Printrbot Play 3D Printer Review

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The Printrbot Play 3D Printer is Printrbot’s cheapest printer. They consider it entry-level, meaning they only sell it at $399. While I don’t usually start my reviews stating the price of the printer, it is relevant as to why the Play is one of the best printers so far and possibly the best printer on the market right now given its price. The Play is the printer that is replacing the Simple MakersKit, and it was originally meant to be a minimal viable product. The Play genuinely feels like a premium printer, even though you can tell that almost every part is extremely cost-optimized. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s cheap, but rather that you’re getting a lot more for your money than you would with other printers that don’t have this feature.

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The Design

Surprisingly, the Play is quite a massive printer for its cost. The frame is powder-coated steel, and the retail version comes in a white or black frame. The x-axis and the extruder carriage are built upon sheet metal. As compared to previous models, they are built from aluminum because this time the extruder is used as a moving part, where as before it was the print bed that would move. I have to admit that the sheet metal work is some of the most amazing I’ve seen on printer, and this immediately gave me a good impression. It shows that they put a lot of thought into the printer. This not only makes the assembly incredibly easy, but this eliminates any room for mistakes such as failures or misalignments that may occur down the road. Even if you were to buy it pre-assembled, this would still be the case, especially for repair. Like all Printrbots, the Play uses a bed probe tool to automatically adjust for slanted beds. This allows the bed assembly to simply be an aluminum slab bolted to the printer. The only thing that you will have to adjust is the belt tension, and there will be instructions on how to do that. All other features are done with software or automatically.

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The base consists of mounts for electronics, bearings, z rods and the motor. In order to enable linear motion, Printrbot went all out and went with precision 8 mm rods along with LM8UU bearings. These are bolted to the frame with injection-molded plastic parts and Delrin fittings. Even if you don’t know what this means, just trust me that the entire platform is incredibly sturdy. I’m still impressed by the parts used to assemble the Play given the cheap price. Overall, the Play is overall more rigid than any other full-size printer such as the Prusa Mendel. You’ll notice that the z-axis is only driven on one side and the bearing structure isn’t perfect for preventing jamming, but these don’t tend to be issues due to its aluminum backbone. This allows both sides to be in synch without the need to readjust. I even tried printing a few models while picking up the printer and moving it around. I found out that this hardly affected the results at all, and I was very happy at just how well it did print.

The Print Quality

I’ve personally seen printers that cost up to 4 times much that print just as well as the Printrbot Play 3D Printer. My first print used clear PLA. Before printing, the only thing that I had to adjust was the nozzle height that lies over the bed’s surface. This was done in the firmware. Everything else such as speeds, extruder movement and other things were untouched. You won’t find this printer as consistent as other higher-end printers like the Ultimaker, but it’s super impressive as an entry-level printer. Qualities such as corner sharpness, bridges, edges and other features are all up to par right out of the box. It’s really incredible what a machine that’s under $400 can print. The version of the Play that I used has a classic UBIS hot end, and word on the street is that eventually all of Printrbot’s printers will be upgraded to an all-metal UBIS. Fortunately, the carriage you may have on the play can be upgraded to this.

play-4You’ll find two fans on the front of the printer. One is used to point downward at the print which is great for cooling PLA. The other one faces inwards in the direction of the extruder block that simply serves as an extra heatsink for the hot end. After printing a few designs, this seemed to work well as I didn’t notice any sort of warping on my finished models. If there’s filament within the printer and you haven’t used it in a while, be aware that it will most likely clog. However, this is to be expected with all 3D printers.

The extruder is made from aluminum and is an improved and more simplified version of the Alu Extruder v1. This extruder was used in all other previous Printrbot printers. It comes with a spring-loaded lever with adjustable tension. One downside regarding this setup is that the idler tension cannot be adjusted unless you want to take of the fan shroud. This can be a bit tedious and difficult until you find a tension that works for your filament. Furthermore, you might want to be a bit careful of the screws that hold everything together since they are exposed to the user. Don’t be worried about this, as most extruders are built like this. The only recommendation I want to give is to be cautious when assembling it so that it lasts. Finally, it’s a bit unfortunate that you aren’t really able to see the first few layers being printed due to the large size of the print block. If you want a printer in which you can film or clearly see your prints, you might want to go with something else. Yet given the performance that the Printrbot Play 3D Printer has shown me, I didn’t care too much.

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Cable Management

One thing that Printrbot Play 3D Printer seems to have trouble with is the cable management. It doesn’t seem to be well-organized and things look a bit messy if you ever want to try and change anything or replace parts. However, not anymore. The Play has highly-organized wiring and none of them are strained. Furthermore, the wiring is now wrapped by a sleeve and there’s even a flap near the part of the wiring that bends the most to help protect it. One thing you might want to be aware of is preventing the wiring from sliding over the bed at the edge, but this portion of the print bed isn’t used for printing, so it’s not a huge deal. If wanted, you could easily reorient it.

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Flexibility

What typically comes up with low-priced printers is their lack of flexibility, and we’re going to take a look at some of the limitations with the Printrbot Play 3D Printer. For starters, the printer is a bit tiny, but not in comparison to other entry-level printers. I personally recommend staying away from printers smaller than a build volume of 4 in x 4 in x 5 in along the x-, y-, and z-axis respectively – it’s just too small. The Play’s volume is big enough at 4 in x 4 in x 5 in, and for me I didn’t really need anything much bigger, nor did I want a printer that takes up much more space than this. You’d be surprised at what you can print inside of this volume, such as a normal-sized coffee mug.

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One other limitation that you might find is that it doesn’t have a heated bed. This means that ABS and other plastics may be challenging to print since they may stick more to the print bed. PLA prints pretty well when you use unheated blue tape. If you want to upgrade, it’s incredibly easy to add a heated bed by sticking a heater onto the bottom. Get it up to 80 degrees celsius and you should be good. The only other thing you might want to add with a heated print bed is a better power supply. If you don’t want to add a heated print bed, this isn’t necessary, and your prints will still come out with great quality. You can use ABS, but again, PLA will most likely turn out a lot better.

Final Thoughts

There isn’t much left to say about the Printrbot Play 1505 3D Printer. Whether you buy it pre-assembled or a DIY model, it will still cost the same. I personally enjoyed building it myself, gaining an understanding of how it works. It took me about 4 hours to build and all instructions are included. While it boasts nothing incredibly special, the Play has quality that rivals higher-end printers at a fraction of the price, and this is what it was built for. So far, the Printrbot Play is my favorite out of all printers around this price range. It prints well, looks good, reliable and cheap.

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