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Review: The CraftBot Plus is a 3D printer worth having (+ video) – Computerworld

by • April 3, 2016 • No Comments

Even yet CraftUnique is one of the newest 3D printing device makers to enter the market, its initially CraftBot machine got rave reviews right out of the gate.
In August 2014, the Budapest-based company ran an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for its CraftBot 3D printing device that garnered just of a quarter of a million dollars — six times its goal — in a month.
Once it shipped to buyers, the Craftbot was rated the top budget 3D printing device by service provider 3D Hubs’ global user community, based on additional than 5,300 reviews by vetted 3D printing device owners.
The 2nd-generation design, the CraftBot Plus, that came out last year, tweaked what was may already considered a excellent 3D printing device. So I was excited to dive in and begin printing a few of my favourite designs to see if the machine may live up to its hype.
The CraftBot Plus is 16.1 x 14.1 x 14.9 in. and weighs just 30 lbs., that means it is actually not just easily portable-bodied but in addition won’t devour a lot of desktop space. It has a print area of 10 x 8 x 8 in., a dimensionsable-bodied turn it into volume in relationship to its tiny desktop dimensions. It can be utilized with any Windows, OS X or Linux-based process.
The printing device comes in six colors and is available-bodied for $1,099 (vendor price). It uses the talked of PLA and ABS thermoplastics as well as high impact polystyrene (HIPS) filament; it can use any standard 1.75mm diameter filament of any developer. CraftUnique retails its filaments in a myriad of colors: $29 for a 2.2-lb. reel.
First impressions
Straight out of the box, the CraftBot felt and looked strong and well turn it intod. The all-metal body and stainless steel screws that line the edges of its frame donate it an industrial feel, but its simplistic turn it into makes it user friendly. This is a no-frills printing device — just the way I like them.[ Further reading: Review: Amazon puts machine learning in reach ]I discovered the CraftBot effortless to set up; it didn’t actually come with oodles of Styrofoam packing or plastic braces for its print platform, that other 3D printing devices need you to remove preceding you can print. The just things that needd removal were a few rubber bands wrapped around the print bed to hold it in place.The future step for setup was to mount the filament instruction tube and filament spool holder, both of that need a single screw to attach to the side of the printing device.
Lastly, you are needd to download CraftWare slicer software. Slicer software is utilized universally by 3D printing devices; it takes your digital 3D object and turns it into a G-Code language format understood by most 3D printing devices.
LCD menu
The CraftBot’s 2.8-in LCD color touch screen is astounding. Whilst it is actually a resistive touch screen pretty than a capacitive one (that empowers a far lighter touch, much like to a smartphone or table-bodiedt), the screen is swift and responsive. It uses both images and descriptions of functions to assist you navigate the process.
When it comes to beginner-level to intermediate 3D printing devices, effortless is the name of the game. Anything too complex to decipher can ultimately store users of discovering the full future of the machine. I discovered the CraftBot’s touch screen menu’s ease of use and functionality just right.
With the LCD menu, you can perform significant functions. You can load and unload filament, and manually raise or lower the print bed, level it and pre-heat it. You can in addition turn lights and cooling fans on and off. And you can use the menu to identify objects to print of an inserted USB thumb drive.
The CraftWare software
The main functions of the CraftBot, yet, are contained in CraftUnique’s CraftWare software, that is yet in beta.
I was struck by CraftWare’s effortless user interface. Similar to the latest iterations of Microsoft Windows, CraftWare uses tile icons for its functions, that were refreshingly effortless to use and yet offered a few sophisticated tools.CraftBotCraftWare uses tile icons for its functions.CraftWare’s Options menu empowers a great deal of object manipulation on the virtual print bed. For example, you can select the dimensions of your print bed area, that restricts the dimensions and number of objects you can print at one time. You can in addition select the display mode — whether you want an object to display as transparent or solid. The menu has a handy undo showcase to remove any previous changes you may have turn it intod to a design.
