The Good The Monoprice Dual Extrusion 3D Printer has a dual extruder print head and a large print platform. The printer is very easy to use, can produce detailed objects and is cheaper than competitive printers.
The Bad Thanks to the newborn state of 3D printing, the printer is not user friendly and takes a long time to prepare and print. At $ 1,200, it’s still an investment.
The Bottom Line The Monoprice Dual Extrusion 3D Printer is a fun, versatile and relatively affordable machine for fans who want to get into the 3D printing world.
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The Monoprice Dual Extrusion 3D Printer is a sophisticated gadget. And at $ 1,200, it’s also expensive, even though it’s one of the most affordable dual-extruder 3D printers available. (Prices for the UK and Australia are not currently available, but the price in the US is £ 725 or US $ 1,290.) But like all problems, it can also be an exciting pleasure and a great achievement – as long as you do not solve the difficult the task of mastering the relative state of 3D printing.
For first-time users, there is a major learning curve for Monoprice every step of the way, from building it and calibrating the platform build to installing and using the software. However, if you are familiar with 3D printing, it is similar to other printers on the market, such as MakerBot Replicator .
Keep in mind that like all other 3D printers, Monoprice requires a lot of customization before you can create your first successful, simple 3D object. And this will remain a learning process for a long time, as it may require even more customization when you want to print more sophisticated 3D models.
As a result, the Monoprice Dual Extrusion 3D printer is not for everyone, especially anyone who expects to use it the way an ordinary inkjet or laser printer does. But if you are working on creating your own 3D objects and are ready to go, this is very good.
A 3D printer is a pre-packaged machine, but it still looks like a do-it-yourself project that needs refinement. Outside, it is a rectangular cube-shaped box that measures 18.7 by 12.7 by 15.1 inches (476 by 322 by 383 mm) and weighs about 28 pounds (13 kg). It consists of a sturdy metal frame and four covers made of soft material attached to it. The whole box is painted black and has no smooth surface. There are actually many sharp edges that can scratch your fingers if you are not careful.
Looking closer, a bunch of hex bolts hold all the details together. Also included is a small tool bag containing several hex wrenches and a large selection of additional bolts. With these tools, you can completely disassemble the printer to troubleshoot or replace parts. Monoprice makes all parts available for purchase individually for those who want to tinker with the machine.
Please note that the machine does not connect and play, and its insertion and operation may be intimidating. Be sure to watch this instruction video carefully, because the manual does not have all the necessary information.
The printer is almost 90 percent assembled. You will need to attach the printhead to the dual extruder and assemble some other details, including the thread-holding brackets and the two thread guide tubes. The machine includes two 2-pound (1 kg) PLA filament reels (one in black and white) that will need to be mounted on the brackets on the back of the printer. The machine also works with other types of yarns, including PVA and ABS.
Thread is the material used for printing – similar to inkjet print cartridges. They are generally easy to melt and quickly condense into plastic threads that are fed through the printhead nozzles during printing.
Monoprice uses standard thread coils that can be used with other 3D printers, including Makerbot. When you have finished the thread, you can buy more from Monoprice, including different colors. Each coil of thread per 1 kg costs about $ 35. In my test, after a busy week of printing, I only used about a third of the thread involved.
Features of a monographic dual extrusion 3D printer
|Extruder||MK-8 dual head|
|Plate||Heated metal build plate|
|Print technology||Fused Deposition Modeling|
|Build volume||8.9″ x 5.7″ x 5.9″ (225 x 145 x 150 mm)|
|Printing material||ABS/PLA/PVA/HIPS filament 1.75mm|
|Positioning precision||XY: 11 microns (0.0004) / Z: 2.5 microns (0.0001)|
|Layer thickness||0.1 – 0.5mm|
|Heating plate temp.||0-120°C|
|Connectivity||USB cable, SD card|
|Opering system supported||Windows XP or later, Linux, Mac 10.4 or later|
|AC input||100~240 VAC, ~2 amps, 50~60 Hz, 350W|
|Dimensions||18.7″ x 12.7″ x 15.1″ (476 x 322 x 383 mm)|
|Weight||28.7 pounds (13kg)|
|3D file type||Input: STL/OBJ, Output: X3G|
A dual-extruder printer head means that you can use two types of threads at any time, which makes it very convenient if you want to work with two colors at the same time. (With a single-extruder print head, you will need to change the thread every time you want to change color.) When printing a two-color object, its software is used to assign each of the two Monoprice a color extruders.
