Choosing A Sub - $ 800 3d Printer


OK so at the fair I was able to check out 3d printers coming in the near future. Like November is the targets these were telling me. The best printers were 2500 dollars but not only had excellent accuracy but could pump out a part at .15 mm resolution about 3x faster than others. Right now the YODA figure has become a popular demo print to show how accurate it can be done. I will post some demo pics too. Anyways I had discussions with the owners of a few of the printer companies. Makibot, plastibot, Ariea ect. I was surprised that money spent on a kit or rebuilt model does not mean you are going to get better quality or a functionally reliable machine.


There is a dual extruder model from Flashforge for $1199 and even comes with two reels of ABS material. It uses some Python code as well as Microsoft .Net 4 for printing. Check it out HERE:

Don't know a whole lot about it but I have ordered one. Arrival time is 6/29 - 7/5.


Here's some printers we will discuss. Some of the highest quality prints I saw were from do it yourself people making there own machines but I'm sure we want to be pointed to the"right direction"

Five important points we are discussing are cost , product support and repair , accuracy & consistancy and initial setup.





The CubeX we have has three extruders. We have never used more than one Smile

You can use the dual extruder for ABS and PLA at the same time. This means PLA can be the support, and ABS is the object. However, i'm environmentally friendly and dislike ABS! Also, I find ABS to be more difficult to print. PLA seems to not screw up as often. I recommend using PLA entirely (for the part and supports).

The things to watch out for are...

- How the extruder is assembled. This is because maintenance is a pain in the butt. No matter what anyone says, you will need to clean the extruder nozzle often. Also, the gear that pushes the material will need to be cleaned and adjusted often. If the extruder assembly is engineered poorly (like the Makerbot Replicator 2), you will most likely go bananas trying to re-assemble it. The wires are too short. The assembly process is finicky. And the engineering of the nozzle/heater block/etc were designed by a monkey. Once you take it apart to clean, it never works the same again.

- Build plate leveling process. This is a tough one because an auto leveling build plate would cost a lot - and I only know one company that does it. It's UP, and I don't know if it actually works. The leveling process may or may not be easy, depending on the way your printer does it. Most are screws with a pressure spring. Three of them in a triangle. You move the extruder around and measure the distance to the plate from the nozzle. It can be quite easy, or annoying.

- Build plate material. Everyone is trying different ways to get your PLA to stick to the build plate. Some recommend hair spray, others recommend painters tape, and I recommend a glue stick. The glue stick I find to be the easiest, because it can be cleaned with soap and water. The painters tape is a pain in the butt and i'd avoid it at all cost. The hairspray just stinks and makes a mess everywhere! The old fashion white glue stick, or that gooey nipple bottle'd glue that you'd have in elementary school works well too!

- Slicing software. This is really what counts. For example, the CubeX has terrible slicing software where as the MakerBot Replicator 2 has amazing slicing software. This is the software that imports your STL object and turns it into a language the printer understands (GCode). The software should be 3D graphical, which allows you to visually see where your object will be printed. And, it's good to have an idea of the rotation - which side is down, etc..

- The filament! The CubeX is not a great buy because you need to purchase their cartridges for filament. This would be be justified if the CubeX was half the price, and 3D Systems was making up the cost difference on cartridges over the lifetime of the product. However, they're not doing that - the price is quite high. Therefore, I would not recommend 3D Systems CubeX for filament. The MakerBot Replicator 2 will use any filament spool. Even if the filament spool doesn't fit on their holder, you can print a custom holder for their spool. My aftermarket spools mount on a holder that I designed and printed Smile

- Warranty! This is the most important part to consider. Why? Because stuff breaks. And I know this first hand - as we're on our forth MakerBot Replicator 2 replacement and parts replacement. What breaks? Well here is a list... Warped build plate, Cooling Fan, Heater, Heater Sensor, Extruder Pressure Thingy. Now, when something breaks you will want it replaced. Specifically if it's less than a few months old! In our case, the printer has broken once per month since we've had it. MakerBot was absolutely terrible to deal with at first. They have since increased their customer support. I would recommend a MakerBot "IF" you are okay with phoning and emailing their support. And "IF" you are okay with a printer breaking once a month. Other than that, the print quality of the MakerBot Replicator 2 is outstanding.