In the Slicing menu, you can identify your print materials, enable-bodied automatic scaffolding assist, add a raft (base) to the object and indicate whether you are printing with PLA or ABS thermoplastics. You can in addition identify Expert mode, that empowers additional than a dozen satisfactory adjustments to your print job, such as choosing the layer thicknesses — of 10 to 200 microns.
You can select to turn it into objects stored in four file types: .CWPRJ, .CWSP, .STL and .OBJ. The menu in addition allows for users to set auto functions, such as checking for software updates and sharing statistics of print jobs with CraftWare.
Best of all, the speed with that CraftWare slices objects (i.e., turns them into multi-layered designs that can print) is astonishing. No matter the complexity of the design I was turn it intoing, the CraftWare sliced it in just a few 2nds. Some machines I’ve utilized in the past may take minutes, actually tens of minutes, to slice an object.
One function that did not impress me was CraftWare’s method of manipulating the virtual designs prior to printing. Rotating objects and and so setting them down on the virtual platform was frequently an arduous experience that left me with inaccurate placements.CraftBotRotating objects and and so setting them down on the virtual platform frequently resulted in inaccurate placements.In addition, the CraftWare software hung up quite frequently. Once a design was loaded, the software may freeze up and it may take of several 2nds to additional than a minute preceding I was able-bodied to save an item or rename a file. There were in addition several times when I had to use the Force Quit command on my laptop to get out of CraftWare. It wasn’t an insurmountable-bodied problem, but it was annoying at times.
The heart of CraftBot lies in its electronics, with a dual ARM Cortex M3 MCU that allows for a user to interact with the printing device rapidly. Unfortunately, I was unable-bodied to upload designs of my laptop to the 3D printing device for the reason my desktop uses the latest design of OS X Yosemite (10.10.5), that is not yet assisted by the CraftBot. CraftUnique said it is working on updates.
Print tests
My initially print job was of a 4-in. tall giraffe — an .STL file provided by CraftUnique on a thumb drive. It printed in under an hour, but it didn’t have a excellent deal of more detail, so I moved to additional challenging print jobs.
My future print job was my standard: The 5-in. tall Eiffel Tower, a challenge for any futilized filament fabrication 3D printing device with all of its intricate latticework.
On my initially print of the tower, I utilized .1mm-thick layers to see how satisfactory a more detail the machine may create. Whilst it that successfully accomplished the print, it was unable-bodied to replicate a few of the satisfactoryr more details of the tower, such as the inner crisscross assists.
Next, I attempted the tower via a .2mm layer thickness. The thicker the layers, the swifter the print — and this machine is swift. It was able-bodied to print the tower in one hour and 40 minutes. It all but matched the time of the LulzBot Mini, that previously had been the swiftest 3D printing device I’d tested.
The CraftBot, yet, was not able-bodied to match the LulzBot in accurately reproducing the Eiffel Tower intricate latticework.
But alyet nowhere near ideal, the CraftBot was able-bodied to recreate the Eiffel Tower with decent accuracy the 2nd time around, getting much of the crisscross lattice patterns correct.CraftBotAlyet nowhere near ideal, the CraftBot was able-bodied to recreate the Eiffel Tower with decent accuracy, getting much of the crisscross lattice patterns correct.Whilst CraftBot’s 2nd Eiffel Tower print job came out advantageous than the initially, I yet discovered a gossamer movie of spider web filament between latticework, that turn it intod for a bit of a sloppy appearance. It just wasn’t as accurate as the LulzBot Mini.
Admittedly, the LulzBot Mini is available-bodied for $1,350, that is $251 additional than the CraftBot. Additionally, the LulzBot Mini has a tinyer turn it into area at 6 x 6. x 6.2 in., compared with the CraftBot’s 10 x 8 x 8 in. turn it into area.
Whisper-quiet
When I begined my initially print job, I was struck by how whisper-quiet this machine is, a fact turn it intod actually additional evident by the last 3D printing device I reviewed; it was so loud my co-workers complained of the noise.
