Printrbot Simple Metal Review: Detailed 3D Printer Review

printrbot metal simple review

This 3D printer is the Printrbot Simple Pro (model 1608). It is the newest version of the “Simple” printer from Printrbot, and is priced in the mid-range among the other 3D printers offered by Printrbot.

Specifications

Printrbot only makes FFM type printers, which stands for fused filament manufacturing. Being the most popular 3D printer type among the hobbyist or small business commercial users, FFM type printers utilize printing material as a filament fed to the printer from a spool. Material is heated by an extruder and then placed with a precision extruder nozzle on a print surface, using X, Y, and Z axes to precisely place the filament while printing. The filament size for this printer is 1.75mm, and by default uses PLA (a sample is included). I have not tried other filament types yet, but this printer should be able to use a variety of filament types including various other types of PLA, ABS, wood, and even rubber like flexible filament.

The maximum build volume is 8” wide (X axis) x 6” deep (Y axis) x 8” tall (Z axis) totaling 384 cubic inches, a mid-range size for printable volume.

Each 3D printer will print with a minimum and maximum resolution. Similar to your computer monitor, this is the smallest and largest each dot or “pixel” appear. For a 3D printer, this means the smallest and largest detail that can be achieved with each print. In other words: the resolution is determined by the precision of the extruder movements in the X plane, the resulting smoothness of a printed object, the size of the extruder nozzle tip, and the Z and Y axes precision. This 3D printer has an aluminum extruder, takes 1.75mm filament input with a Ubis 13S hot end, and an output of 0.3mm at the nozzle. For the Printrbot Simple Pro, a resolution of 50 microns is listed on the Printrbot website, which seems to match the resolution I have observed after a few test prints. I have seen 3D print resolutions as high as 200 microns on much slower and more expensive printers. The quality from this printer at 50 microns is quite good from what I have seen so far.

Print Speed

Print speed is actually affected by the print resolution, which I believe can be adjusted when configuring a print. Print speed is hard to measure, since each model will have a different total volume and dimensional size. The Printrbot website still lists the speed as TBA (to be announced), but other users have measured approximately 100mm/s (millimeters per second of filament). Most of the prints that I have tested, which were all mid size prints, took well over 12 hours. One print even took almost 20 hours to complete. To anyone new to 3D printers, this may seem like a long wait for a 3D printed object, but currently this is the average speed found with most 3D printers. In general, faster printing means lower quality prints, while slower printing means higher quality prints. 3D printing an object is still much faster than ordering an object online and waiting for shipping, in most cases.

Auto-Leveling Feature

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The Printrbot Simple Pro features auto-leveling probes and software to automatically calibrate the Z axis height. This is a great feature, that helps reinforce the title of “Simple” in the name of this 3D printer. If your printer is not leveled and the bed leans to one side even a fraction of one degree, then the filament may lean or slide slightly to one side. An un-leveled print bed will adversely effect print quality, causing lower resolution print lines throughout an un-level print. Print beds will also become un-leveled over time and with use, causing the quality of prints to go down without consistent leveling. Auto-leveling print beds make 3D printing much easier, as the printer can run the auto-leveling before each print, creating consistently better print quality every time a model is printed. The auto-leveling for this printer works great, and couldn’t be simpler. When taping the print button on the LCD touchscreen display, the extruder first aligns itself to the middle and heats up. Then, the extruder head probes the height of the print bed at three points (three points determine a plane in 3D space), and then the extruder prints a test line near the edge of the print surface before starting to print the model.

Material

The construction material of the printer is powder coated steel body and CNC machined aluminum parts. The printer includes 12mm steel cast linear rails for all axes. Once assembled, the Printrbot Simple Pro feels very sturdy and well built. One issue that I have noticed (as have other users in the 3D printing community) is that the Z axis tower rails are also load bearing, meaning there is no separate supporting structure holding the Z axis tower in place or supporting the ZY axis head. This may not be an issue since the Z axis tower rails are solid cast steel as mentioned above. My issue with with this comes more from an engineering standpoint. I would need to revisit this after around a year of weekly use, in order to properly test the straightness tolerances of the rails in order to verify if this is actually an issue. Overall the construction is very strong and very sturdy. It feels much more substantial and tough than many other 3D printers in this size and usage class.

