Tobold's Blog
Saturday, April 28, 2018
Ordered a new 3D printer

I've been using my XYZ da Vinci Junior 1.0w 3D printer for a year now. It is still working. However I have learned a lot during that year, I'm printing more complicated models now, and I'm reaching the limits of what the machine can do. I still think it is a great printer for a beginner, but now I want something much better. So I ordered a Zortrax M200 Plus. The "Plus" is important, as this is the brand-new and improved model of the M200, which is highly regarded but now 5 years old.

The first difference between the two printers is the price. The da Vinci Junior was 471€, the Zortrax M200 Plus is 2,369€. Obviously not the same league. The da Vinci Junior uses PLA, the Zortrax can use PLA, ABS, and some other materials. The old M200 was really best used with ABS, but the new Plus version has better cooling fans, so PLA should come out fine now as well. The main difference is that the XYZ printer was only able to use proprietary XYZ filaments, while the new Zortrax also works with filaments from other suppliers. That was a major point of annoyance for the old printer for me; the spools came with an RFID chip, and if the chip said your spool was empty, the printer refused to use the spool. As the chip counted loading, unloading, and failed prints as lost material even if there was no actual material lost, I always ended up having to throw away the last meters of the spool. And the material was far more expensive than it should have been. However at the start I'll use Zortrax ABS, just because the software knows the best settings for that material.

Where the difference between the two printers is likely to be biggest is in the quality of the prints. At the shop where I ordered the printer they had sample prints of little miniatures similar to those I often make, and the quality was *much* better. On the best setting you don't even see the layers any more with the Zortrax M200 Plus. Of course it remains to be seen how good it will work with my prints. But the experimenting and fiddling around is all part of the hobby, the resulting miniatures are more of a secondary benefit. :)

From what I see in reviews the main issue with the Zortrax is that the software is very slow. I saw a YouTube video of a guy using the old Zortrax M200 to print a Harry Potter wand, and the software took 25 minutes to slice that model. That has probably to do with the print being with rafts (mandatory with the Zortrax) and supports. I suspect the supports use a lot of slicing time, I'll have to try with and without it. But from the video it appears that the supports are easy to remove, which could be a plus. Now I finally understand the models of Miguel Zavala: Many of them can't be printed without those automatically generated supports, and the supports generated by the XYZ software are very bad. So up to now I had to fiddle around with the models a lot, disassemble them digitally, reassemble them digitally, and generate functional supports with Meshmixer. I might be able to just hit a print button in the future, which will be faster even if the slicing is slow.

I'll let you know how the new printer works out once it is delivered and installed.


Friendly reminder for you: please please oh please provide some photos in the next post. We all love "watching" stuff, even though you're a great writer of course ;)
Yes, once I got the printer I plan to reprint some miniatures and compare. I'll make photos of those comparisons.
Owner of the old M200 here to share some experiences that you may find useful :
-Firstly, as you stated Zortrax printers can (by default) only allow printing with a raft, in many cases this is not a big problem aside from using a little more filament, but there are a few occasions where I didn't want any rafts added(eg. small thin button-like objects that while removing tears off the bit of raft it's stuck to and makes it extremely hard to remove)
-Zortrax software(and general support) has improved and expanded substantially since I got it, but back in the day the only way to succeed in printing of materials other than their own was to use a third-party Z-Temp hot-end and temperature controller to adjust which temperature you want for your material. This can now be done in the slicing software itself but it's still nice to be able to adjust temperatures on the fly. They also have a bed heat controller which I don't think can be adjusted. A combination of this along with some brilliant software (G2Z, Raft remover) allows you to remove the raft entirely and replace the perforated bed with a glass one (I have yet to try this, but have seen other's results that look very good)
-Though it is apparently possible to use, I had a lot of trouble printing with extremely soft materials (silk-like filament, apparently flex/semiflex) not being grabbed well by the extruder. The M200 Plus has a redesigned printhead to work with their own semiflex-like, so this will likely not be a problem for you
-Once again, Zortrax software has improved significantly recently, but the support generation on the Zortrax software was a little overenthusiastic on everything but the 'no support' option(Still easy to remove for the most part, but a few pieces were impossible to reach). What I did before the update was to load a model into a different slicing program like Meshmixer, add my own support and export the entire thing as an STL, then load it up in Z-suite and print with 0% support option
-I've yet to see anyone else have this issue, but when printing vertical walls (Specifically the ones found on Thingiverse 'Z.O.D. Terrain Tiles Core Set') the slicer seems to finish it without the very top of them - leaving them open. This may be something wrong with the models and it can be repaired, or it's likely that playing around with print settings would result in the right look
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