The Good The Afinia H-Series 3D Printer (H479) strikes the right balance between ease of use and configurability. It also gets you printing faster than any other 3D printer we’ve tested so far.
The Bad The H479 has a smaller build platform than its competitors, some elements of its software are intricate, and your objects will need TLC after printing to look their best.
The Bottom Line Not a single 3D printer is perfect, but the Afinia H-Series H479 3D printer is the most affordable model we’ve reviewed, and we recommend it to anyone who is serious about getting started with 3D printing.
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Of the three 3D printers I’ve used so far, my favorite $ 1599 Afinia H479 is my favorite. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but it’s a more accurate and flexible machine than first-generation 3D systems Cube printer, and it’s much easier to use than the first generation MakerBot Replicator .
The high cost of this printer will remain a problem for many consumers. Cleaning after printing with certain materials can also be a hassle. The fact that you can get good prints so easily and so quickly makes the H479 easy to recommend. If you’re willing to spend more than $ 1,000 on a 3D printer, the Afinia H479 should be at or near the list.
|Printer||Afinia H-Series H479||3D Systems Cube (2013)||3D Systems Cube (2012)||MakerBot Replicator (2012)|
|Price (at time of review)||$1,559||$1,299||$1,299||$1,799/$1,999 w/ dual extruder|
|Material(s) supported (officially)||ABS, PLA||ABS, PLA||ABS||ABS, PLA|
|Build platform size||5x5x5 inches||5.5×5.x5.5×5.5 inches||5.5×5.x5.5×5.5 inches||8.9×5.7×5.9 inches|
|Minimum layer height||150 micron||200 micron||200 micron||150 micron|
If the H479 looks familiar, it’s because Afinia has licensed the design from Chinese manufacturer Delta Micro Factory, UP manufacturer! 3D printer. You can find for sale at various international resellers, including US PP3DP. The Afinia version is similar to the Up printer, but the H479 comes as a fully assembled product and, according to Afinia, has improved wiring to minimize static shock.
The appearance of the H479 fits somewhere between the MakerBot plywood replicator and the plastic casting chassis that houses the 3D cube. For the most part it looks like a professionally made product, with a folded steel body painted a nice dark red color. An open ribbon cable leads from the internal electronics to the extruder head, which looks a bit unfinished.
The more inappropriate idea that this is a professionally made product is the extruder cover and the fan mount, the cable clamp on the back of the printer, and the arm for mounting the coils of printing material, all of which are made of 3D-printed plastic. Frankly amateur clips are the binder clips that you use to secure a special print surface to the printer platform.
The 3D printed parts look a little rough, but they are all functional and I had no problems with them after using the H479 for a month. I suppose there is something thematically appropriate (as well as cost savings) in incorporating 3D printing equipment into the printer. Open source RepRap 3D Printer Project For its designs, it relies almost exclusively on printed structural parts.
Demanding consumers may chuck at unfinished print components. Binders and crystal rubber tubes that serve as “legs” for the MakerBot Replicator are a major crime. They are sufficient and easy to replace, but a targeted mechanism would be more appropriate for the finished consumer product.
In addition to the printer, inside the H479 comes a 1.5-pound reel of ABS plastic to be printed (blue in my case) and an accessory box. Afinia is credited with delivering just about every tool you can use to interact with your printer and your prints. Included are an X-Acto knife and an assortment of blades, a sharpened scraper, a giant pair of tweezers, a small socket wrench, a pair of studs, three hex wrenches, a plastic tube and a pair of work gloves. using power brick, power cables, and a USB cord.
Why do you need all these tools? For initial installation, you only need the hex wrench that you use to secure the plastic support arm that holds the spool thread. The rest of the tools come later.
The rest of the setup process more or less follows from other 3D printers, with a few exceptions. The One-Sheet Quick Setup Guide provides the basics. The box also contains a longer manual.
