Printrbot Metal Simple 3D Printer Kit Review (Updated 2019)

The Printrbot Metal Simple 3D Printer was released on April 10th, 2014 as an all-metal version that was expected to be an upgrade from their previous yet popular Simple Wood 3D Printer.

Eventually their old model was renamed to Simple Maker’s Edition and then the Printerbot decided to tack on Simple on its name as well.

Yet as to avoid any confusion between the two versions, the newer and metal model has simply been nicknamed the “Simple Metal.”

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However, going off of just their name will make you realize that these printers have a lot less in common than the letters found in their name. With a completely new and improved designed, the Printrbot in reality shares very few similar parts with the Simple Wood. One thing you might realize is that the layout and structure is the same between both, in which the bed slides across the x-asis and the extruder moves along the Y- and Z- axes. This was done purposely because such a design is meant to decrease the printer’s overall weight and sized when comparing it with more traditional designs, yet the one drawback is the design creates a kind-of cantilever along the Y-axis causing the printer to potentially have issues regarding flex and rigidity. Fortunately, the makes of the Simple Metal took this into account and stacked it with thick rods thus eliminating any flex that you might ever encounter.

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The hot end utilizes a .4mm nozzle with an advertised print resolution of up to 100 microns. While the print resolution can be deemed as negligible for the majority of printouts that you may find, once you increase time-to-ratio quality you’re going to find just how important this aspect really is. The print area goes from 150mm by 150mm by 150mm and uses 1.75mm PLA with a GT2 belt. The Simple Metal can’t print ABS without modifications due to it not having a heated print bed, so take this into account when considering your purchase.

The auto-leveling system on the print bed is one rare feature that you won’t find among other printers within a similar price range, containing a non-contact probe which is used to help measure the three corners along the print bed. This allows for the machine to slide the hot end on the z-axis while maintaining a proper level with the bed. In short, all leveling of the bed is programmed automatically you run a print leaving no room for you to have to do any adjustments manually.

Hardware Quality

If you had to take just one feature and compare it to others designs, the Printrbot Metal Simple 3D Printer stands out the most in its quality of hardware. You’ll soon find that every square inch is made of durable and high-quality materials with top-notch manufacturing. The Simple Metal was built in the US and you can really tell based on the quality of the parts along with the quality of manufacturing techniques (formed sheet metal and CNC milling).simple-metal-5

With other budget 3D printers, most of them will be durable but with a few flimsy parts that can ruin the entire design and feel of what you’re really getting for your money. Yet the simple metal comes out on top by being rigid and durable, giving you the feeling that it’s literally unbreakable. This has to be one of the printer’s greatest strengths, since other printers within the same price range can have the same edge when it comes to printing stats, but fail in comparison on build quality.

Assembly

If you choose to purchase the Printrbot Metal Simple 3D Printer Kit, assembly will only take you around 4 – 5 hours at most. Make sure to take your time when putting together such a machine, as one little miscalculation can be detrimental to your results. Yes, it can be put together in a shorter time, but it’s more important to be thorough. Have some patience as the assembly instructions are a little bit ambiguous, but it’s easy to understand once you get going.

simple-metal-4No complex mechanisms or parts will be found when putting it together, and in a nutshell you’re basically screwing parts together onto a main frame along with 3 main pieces. These larger pieces serve as the printer’s main framework. Even though it may sound simple, I did encounter quite a few problems putting the machine together. Some of the parts seemed to be slightly skewed and didn’t quite meld together properly. To get them to fit I had to do some minor modification. Reading some forums helped me realize that this happened to be a somewhat common issue, but a lot of consumers ended up assembling it without any problems whatsoever. I personally believe that this is because it’s a design that recently came out and that they’re still trying to work out some final and minor kinks. To avoid this confusion and frustration, it might be best to purchase the already assembled model of the Printrbot Metal Simple 3D Printer.

Setup

If you’re not already familiar with 3D printer software and firmware, it may take some time getting it installed. This is not a plug-and-play device. It took me about 10 hours messing around until I had it up and running and could figure out how to manage the software. This is only based off of my experience. I’ve heard cases where it only took some a couple of hours at most. Of course, this depends on your experience level in the industry and you way going about assembly.

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The auto-leveling system is the part that you want to pay most attention to during setup. It requires a bit of finesse and some fine-tuning for proper function. Yet once setup correctly, it should be running at optimal levels. Tinker with it every so often until you get the exact adjustment that you’re looking for. The recommended software is Repeater + Slicr, at least when you’re getting used to it. Their guide will walk you through configuring all of the necessary settings that you need to print. Overall, you should find the setup and assembly to be incredibly simple, and again, experience definitely helps.

Print Quality

Some people argue that although a printer has impressive specs, it yields horrible results. This isn’t the case with the Printrbot Metal Simple 3D Printer, capable of producing excellent prints that stand out among other comparable printers. I have past experience using a professional-level printer as my former work required it, but this is my first-ever hobby 3D printer. I expect to do some further fine-tuning to get better results, but it’s difficult to beat what type of quality I’m already getting.

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Edges and printed in a smooth fashion and you won’t hesitate to implement small dents and ridges into your design like you might with other printers due to their limited capability. Ultra-complex models may not be possible (after all, it is just a hobby printer), but with what you’re given and as a beginner, you definitely won’t be let down.

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Value

The kicker that gets the majority of customers to purchase the Printrbot Metal Simple 3D Printer is the price tag at just $539.00 for the kit, making it one of the least expensive printers that you can find on the market. The main competition tends to be the XYZprinting DaVinci 1.0 and the RepRap Prusa i3.

The Prusa i3 comes with a slick and unique design, but RepRap printers tend to be a bit frustrating and intimidating to beginners. Everything is open source and built around a community, meaning everything you get with that printer has nothing to do with the original manufacturer or its original intent. This definitely doesn’t put me at ease when using it. A lot of variations are available, so it may be a bit confusing to someone who’s just getting into the 3D printing world.

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The DaVinci 1.0 is basically the opposite. To stand out from its competition, it’s design is meant to be user-friendly and available for use immediately after being opened. Unlike the Prusa i3, everything is close-sourced, meaning you have to use their software and their filament cartridge (which can be quite expensive). While this makes it easy for the beginner, it doesn’t leave them any room to expand their knowledge since they’re stuck to only one type of design.

The Printrbot takes both of these models into consideration and produces a unique system that comes in between them both. It’s still user-friendly to beginners with the ability to expand to more intense and complex designs, perfect for expanding beyond the beginner’s level.

Final Thoughts

If the 3D printer you’re looking for needs to be one that you can just have shipped to your house and available for immediate use, then you might want to go with something else. However, the assembly and figuring out how it works is what makes the Printrbot Metal Simple 3D Printer so amazing. The initial setup is by far the funnest, and you will get intense satisfaction after building it. This is the perfect printer for beginners and other 3D printing hobbyists that want something simple to use and will receive great satisfaction and print qualities from using it. At a price tag of just $539.00, you’re getting a lot more than you’re paying for.

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