I purchased the Cube 3D printer from 3D Systems in July 2015. My goal was to learn how to use a 3D printer and hopefully make parts for my clients and offer some original parts. This blog post is an account of my experience so far with it.
When I first got it, there was a lot of setup required. I had to connect the 2 cartridges, level the plate, set the Z gap, and perhaps a few other things. It seemed pretty straightforward but then unusual errors started occurring.
Here is the list of errors I have had and what was done about it, if anything could be done.
- Temperature error – fixed by updating firmware
- ABS and PLA material not sticking to the print plate – fixed by letting the glue dry a little
- Autolevel failed– This is probably the biggest problem I’ve had. The machine is supposed to be able to autolevel by utilizing a green light and moving the print plate around to check to see if it is level. A huge list of requirements is needed for this to pass…
- No direct light on the print plate. No one told me this, but the Cube makes A LOT of noise. As a result, I moved it out to my balcony on my apartment. Well it took a lot of calls to customer service but the bright light from outside (even though the Cube was in the shade) will not allow it to autolevel. I solved this by putting a blanket over the machine to block light.
- I actually could not get my first Cube to pass no matter what. So I returned it and 3D Systems sent me a new unit back.
- Even with my 2nd Cube, I usually have to manually level the plate (Autolevel usually fails). This manual leveling consists of turning the 3 screws that hold the print plate. Sometimes this adjustment enters a never ending loop. For example, the first manual level might have you turn screw A 1/8th turn to the right. Then you try to run the leveling test (which is what Autolevel also is) and it will said Autolevel failed. It will ask you to manually level. And guess what, next time it will ask you to turn screw A 1/8th turn to the left. I have seen this cycle repeated up to 5 times, where I gave up trying and just proceeded to print anyways.
- Autogap failed– in addition to Autolevel, it is important that the Cube has the correct gap between the print plates and the nozzles. It is supposed to automatically set this gap but, just like Autolevel, it rarely works. Getting this gap correct is hugely important and most likely you will have to do it manually (Manual Gap). If the gap is too large, you part will turn out like a pile of spaghetti. So unless you like to eat stringy plastic, that is pretty much useless to you. If the gap is too small, the cartridge will jam, and this is even more of a nightmare because now you will be required to waste an inordinate amount of time to clear the jam. This leads to my last issue…
- Cartridge issue– the main issue is when the material jams. The Cube offers the option to purge the jets. However, this only worked for me about 50% of the time. When the purge option does not work, you will have to take the cartridge apart (not easy), reinstall it and manually force the plastic through by turning the reel of plastic using a screwdriver. I consider myself a pretty strong guy and I couldn’t pull it off. Oh, and disassembling this and trying this option will take hours of your time. 3D Systems won’t take the cartridge back until you take a video of yourself attempting this process.
The Cube printer needs some work. I am a mechanical engineer and it took me 6 weeks to successfully print my first part after receiving the Cube. To date, I have only successfully printed 3 parts out of 20+ attempts. It is very loud and takes a long time to print anything. Since it was an entry level price, I didn’t have great expectations for print quality or speed but I did expect it to work MOST of the time, which has not been the case. I have wasted an inordinate amount of time on the phone with customer support. I will say that the company is very responsive and tries their best to help you. One of their top leaders personally called me back to help me get a replacement unit for my first Cube. Despite great customer service, I do regret purchasing it and I am now looking at some other printers.
I would love to hear feedback from anyone who has experience using a 3D printer and let me know about other options I could get for $5,000 or less.