Archives December 2020

Elegoo Saturn Review: Is This the Best 3D Printer For You?

Elegoo Saturn Review

It’s incredible how 3D printers have come a long way from as recently as five years ago. Back then, when you say 3D printer, people would think of a costly machine that would take too long to print something. And they wouldn’t be right.

But things have changed. You now have 3D printers that are speedy and can be within budget. But even when they’re affordable, there are no apparent tradeoffs. You still get a quality machine that can deliver eye-catching prints in high resolution.

The Elegoo Saturn is one of these devices. Using masked stereolithography technology, the Elegoo Saturn can deliver speedy print times with decent resolutions. It’s also a printer that offers a big build volume at a price that you would love.

What are the features of the Elegoo Saturn that you should know? And should you buy it? Read on and discover more about this 3D printer.

Monochrome LCD

Elegoo Saturn

If you only need to read one section, then this should be it. Elegoo Saturn is a masked stereolithography 3D printer.

Stereolithography traces its meaning to two Greek words:

  • Stereo, which means solid
  • Lithography, which means writing

Your stereolithography printers are creating objects using light. Probably the best-known types of stereolithography use laser and digital light processing.

  • Laser-based stereolithography uses an ultraviolet laser to create your prints. These lasers are reflected onto the print area, and the light solidifies the resin on a layer per layer basis.
  • DLP stereolithography, on the other hand, projects light onto the resin.
  • Masked stereolithography replaces the laser and projector with an LCD screen.

Benefits of Masked Stereolithography

Masked stereolithography prints your objects faster than a laser SLA printer, especially when you’re printing denser and larger items. What’s more, because these LCD panels are the same ones used for smartphones, availability is not an issue.

They are mass-produced, so LCD panels in these 3D printers cost less too.

Elegoo Saturn Is Faster than Most Other MSLA Printers

If MSLA printers, in general, are faster than laser stereolithography printers. That is because of the technology that allows the printer to print an entire layer of your object as opposed to the piece by piece printing done by lasers.

But because the typical MSLA uses the same LCDs as your smartphones, these colored LCDs have filters to deliver red, green, and blue to your screen. These filters are blocking some of the light that would typically go straight to the resin and cure it.

So when it comes to MSLA printers, monochrome LCDs are not a bad thing. It just means a printer can print your objects a lot faster than most MSLA printers.

And true enough, the Elegoo Saturn has a printing speed of 1.2 inches (30 millimeters) per hour. The monochrome LCD significantly reduces the curing times of the resin because it has a more intense light.

High-Resolution LCD

Not only is the Elegoo Saturn fast, but prints are impressive as well. The 4K screen measures 8.9 inches (226.06 millimeters) with a 3,840 by 2,400 pixels resolution. That is four times the number of pixels compared to 2K screens.

However, because of the huge build size of Elegoo Saturn, its overall X/Y pixel size rests at 50 microns, which is slightly less detailed than the X/Y pixel size of both Mars Pro and Mars.

Design

The Elegoo Saturn’s design draws comparison to the company’s own Mars and Mars Pro printer: Saturn looks the same as Mars and Mars Pro, only bigger.

Saturn’s base measures 11 by 9.4 inches (280 by 240 millimeters) with an all-metal build. It puts the control panel at the front. This touch display measures 3.5 inches (88.9 millimeters), and it is how you interact with the printer.

The USB slot of this printer is located on the right side, fortunately making it more accessible than the USB slot on the Mars that Elegoo put at the back of the machine.

The vat where you put the resin is also larger than the one on Mars and Mars Pro, measuring 7.6 by 4.7 inches (192 by 120 millimeters). Putting in or changing the resin is now easier and less messy because of the pouring aid.

Z-Axis

You will surely be impressed with the Elegoo Saturn’s Z-axis. The lead screw is sandwiched between two linear rails, making it very stable and sturdy.

Notable Features

Elegoo Saturn 3d printer

So what are the features that you should know about the Elegoo Saturn?

  • The 4K monochrome LCD delivers a more intense light source for faster curing times. This LCD panel is much bigger and more durable than the ones you find on Mars and Mars Pro.
  • Dual linear rails provide more stability to the printer.
  • A print resolution of 50 microns means that this printer can deliver bigger prints with the same level of detail as the Elegoo Mars.
  • Two cooling fans help to keep the temperatures low while also helping to make the LCD last longer.
  • The touch display is big enough at 3.5 inches (88.9 millimeters), allowing you to operate the device efficiently.
  • Ethernet connectivity is a technology that allows you to print from your computer and even remotely.
  • The prints will adhere better to the bed because of the sandblasted surface. That means that you’d have less printing errors.

Resin

Elegoo Saturn works with a wide variety of resins. What’s more, the company manufactures and sells its own resins, but you can use third-party products with this printer.

