3D Printer Round-up: Cube 3D, Up! and Solidoodle

3D System's Cube 3D Printer

Some of you that are new to 3D printing may think of the folks at MakerBot as pioneers of the technology, and it's true, members of the company did organize the "RepRap" movement but 3D Systems and its founder/inventor Chuck Hull, really started it all way back in 1986 with stereolithography and the STL file format. Good ol' Chuck is the original patent holder of the first SLA system that is very much akin to the additive process used in modern plastic extrusion-based 3D printers.  And so it's fitting that we've got the Cube 3D here in our round-up from none other than 3D Systems.

The Cube 3D is a highly refined piece of equipment and one of the easiest printers in our round-up to work with.  3D Systems clearly set out to make things as straight-forward as possible for novice users with this machine. As such, we had zero problem setting it up and were off to the races printing up a storm in no time with this machine. There's no leveling of the print bed or complicated fine-tuning required. You just set the print head height by calibrating the distance from the print bed with a piece of paper, plug in the plastic filament cartridge and you're good to go.

3D System's Cube 3D Printer
Specifications & Features

Weight & Dimensions

Cube Dimensions:

26 x 26 x 34 cm - 10 x 10 x 13 inches

Cube Weight:

9.5 lb - 4.3 kg

Box Dimensions:

16 x 15 x 19 inches - 41 x 38 x 48 cm

Box Weight:

19.0 lb  -  8.6 kg



802.11b/g with: WPS Infrastructure, Adhoc Mode


Cubify Client Software (supplied)


USB stick, to transfer print files (included)

Print Properties


Plastic Jet Printing (PJP)

Print Jets:

Single Jet

Max creation size:

5.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches  -  14 x 14 x 14 cm


Tough, Recyclable ABS Plastic

Layer Thickness:

10 mil | 0.01 inches
250 microns | 0.25 mm


Fully Automated
Easy to peel off


1 Cartridge prints 13 to 14 mid-sized creations



Comes with software to create .CUBE print files.

Windows Requirements:

- Cubify Client runs on 32 and 64-bit Operating Systems
- Windows XP Professional or Home Edition with SP3
- Windows 7
- Windows is required for ad-hoc WiFi Print Job

Mac OSX Requirements:

Cubify Clients runs on Mac OSX 10.8

Minimum Hardware Requirements:

System Processor: Multi-core processor - 2GHz
System RAM: 2 GB
Screen Resolution: 1024x768



90 days parts and labor.

The basic specs of the Cube 3D are not cutting-edge but they are competitive.  The Cube will print down to a layer height of .25mm or 250 microns.  This is definitely tight enough to produce solid, clean prints, though there are other machines on the market capable of resolutions down to .1mm. Where the Cube does stand out is with its 802.11 WiFi connectivity option, a welcomed feature that will allow you to set up the Cube like any other printer in your office or home and share the device to any PC within range.

Loading up ABD filament is also a snap (literally) thanks to the Cube's cartridge design.  The cartridge has metal contacts on it that connect it to the device and auto-feeds the print head.  Again, it makes for very easy setup but significantly more expensive consumables.  3D Systems sells cartridges on their site for $50 for 1pc, a pack of 3 for $139, 5 for $219 or 7 for $308.  A cartridge is enough to build 13 - 14 "mid-sized creations."  Comparatively, a 2 pound reel of white ABS will cost you about $30 - $40 on line and that's a lot more material.  The Cube also offers a simple touchscreen interface for assisting in setup of the printer on a network and calibrating print head height.  You can also print from the menu options here and input STL files for conversion to Cubify format in the printer's software package, via a USB stick.

The Cube's print bed is mid-sized for our group, at 5.5-inches cubed, which allows for decent-sized creations.  Comparatively, the Up! Mini has a 4.75-inch3 print bed and the Solidoodle 2 is 6-inches3.  Again, the really nice feature of the Cube's print bed is its alignment and leveling mechanism.  The bed is removable for easy cleaning but snaps back into place perfectly with keyed and magnetized positioning.  It just works.

The other thing that just works with the Cube is 3D System's Cubify software package.  It has a very simple, intuitive user interface that allows any novice to load up models, position them on the print bed, scale them in size and then just hit print.

3D System's Cubify Client Software

The Cubify client software does, however, require you to import any standard STL file into Cube file format.  It's a simple enough process and you can pull models in from any 3D package, free sources like MakerBot's Thingiverse site and of course the models page at Cubify.com.  Some of the models at Cubify are free but 3D Systems also sells designs from various partners for a wide variety of things.

The other downside to the Cube and Cubify software package is that it doesn't allow you to make some basic adjustments and tweaks in its settings menu for things like layer thickness (.25mm is preset and can't be changed), print speed and infill support.  For the advanced user or someone that wants to tinker, this could be a major limitation.  However, for the average mainstream user, the factory presets work really well and the build precision and quality is quite good.

Related content