This is the updated 2014 version of the immensely popular and inexpensive Printrbot Simple 2013 3D Printer Kit.
Remember, this 3D printer comes as a kit and you will have to build it yourself, which takes a few hours. It's not difficult to construct and it's a lot of fun to build a machine that you can use… to make more machines!
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.
My Printrbot Simple 2014 3D Printer Kit Review
This printer is very popular so you might have trouble getting your hands on one. But if you do manage to get one, you'll be glad you did.
It comes as a kit, which requires assembly, that you can use to create object out of PLA filament using the usual G-code instructions (from popular 3D printer management software tools). The printer is controlled using the provided micro USB cable. You can also use the SD memory card slot for operation, so you don't need to connect the printer to a computer.
Unlike other 3D printers, it has an open platform (for ease of access) and is constructed of machined aluminum and laser-cut birch wood for the frame. It also has a 6061 aluminum alloy print bed with matt finish (unheated) which provides a level build surface that will not warp.
The maximum print volume is 4 x 4 x 4 inches / 102 x 102 x 102 mm (H x W x D), and the vertical (Z-axis) resolution is 100 microns (0.10mm). Both of these specifications are quite sufficient for such a low cost 3D printer.
The direct drive 6061 aluminum extruder (with a shrouded cooling fan) has a Ubis hot end that accepts 1.75 mm PLA filament. Precise movement is ensured by the use of machined aluminum axis rods with linear bearings and injection molded gears. As expected, the size 17 stepper motors meet the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) standard ICS 16-2001.
As an unexpected bonus, the printer comes with a sample spool of PLA filament so you can start printing right away (after you have built the kit of course!).
For an extra $99, you can also purchase the Printrbot Simple XL Upgrade Kit (read my review). The upgrade kit will increase the build volume to maximum dimensions of 7.28 x 3.9 x 6.5 inches / 185 / 100 / 165 mm (H x W x D). This upgrade is well worth it since you will be able to print some of the larger objects from Thingiverse like a Dragon Castle.
The XL Upgrade Kit definitely does work with both the 2013 and the new 2014 version of this printer.
After installing this kit I was able to print a number of the objects that I haven't been able to print before.
It took me about an hour to install the kit on my Printrbot Simple and I was also taking my time. Printrbot provides a good video on how to put a kit together. As a bonus you also get a spool which enables you to organize your PLA and make sure that you don't have any PLA tangles.
Why did the price go up?
Usually, a new model has a price decrease. But the 2014 version has a slight price increase over the 2013 version. The reason is due to the cost of some new components.
The Extruder and Bed are now made of aluminum, instead of Plywood. The material is more expensive, but better quality, thus the price increase.
Printrbot Simple 3D Printer Kit (2014 Version) Gallery
Does this Kit include everything you need to start 3D printing?
It sure does. You get everything you need except for the 3D printing software and a computer. The online guide provides links to all the needed software and it's all freeware.
All the required motors, screws, rods and about 1/4 roll of PLA are included in the kit. The Printrbot website has heaps of instructions (with pictures) and step-by-step guides.
If you are not mechanically inclined, you can purchase the pre-assembled version for around $100 extra.
3D Printing is Hard
Right now, 3D printing can be hard… really hard. The technology is not at the point yet where you can unbox a 3D printer, load a model, hit print and then sit back whilst your model is printed in a few minutes.
We are still in the very early days of 3D printing. Think back to the early days of personal computers in the mid 1970's when people had to build their home computer from a kit. It was very underground with local computer groups.
Back then, computers weren't very easy to use either. They required time, learning, and dedication. Today's 3D printers are much the same way. But with some time, dedication, and willingness to tinker, you can create some amazing prints and have a lot of fun in the process.
If you wanted to have a 3D printer a few years ago, this required you to create circuit boards by hand. After a bunch of calculations and measurements, you were lucky to create a blob of plastic on your first try.
Enter Printrbot. When Printrbot hit the scene, it was a huge breakthrough in making 3D printers accessible and affordable to everyone.
I found that assembling this Printrbot Simple 3D Printer Kit was pure joy. It was like building a model or a huge 3D puzzle. The instructions are clear and easy to follow, but expect to have to figure a few things out by yourself if you are new to 3D printers.