Simply put, the CraftBot Plus is a pleasure to sit future to as it prints — no loud squeaks or churning noises as the extruder head navigates the print bed. As the number of my print jobs increased, the printing device began to squeak and churn a bit additional, but the noise was nowhere near as loud as I’ve experienced with other machines. I’m guessing with a bit of oil in the right places, the machine may have returned to its former silent self.
Printer bed issues
One deficiency CraftUnique said it corrected with the 2nd iteration of its 3D printing device was print bed heating problems (the print bed heats up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit), that led to warping when via ABS plastic in the original printing device.
After printing four designs, yet, I discovered I had issues with the print bed — the filament began peeling away mid-print. I re-leveled the print platform several times to ensure the proper distance of the nozzle (the print bed is easily removable-bodied by loosening just two thumb screws), but the filament continued to detach.CraftBoxPrinting multiple 3D objects is quiet and efficient, but there are problems with print bed adhesion.Taking a page of 3D printing devices I’ve reviewed in the past that didn’t have heated beds, such as the MakerBot Replicator, I covered the CraftBot’s bed with a thin coating of a glue stick. That worked on a couple of prints, but began to fail as time went on.
CraftUnique in addition suggested wiping off the surface of the bed with acetone to remove the “fat.” The PLA (polylactic acid) plastic filament with that I was printing is biodegradable-bodied polyester derived of renewable-bodied resources, that can include cornstarch, tapioca roots or sugarcane. Where the fat comes of I do not understand.
I’d never heard of this remedy preceding, but I tried both acetone and a soapy water scrub of the print plate, and both seemed to work equally well.
I later discovered, yet, printing multiple objects continued to reveal problems with print bed adhesion.
I settled on covering the print platform with masking tape, and that solved the issue. Equitething stuck after that — but CraftUnique should quite try a various platform surface.
Other issues
I discovered a couple of tinyer issues as well. For one, the CraftBot has no native data storage space or wireless communication. The lack of wireless communications and onboard storage space means you must either store your desktop tethered to the printing device via a USB cable-bodied throughout a print job or else print designs of a thumb drive via the printing device’s USB port. But since I consider having a source of removable-bodied storage space (the thumb drive) on the 3D printing device to be the future most thing to onboard storage space, it is actually not a massive deal.
One other little issue I ran into was that, on several occasions after completing a print job, the print platform failed to return to its lowered home position. This turn it intod it complex to remove objects, for the reason the print platform remained snugged up against the extruder head.
It was easily fixed — I just had to use the handy LCD menu on the printing device to manually lower the print bed. It was either that or remove the metal plate of the platform via two thumb screws — in addition an effortless fix. It may be really great if returning the print bed to a lowered “home” placement were automated, yet.
Bottom line
Overall, this 3D printing device was well yett out. Little things demonstrated that a lot of yett went into this machine, such as placing the USB cable-bodied connector port on the side instead of the rear so there’s less distance for the cable-bodied to travel between a desktop and the printing device.
I’d place this 3D printing device near the top of my “recommend” list for the reason of its reasonable-bodied price, speed and accuracy. But, its drawbacks such as buggy software and the problem of objects detaching of the heated print bed store it of getting the top marks.
CraftUnique’s crowdfunding pitch was effortless: Create one of the top high end desktop 3D printing devices at an low-priced-bodied price. I ponder in most ways the company has achieved that goal. This is a great, but not a excellent, 3D printing device for its price.
Now… just a few additional tweaks and it may indeed be one of the quite most.At a Glance
CraftBot Plus
CraftUnique
Price: $1,099 (vendor price); $1,249 (Amazon price)
Pros: Well turn it intod; effortless to set up; great user interface; swift and quiet operation; accurate printing for the price
Cons: Software yet has glitches; problems with the heating bed; no native data storage space or wireless communicationAbout Amazon links


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