used for a quick fix.
The first time powering up the CraftBot was incredibly exciting. The interior lit up with a clean, bright LED light. The touchscreen makes you feel as if you’ve purchased a piece of equipment from the next decade. One of the things you should pay close attention to is where it says in the manual that you should update the firmware before making any prints. First you’ll be required to install both the CraftWare and CraftPrint combo. CraftPrint is used as a printing tool and allows you to upgrade the existing firmware.
A lot of users report the LCD going blank during the firmware upgrade. If this happens, exit the software and restart the printer. You should fine the machine to come back on with the firmware already upgraded.
Leveling The Build Platform
Once you update the firmware, you can now proceed to level the printed. One of the unique features of the CraftBot 3D Printer is that it uses a three-point leveling system. There are three thumbscrews underneath the print bed. They can be loosened or tightened in order to adjust the distance between the nozzle and print bed.
Fortunately, you can use the LCD screen for a simple way to level the bed. Follow the on-screen instructions and the extruder will move accordingly. We recommend using a card that has a width of about 0.3 mm to fine-tune the distance between the print bed and the nozzle. After you’ve successfully calibrated all three points, the printer will automatically repeat the calibration process. This ensures consistency and accuracy during the print.
Loading The Print Filament
Before you can start printing, you’ll need to load filament. Place your spool of filament on the printer and feed one end through the guide tube. This tube will need to be interested into the top of a pre-heated extruder.
I love how the CraftBot helps you know whether your filament has been loaded correctly or not via an extruder switch. When turned on, the CraftBot puts a slight amount of tension on the filament. This ensures the user that the filament is locked in correctly by pinching the filament between a pulley and a bolt. There’s also a reverse command on the LCD screen that “pushes” back the filament if you want to pull it out. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that the CraftBot is so user-friendly. Installation is completely straightforward. You should have it up and running within an hour if you don’t have any problems.
One problem I did find, however, is that the user manual didn’t really give any thorough instruction on how to remove the print bed, nor on how to install it. While it isn’t very difficult to figure out, I thought it would have been helpful. Furthermore, the manual is quite ambiguous as to the type of surface on the print bed. For the experienced user, you’ll be able to tell that it’s covered by a Kapton sheet. Keep in mind that this will eventually be worn out. You won’t find instructions on how to do this in the user manual, but there are plenty of guides online.
All About the Software and Slicer – CraftPrint and CraftWare
We mentioned previously that CraftUnique doesn’t just produce the CraftBot Printer, but they also develop their own software that can be downloaded for free. It’s called CraftWare. The device that I used for this software is a PC running Windows 7. Although I was quite excited to try CraftWare, it didn’t turn out as I had expected. Launching the software immediately froze my computer, and I was forced to restart it several times. Even a quick reinstallation didn’t work.
Support was even unable to help me in my dilemma. I finally ended up trying the Repeater Host software. After doing so, I started to get very good results from my prints, and it ended up driving the printer controls quite nicely. I was highly disappointed, but a few weeks after receiving my printer they came out with the CraftWare 1.10 beta version. I installed it and it unexpectedly worked. I think it’s safe to say that if you’re reading this article today, you shouldn’t have any problems with the software. However, just in case you do, try installing other types of software and see if that works instead.
CraftWare is a unique software in itself and has all of the standard functionality that the majority of 3D printing softwares come with. It allows you to rotate, duplicate models, scale them and what really makes it unique is that it comes with slicing mode. This mode can then in turn be placed under both easy and expert mode.
If you’re new to the 3D printing industry, we highly suggest that you stick with the basic, easy mode. This allows you to change the filament type, set the quality of your print, and decide whether you want to use rafts or supports in your prints. This is usually enough to get any beginner started, and it’s only when you’re experienced and want to make some minor tweaks that you should move into Expert mode.
