As I mentioned in our first “3D Printing 101” blog post, our 3D printer of choice is the Craftbot Plus. Simply put, this printer allows us to focus on designing our ideas and brining them to reality, as opposed to constantly fighting with a printer that just won’t work. We only have a few hours each night after work when the kiddos are in bed to work on our new ideas, inventions, and designs – so having a reliable “plug-n-play” printer is a must for us. I know some people enjoy building, modifying, and tinkering with their printers, but that’s something we just don’t have a lot of time for.
The printer has won awards including Best Plug ‘N Play printer of 2017 and Best Budget Printer of 2016 on 3dhubs.com. Angus at the Maker Muse youtube channel has a thorough review of the printer here. In summary, we’ve used this printer non-stop for almost a year now, and highly recommend it and agree with all the accolades it has received. Now let’s get into a more thorough review of the pros (lots of those), and cons (not so many) of this printer.
I’ve said it a hundred times already, so I’ll only say it one more time. This printer just works and is truly a plug-n-play 3D printer. Once out of the box, all you need to do is level the bed, load the filament, and get to printing. There are helpful video tutorials and a users’ forum on the Craftunique website.
LCD User Interface
The LCD screen and user interface is intuitive and responsive. I had major problems with our Raise3D N2’s LCD screen, so this is very important to me…as it should be for everyone – how can you get your printer to run if the LCD screen doesn’t work?
From the LCD screen you can control many features such as turning on and off the interior LED lights, to modifying print settings real-time while a print is in progress.
The 10” x 8” x 8” build volume is great, and much better than many other comparable printers. We can print the vast majority of our designs without splitting the model – but this of course is dependent on the user and the size of model you are printing.
Another important note is that while the build volume is generous, the printer’s footprint is still small and it is fairly light. It can easily fit on a desk or table, and I’ve had no problems carrying it back and forth from my office to the garage when needed. The printer itself is very sturdy and well built; with an all-metal frame and no 3D printed parts.
A heated bed is becoming more standard in 3D printers these days, but it is still a nice feature and a big help when getting prints to stick to the print surface. Granted, we primarily use PLA, so this is also a function of the material being printed (ABS, etc.).
The Build Plate
The printer comes with an aluminum build plate covered with Kapton tape. I used it a few times, but after a while the prints stopped sticking and the Kapton tape needed to be replaced. That’s simply the nature of using Kapton. Luckily the build plate is easily removed via two screws. I switched to the “Zebra Plate” which you can purchase at www.printinz.com, and haven’t looked back since.
The Zebra Plate is a great build surface, PLA sticks to it with no problem, and is just flexible enough so your prints pop right off. Even if a print is especially stuck, you can still use a scraper to remove the print. In another post, I’ll describe the modifications I made to use the Zebra Plate with the Craftbot.
Three – Point Bed Leveling
As I mentioned, I actually like the manual bed leveling, but I do not like the fact that there are only three leveling screws. There is one leveling screw on each back corner, and one leveling screw at the front center point. There is no way to level the front corners, which I sometimes have trouble with.
I realize that in theory, three points should be adequate, but no build surface is perfect, and over time all materials and surfaces warp at least slightly. Why not have one leveling screw on each corner of the build plate? That would allow for complete leveling of the entire surface. I made this modification to my “factory leveled” Raise3D N2 printer (which I’ll describe in another post), and was very happy with it. Anyways, this has actually not been a major issue, as I’ve just “faked it” when needed by adjusting the positioning of the build plate clips or the model location in the slicer software.
There is no way to wirelessly send a print job to the printer. This was a nice feature on the Raise3D N2…but this is a very minor issue. It’s really not an issue at all: just load the job on the USB drive and plug it into the printer. I would categorize this as a “nice-to-have” on future versions of the printer.
I understand that the Craftbot 2 has a “WiFi module” for controlling print jobs in progress, but the product description does not explicitly state that you can upload jobs to the printer (which makes me think you can’t). The new Craftbot XL on the other hand, explicitly states that jobs can be uploaded via WiFi to the printer.
Overall, while I’ve listed almost as many cons as pros, I would say that each of the “cons” are VERY minor, and that WiFi uploading would simply be a nice feature…and the lack of it may not even be considered a true “con”. Finally, with all my talk about how great and reliable this printer is, keep in mind there is always a learning curve in 3D printing – especially if this is your first printer. From time to time the filament will jam, or a print will fail for some reason: that’s just the nature of 3D printing. But addressing these minor issues, which all printers face, has been straightforward with the Craftbot. And once again, there are several helpful tutorial videos on the Craftunique website.
Please leave a comment below. Let us know what you think about your Craftbot, another feature, or any points we may have missed. We always appreciate your feedback!