Mini review of the Printrbot Simple Metal – in short – IT’S AWESOME

I definitely made one of the better 3D printing purchases of my life buying a Printrbot Simple Metal for $599 assembled.  From the first day I received it, it was solid and started printing without flaws.  I’m going to give my opinion here first, but I’d also recommend reading the Make Magazine Review by Nick Parks.  He knows his stuff and I value his opinion in the 3D printing world.

With regard to my slicing setup, here’s what I’m running:

  1. Repetier – 0.95F (link to downloads page)
  2. Slic3r engine
  3. With the recommended print settings from the Printrbot Forum (see article)
  4. Octopi 3D print server (link to Octoprint.org)

What I love about this little machine:

  1. Super Reliable – Since I’ve bought it, I have yet to have a failed print – seriously.  Maybe that is because I’ve gotten pretty used to Repetier and and how to set these things up, but out of the gate, it just seems to be working flawlessly.
  2. Large build volume for price – Although I haven’t needed the full 6″ cubed, I know it can do it and I’ve printed iPhone cases and flat surfaces which sometimes pose delamination challenges from the build plate.  This machine seems to handle these larger prints with ease and for approximately US$0.18/cm3, it is a good value (Makerbot is US$0.44/cm3 and the Ultimaker 2 is US$0.26/cm3 for comparison)
  3. New z-height leveling switch – No more mechanical switch and fussing with long screws to calibrate the z-height.  The new Printrbot Simple Metal has a ultrasonic sensor that measures the distance of the nozzle to the build plate repeatedly and consistently.
  4. New filament feeding mechanism – I believe this new mechanism has a fancy name (which is currently skipping me at the moment) but it makes swapping filaments a breeze.

This is the printer I’m recommending to all my colleagues who are on the fence about buying a 3D printer because for the cost of 1 iPhone out of contract, you can have a machine which creates physical objects.

Where this little bot could be improved

  1. The USB connector to the computer – while this may not be a big deal to anyone else, I really hate these USB 2.0 charger ports.  First day I had my Printrbot Simple Metal (PBSM), I tried to move the bot from my desk to my kitchen counter and stepped on the USB cable which then pulled, cringingly downward on the Printrbot motherboard.  Thankfully, no damage seems present to the Bot but the USB connector has no resistance / snap feeling when plugging in the USB connection.  I know it’s bulky, but maybe this could be replaced with the larger, Arduino- or regular Printer-style USB that has a little bit more meat and can’t be bent so easily.
  2. Handle + other common printing accessories included – I found out at the Maker Faire that they were just building a handle for this little bot.  I’m always bummed when I order something to find out there was a new / cool accessory that wasn’t shipped with my new machine.  When I buy, I want all the bells and whistles included.  For example, When I pulled the machine out of the box, I didn’t have any blue masking tape and thus had to use some crappy piece of cardstock with scotch tape (which didn’t work) and I received it AT work so a ton of my colleagues were looking at it with awe.  If only I could have had the infamous blue tape to get the Bot running as designed.  This also happened to me with the Shapeoko 2 I just purchased from Inventables.  Why don’t they include the wood blocks to hold the test Sharpie marker and then the aftermarket clamping kit?   Who doesn’t want the clamping kit?
  3. Some form of heating in the build platform – I am noticing a bit more warping in the metal plate…likely due to the fact that the heat is quickly conducting away from the hot, molten plastic and causing a thermal differential which in turn causes a differential thermal expansion problem (read more about thermal expansion at Wikipedia.org).

That’s it.  No real complaints at all.  The little machine runs like a boss and I’ll likely buy another one once I get my other Printrbot Simple fixed.  I just love what Brook Drumm and his team are making up there in Sacramento.  Highly recommend this machine!

Feel free to e-mail me with questions at chris at you3dit dot com