One really nifty feature that makes me prefer CraftWare over other 3D printing softwares is that each time you change the settings, there’s a preview of the change via an illustration of a 3D model. Instead of guessing what’s going to happen, I know almost immediately what my new setting is going to modify. In expert mode there are over 50 different tweaks you can make. This allows the user to have a high degree of control over slicing and how the model will turn out. If you’re uncertain as to what a particular feature does, there are some hint windows for certain settings that describe what they do. Usually the preview is enough for me to tell what the difference will be.
Once the code is generated, the slicing process is quite fast. CraftWare divides up each separate code by a color, allowing you to easily tell apart the different features. This includes outer loops, rafts, infills, shells, etc. This can be extremely powerful when you’re trying to obtain the maximum amount of optimization out of your prints due to the fact that you’re able to determine what settings you need to change as you go along. Furthermore, CraftWare’s visualization with code is much more advanced than any other software that I’ve experienced that comes equipped with slicing capabilities.
The software also does a great job of telling you how the model is going to be supported in your print in terms of gravity and weight. You can do this either manually or have it auto-generated (highly recommended for beginners). You can choose to place every piece of support manually if you so desire. Given the fact that you can do so many different features both automatically and manually, it’s no wonder why beginners and advanced users alike prefer to use CraftWare over a wide range of different 3D printing softwares available on the market today.
Most importantly, CraftWare allows for unmatched visualization. You’re always know what you’re going to get before you print it. This allows the user to save time and money, as you won’t be constantly wasting filament and reprinting. You’ll also extend the life of your printer by printing less since it’s more likely that models will come out the way you want them to be.
My First Prints With The CraftBot
Turning on the machine allowed me to discover quite a few new different features I hadn’t originally noticed when setting up the machine. When the build platform starts to heat up, look on a small metal block just beneath the bed. The word “HOT” should appear. I find this to be an incredibly important reminder for anyone using the machine. Not only does it take into consideration your safety, but can be great if children are present.
Removing the print bed has never been such a breeze. This makes it incredibly handy for being able to prepare things the way you want it without it being in the way. Furthermore, attaching any kind of sheet to the bed also becomes easy. This way other obstacles from the printer won’t be in the path of your hands. Removing prints can also be incredibly easy. If you’re having a tough time, remove the bed first and then lift up the print with a spatula.
Here’s where the most important piece of the printer is examined: the printing performance. All of the tests that I ran used PLA filament with a print speed of 40 millimeters per second at a 0.2 millimeter layer resolution.
Dimensional Accuracy takes into account how much backlash you get when printing models. In order to test this, the average user will print a model of six discs stacked on top of one another, and each succeeding one will have a slightly smaller diameter than the one beneath it. When completed, the second disc from the bottom is taken into account for accuracy. It should have a diameter of 20 millimeters. Or results display that there were deviations no greater than 0.2 millimeters. This is quite excellent, but we wouldn’t rate it top-notch. This feature we give 4 out of 5 stars.
Bridging Performance is meant to test the ability create distances between gaps of printed material without any sort of support. Our particular test was involved in 4 different distances, ranging anywhere from 20 millimeters all the way to 60 millimeters. There was only very slight filament droppings on each bridge, and overall the CraftBot did quite well. We also give this aspect 4 out of 5 stars.
This features tests the angle at which a model starts to dissipate after a certain angle. We did a test on a problem with 4 angles starting at 30 degrees and going all the way to 70 degrees. Loops started to drop a bit when it hit the 70-degree angle piece, but the ones before that performed very well. We rate this feature only 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Fine Positive Space Features Performance
This test evaluates the retraction performance of a 3D printer by printing different spirals that thin out as they’re built toward the top. The strands were built neatly, but there were a lot of filament hairs leftover hanging from each spiral. This is a particularly difficult test for any printer to pass, so we weren’t too harsh on our score. We give the CraftBot 3 out of 5 stars on this section. Most of the time these filament strands are negligible in the final product and can be taken off with tweezers.
