As I'm sure many of you who have read the blog before know, I was an early backer of the Robo3D Kickstarter. I'll be honest with my impression from the Kickstarter campaign. The machine was in an interesting housing with a good build volume. Print quality shown in the original Kickstarter was not so good (pics have since been updated with much better prints). However, it was a very low priced machine, so I was OK with some give and take. I believe around $600 at the time. At a price like that, for an approximately 10" cubed build volume with a finished looking housing, I thought that it might be a great future option to stock in a 3D Printer store as an entry level machine, so I backed. Fast forward a little to delivery of my machine in July 2013. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality. The print output was very good
. It was a PLA only model, which meant that it had no heated build plate. The build plate was black acrylic that looked really cool. I covered it up with a piece of plate glass as a flat build surface. Wiring was fairly neat and organized under the machine. The only major flaw with the machine itself in my opinion was that it was extremely difficult to set z-gap. There was no easy fine adjustment of the Z end stop and there was no easy way to level/tram the bed. Of course the community developed solutions, but the Robo3D team was working on their own as well. There are also potential issues with rigidity of the z-axis, but I consider that to be part of the give and take of a cheaper printer that can be addressed with running at lower speeds or installing a community designed reinforcement. Continue fast forwarding to Summer 2014. Robo3D launched some significant improvements to the Kickstarter model. The Kickstarter models were dubbed 'Beta' level and the improved machine was called the R1. The price went up from the Kickstarter as well, but the added features made it worthy. I decided to add the R1 to the printedsolid.com shop
for local sales where Printed Solid could also provide some training. To help aid you in your decision on what printer to buy, and to show some of the features of the R1, I present this unboxing. When I went through this process, I tried my best to replicate new user experience and not 'cheat' by using any of the tools and tricks I have on hand for my other printers except where absolutely necessary. The printer was dropped off by FedEx in good condition in a simple brown corrugated box with some standard labeling on it.
Inside that box was the Robo in its shiny retail packaging. This is nice professional packaging that you would expect to see in a store. Between the outer box and this inner box, the machine is reasonably well shielded from puncture damage during shipping.
Opening up the inner box, I see a letter from the Robo3D team, some other marketing materials, and a sheet of black pressure sensitive adhesive backed material.
Continuing to open the package, I can report that the professional foam packaging does a good job of cradling the machine and preventing movement. I see my nice new printer, some tools, some filament, cables, and a USB thumb drive with some getting started instructions. There was also a nice newly designed spool holder.
Getting into the machine, we see the glass heated bed with all the standard warnings, but with something new. The bottom of the bed is now insulated with cork. This should take some load off of the heating circuitry and give some quicker bed heating time.
Taking a closer look at the hot end, I see that the old J-head knockoff has now been replaced by the RepRapDiscount Hexagon
, which is an all metal hot end. This should improve the reliability of the printer and will also improve the capability of the machine as it can now print up to much higher temperatures for materials like Taulman 645 and colorFabb XT.
With the bed off, the linear bearings that have replaced the kickstarter model drawer slides are visible. This is a really good improvement.
Another great improvement that can be seen here is the autoleveling setup. This is a really clever design. The nut that is used to drive the x-axis motor mounts up and down the z-axis smooth rods is actually attached to a bracket that is not directly connected to the motor mounts. The z-axis limit switches are attached to that mount. When the x-axis gantry is lowered and the nozzle touches, the two pieces of the z-axis carrier separate and the mount is lifted away from the limit switch signaling that it has found home. The machine runs through a series of probing point where the point where the nozzle touches the bed is recorded. This defines the plane of the bed, which helps with the problem of leveling the build plate. Then when the machine prints, it gradually adjusts z-height throughout each slice. Autoleveling is more properly called z-axis compensation since nothing is actually leveled, but I suspect the autoleveling terminology will stick.
Turning the machine over, I was very surprised to see a bottom cover. Not sure how I feel about that as it does leave very little space for air to flow. However, it does contribute to a more professional appearance. Air flow can be addressed by putting some spacers underneath.
Now, time to plug it in. Cool blue lights illuminate the print volume.
After looking everything over, I tried to start the first print as if I had never touched one of these before. I installed Matter Control from the included USB drive, which was outdated. So, I ran the update. Then I tried to connect to my printer. Matter Control was not able to find the printer. Here, I cheated a little. For some reason that is unknown to me, Matter Control seems to have trouble finding a new printer. I loaded up Repetier Host, found the printer, closed Repetier Host, and tried again with Matter Control. This time, everything worked out fine. Then Matter Control informed me that my version of the firmware needed to be updated. No problem, I ran the firmware update with no trouble. Next step was bed leveling. In order for the autoleveling to work, you need to define a distance between where the probing routine finds the bed and how far off the bed you actually want the nozzle to be when it starts printing the first layer. Matter Control attempts to do this semi-automatically. It picks three spots on the bed and has you define where resistance is felt on a sheet of paper between the nozzle and the bed. I tried running through this repeatedly with no success. First two points were fine, but third would just hang. This seemed like a Matter Control issue to me. So, I uninstalled and reinstalled Matter Control several times with no success. I ended up flashing the firmware to an earlier revision and everything went well. Finally, time to actually print something. I decided to print the Makerbot Gnome as a trial. This was done in generic purple PLA at a 200 micron layer height with no infill. There is a small amount of banding, but very light. Overall, I would say this print compares extremely favorably to other prints I've seen from printers in this price range. Also keep in mind this is right out of the box without any tuning or printed upgrades.
As a second print, I ran this Gummy Bear (Like the ones we often toss into your shipments). Transparent yellow colorfabb with 5% infill and a single perimeter. 0.1mm layers. It handled it beautifully.
So, what's the final verdict on this printer? If you're at the $800 price point for your budget, don't want to put the effort into sourcing your own RepRap or assembling a kit and need a large build volume, this might be the printer for you. Further, if the previous sentence describes you and you also want a printer that can really use any thermoplastic material out of the box due to the hexagon hot end and heated build plate (and you know you do, why else would you be on our website?), you should really consider this printer. It might require some tinkering and TLC to achieve perfection, but you get a really nice printer for the money. If you happen to be lucky enough to live relatively close to us in Newark,DE, why not purchase from us and sign up for some training to help avoid some of the common learning curve issues that other less lucky people have to work through on their own? Or order directly from the manufacturer from our referral link
. Notify us if you use this link for a discount off of your first printedsolid.com order
Matthew Gorton is the founder of printedsolid.com. He is a mechanical / materials engineer by education and has worked as a design, process and quality engineer in the medical, electronics, and aerospace industries. He is enthusiastic about applying all he has learned through these experiences to 3D printing and sharing that with others.
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