I already have a few Makerbot Replicators (both single and dual extruder variations) in my design studio. Things are getting busy with new clients, so I started doing some research into purchasing a cheaper alternative and hence starting looking at a 3D printer from FlashForge.
My primary concern was to ensure that any new 3D printer would be compatible with all of my current files. I certainly don't want to re-export all my models just for one bot to use!
3D Printing PrimerIf you are new to 3D printing, get up to speed before reading my reviews. I have also created a 3D Printer Buyers Guide so you can easily compare all the different models and choose the right one depending on your budget and requirements.
Update! New Version Released!
My FlashForge Creator 3D Printer Review
After testing this machine, what a relief! The FlashForge Creator 3D printer is totally compatible with Makerbot's firmware, Makerware and .X3G files. It's completely compatible.
I plugged it in via USB with Makerware running and it registered as an authentic Markerbot. No hassles or needing to re-flash the firmware, it just worked.
Whew… I just saved quite a few dollars with this cheap alternative.
This machine is not a direct copy of a Makerbot Replicator, but it sure is close. Upon further inspection, a lot of the parts are actually the same or very similar.
The Front Screen
The FlashForge Creator front screen is bigger and brighter with blue and white text. The text on the screen is easy to read even from ten feet away. But the viewing angle is important. If you are viewing the screen from below, it's easy to read, but viewing the screen from above is not so good. You need to bend down to read it clearly. I also noticed that the screen refresh rate is a bit slower, so when scrolling through the options, it's best to slow down so you can read it clearly.
Separate Buttons are Better
I like the feel of the separate buttons on this machine. It's much better than having one big rubber square with buttons underneath (like on other 3D printers). The buttons also have a great tactile feel and click when pressed. I always found that the Makerbot Replicator buttons are soft and you really can't tell if I had actually pushed them correctly or not. Can be frustrating. Separate buttons like on the Creator are much better.
FlashForge Creator 3D Printer Dual Extruder Gallery
The Build Platform
So far, the build platform is nice and quite flat. I thought that this budget machine would not have a level build platform, but it does! No problems at all so far. One of my Makerbot's had a slightly warped platform in one corner and that gave me quite a few problems.
One thing you need to add when purchasing is a roll of Kapton tape since it's not included. Not a big deal for me since I always have some lying around, but if this is your first 3D printer purchase, buy some. The build platform actually comes with some tape applied to it, but you will need to change it after a while so make sure to have a roll of tape handy.
MK7 or MK8 nozzles?
When I purchased my FlashForge Creator, it came with MK7 nozzles instead of MK8 nozzles. The MK8 nozzles are a lot better so I replaced mine with MK8 nozzles that I ordered from Makerbot. But… other people have told me that their units (shipped two months ago) came with MK8 nozzles and they work great. This must mean that they have upgraded the bot after I purchased mine.
Is it User Friendly?
This is a good machine and I'm quite happy with the purchase. It's a good cheaper alternative to the Makerbot Replicator, but it is slightly more finicky to use and it isn't quite as user-friendly.
The plunger area has been redesigned so it actually mimics the barrings mod that I like to use on my replicators. This is a definite improvement.
Another difference is that the Creator doesn't have lots of LED lights all over the machine (like the Replicator), but this is a good thing! The Makerbot LED arrays are known for causing electrical shorts, which will cause the fuse capacitor on the MightyBoard to blow, requiring a replacement of the whole board! FlashForge removed all of the LEDs, and I think this is good because it reduces the risk of shorts etc.
One thing to note is that the spool holder is different. It allows greater room for different spool sizes, but it doesn't hold onto the spools very well. This means you will need to watch the first few prints so the filament doesn't unravel and get tangled around the holder.
ReplicatorG Slicing Software
The ReplicatorG software (open source) makes scaling and positioning your .stl files so easy. I always use the “Fill Build Space”option to make my models the maximum size.
Dual Head Extruders
The dual head extruders on the FlashForge Creator enable you to create multi-colored printed objects… or even create two objects at the same time.