Empty Space Tolerance
This test helps gauge the ability to create empty spaces such as holes within a model, or whether you want to join two pieces together by connecting them via a prong and a hole. We did a test with a lego block-type figure with 5 different pins that fit into the holes. After placing the pins in each hole, we realized that 80% of them could be removed. The final pin was stuck. Not bad, so we gave it 4 out of 5 stars. The only pin that failed was the 0.2 millimeter one. It seems that any space above this size can easily be created without any errors.
We wanted to measure the resonance in both the x-y direction and with the z-xis. This is difficult to measure, to we only based it on a pass or fail. In the x-y direction, there wasn’t any noticeable strands of ripping near corners when we printed a 3D model of a wall. This one obviously passes.
The the z direction, there weren’t any issues either. The entire block we printed was completely uniform. The pattern at the top of the block with the bottom of the block was exactly the same. This one passes as well.
We finally get to the point where we’re able to test printing an actual model. Here we evaluate all aspects of a finished product. This includes, dimensions of limbs, smoothness of the surface, scratches, overhangs, melted filament and more. We decided to print a model robot. We also made sure to print something that didn’t come pre-loaded with the software. This is important when testing, because we eventually want to take any piece we have in mind and create it without issues.
It turns out that your robot turned out quite nice. The surface was smooth in all errors with minor blemishes when closely inspected. There was slight filament dropping where we intentionally wanted to leave small holes. Fortunately, this can easily be taken off with tweezers. Curvature was nearly flawless, and the surface of the body came with the proper ridges that we wanted. Overall, we gave our robot a 4 out of 5 on average for all aspects. We tried to print a mixture of objects, and they all came out quite well. This was all done using PLA tape.
We eventually got to the point where we used ABS tape for testing. For most printers, ABS filament is a bit more difficult to maneuver due to increased adhesion to the print bed. However, we figured that a print bed with heating capabilities wouldn’t make it too difficult. It can go up to a temperature of 100 degrees celsius. Unfortunately during my testing, I couldn’t seem to get the bed higher than 80 degrees. Apparently this is a common issue for all users due to the fact that the power supply can’t support such a high temperature. I couldn’t get to my desired temperature of 100, and it eventually caused most of my prints to fail since they wouldn’t stick properly. This was an incredibly disappointment to say the least.
I really enjoy testing in ABS. This caused me to try and find other alternatives. However, using a bit of BuildTak with hairspray tended to do the trick. While slightly annoying and taking some extra time to prepare, it is an alternative. Given this fact, if CraftBot doesn’t come out with a better power supply to support 100 degree print beds, I suggest printing only with PLA.
After the slight failure with ABS tape, I decided to try out high impact Polystyrene (HIPS). This material is usually used as support material and tends to be incredibly study. Usually there’s a nice smooth feeling to all of the prints with this material, and I was just happy that the printer was able to support it.
Part of the time the prints would crack when I used HIPS, but after increasing the temperature of the extruder to over 220 degrees celsius there wasn’t really any issue. If you do happen to get cracks or some warping, adjust the temperature a bit until you get it right.
I’ve had the CraftBot 3D Printer for several weeks now, and I can say that it’s been a heck of a ride. After experimenting with different types of filaments, I’m quite happy with the product that I’ve received. The design is incredibly stable and comes with excellent features. Furthermore, a lot of care went into designing the machine to make it just right. While it does cost $1,200, you’re definitely getting your bang for your buck, especially with the incredible software support and advance capabilities that the printer provides. This makes it perfect for both novices and experts.
While there were a few downsides (particularly that the print bed wouldn’t go to the stated 100 degrees celsius), it still functioned properly. We don’t suggest using ABS tape unless you want your prints to stick. One thing we’d like to see added is a print bed with auto-leveling capabilities.
Given this, it’s a great printer that can be bought just over the thousand-dollar price range. It looks like support is continually coming out with new upgrades to software to improve their products, so we know that we’re in good hands. While there’s still a lot more testing to do, I’m definitely happy with my purchase on such an incredible machine.