Hello everyone. New guy here.

Hello everyone. New guy here. Looking at purchasing a 3D printer mainly for design prototyping and maybe some jewelry and toys for the family. I’m looking at the CubeX (w/2 or 3 extruders) or the Makerbot Replicator 2. The 2X seems to require a little more know-how and since this is my first printer I kind want my hand held for now.

I know the major differences are Makerbot prints at 100 microns and the CubeX is 125 microns. CubeX is expandable to 3 extruders and has a larger build space.

My questions are:
Will I be able to tell the difference between 100-125 microns? Is 125 microns smooth enough to not require sanding/post cleanup?

I know the CubeX uses proprietary cartridges that cost more than the system Makerbot uses but seems more user-friendly. Are the amounts of plastics per cartridge actually less or do they just force you to buy more at once?

Is there a rough estimate on the cost per inch of these plastics? For instance, how far would a $100 cartridge get me if making 1" X 1" X 1" items?

If anyone can answer any of my questions I’d appreciate it a lot. Thank you in advance. I apologize if these questions have been asked a million times I couldn’t find anything on them.

Any printer these days can print at 100 micron layers. It’s just marketing gobbledygook. If the Cube can not it’s just locked out in software.

100 or 125 microns are almost perceptively the exact same but are still “not” smooth to the touch. 100 microns prints also take a “long” time to print (think 6-7 hours). I’d suggest trying to get a sample of something from a CubeX owner or a Replicator Owner. If you are looking at the CubeX or Replicator price range and are willing to get your hands dirty I’d suggest an Ultimaker. Faster, same/better resolution. Only caveat is can only print one type of filament at a time, and well, you have to build it. Which may or may not bother you.

CubeX you will pay for the convenience over and over and over again every time you buy a cartridge. You will however, I suspect (I don’t own one so this is me guessing) have a more repeatable “click, print” experience than with a Makerbot.

How far a cartridge goes depends on how much fill percentage you use. Since 3D systems doesn’t actually say how much is in a cartridge you’re on your own to figure that out. 1 lb of plastic goes a long way.

Just a fair warning. Every printer is going to require some effort to get it working. Even the “professional” machines require learning a lot about your machine and its best settings for the best results. My suggestion to people is to look at an open source design. You’ll be less vendor locked in and will have more control over how to evolve your machine.

With a CubeX you will always have to rely on them to update the software, and provide you with cartridges. With even a Makerbot you can use alternative software and alternative sources of filament. Go farther along the spectrum, Ultimaker, or even a MendelMax (don’t hate me @ThantiK ) and you start getting the best of both the open hardware (rapid development, active knowledgeable community) and open software. Go for a Bukobot or a Prusa i3 and you’ll be sitting in cutting edge territory.

If you really want to get something in your hands that is more commercially supported (but a little easier on the wallet than CubeX or Makerbot) you can look at the UP! http://pp3dp.com/
or the M2 http://www.makergear.com/

No, you won’t be able to tell the difference between 100 and 125 microns. Is it smooth enough? – That’s an opinion you’ll have to form on your own. Think about the filament issue for a second…do you ENJOY having to buy HP-branded ink carts for your printer when getting it somewhere else could be cheaper, but you can’t because HP uses proprietary cartridges? – Your thoughts on that, is your answer re: filament.

How much would a cartridge get you? - No clue. There are tons of variables. How much filament in a cartridge? How much infill on the part? How many perimeters? What layer height? Infill every [?] layers? How large is the nozzle diameter? – all variables that have to be answered in order to give you a precise number. If you’re worried about price, why are you buying such an overpriced machine with proprietary cartridges?

+Ross Hendrickson Thanks a lot. Really helpful info. It appears we are still in the wild west of sorts with these machines. I was thinking of starting with a open source model, while I have a mechanical/electrical background I don’t really have the time to tinker and put one together and learn to design in 3D. I’d rather pay the extra money for a more user-friendly experience but I understand the limitation and risk with such an approach as you described.

The 6-7 hours for 100 micron level of detail is a revelation to me as well. Geez. Looks like this decision wont be as easy I thought it would be. Going to have to find people with the actual printers like you suggested to see if it’s what I’m looking for.

+Anthony Morris I get the HP cartridge comparisons. And yeah they are a pain. The only reason I’m even considering not going with the Makerbot is because of the expandability the CubeX offers as far as number of extruders. I like the idea of being able to upgrade to 2-3 colors in the future. As far as the cost, I’m willing to pay now for less headaches and ease of use for the life of the printer but want to know that I’m not using $25 worth of materials to create something trivial. But not even knowing the amount of filament that comes in the cartridge makes it hard to estimate at all. Sigh.

Thank you guys for your help. Looks like I have some more research to do and decisions to make. Wondering if I should wait another generation to make my first big purchase. Maybe start with a cheap DIY-er just to learn the in’s & out’s for now.