This Printrbot employs GT2 belts, 20 tooth aluminum dual flange GT2 pulleys, and Nema 17 stepper motors. The Nema 17 stepper motors are one of the more common stepper motors used in this class of 3D printer, as are the GT2 belts and GT2 pulleys. These pulleys can be found as a 3D model file on the web, and then replacements can be printed right from this printer for future use! I have read that some people have even 3D printed timing belts similar to the GT2 using flexible filament, but I have not found verification of this, and I have not tried it myself for other printers, let alone this one. One of the great things about this Printrbot Simple Pro is that it can print with flexible rubber like filament, so printing a timing belt will be one of the things that I try in the future, to see if I can print replacements.

In The Box

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Opening the box, we are greeted with a sheet of paper that first says “to get started visit printerbot.com/simplepro” (this URL redirects to http://printrbot.com/project/2016simple/). This sheet then provides a set of brief steps: 1) Unbox, 2) Load filament, 3) Swipe to print. The URL we are directed to provides instructions, videos, and links to additional resources.

The Printrbot Simple Pro comes mostly assembled, with the following parts:

  • Base Assembly
  • Print Bed Assembly (optionally with heated bed, either pre-installed or upgraded later)
  • Spool Rack
  • Power Supply and Power Cord (12v 6A)
  • Sample PLA filament
  • Printrbot sticker
  • Autodesk fusion 360 one year subscription
  • 5x blue print bed tape sheets
  • Hex key tools for assembly
  • Hex screws

If you order the heated print bed upgrade as well, you should also receive the following:

  • Clear acrylic magnet holder plate
  • New sheet of PEI print surface
  • Heating board with wires attached
  • Spring Steel print bed plate
  • 11-inch braided wire wrap
  • Rubber grommet for wiring hole
  • Zip ties
  • 10mm x 16 round button head hex screws
  • Power supply
  • Mini automotive 15 amp fuse (replaces the original 5 amp fuse)
  • Assembly

The assembly and setup of the Printrbot Simple Pro is indeed very simple, and much easier than most 3D printers!

Pre-assembled build time time: 30 minutes

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Un-assembled kit built time: about 5-6 hours

The following steps are the instructions I followed for the pre-assembled Printrbot Simple Pro. I am including additional steps if you purchased the heated print bed, indicated with [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] after the step number.

1) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Place the clear acrylic magnet holder plate on the print bed plate, lining up the screw holes. Note: no screwing yet.

2) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Place the heating board with the white side up and wires to the right on top of the clear acrylic magnet holder plate, lining up the screw holes.

3) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Using the #3 allen wrench, screw the four 10mm x 16 hex screws through the heating board and acrylic magnet holder into the main print bed plate. IMPORTANT NOTE: FINGER TIGHTEN ONLY, DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN THESE FOUR SCREWS. Over tightening these screws could break the white mask on the heating board and short out the copper heating elements. This is not repairable.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: NEVER PRINT ON THE HEATING BOARD DIRECTLY! According to the Printrbot instruction videos: printing directly onto the heating board with the calibration too low could cause the extruder nozzle to cut into the heating board, cutting or shorting the copper heating elements. This would also destroy the heating board as this cannot be repaired.

4) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Locate the spring steel print bed plate and the PEI print surface sheet. Since we are going to install the PEI surface sheet to the spring steel print bed plate, we want to be sure there are no pieces of dust or fibers trapped between the PEI sheet and the spring steel. To reduce dust and fibers, wash your hands twice with soap and rinse them off well. Dry your hands with a lint free towel or microfiber cloth only.

5) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Using a screen cleaning wipe or spray cleaner designed for cell phones or other electronic devices, clean the top of the spring steel plate. Dry the spring steel plate with a microfiber cloth or lint free towel.

6) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Peel back one inch of the colored backing from the PEI sheet, and fold the colored backing over to itself.

7) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Carefully, center the PEI sheet over the spring steel plate, lining up the edges as carefully as possible.

8) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Starting from the center of the exposed one inch of the PEI sheet, stick it straight down onto the spring steel.

9) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Using a microfiber cloth or lint free towel, press the one inch of exposed PEI sheet to the spring steel from the center outwards towards the edge of the sheet. Continue pressing down with the cloth in strokes making sure to rub carefully to prevent any air bubbles or pieces of dust or lint from becoming trapped between the sheet and the spring steel.

10) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Slowly and carefully begin to peal the rest of the colored backing while using the cloth to press the sheet to the spring steel. Be careful to push from the center outwards, to help prevent air bubbles from appearing. This PEI sheet application procedure is very similar to applying a screen protector to a cell phone or tablet.

11) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Once the PEI sheet is completely attached, carefully peal the clear protective top layer off the top of the PEI sheet. Once you have a corner separated, the rest should peal off very easily without pulling the PEI from the spring steel.

12) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Gently slide the 11 inch braided wire wrap over the wires attached to the heating board.

13) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Secure the 11 inch braided wire wrap over the wires with a zip tie very close to the heating board. Cut the excess tail from the zip tie.

14) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Slide the rubber grommet over the wires and over the 11 inch braided wire wrap.

15) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Secure the other end of the 11 inch braided wire wrap with a zip tie very close to the end of the braided wire wrap, making sure the rubber grommet is between the two zip ties. Cut the excess tail from the zip tie.

16) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Gently thread the wires into the hole on the right side of the Printrbot Simple Pro base assembly, located just above the USB port. Guide part of the braided wire wrap into the hole, and secure the rubber grommet into the hole so that it sticks around the inside of the hole. The rubber grommet protects the braided wire wrapping and wires from the potentially sharp edge of the metal hole.

17) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Attach the thermister cable from the heating bed behind the end-stop wire port on the electronics board. The correct port has 2 pins and is labeled “BED-THERM”.

18) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Install the remaining two red wires into both ports on the green terminal block on the other side of the Electronics board. These terminal blocks work similar to the screw-on terminal block for a car battery, however this terminal block is much smaller. Insert the wire so that the jacket is only just inside the terminal opening, then screw the terminal down to clamp onto (or bite into) the wire. Repeat for the other wire. Don’t over tighten these screws, but make sure the terminal screws are gripping well into the exposed wire ends. Screwing too tightly may cut the wires instead of just gripping them. Images are on the website, and a good instructional video is available at the “Printr bot” YouTube channel:

19) Locate the X axis motor connector wire inside the base assembly and connect it to the X axis motor. The X axis motor can be found already mounted on the underside of the print bed assembly.

20) Locate the end-stop wire on the print bed assembly and connect it to the electronics board inside the base assembly.

21) Position the print bed assembly on the base, making sure print bed is aligned correctly with the motor back to the LCD screen and the motor axis towards the electronics boards. There is a plate under the print bed assembly that the X motor is attached to. This plate is rectangular and has four screw holes. It should be positioned so that the X motor hangs inside the base assembly, and the screw holes line up with the mount holes on the base assembly.

Note: make sure the wires connected to the base assembly are setting inside the base assembly and not partly outside or sandwiched between the print bed assembly and base assembly.

22) Carefully slide the print bed to the right on the print bed assembly until two screw holes on the under plate are visible.

23) Screw two of the included 3mm x 10 rounded head screws through the under plate on the print bed assembly to the base assembly using the included #2 allen wrench. Note: Don’t over tighten these screws, so that if we need to fix anything we can without having to replace the screws or re-thread the screw holes.

24) Carefully slide the print bed to the left on the print bed assembly until the remaining two screw holes on the under plate are visible.

25) Screw the two remaining included 3mm x 10 rounded head screws through the under plate on the print bed assembly to the base assembly using the included #2 allen wrench. Note: Don’t over tighten these screws, so that if we need to fix anything we can without having to replace the screws or re-thread the screw holes.

26) Locate the spool rack and screw it into the top handle by hand turning it counter clockwise into the provided spool rack connector hole.

Note: The spool rack is screwed in counter clockwise instead of the standard clockwise so that the filament spool does not unscrew the spool rack during normal use.

27) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Locate the spring steel plate with the PEI surface application pointing up, and place it so the holes align over the screws in the heating board of the print bed assembly. When setting the spring steel in place, you should hear a satisfying light magnet clip noise. Make sure the spring steel plate is flat on the heating board.

28) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Unscrew the Z axis tower assembly from the base assembly, and gently set it on your work surface to the side with the USB plug, leaving the wires attached.

29) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Using a pair of needle nose pliers, or an automotive fuse pull tool, carefully pull the brown 5 amp fuse up and slide it out to the side. Remove the 5 amp fuse from the base assembly and save or discard. It may be easier to first slide the on/off toggle switch out, being careful in doing so, and replace it afterwards if you do.

30) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Replace the brown 5 amp fuse with the blue 15 amp fuse. If you removed the on/off toggle switch, be sure to replace it exactly as it was before.

31) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Set the Z axis tower assembly back in place on top of the base assembly and secure it with the original screws. Be sure no wires are trapped between the base assembly and the Z axis tower assembly base plate, and make certain the ribbon cable for the Z axis tower is in its slot and can move freely back and forth into and out of the slot in the base assembly.

32) [OPTIONAL HEATED BED STEP] Note that now you are using the new power supply included with the heated print bed upgrade kit. This power adapter plugs into the 6 pin ATX port on the back of the base assembly, instead of the barrel style port.

33) Rejoice! Assembly is completed!

Note: If you purchase the build kit that is not pre-assembled, then there will be a much longer set of build instructions, which can be found in detail on the website. In addition, there are several videos of build instructions available from the YouTube 3D printer community. Including the full build instructions in this review would detract from the main purpose of reviewing the printer, so instructions for the full assembly can be found on the website. I will note that the instructions for the full assembly seem to be missing a few steps, and could use some additional polishing. One step that is missing from the full assembly instructions is the step for connecting the LCD display to the power board. The full assembly instructions should also include additional detail for properly aligning the print bed, axes, and extruder gears, as this seems to be very tricky with the un-assembled kit.

Calibration

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34) Apply blue print bed tape to the print bed (heated print beds come with a PEI coating on the print surface so that you do not need the print bed tape).

35) Plug in and power on your printer using the on/off toggle switch.

36) Locate and tap the settings icon (looks like three stacked lines, similar to android style menu icons). The settings icon should be in the bottom left corner of the LCD screen, once the OS boot completes.

Note: The website says lower right corner, however it is indeed located in the lower left corner of the LCD screen.

37) Locate and tap the filament icon (two crossing arrows pointing right). In the settings menu this filament icon should be the top left icon.

38) Tap the large yellow button labeled LOAD FILAMENT.

39) The screen now displays “Heating Extruder”, and shows a progress bar. At this time there should be red LEDs shining from the underside of the extruder, indicating that the extruder may be hot. Wait for the heating to complete and the screen instructions to change.

40) Once the extruder has finished heating up, the screen should now display “Load new filament now…” and the extruder head lights may have changed color.

41) Set the spool on the spool rack, so that the filament line unrolls from the top, or counter clockwise.

42) Hold the lever on the top and front of the extruder down and feed the end of the filament into the extruder between the gears, then release the lever so the gears can pull the filament. Note: Best practice is to gently push the filament into the extruder until the gears can pull the filament, rather than forcing the filament all the way down to the nozzle.

43) Once the filament is loaded it may begin to melt some of the filament onto the print surface. Tap the large black “DONE” button and the extruder will retract after releasing some additional melted filament, and then the screen will be returned to the Settings menu.

44) You can now exit the settings menu using the X in the lower left hand corner (where the settings icon was before).

… to continue calibration, follow test print instructions, and then see calibration part 2 below …

First Test Print

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45) Make sure you have exited the settings menu. In the vertical title bar to the along the left of the screen you should see the section label “Projects”.

46) Swipe the screen left or right to locate the project called “First Test Print”.

47) With “First Test Print” project selected (showing on the screen), locate and tap the yellow open button.

48) Locate and tap the yellow Print button.

49) As suggested by the instructions on the Printrbot website, for the first print, keep your “finger on the trigger”, meaning keep your finger near the on/off toggle switch in the rear of the base assembly. This is in case the extruder nozzle is too close to the print bed. If it is too close you will see the print bed tape being torn by the extruder nozzle, and you will likely hear a clicking noise from the extruder since the filament cannot flow. In this case you should immediately flip the toggle switch into the off position. For image examples of what too close and too far from the print bed would look like, see the getting started page on the website at the URL: http://printrbot.com/project/2016simple/

50) Before the Printrbot Simple Pro begins to print the project, you will notice two additional and automatic steps: First) the printer will align the nozzle and auto leveling sensor on three positions, for automatic leveling of the print bed, and Second) the printer will print an initial test line of material at the front of the print bed, as part of the alignment.

