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

Models On The Catwalk

To get a good baseline on all three printers, we picked three models that we were able to print relatively easily on all of the machines. First, the most basic model used was the Companion Cube, a popular game piece from Valve's Portal game series. This model is a simple cube, but still gives a good view of print quality with some fine detailed design located on the surface area of the model. Next we chose the well know Kool-Aid Man that really pushes the printers to there limits when it comes to printing overhanging structures. Lastly we have the Empire State Building which displays the printer's ability to print narrow, precise objects.

UP! Mini Model Samples

UP! Mini Model Samples

After finishing all of the prints on the UP! Mini, a consistent pattern of overall precision was noticed. The Companion Cube model came out nearly perfect. The base of the print was clean without any warping. The other surfaces of the model were perfect as well. The only real issue that was found was the fact that one of the faces of the cube is discolored from the filament darkening. After seeing the Mini's overall quality of work, it was no surprise that the Kool-Aid Man was also the best version of that model out of the bunch. All of the major overhangs were printed with support material which helped in most areas.  That said, there was an area in the bottom torso that simply was pushing the printer out of its comfort zone. The layers in this area were warped and mostly uneven.  This was common across all printers actually. Other than that, the Kool-Aid Man, for the Up! Mini, was still a very respectable print. Finally the Empire State Building print from the UP! is again one of the nicest versions of the three prints we saw. Throughout the whole model, all of the layers are neat and reflect the core STL file very well.

Cube 3D Model Samples

Cube 3D  Model Samples

The Cube 3D printer produced good mid-range models. The Companion Cube came out nearly flawless and showed no imperfections at the base or sides of the print. The Kool-Aid Man was a different story. The majority of the surfaces of the model came out on par with the other printers. However, we had issues in the the same torso area that the UP! had issues in, as well as the overhanging structures at the bottom of the hands. In comparison to the Up! Mini, the torso area was generally a bit more flawed. Certain layers decided to droop and melt out of place while others simply didn't stick that well. The hands were a very steep overhang that left layers to deal with the laws of gravity, separating from the rest of the print. In total, this print had a overall acceptable quality but had its share of imperfections, just like the rest of the printers. Lastly the Empire State Building print, which seemed to be one of the more challenging prints, was produced  in near perfect quality on the Cube until it reached the final stage consisting of the layers at the peak of the structure. The peak wasn't necessarily messy per se, but was not as sharp as all of the other printers' versions of this model.

Solidoodle 2 Model Samples

Solidoodle 2 Model Samples

The quality of all of the Solidoodle's prints were generally acceptable but if you are looking for a perfect finish on all surfaces, a lot of fine tuning is required. The Companion Cube was easily comparable to the others. The only visible imperfection was slight warping of a corner of the base. Nevertheless, the layers of the print were neat and uniform throughout. The Kool-Aid man was again a challenge though. As we saw with other builds of this model, the front and back surfaces were neat but the arms, legs, and lip of the jug had a rough appearance to them. The torso area had the re-occurring problem of layers becoming wavy but it wasn't as sloppy as the Cube's version. The arm overhangs also were neater than the Cubes. Sadly, because most of the main edges were rough and uneven, the overall quality wasn't the same as the other printers, but still easily recognizable as the Kool-Aid Man.

Finally the the Empire State building turned out to be a good middle compromise between all of the printers. The main neck of the print consisted of layers that were uniform throughout and looked crisp. The base had some warping which threw the overall quality of the print off.  This was indicative of the Solidoodle's challenging setup requirement.  For tall, thin models like this, you really have to ensure the base adheres well to the print bed, otherwise you end up with movement during the print or even a situation where the model just topples over.  The last section of the print, the tip of the tower, turned out to be the sharpest of the bunch and displayed a nice finishing touch.

You may notice that we printed two versions of this model; one produced at .3mm (the Solidoodle's recommended default setting) and another at .15mm (a much higher resolution layer thickness).  As you can see in the right-most version of the build in this shot, the finer print pitch really does this model justice. In the end, the Solidoodle produces decent prints right out of the box (as seen by the default build) but can be fine-tuned to perform at or above the quality range of all of the other printers (as seen by the second build).  Again, however, you need to be willing to invest the time to tinker and will likely blow a few builds to waste, getting things setup just right with the Solidoodle 2.

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