Popular 3D Printers Reviewed and Compared: Cubify vs. MakerBot vs. PrintrBot

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3D printers are a fascinating new technology with great possibilities and also some concerns. New laws are already being thought about to regulate what can and cannot be reproduced with 3D printers. As 3D printers become faster and more affordable, the po

What are 3D Printers?

A 3D printer takes a digital Computer Aided Design or CAD file and turns it into a 3D object. This is done by layering until the object is completed. Try and picture making something like a cake with thin slices, slice by slice until the object is completed. Nozzles deposit melted plastic or another material to make these layers that will eventually become the actual product.

3D printers are as close to a Star Trek replicator as there is and they are amazing. There are different types of 3Dprinters. A Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) deposits the melted material forming the layers of the product. There are selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printers that use a scanning laser that fuses powdered material to layer and build the final product. The materials that can be used include plastics, glass and metals even including gold and silver.

Amazing Possibilities of 3D Printers

Who would use 3D printers? Everyone could find a use for 3D printers, scientists, doctors, hobbyists and do-it-yourself people would all find great uses for 3D printers. You could make a replacement part for your dishwasher or hobbyists could make jewelry or create art.

One of the most amazing possibilities of 3D printers is to save lives. As recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors used a 3D printer to save a babies life. This baby had a condition known as tracheobronchomalacia, which is a problem with the trachea causing breathing problems. Using CAD and computer generated image of the patient's airway, doctors created a tracheal splint made of a bioresorbable plastic using a 3D printer.

3D Printer Concerns

New technologies bring wonderful possibilities and also concerns. One concern is that a 3D printer can make guns. A student at the University of Texas recently made a gun using a 3D printer that worked and fired bullets. Politicians who are now concerned over the use of 3D printers being able to make guns have proposed laws such as the Undetectable Firearms Act of 2012.

Cubify

Cubify is a 3D printing company that sells 3D printers and also sells finished 3D products. With Cubify you can buy already finished 3D products from the Cubify store, create your own 3D designs and also sell your 3D CAD designs and earn a 60% royalty. Cubify sells two different 3D printer models.

Cube 3D Printer

The Cube 3D printer is a home 3D printer with many uses and features that include.

  • A plug and play printer that is easy to set up and get up and running. This printer is certified as safe to use at home for children.
  • The Cube 3D printer makes objects in two materials, ABS and PLA.
  • The Cube 3D printer can make objects in 16 colors with their cartridges.
  • This 3D printer is Wi-Fi to make downloading and loading easy.
  • The Cube 3D printer comes with 25 pre-designed 3D files that you can use that have been created by professional artists.
  • The Cube is compatible with Windows or Mac computers
  • You can print out objects up to a size of 5.5” x 5.5” x 5.5” (140mm x 140mm x 140mm).
  • The cost for the Cube 3D printer is $1,299.

Cube 3D Printer

CubeX 3D Printer

The CubeX is their top of the line 3D printer offering the following features.

  • You can print parts and objects as large as 10.80” x 10.45” x 9.5” (275mm x 265mm x 240mm).
  • The CubeX lets you make objects in 18 different colors with 4,000 color combinations.
  • The objects you make can be made of industrial grade ABS or high-quality PLA plastics.
  • The cost of the CubeX 3D printer is $2,499.

You can print or create many types of plastic object yourself or download 3D templates.

Cube 3D Printer 

Cubify Customer Reviews

The following customers on Cnet give their opinions of the Cubify 3D printers.

  • Pros - Almost Ink Jet simplicity. Mainstream design and appeal. Cartridge filament system. Software is simple . Encapsulated design almost eliminates chance of burns. NO assembly or hacking skills needed. Cool 'glue' instead of heated bed
  • Cons - Cost ($1299 is about twice where it needs to be for mainstream). Cartridges cost more than bulk filament rolls. Software is too simple for power users. Print size and resolution could be better at this price point. NO heated bed option (glue only)”- Plastic Guru
  • Looks like a Fisher-Price toy and and unfortunately... functions like one. While the competitors in this price bracket may not be as pleasing to the eye, they surpass the quality of output by far when compared to this offering from 3D Systems. Since this is a first offering at this price level from 3D Systems, they win some style points , but it feels a lot like a marketing ploy predicated on generating revenue from the industry buzz than a functional piece of equipment.” – LoosyFuss

MakerBot

MakerBot makes three models of their Replicator 3D printers.

The Replicator

Their Replicator model has the following features.

  • The build envelope size is 8.9” x 5.7” x 5.9” (225mm x 145mm x 150mm).
  • Can use ABS or PLA plastic materials.
  • You can choose a layer thickness of 0.2 – 0.3mm thickness with the included stock nozzle.
  • Works with Windows, OSX and Linux
  • The cost of the Replicator is $1,999.

Replicator 2

The MakerBot Replicator 2 has the following 3D printer features.

  • The build size is 11.2” L x 6” W x 6.1” H.
  • Print technology is fused filament fabrication.
  • The high setting layer resolution is 100 microns (0.0039”).
  • The MakerBot Replicator 2 nozzle diameter is 0.015” (0.4mm).
  • The Replicator 2 is compatible with Windows XP and 7, Linux and Mac OS X 10.6+.
  • The cost of the Replicator 2 is $2,199.

Replicator 2X

The MakerBot Replicator 2X has the following features.