51) Now the first test print begins to print a very simple box that is 20mm x 20mm XY, and around 2 to 4 mm tall.

52) While printing, the screen will (or should) show a few statistics including the estimated time to complete the print, the amount of filament required, and other information. The first test print should take less than 10 minutes to complete.

53) Once the print is complete, there are a few methods to remove the printed model from the print bed: 1) you can use a knife and run it under the model to separate from the print bed (not suggested, as it may tear the tape or PEI), 2) you can peel the blue print bed tape from the print bed and then separate the tape from the model (if you used the print bed tape), 3) if you have the heated print bed, you can wait for the print bed to cool, then remove the top plate from the print bed (it is held in place by magnets for ease of removal and placement) and then gently twist the spring steel print bed surface and the model will separate, 4) if you have a heated print bed the model should easily remove while the print bed is still warm, or 5) you can use a heat gun on a low setting to gently heat the bottom of the model at the print bed to separate the model from the print bed.

Calibration Part 2

If during the first test print above the nozzle tore the blue print bed tape, then you need to calibrate the extruder nozzle, called by the LCD the “Hotend Offset”:

54) Turn the Printrbot Simple Pro back on.

55) Once the OS boot has completed, locate and tap the settings button in the lower left corner of the screen.

56) In the settings menu, locate and tap the calibrate icon, which will look like an up and down pointing triangles on top of each other, and should be located in the top center settings menu location.

57) The calibrate screen will now be displayed. The hotend offset (meaning the extruder nozzle height) will likely default to +0.1 if you purchased a pre-assembled kit. Either way, if the first test print tore the blue print bed tape, then tap the up button so that the hotend offset is one or two tenths higher.

58) Locate and tap the yellow SAVE button at the bottom of this screen.

59) Tap the X to exit the settings menu.

60) Swipe to the First Test Print project, and return to step 49* above in theFirst Test Print section.

61) Repeat the calibration until the bottom most layer of the First Test Print prints just right. Again, see the images on the web site getting started guide to determine if the first layer of the test print is too low, too high, or just right: http://printrbot.com/project/2016simple/

Software

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The Printrbot Simple Pro comes with an LCD touch screen display. The GUI (graphical user interface) for the LCD was designed specifically to work with the Printrbot.cloud web based software. The intention is that you connect via Wi-Fi to the internet, download projects, and the Printrbot.cloud online software handles all of the processing of slices for your 3D model. This actually works great! The interface is slick and simple.

Things get a bit more difficult if you intend to design your own 3D models, as you then have to create a new project on Printrbot.cloud, upload the design to the new project, and then download it to your Printrbot Simple Pro via Wi-Fi. Instructions for creating an account, creating projects, and downloading to the printer can be found on the getting started page at http://printrbot.com/project/2016simple/. I will include WiFi connection instructions below in the section titled Connectivity, because the method is a bit complicated if you have never connected a device to WiFi in this way before.

If you do not have WiFi, or want to use your own computer to handle the processing of the slices for the 3D print model, you can do that by connecting the Printrbot Simple Pro to your computer by USB cable (USB A to USB B). The website and documentation indicate that this Printrbot is compatible with the Cura 2 software, and I’m sure with some additional configuration it can be used with other software as well. This definitely seems to speed things up if you have a slower WiFi connection, and reduces the number of times that you need to be present to intervene or take action during the print process.

I have read that some users of this Printrbot Simple Pro have taken the base assembly apart in order to gain access to the SD card in the back of the LCD screen. With this SD card you can apparently pre-load models to the SD card, and then skip the steps of having to connect to WiFi or USB. This however would likely take at least as long as the WiFi or USB method, likely longer due to disassembly and reassembly. I would think this would only be a good idea if you did not have a USB cable, had no WiFi, or were taking your Printrbot Simple Pro with you to your local maker space or somewhere else for a demonstration or other purpose.