@josh when you talked to makibot, did you get to check out there $300 printer? The odds of me coming off of 1k+ are slim at best but I don't want to waste $300 either. I'd like to get some info from people who've used or at least seen one in action. (I think its the A1 model )



Makibot w/ heated bed

Price: assembled $ 275 dollars
Acrylic frame looks good and will not expand with humidity like wood.

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At makerfaire there was the Makibox Acrylic frame with printed heat bed. Prints PLA or ABS and price was reduced since the fair to 275.

The popular YODA demo printed out with .2 mm accuracy and the tracking of the layers were descent. Setting it to the slowest print speed significantly improved the alignment of layers.
The downside of this model is it must print slower to get a really good print and the size limitations. 150mm x110x 90mm that's 5.9" x 4.3" x 3.5"
Don't expect any significant customer service to help with setup. They recommend to take a 3d printing class which is a separate fee.

Print size: 5.9" x 4.3" x 3.5"
Customer service/tech support: not much , enough to determine if a manufacturing defect requiring replacement has occurred or offer to sell a replacement part.

Impression- it may not have very much tech support but it also has everything a eZ robot customer wants , eZ setup, low cost, descent prints , very decent if you set it to slowest print speed. My only concern is the print size in comparison to solidoodle and others with 6 inches or more in each direction. All in all you can't go wrong if you want it for small prints and general purpose use. The prints are not as smooth and sharp as the solidoodle or plastibot on a equal playing field. Honestly for building robot parts that is not a deal breaker.


$725 kit or 1250 assembled and tested

This kit follows the spirit of the original rep rap project Which means that the machine can print its own replacement parts. The upside is that you can easily repair it given you planned ahead and made sure the first parts you print were spares for your machine. The downside is the is a Do it yourself machine and they recommend actually taking a class they do locally there in Raleigh NC. It looks like a nice machine but personally I would like to buy something that I don't need to take a college level class just to assemble and maintain. The owner of this small start up company told me they have sold about 50 machines so far and they personally teach the class. He is seen in the picture, he also has a bearded business partner which I had a hard time talking to about his product because he was drooling over the nicer 2500 dollar F series machine I Previously mentioned. Lol I don't blame him though, he was trying to find ways to improve his product.
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There are two build options ,
The Good gen 2 and Great Gen 3!

Gen 2 -499.99 6"x6"x6" build area
Gen 3 - 799.99. 8"x8"x8" build area

Gen 2 pic
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Gen 3 avail for preorder , basically upgraded build plate and stepper controllers ext. Larger build size and slightly better quality. I have not seen examples to confirm that quality improvement.

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Solidoodle 2 print examples , the standard Yoda head but I like the geometric object the most. It has clean sharp edges and fairly smooth surface for a 3d print.
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End impression of solidoodle 2 - great machine for the money , its EZ to setup which is a plus for EZ Robot customers. Its already assembled and metal frame means no warping with temp and humidity. Parts are higher quality that 3d printer gears so I imagine this is overall going to beat out the plastibot in both longetivity , print quality, eZ setup and price. Sorry plastibot , it is what it is Frown

Overall between these three machines the best balance between features , print size and cost is solidoodle 2 but makibot is a hard to resist alternative if 500-600 is too much to spend.


Thank you josh for starting a new thread! I will def be regarding this one. DJ for providing things to check out, thank YOU!
When I saw the thread title of choosing a SUB I thought you ment pepperoni or meatballs! Smile


@Irobot no problem, I like to share what I learned at the fair so that members are more successful with their printed robots and don't get reamed on the price.

@DJ thanks for the input as you have had a lifetime of 3d printing woes this year,it is valuable information. Smile

@robotdoc please share pics and experience in a post on this thread once you get your first prints out. Thanks!

I will add more info to that post and spell check later.


Thanks @josh. That's what I wanted to know and then some. I'm still months away but $500 isn't too bad. I like to keep my credit lines pretty clean so once I've caught up on Transformers Pre-Orders I'll start looking again. Heck in 2-3 months there may be even more budget printers out. There seems to be a lot of action in the 3d printingverse. Thanks again Josh. That was all very informative.


I'm still not convinced that buying one at the moment is worthwhile. For $800 you can get a fair bit printed by a 3D print service and you get perfect results every time, no maintenance or repairs, no wasted prints etc.

Hopefully price comes down soon but for now I am expecting to use shapeways etc. for my needs.

Great info though.