Make sure to take your time. Don't try and complete the kit in one sitting right after work. You could do that, but you are better off to take your time and assemble the kit over a few evenings.
It was very rewarding to assemble this kit because now I know exactly how it was built and how it works. This makes troubleshooting a lot easier if you have problems later. Don't get me wrong… I love assembled printers, but assembling a 3D printer yourself is a lot cheaper and gives you a lot of insight into how this technology works. It's a great way to get a lot of experience in a short time.
All 3D printers need to be tuned and calibrated. No matter whether it is a $300 printer or a $6,000 printer… they all need to be calibrated. This does require some time and effort so you can print properly. The calibration process does take some dedication, but it's very rewarding to get it just right.
All you need to do is assemble the printer, level the aluminum print bed, setup the software parameters in Slic3r and Repetier-Host and you are good to go. You can start churning out amazing 3D prints right away.
I have built two of these kits now (2013 and 2014 editions) and I'm astounded at how good the first prints looked for such an inexpensive printer. My first hobby printer (the ‘ol RepRap 3D printer from a few years ago), took me a few hours of work to get it working right. My RepRap friends can't believe the first prints from my Printrbot Simple 3D printer. They say, “No way this is your first print… no way!”
After you have made a few prints, you can start to tune a few parameters such as the hotend temperature and the steps per mm. For optimal tuning, spend some time on the forums and wikis.
It's a good idea to go to a local Hackerspace or Makerspace meetup to get some advice from the super-nerds. As long as you show some enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, most people will welcome you and help you out.
I work with a lot of professional 3D printers and have owned quite a few consumer grade 3D printers. I also know a lot of people with 3D printers. But this is the first printer that prints good 3D models every time (after tuning and calibration). I was printing today that thinking how easy this printer is. I can just hit print and get the model printed without any physical intervention. With all my other consumer grade printers, this has never been the case.
Remember that 3D printers can be a little tricky. You will occasionally get some failed prints, but my succes rate with this printer is very high.
Just take your time to build it properly and spend some time calibrating it. When you have everything working just right, you will generate loads of reliable prints from this printer. With the open build platform, it's great fun to watch,
I like downloading some models from Thingiverse and creating my own with SketchUp. I've printed useful items such as a cell phone stand, cool Minecraft chess pieces, prototype parts for projects and those silly interlocking machines that you just have to make.
Having access to a 3D printer in your house opens up a new world or possibilities for making things.
The Printrbot Company
It you haven't heard about Printrbot, they are a grass-roots company which is all about open-source software, hardware, and giving back to the community. They are a small team of personable people and they use all open-source software.
You can even download the Printrboard schematics and have boards made yourself if you want to. Most of the actual printer files are available too. I've 3D printed most of a Printrbot Simple components, just for fun.
Support is also really good and the community is also amazing. If you have a problem, just post it in the forums. I'll bet it gets answered by a community member in a matter of hours.
Printrbot is a company that cares about their customers and gives back to the community. That sounds like a company that I want to support.
Friends with Printerbot Simples
I have a lot of friends that saw my RepRap 3D printers and wanted to get into 3D printing as well. When I got my hands on my first Printrbot Simple and saw how much it brought the bar down, I told them all to go buy one. All of them did, assembled it, overcame some problems, and are getting awesome prints. One of my friends at work bought one, and in 6 hours flat had better prints than me.
It's great to see such a cheap printer that a newbie can get up and running!
- Printing Material: PLA
- Vertical (Z-axis) resolution: 100 microns (0.10 mm)
- Hot end: Ubis 1.75 mm
- Nozzle diameter: 0.4 mm
- Build speed: 60-65 mm/min
- Build volume: 4 x 4 x 4 inches / 100 x 100 x 100 mm (H x W x D)
- Overall dimensions: 8 x 14 x 11 inches (H x W x D)
- Weight: 5.25 lb (2.38 kg)
- Input format: G-code
- Input method: Micro USB cable (included) or SD memory card (sold separately)
3D printing can be hard, but the Printrbot Simple is the cheapest and easiest way to get into it. Expect some challenges and great rewards. Assemble it yourself it you can, and most of all, have fun!