Here is a link to a Printrbot support article for printing by USB using Cura 2: https://printrbot.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/115000151583-Printing-via-USB-on-Cura-2-with-Your-Printrbot-Simple-Pro

Connectivity

Probably the main improvement with the Printrbot Simple Pro over the previous model is the addition of WiFi connectivity with the LCD touch screen. This definitely reduces the number of steps to some degree, can be confusing if you have never connect to a device using this type of method before. The included instructions on the Printrbot website are linked here: http://printrbot.com/project/2016simple/#wifi

For this setup, there are two location you need to be for various steps: in front of your computer, and in front of your Printrbot. For the purpose of these instructions below, I am indicating the location after the step number as follows: (Printrbot) indicates you need to be at the Printrbot Simple Pro, and (Computer) indicates you need to be at your computer.

1) (Printrbot) Turn your printer on.

2) (Computer) Connect your computer to the WiFi network with the SSID of “printrbot”. This network will be on the 2.4 Ghz WiFi frequency, so all computers with WiFi should connect without trouble. There should be no security on this printrbot WiFi network.

3) (Printrbot) Tap the settings icon on your printer screen.

4) (Printrbot) Tap the WiFi icon on your printer screen settings menu.

5) (Printrbot) Write down or memorize the IP address listed on this WiFi screen on your printer.

6) (Computer) Open a browser on your computer.

7) (Computer) In your browser address bar, enter the IP address from your printer WiFi screen, and click Go or press enter.

8) (Computer) The page that loads has three boxes:

name: Enter a name for your printer.
wifi ssid: Enter the SSID of your home WiFi network.
wifi password: Enter the WiFi password (or passphrase) of your home WiFi network.

Note: The ssid and password are case sensitive! Be sure to use correct upper and lower case for your WiFi network settings.

9) (Computer) Click the “Save” button. Now you should see a new page that says only the following:

{“wifi”:”configuration updated, restarting…”}

10) (Computer) Connect your computer back to your normal WiFi (the SSID you entered above in Connectivity Step 8).

11) (Printrbot) Once the Printrbot finishes restarting, tap the settings icon again, and then tap the WiFi icon again.

12) (Printrbot) The values in the WiFi screen will have changed. Write them down or keep this screen open for use on your computer shortly.

printrbot.cloud

13) (Computer) In your browser, set the address bar to printrbot.cloud and press enter.

14) (Computer) Login to printrbot.cloud (If you need to setup an account, do so first, using the serial number from the WiFi screen on the Printrbot).

15) (Computer) Once you are logged into printrbot.cloud for the first time, there should be a large yellow notice at the top of the first page with a message informing you that you have no printers connected. Click “Add new printer” in this Yellow box, and then enter your printer name and IP address from the Printrbot WiFi screen. If you have configured a password for your Printrbot, enter that on this screen as well. Finally click the “Save” button.

16) (Computer) If you have multiple printers, or already have a printer setup and need to edit it or add a new printer, you can see the printers listed in a drop down box in the top right of the printrbot.cloud site (after logging in). Click the printer name to get the drop down printer menu, then either click “Edit” under the printer you need to change, or click “Add new printer”.

17) (Computer) If your printrbot.cloud account and your Printrbot Simple Pro are successfully connected, you will see the name of your Printrbot Simple Pro in the upper right corner of your printrbot.cloud account dashboard as well as a green indicator box next to the printer name.

18) (Computer) Now you can create projects on your cloud account dashboard, as well as connect to your MyMiniFactory and Thingiverse accounts to import models and collections. Creating a project from the main dashboard page will allow you to enter a project name and description, then take you to the project page where you can upload the 3D model file and a project picture. You can also click the Materials button on the left navigation bar (which looks like a leather hide icon) where you can add new types of materials (or filaments) to your account. Here you can also send the updated materials (or filaments) list to your printer.

Additional Notes

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While it may seem that the initial setup is not very simple, it is indeed simple compared to most 3D printers I have seen on the market today.

A few users have noted that it seems cumbersome to use the WiFi to download a project because it can take a while for the cloud to conduct the slice processing, and for the printer to download the G-code from the cloud. It may take a bit longer to get the print started, but it is much simpler then having to manually tell the software on your computer to create the model and build the slice information. It seems to me that there are fewer steps overall than most other printers.

