Amazon Review by Terry
232 people found the following review helpful
Great print quality at a reasonable price
This printer is my first foray into 3D printing and I am seriously impressed. My kids gave it to me for Christmas and on sale, they got it for right around $300 - excellent considering it is pre-built and has a pretty large build volume.
This printer is a rebranded Wanhao Duplicator i3, which you need to know because there is loads of helpful info and modifications on the net for the Wanhao i3. Search for both when you have questions and issues.
The printer has an all metal build, an 8"x8"x7" build capacity, a heated bed, and an LCD display. It’s based on the Prussa i3, which is a rep rap design. That means that replacement parts can be printed or easily sourced. This is important because there will likely be upgrades you’ll want to make in the future and parts can fail.
Out of the box, it printed PLA beautifully. I was genuinely surprised at the quality of my prints before I did any tweaking or mods. I find that I print PLA most of the time because it prints so easily with very few issues and the resulting prints look great consistently. However, there are quite a few, well-documented mods that are easy to perform and will improve print quality and ease of printing even more. I suggest Googling 3dprinterbrain and look at the info for the Duplicator i3 (same printer as this one.) They have a list of mods that are exceptional plus instructions for PID autotuning, etc. I’ve done all of the recommended mods and most of the extra mods suggested on that site. The two guys who own that site, Jetguy and James Armstrong, work closely with Wanhao (who builds these printers) and they are experts on this machine. They have tutorials that walk you through initial set up and beyond. I would consider their site required reading.
When you order, go to the Monoprice website and print out the owner’s manual. It’s not included in the box and it’s a helpful, good reference. Also, I suggest watching a few of the many, good videos on YouTube for setting up and printing with this (or the Wanhao i3) printer, especially if you are completely new to 3D printing.
You’ll also want to order some PLA to get started since only a small sample comes with the printer. I’ve found Hatchbox to be a good brand you can find here on Amazon. I also like the PLA found on the Printrbot website because it’s of good quality and very inexpensive.
As recommended by Monoprice and Wanhao, I’m using Cura as my slicer and it’s great (and free.) Although Monoprice recommends printing from an SD card, I don’t. I’ve had no problem printing from my Surface Pro via USB (although be certain to turn off any power management because if your computer goes to sleep during a long print, you’re screwed.)
Since this is a value-priced printer, you should probably understand that there are a few areas where that shows. For example, bed leveling is done manually. Since a bed that is parallel to the print nozzle is crucial to a successful print, you have to get good at this. There are quite a few video tutorials on this and all it takes is a sheet of paper and some patience to get it just right. It’s definitely worth the trouble to get a perfectly level bed. The printer comes with wing nuts for leveling, which are a little awkward. The first thing I printed was 4 adjustment wheels (which can be found on Thingiverse) to make this task easier. Note that the bed seems to require re-leveling every few days and whenever the printer is moved.
Update 2/18/2016: I purchased 4 M3 Lock nuts and put them on the underside of the heated bed leveling screws (Google M3 lock nut mod for Wanhao i3) and then printed 4 Wanhao Duplicator i3 Bed Spring Guides found on Thingiverse. This has stabilized the bed leveling springs so well that I no longer have to level the bed every couple of days. I highly recommend this mod.
I also highly recommend the Z braces for Wanhao Duplicator i3 modeled by AzzA, which are also found on Thingiverse. This mod takes a while to print all of the parts but only requires a few purchased parts that are readily available at any hardware store and cost way less than $10. It gets rid of the slight wobble in the frame and virtually eliminates the need to re-level the X-axis guide rods every time you move the printer even slightly.
Also, speaking of moving, the printer and the power supply/control box are connected via cabling that cannot be unplugged. They must be moved together. This can be awkward for one person - much easier for two people.
Another reviewer mentioned the included micro SD card is of poor quality and I’ve read this numerous places on the net. It’s definitely an no-name card so I never used it. Instead I copied the data to a larger capacity Samsung brand card and tossed the one included. You do want to copy the data because it contains the recommended settings for Cura for this particular printer, as well as a couple of models to print.
Also, although this printer is capable of printing a wide range of materials, it doesn’t right out of the box. To print nylon, I had to buy and install an all-metal hot end kit. To print flexible TPU, I have had to order an extruder gear that can manage the wet noodle consistency of the TPU. Because my house is old and drafty and cold in the winter, I have to use an enclosure (a large cardboard box) to print ABS with good success. I also added a piece of borosilicate glass as my print bed because IMO, that and Aquanet extra hold hairspray makes printing PLA a breeze with no adhesion issues.
I also printed a piece (again, found on Thingiverse) that angles the LCD screen up so that it’s easier to see and use. I definitely recommend this modification.
If you’re completely new to 3D printing, remember that much of the time, it’s an exercise in trial and error. There are so many variables that go into getting a good print - filament, extruder temperature, a level bed, extruder calibration, bed adhesion, belt tension, cooling, room temperature, etc. This is about as DIY as you can get and you should expect to learn new things every day when 3d printing, including how to upgrade, repair and/or replace parts. Stick with it, Google a lot and enjoy the learning curve. For me, this printer has a lot of features at a very reasonable price and I’m super happy with it.
I’m happy to answer any questions, if I can, or help you find a good resource on the net if you need help beyond my skill set.
UPDATE: I recently ordered quite a bit of PLA from Printrbot and sadly, there are some issues with brittleness. To their credit, they emailed saying they were aware that some recent spools were brittle and offered to replace them if returned within a week or two. For that reason, I wouldn’t suggest ordering more than one or two spools at a time from them so that you can test them before the return period is over. I’ll probably just stick to ordering Hatchbox filaments from now on.
UPDATE: 11/17/2016 Almost a year after getting this printer, it’s still printing beautifully! Because everyone in my house is into 3D printing now, it’s in use every single day. Other than the occasional stubborn jam in the nozzle, I’ve had no issues at all. (BTW, one of those little kitchen blow torches made for caramelizing sugar on top of creme brulee is perfect for burning out a clogged nozzle. Remove the nozzle and place it on a brick and hit it with the blowtorch. The clog will liquefy and then turn to powder.)
The other thing I highly recommend is buying an 18" x 18" piece of ceramic floor tile to place under the printer. Apparently it is very common for a tabletop to be less than flat and mine definitely was not flat. Since I did this, I rarely have to re-level the X-axis guide rods.
For the price and the build capacity, I think it’s still one of the best deals around in 3D printers. So much so that I just bought a second one for another son for Christmas. The print quality is just so good and the price, especially when you catch a sale as I did, is still great compared to other printers with comparable features and build volume.