Electronics have been Updated
Recent improvements have been made to the circuit boards. This ensures 3D printing stability and stops the board from overheating. Some purchasers have reported overheating in the first version of this printer, but I haven't had any overheating issues with my printer.
Heated Build Platform
The FlashForge Creator 3D printer includes a heated build platform. The platform can be heated up to 120℃, which allows you to print using ABS plastic. The reason why you want a heated platform is that it stabilizes the temperature of the object being printed. This reduces warping and delamination.
Detailed Print Results
You can achieve some great results for your 3D objects using this printer… and an affordable price.
Long term test update
I've had the FlashForge Creator 3D printer for a few months now, so I'm updating this review with my observations.
This machine is definitely a viable alternative to a Makerbot Replicator, but it isn't as user-friendly.
These days, more and more people with no experience with 3D printers are looking at purchasing an inexpensive model. But you need to realise that all of these printers are not totally user-friendly like something out of Star Trek. 3D printers are not like you usual consumer-grade machine that just works. They all require a bit of tinkering, tuning and fixing on a regular basis.
All 3D printers do eventually break
3D printers tend to break down every now and again and you will definitely have to replace parts. Over the last year, on all of my bots, I've had to replace:
- Xstop cables
- Plungers with barring mods
- Heated build platform cables
- Stepper motors
Replacing parts is quite normal. It's true for big name brand Makerbot Replicators and it's true for this FlashForge Creator as well. If you do want a few less hassles, purchase a Makerbot Replicator instead because they have a really good warranty. When something breaks, they will send you the replacement parts for free.
If you're the type of person that doesn't like to fix things when they break, then 3D printing is probably not the thing for you.
FlashForge Creator 3D Printer in Action!
The FlashForge Creator 3D printer is a high quality, dual extruder, 3D printer manufactured in China. It provides an affordable way to join the desktop 3D printing craze.
3D printing is very DIY at the moment… and that's what people like about it. It's like a timewarp back to 1976 and you are building an Apple I which is a lot of fun. The founders of 3D printing and the user-base, are all tinkerers. Building a 3D printer is just as much fun as actually using them to create 3D models. If you don't like the idea of building and tinkering with a bot, then 3D printers aren't ready for you yet. Just wait a few more years until they get more end-user friendly.
But if you are willing to try and learn, it's not really that hard. A year ago, I never thought I would be able to replace a heated nozzle, or trouble-shoot some crazy problem, but now I do it all the time. The learning curve isn't as high as you would think.
- A machine which can turn your 3D design into real object
- Low price with great quality
- Larger print volume of more than 300 cubic inches
- Can print objects in two colors since it is a dual extruder
- Good after sales service
- Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 15 x 1.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 33.1 pounds
- Item model number: FF3DP-1
- The FlashForge Creator 3D Printer
- Dual extruder
- 2x spool holders
- 2 spools of ABS filament
- 2x filament guide tubes
- Feet, bolts and hex wrench kit
- Power supply cable
- USB cable
- Overall dimensions: 320 x 467 x 381 mm
- Packing dimension: 580 x 450 x 550 mm
- Flashforge MightyBoard single-piece motherboard
- 5 axis, 1/16 micro-stepping motor control
- 4×20 LCD character display and multi-direction control pad
- Universal Power Supply: 100-240V, 50/60Hz
- Compatibility: Linux, OSX, and Windows
- Print from SD card or over USB
- Input file type: STL, gcode, x3g
- Build envelope: 225 x 145 x 150 mm
- Build volume: About 5 liters
- Layer thickness: 0.1-0.3 mm (adjustable)
- Nozzle diameter: 0.4 mm
- Speed: 40-150 mm/s (adjustable)
- Flow Rate: Approximately 24 cc/hr
- Positioning precision:
- 2.5 micron on Z axis
- 11 micron on X-Y axis
- Works well with 1.75 mm ABS & PLA
FlashForge offers a performance guarantee and after-sale support, effective for 3 months after purchase. What this means is that within 3 months of receiving your Creator, FlashForge will replace any defective parts, at no cost to you, and will provide you with expert technical support.