In the end, however, since the printer uses the fact that the filament yarn is loaded into this extruder, the color assignment doesn’t really matter. Indeed, you can print in two colors, but unlike a standard printer, the 3D printer will print according to the color of the loaded thread, not the color of the model.
Note that usually only one type of filament should be used at a time, as they require different temperatures to melt. However, since HIPS and PVA are for support only, they can be used with PLA and ABS respectively. On the other hand, you cannot use the ABS and PLA threads together.
The printer connects to the computer using the standard USB cable (supplied) via the back panel port. But it can also print directly from files stored on the SD card. (A 4GB card is also included; it comes with a manual in PDF format.) The SD slot, however, is hidden on the inside of the printer, making it a bit difficult to access.
On the front is a control panel that includes an LCD screen with four rows and five navigation buttons. Many features of the printer can be controlled through this panel, including calibration of the assembly platform, material loading, preheating of the print head, and more.
Simulation of fused deposition
The 3D printer produces fused material in the shape and size of the item you want. Dual Extrusion is Monoprice’s first 3D printer and, like virtually all 3D printer consumers, uses FDM. FDM is an additive process in which a layer of the previous layer of plastic is extruded over the previous layer. This process is very similar to baking or icing a cake with a tube, but much more accurate.
Like all 3D printers, Monoprice has a plate called the assembly platform that stays under the print head. During printing, the printhead pulls the thread from the coil, melts the plastic and squeezes it onto the platform. The platform itself rises and falls depending on the height of the object being built, and plastic freezes very quickly when squeezed to form a 3D object.
The printer can accommodate three-dimensional objects up to 8.9 by 5.7 by 5.9 inches (225 by 145 by 150 mm), which is quite large. In fact, you probably will print much smaller objects. Typically, the larger the print size, the more time and the maximum size object may take several days, as the printer can print a maximum of 24 cubic centimeters per hour.
As for finding things to print, there is a huge collection of 3D object models Thingiverse that you can use, or you can create on your own using one of the various free modeling programs such as Sketchup or Autodesk 123D. You can also invest in a personalized 3D scanner, though this is probably best for dedicated fans, given that prices start at $ 400.
While 3D printing sounds simple enough, getting Monoprice ready for the first time is easy, but easy.
The hardest part is making sure the build platform is properly calibrated. The platform has a rectangular shape, but under it there are only three screws – two on the back corners and a third right in the middle in front to adjust the height and tilt, making it very difficult to align it perfectly.
The guideline is to keep the platform horizontal and at a distance from the print head that is large enough to hold the paper. In fact, you will need to do a test print after each adjustment to see if it works properly. It took me several hours of trial and error before I could make a successful 3D print.
Another issue with the print platform is preventing the print object from moving during printing. Using a ribbon of art – a 3M ribbon roll included with the machine – on top of the platform helps reduce this risk, but it doesn’t always work. When you are printing a large object, it may be a better idea to pause the printing process to add more support to the object, or to use a ribbon to keep it grounded before continuing.
The second hardest part is the printing software. Monoprice shares the same ReplicatorG (RepG) software as older Makerbot 3D printers. RepG is an open source application that requires a Python software interpreter to run on any of the supported platforms, including Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.
The problem is that you need to install these two programs (which are pre-loaded on the included SD card), or you can also download them ) separately. Moreover, even after setting the chances, you will need to manually change the RepG setting to know about Python’s existence on the system.
Once everything is set up properly and you have a ready-made 3D model file, RepG is powerful and intuitive enough to customize the 3D model in many ways. You can easily use the mouse to view, scale, rotate, or position the 3D model so that it remains flat on the platform. The way you see the model within the software dictates how it will be printed on the printing platform.