One thing to note that I have read from just about every user, as well as on the Printrbot website: If your printer indicates that it is updating its firmware, DO NOT TURN THE PRINTER OFF WHILE UPDATING. Turning the printer off while it is updating firmware will corrupt the software. Fixing this is relatively simple: take apart the base assembly and removing the SD card from the LCD board to replace the broken files manually from your computer. It is best to avoid having to do this if you can. There is a firmware update feature that you can conduct manually either via WiFi or USB, and instructions for this can be found on the Printrbot website.

Another thing to note is that the Printrbot website indicates that printrbot.cloud does not currently support heated bed printing. If you have the heated bed, you will need to print via USB, or apparently you can send G-code through the cloud. More information about those print methods are provided on the Printrbot support pages.

The first full print that I conducted produced a high print quality, with only a few minor imperfections near the bottom. Adjusting the calibration of the hotend offset (or nozzle height) seems to have nearly fixed this. As with all 3D printers, there is a minor striped line pattern along the edges of the print. Depending on the print material, you can smooth this either with a fine grit sand paper, or using an acetone vapor bath. The prints I have produced so far from the Printrbot Simple Pro do not in my opinion require this, as the resolution is quite high and the quality is what I would consider nice. The acetone bath or sanding method is really only needed for parts that are meant to be added to products with parts made with other material, such as blending in with metal or cloth parts. The print quality has actually improved after a few prints, leading to some great quality and functional pieces.

I have not needed to do any real troubleshooting, but there is a page on the Printrbot website with suggestions and troubleshooting guides here: https://printrbot.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/sections/203324566-Simple-Pro-Troubleshooting

You can also submit a support request if you have questions that you cannot find answers to at the Printrbot support page here: https://printrbot.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/requests/new

Instructional videos, sample videos, and troubleshooting videos can be found at the Printrbot YouTube channel.

Print Quality

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Every time I review a 3D printer, the most requested information that I am asked about is the quality of the 3D print. If you are new to 3D printing, then you will likely be disappointed by the print quality from whatever 3D printer you try out for the first time.

Many people equate the concept of 3D printing to the science fiction “Replicator” technology from the TV show Star Trek, where you can ask a computer for anything and you get a perfect replica of any object. In truth however, the 3D printing technology of today has come a long way, but still has a long way to go.

Virtually every 3D print that I have produced from virtually every printer I have used has the physical 3D equivalent of television “scan lines”. Since all 3D prints are a layer of material melted and applied to a print surface, the limitation is how thick or thin the smallest possible layer can be. This is then the thickness of the “lines” that you will see in any 3D print. Think digital image “pixelation”.

Once you have the chance to test more than one 3D printer, you will see that this is the case with virtually every printer. I do not consider this so much a problem, but rather the current state of the technology. As I mentioned before, there are ways to smooth out these lines and roughness after the print, including sanding and acetone vapor bathing, depending on the type of filament material used.

Now that you know a bit more about how 3D printing works, and what the current technology limitations are, I must say that the 3D print quality of the models produced with the Printrbot Simple Pro are quite good! Very little support material if any is needed for objects that have air between the print bed surface and parts of the printed object. There are also very few examples of excess material glitches such as strings, filament hairs, or flecks needing to be removed. Similar, I have so far seen very few notable print glitches or burrs on any of the several prints I have completed. Specifically, only two of my nearly 30 prints had any noticeable burrs, and only about 8 had a few filament hairs in tight corners needing removal.

Another aspect of 3D print quality is the accuracy and precision of a high resolution model. I tested several nut and bolt combinations, as well as a few gears and clock parts. All of these parts were usable fresh off the print bed, without any touching up or sanding. The nuts I printed screwed smoothly onto the bolts that I printed, with no variation between the threads. This printer produced usable parts for not just prototyping, but for actual functional use in clocks, small electronics enclosures, and movable toys.

My favorite print so far is a wall mountable bracket to mount my WiFi access points throughout my home. The print quality was such that I just mounted them without any sanding or touching up, and my neighbor asked me what store I purchased the brackets from when he noticed them. I will be using this printer for the foreseeable future.

Final Thoughts

The Printrbot Simple Metal Pro is one of the best 3D Printers currently on the market for its price. This printer is great for those who want to start out with a 3D printer and want to get going on more advanced projects immedaitely, or for those that also have been toying with the idea of upgrading to something better. We hope you enjoyed our Printrbot Metal Simple Review. If you have anything you’d like to add, feel free to do so in the comments below.

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