Unlike the MakerBot and 3D System printers, the H479 does not have built-in controls, nor can it read design files from a USB key or SD card. The H479 has internal storage, which means that although you need a PC or Mac to set up and send files, you can disconnect it from the PC while printing is in progress. Other vendors like to promote the ability to print their products without any help from a computer, but I’m not sure how important this option really is to most users.
I connected the H749 to a Windows 7 PC, and both the printer and the software worked fine. Afinia software is a reasonable compromise between ease of use and the power of customizing print settings. This can be a little more intuitive. In particular, it is difficult to understand the screens of the calibration parameters and the auxiliary material without reading the manual. Advanced users may also want more detailed controls, such as the option to turn off support materials (future updates, Afinia says), or download settings profiles to the printer.
One useful feature of the software is that it keeps track of material usage. If you say how much your coil weighs at first boot, it will record how much material you used from this coil from print to print. This is convenient for several reasons, including the fact that it lets the printer know if you do not have enough material to print a particular object.
In general, Afinia’s software is better than 3D systems, but it’s not as powerful as MakerBot MakerWare. Afinia does many things that 3D Systems did not do in its first-generation Cube software – allowing you, for example, to adjust object density, print resolution, and specifications of the supporting material. MakerWare, on the other hand, does this and more in its advanced settings.
Good PC software is especially important for the Afinia printer as it manages all your interactions with the printer, from loading the print thread to using the extruder to leveling the assembly platform and calibrating the height of the nozzle. The settings sheet will walk you through all these steps. The last two are the only ones that take a considerable amount of time, and they are similar to the same processes on the Replicator that require you to manually adjust a number of screws under the assembly platform, and then measure the space between the nozzle and the paper sheet platform.
When you are finally using software to help you load the printed matter, you can choose a printer for ABS or PLA plastics so that it knows what temperature settings to use for the extruder. Unlike 3D System Cube and CubeX printers , The H479 can print using any 1.75 mm coil. Afinia recommends buying plastic directly from it, but I tested the H479 with MakerBot ABS and the online Spool ABS, as well as the Laywoo-D3, wood and polymer based material (PLA setup worked great here) that prints without clogging or other problems.
Automated temperature control is convenient and works quite well. However, granular temperature control of the extruder and platform construction would be better.
Manipulating 3D model files in Afinia software is also easy. You can send shared STL files directly to H479, saving file conversion time and the extra complexity that comes with your own 3D Systems file format. The 3D rendering of the model on a virtual printing platform makes sense, and the real output matches what you see on the screen.
Afinia makes it easy to add additional copies of the model using the Paste Copy feature. You can also upload another model to the same print, and the software automatically organizes the models on the platform. Genuine manual placement controls do not seem to be included in the software, but the automated function worked well.
The biggest downside to Afinia software is that it forces you to have some supporting material on the canopies. You can minimize canopy support by only 80 degrees or more, but even then, with a relatively short span, you don’t always need support. Support material is usually easy to remove, but not always, and a particularly fragile or complex object may not survive the removal process. Afinia says the ability to completely disable support is one of the most requested features, and that software updates work.
When you are finally printing, Afinia’s software “cuts” (translate the 3D model into layer-by-layer coordinates for the printer), monitors the layer as it prints, and provides accurate time to evaluate before confirming.
The quality of the H479’s output, like that of other printers, depends on many variables, including the material, model, and settings you choose. Each material has its own characteristics, but overall the H479 makes the best prints I’ve seen from a 3D printer for less than $ 2,000.
One of the more complex problems of 3D printing is that the object is kept on the assembly platform throughout the printing period. Heating the platform so that the plastic retains its adhesiveness is part of the solution, but maintaining a sufficiently high temperature for hours of printing can be a problem. Manufacturers rely on a variety of tricks to resolve this issue – MakerBot uses Kapton thermal conductor tape on its replicator, 3D Systems uses water-soluble adhesive – but neither method is reliable. Objects can be peeled off the edges or completely detached from the platform.