The first 3D printing
Getting RepG to print is a two-part process. First, he needs to generate “gcode”, which is a series of instructions that determine how the machine prints, step by step. Gcode determines everything from the size of the object, to how fast the print speed is, to whether the object is solid or hollow. Once generated, gcode cannot be configured, so if you make changes to the 3D model, you will need to restore gcode from scratch.
(Note that Monoprice Dual Extrusion also works with MakerWare software, which is free and is intended for newer Makerbot 3D printers as well as several other third-party 3D printing applications.)
Depending on the complexity of the 3D model and how large your print object is, the software takes a few minutes to several hours to create gcode and finish printing. You have two options for doing the job: copy the gcode file to your SD card or print RepG directly to the printer.
The first advantage is that you do not need a computer for a very time consuming printing process. In the latter case, you need to make sure that your computer does not enter hibernation mode or disconnect from the printer, which may cause the print job to fail. After the print job starts, you can pause it and then resume it, but if you decide to stop completely, you will need to start from the beginning.
Before the printer is actually launched, you first need to heat its extruders and assembly platform, which can take up to 10 minutes. This is a necessary step since heat is used to melt the filament. To save time, you can use its front control panel to preheat these parts when creating gcode.
In my test, it was very interesting and fascinating enough to watch the print head squeeze the molten plastic string on the assembly platform and slowly – very slowly – and carefully shape the shape of the 3D object. With 0.1mm resolution, Monoprice can create an object of very subtle detail, and when I got my first printed first object – a small Star Wars combat figure of Yoda – it was no surprise.
However, many times, after hours of printing, the semi-finished product will fail and fall off the platform, making the rest of the print fail. There were also times when the extruded material was translated into a ball. When that happened, I just wanted to call it a day.
I have noticed that bad prints happen more often with large objects, in particular the wider the distance between two extruders. For example, when the print head has moved one of the extruders to deliver a thread, for example, another idle extruder may collapse another part of the object and push it out of place. Sometimes, when this happened, I could fix it several times by stopping the printer and right to the object before continuing. But if I left the unit unattended, the print job failed.
For that matter, it is a good idea to check the printer every now and then during long printing. It is really frustrating when a large 3D-printed semi-finished product fails immediately.
It takes a long time to change
The good news is that, in my experience, Monoprice was reliable when it successfully completed the job. When I wanted to reprint the same object, even on a different scale, it did not fail. On the other hand, if I modified a new 3D model file with a much different object, especially a complex object, I usually had to recalibrate the printer or reconfigure the software.
It took me five tests during my testing before I could successfully print the iPhone 4 case, which actually works better than some of the cases I bought at the store. As mentioned, note that it takes a long time to complete 3D printing. For example, the iPhone 4 took almost 2 hours, and printing on a full-sized finger took about half an hour. If you want to make a large object, it is best to first print it on a smaller scale to make sure you are correct. Then set the machine to work overnight for the actual size of the object.
However, overall the machine worked well in my testing. It was relatively quiet for a mechanical device that included a lot of moving parts. Still, it’s loud enough that it needs a separate room if you want to concentrate on work or if you type something overnight.
Time and patience are key when using 3D Monoprice Dual Extrusion Mono-printing. It will take you a long time to prepare your printer and understand how its software works, and even more time to print a 3D model. And you need patience to deal with the high speed of unsuccessful printing that you will encounter in the beginning. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad printer, it’s just the current state of 3D printing as a whole.
Compared to other 3D printers on the market, Monoprice has some very strong advantages. First, it is cheaper than other similarly configured 3D printers – for example, the MakerBot Replicator line can cost almost twice its price. In addition, Monoprice also sells yarns at relatively cheap prices. Printer parts are also easily replaceable and can create items with very small details.
After all, the question is whether you can afford the printer. At $ 1,200, it’s quite an investment. However, it is one of the cheapest dual-extruder printers on the market – other dual-extruders can cost up to $ 3,000, and even some single-extruder models can cost around $ 2,000. And it’s not the only thing you need to invest in. It is also a time and a desire to work with technology that is not yet ready for the mass market. But for the same reason, now owning a 3D Monoprice Dual Extrusion will also give you a fun and unique experience.