  • The print technology is fused filament fabrication.
  • Build size or volume is 9.8” L x 6.3” W x 5.9” H
  • The high resolution setting is 100 microns.
  • The Replicator 2X nozzle setting is 0.015” or 0.4mm.
  • The Replicator 2X is compatible with Windows XP and 7, Linux and Mac OS X 10.6+.
  • The cost of the Replicator 2X is $2,799.

Replicator 2 Finished Product

MakerBot Customer Comments

For the most part, customers are pleased with the MakerBot 3D printers as long as you know what you are getting at this stage of the technology.

  • “First, if you buy this thing, understand that you are not buying a fancy coffee maker or tablet PC. In order to be happy with it, you need to have correct expectations. This is cutting edge technology, and it will both delight and disappoint you. Life with a 3D printer is filled with highs and lows. The highs are very high, and the lows are very low.

    When I unboxed my new Replicator 2, the first thing I did was level the build platform, load the spool of filament, and then clicked print from the button on the front panel. I printed out the bolt and nut demo. It printed perfectly. I was overjoyed . . . a perfect plastic nut and bolt printed from a 3D printer. Then I printed the chain and the little bust statue of the woman. Life was good, and I was excited about the new possibilities that this printer would add to my electronics projects and other hobby projects.

    My euphoria was short lived. First thing I noticed was that when I did my first design, it printed one out properly, but on the second one failed in the middle of the print. Then I started having difficulty with parts not sticking to the build plate, and peeling off during fabrication. Then I noticed that it could not print ANY designs in certain colors of filament (orange was the worst for me). Then at about the one and a half month point, it simply would not print anything.

    Luckily, there is a very active user community for this printer, and if you get on the google user group for this printer, you can find the known issues, and solutions to keep the printer running. The print head is improperly designed, and it is not uncommon for it to fail in the first few months (as mine has). You can order aftermarket print heads that solve the problems. Another major issue is that the build plate is acrylic, and is not flat enough. The solution is to order an aftermarket glass build plate. Other people have had issues with flexing in the cables connecting to the drive motors leading to failure, and other issues as well.

    The bottom line is that if you are a tinkerer/builder/maker type person, you will probably love this printer. You need to view this device as a Project, not a Product. It takes work and research and tweaking and tinkering to keep it working, and to get it to do what you want. When it is working, life is good. When it is spitting out air prints, you rue the day you ever bought it.

    For me, it works well enough, enough of the time for me to give it a thumbs up. Just make sure to keep your expectations in check if you order it.

    Amazon.com

PrintrBot

PrintrBot sells 3D printer kits and pre-built 3D printer models.

PrintrBot Jr.

  • A build volume of 4.5” x 5.5” x 4”, which is 99 cubic inches.
  • Objects are made in PLA plastic only.
  • The cost is $399 and already assembled is $499.

PrintrBot also sells the following kits that you can build or buy built.

  • PrintrBot LC V2 kit cost $649 and preassembled cost $649.
  • PrintrBot Plus V2 costs $799 with an 8” x 8” x 8” build volume.

PrintrBot Customer Reviews

Reviews about the PrintrBot are mixed with reviewers saying the positive is the printing speed of 200mm per second is great but you cannot connect to Wi-Fi is the negative. Other comments include:

  • “I, like many others expected the Printrbot kit to be like many other kits I have bought. As in, I thought I bought a complete bot with "some assembly required." What I actually got was a kit that had almost all of the harder to finds parts and most of the parts needed to assemble the bot. Not all. I then started to remind myself this is more of a prototype bot rather than a polished 3D Printer. That's good, I didn't want a polished prebuilt 3D printer. Printrbot has been a really great learning experience, great community, and now I have a really good 3D printer that can keep up with printers that cost almost 4 times as much.

    I was trying to come up with how hard it was to me to assemble the printrbot. Of the things I've done, it was a good deal harder to me than building a computer from scratch but easier than rebuilding an automatic transmission. I think better documentation and a more polished BOM could bring the assembly on par with building a computer from scratch. From kit to first print, took me a trip to the home center and about 10 hours of build time.

    I started off studying the build videos then started the build as instructed. I hit just about every road block that has been documented here. When I got to the videos where Brook talked about how to wire the bot, I began to look at the build videos as suggestions rather than a "How To Guide". That's when the fun really got going. I ended up buying all sorts of things to complete and upgrade my bot. I learned a lot in assembling and rebuilding my bot two or three times. I like the comment that I read on the Makerbot cupcake build instructions when trying to troubleshoot some extruder problems. "Nothing is ever FUBAR" I keep this in mind when working on my bot.

    As I dialed in my bot, I started printing off replacement parts for the items I "drilled out" or "cracked" during assembly. While the parts from Printrbot HQ were serviceable, I used some of the provided filament to print out all new plastic bot parts at .1 layer accuracy with a fan. The parts look better and work great. I also like that I have a complete set of replacement parts that I know work.

    One of the great things about the Printrbot is while the base model can print well enough, there is basically a limitless number of upgrades that you can come up with to get better prints. To me that is just part of the fun of owning one of these great toys.

    ” – PrinterBok Talk Forum

3D Printer Conclusion

As you can see, 3D printers are cutting edge technology and you can buy commercial versions and DIY or hobbyists versions. The best thing about all of the above 3D printers is that they are affordable and easy to use. You can make objects such as replacement parts, jewelry, toy figures and prototype objects. This is an amazing technology that is just now getting cheap enough for the home user not to mention any artists or designer can make the 3D CAD files and sell them and you can download more and more designs. 

1 comment

Brian Stanback
6
Posted on Jun 7, 2013