The Afinia method with the H479 is not perfect, but it is one of the most robust designs I have seen. The printer comes with three FR-4s perfboards , the same material you use to make boards. To use the floorboard on the H479, you clamp it on top of a metal construction platform with clips included for knitting. Again, the clips work quite well, but they do take up some construction space. You also need to be careful that the extruder does not move over them during printing. For these reasons, more than their aesthetic garage, it would be better to make a specially cramped decision.
However, for the adhesion of the model, the floorboard works extremely well. This is the only solution I have seen so far that eliminates peeling for long printing. You can always pin the same perfume to one of the other printers and adjust the height of the nozzle accordingly, but Afinia makes it easy by including three boards in the box.
The downside of park board technology is that it means you often have to do a lot of cleaning after printing. Because the print material fills the perforation, as you push away your object, many small columns will be attached to the platform surface, which you will then need to scrape off. Printing objects with a raft – stacking several layers of plastic as a bed on which to print your item – can eliminate this effect, but because of the aggressive adjustments of the Athens raft, you will then have to tear the raft off the object itself, which also gives you an uneven bottom surface.
Afinia H479 3D printer post-print cleanup (images)
Removing posts or material from the fence can be a hassle or even fatal for fragile prints if you are not careful. All these tools and work gloves that come with the H479? You will mainly use them in this process of cleaning after printing, scraping, spoiling, and slicing auxiliary and fence material away from the printed object. Even with tools, your prints don’t look as polished as they could if you printed them straight on a smooth surface. If you want the 3D printer to be for functional details only, this rough handling should not be a problem. If you are looking for a way out with a more professional look at it, you may want to consider sanding, grinding or trimming any rough surfaces with acetone.
Afinia says you can print directly on the H479 build platform directly if you use ribbon art, but for me, that presented the same adhesion issues I found with MakerBot Replicator. I would rather do post-processing than worry about printing. Just be prepared to give your items some TLC after printing and you will love the perfume.
Another thing you’ll love about the H479, especially if you used another 3D printer, is how quickly it will be ready to print. Part of this is the function of the floorboard: since it saves you from expecting when the assembly surface approaches the temperature, you only need an extruder to heat up, which happens very quickly. One of the most painful quirks of the Replicator is not only that it can take forever to reach a temperature of 15, 20 minutes or more, depending on the ambient temperature of your work area – but if it can’t hold that temperature, you’ve only waited enough long enough to get a printed print that doesn’t fit the platform. Thanks to Afinia and its parquet board, printing starts quickly and when you know, your print will stay put.
The time it takes to actually print with the H479 will depend on the size of the item, how tight you decide to print the interior material and the look as usual. Afinia has quality settings, plain, fast and thin, that regulate the speed of extrusion. As a rule, the slower you print, the better the output quality. For layer height, H479 lays material at .15 mm or 150 μm. It’s not as detailed as the latest MakerBot 3D printer, a 100 micron replicator 2, but this printer retails for $ 2,199 and only supports PLA.
3D printer vendors often promise consumers a button-free future for trouble-free object manufacturing. This is not a reality for any 3D printer I’ve used or seen, including the Afinia H479. Where this printer comes with, it’s in a smart balance between ease of use and output quality. Yes, you should take the time to clean an aggressive fence and accessory, or fragrance residue from items printed without a fence, but the overall output is fairly accurate and prints are mostly easy to clean.
Among other printers that have not made their way through our lab, I have not yet checked this one The 2013 edition of the 3D System Cube , not the last ones Replicator 2 . In particular, the new Cube may bring some competition to the H479 for ease of use, but as long as 3D Systems relies on its branded filament cartridges, open source printers like the H479 will remain the best economic deal in the long run.
As for upfront costs, the asking price of the Afinia H479 for $ 1,599 will be a problem for many potential 3D printer owners. You can find it much cheaper Entry-level 3D printer , but in the $ 1000 to $ 2000 price range, the H479 is one of the best.