3d printing in 2013 IS tinkering.

Haha…Yeah I’m learning that, Commodore 64 era. I’m a tinkerer, I just have a lot on my plate at the moment (web design/coding) and don’t have a lot of time to build a machine and learn 3D design software. Wanted something the wife could figure out without breaking out the soldering iron. Looks like I have to either be willing to get my hands dirty or sit on the sidelines a while longer.

if you’ve got mechanical/electrical background, then you’d probably do well with a good kit. as far as resolution goes, if it’s mostly aesthetics you’re after, then take a look at some of the posts using acetone to smooth ABS.


@Jonathan_se5a_Sorens Thanks! Will do. If I can find some down time I’ll look into a kit. Right now time is my greatest value. I’d pay for convenience and sacrifice some flexibility if it made sense.

@James_Gobert it’s not Commodore 64 era of 3D printing either. It’s all very easy, you’re just asking for very detailed answers. Take your questions, and apply them to desktop 2D printers…the answers aren’t any easier are they? How many pages will I get out of a 4-color inkjet? Well…you can’t exactly answer because you don’t know ink density, page saturation, page size, etc.

3D printing is really, really easy now. It really is. You’re just asking a lot of technical questions that have a lot of variability.

Just pull the trigger on one. They’re cheap enough that in a years time, you’ll be more than willing to change if you feel the need. We will all be here to help answer any questions. (Though do take at least a little time to attempt to figure them out via google first)

We already had this discussion a lot of times so i will just throw my usual suggestions:

  • Bukobot ($ 850)
  • Makibox ($ 300 with Heatbed, still in Beta)
  • RepRap Pro (around $ 600 i think)
  • Printrbot ($ 499)

all kits are pretty easy to assemble or you can ask anyone here in the Community to sell you an assembled one.

Or you buy an assembled Ultimaker for $ 2200

Imho the Makerbot Replicator 2 is a totally acceptable Printer, i just wouldn’t want to buy one myself because i don’t like where they are heading Community-wise. But the assembled Ultimaker is AS good as the Makerbot.

Oh and don’t buy the Cube - a) cartridges b) they are not very community-friendly (beside their own community) - Ultimaker and Co are way more open and the RepRap Community itself is bit like a family.

For what it’s worth, I picked up an Afinia H-series printer after Make Magazine’s big review in November. It’s a little pricier than the kits, but if you want to be printing within 15 minutes of receiving it, it’s the one to go with. Their tech support has been top notch, and I’ve been able to show models to my customers, who were blown away that they came from a $1500 printer.

Thank you both for the recommendations @Nils_Hitze @Dan_Periard

@ThantiK you all have more than answered my questions. I apologize for not having specifics, never owning one (or even seeing one in person) I have a limited knowledge of all of the variables that go into producing things. I thought I was somewhat knowledgable before joining this community, now I realize I’m just scratching the surface.

My wife designs jewelry and I was hoping she could probably use the printer to make new designs and sale them in her store. But from what I’m gathering I’m not quite sure if it would be economical or efficient considering cost of plastic, time to print each object and possible time needed to clean up each piece if needed.

Thanks again to everyone taking the time to chime in, I’m sure you guys get jokers like me all the time asking the same questions. I really just need to find someone with each machine and see what they look like.

(If anyone happens to have a CubeX or Replicator 2 feel free to attach pics of finish product and times, I’d greatly appreciate it).

Until then I’ll research these kits that were posted.

@James_Gobert when a few simple rules are followed, most parts need 0 cleanup. Mind going into detail on the jewelry thing though? I’ve heard “jewelry” so many times regarding 3D printers, and I don’t know if it’s just a mistake on my understanding, or a mistake on the users understanding.

What kind of jewelry are we talking about? Things the size of rings are not going to be good on plastic extrusion style machines. Bracelets…kind of…maybe. But if you’re looking for metal, etc - then you’ve gotta immediately boost your range up to the 20k+ area. Am I wrong in thinking about jewelry in this way? Is there just some sort of jewelry that would be good on these machines that I’m unaware of?

@ThantiK As far as Jewelry, yeah I’ve heard it thrown around a lot as well but most of what I’ve seen isn’t that good. Right now my wife makes primary handcrafted/hand-painted earrings. Usually medium to large in size, in fun, funky colors. I’ve been telling her about looking into 3D printing for the past year because it could potentially save her lots of time and she could theoretically prototype things faster.

Here is an example http://instagram.com/p/WNR_b2L_Gq/ of her competition that uses a traditional means to manufacture plastics. I’m not expecting to get exactly this type of quality, but in the ball park would be adequate. Definitely not looking at printing metals…at least not yet. :smiley: @Aaron_Isaacs