Pricing

With all the nifty features, a sizable print volume, fast printing times, and other attractive benefits, you’d expect to pay a lot for the chance to own an Elegoo Saturn.

However, this printer retails anywhere from $300 to $600, depending on where you look. It is sold on Amazon, as well as other online retailers. But it is always out of stock.

Huge Build Volume

We’ve saved the best for last. What can make an affordable and fast 3D printer even better? A significant build volume, of course.

In this regard, the Elegoo Saturn doesn’t disappoint. It has a build volume of 7.6 by 4.7 by 7.9 inches (192 by 120 by 200 millimeters). These dimensions significantly beat out the Elegoo Mars: Saturn has 3.5 times the print volume of the Elegoo Mars.

Bottom Line

We certainly wish that all companies, no matter what their product is, would be like Elegoo. They have taken an excellent product in the Elegoo Mars and made it better, faster, and bigger.

The company has not disappointed its users with the release of both Elegoo Mars and Mars Pro, and they didn’t start disappointing with the Saturn. With a massive build volume and faster printing times, while keeping the price down and the print resolutions the same, Elegoo has made Saturn the go-to 3D printer for people who like the have professional quality prints without spending too much.

Pros

  • Works really fast and efficiently
  • Breezy and headache-free operations right out of the box
  • Compatible with 405 nm UV-sensitive resins

Cons

  • No resin included

Comparison to other Elegoo 3D the printers

We’ve compared the Saturn with Elegoo’s earlier printers: Mars and Mars Pro. It is easy to see just how the company has improved its offerings over time. The Saturn is bigger and faster than both of its older siblings and yet delivers the same print resolutions as the smaller printers.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of these three printers to make it easier for you to see how the Saturn compares to earlier devices from the same company.

Model Elegoo Saturn Elegoo Mars Pro Elegoo Mars
3.5-inch touchscreen operation Yes Yes Yes
Slicer software Chitu Box Chitu Box ChiTu DLP Slicer
Connectivity USB USB off-line printing USB
Technology LCD UV Photocuring LCD UV Photocuring LED Display Photocuring
UV integrated LED lights Yes Yes Yes
Wavelength 405 nm 405 nm 405 nm
XY Resolution, millimeters 0.05 0.047 0.047
XY pixel resolution 3,840 by 2,400 2,560 by 1,440 2,560 by 1,440
Z-axis accuracy, millimeters 0.00125 0.00125 0.00125
Layer thickness, millimeter 0.01 – 0.15 0.01 – 0.2 0.01 – 0.2
Printing speed, millimeters per hour 30 22.5 22.5
Printer dimensions LWH, inches 11 by 9.4 by 17.6 7.9 by 7.9 by 16.1 7.9 by 7.9 by 16.1
Printer dimensions, centimeters 28 by 24 by 45 20 by 20 by 41 20 by 20 by 41
Build volume, LWH, inches 7.6 by 4.7 by 7.9 4.5 by 2.6 by 5.9 4.7 by 2.7 by 6.1
Build volume, centimeters 19.2 by 12 by 20 4.5 by 2.6 by 5.9 12 by 6.8 by 15.5
Weight, pounds 29.8 16.5 13.7
Weight, kilograms 13.5 7.5 6.2

Alternatives to the Elegoo Saturn?

If you’re not impressed with the Elegoo Saturn, there are other Elegoo printers such as the Mars and Mars Pro that you can look at.

But if you’re looking for a printer from other manufacturers, here are similar 3D printers that we can recommend:

Peopoly Phenom

Peopoly Phenom

The Peopoly Phenom stands out because of the build volume that it offers, something that you cannot find in other resin-based 3D printers. You can easily create tall 3D models that can reach up to 1.6 inches (40 centimeters) high. This printer is one of our recommended alternatives for the Phrozen Transform.

The Peopoly Phenom is an MSLA printer, much like the Elegoo Mars and Saturn. As such, it is also faster than a laser SLA printer because it prints one whole layer at a time.

This printer has a bigger LCD screen, measuring 12.5 inches (317.5 millimeters) with a 4K resolution. It also features an array of fans and a heat sink, which helps keep the 3D printer cool while it is hard at work.

And if you’re opting to buy the Peopoly Phenom, you will want to clear out a lot of space on your desk. This 3D printer is huge, measuring 17.8 by 14.3 by 30.7 inches (452 by 364 by 780 millimeters). It weighs 92.5 pounds (42 kilograms).

The color touchscreen, which is the 3D printer’s user interface, measures 4.3 inches (109.2 millimeters). It is big enough to operate the printer efficiently, and it comes with all the information you need. You can know the printing time, a live visualization of the layers being printed, and the total number of layers.

Features of the Peopoly Phenom

Other interesting things that you should know about this huge 3D printer include:

  • USB and Ethernet connectivity
  • Quick setup
  • A resolution of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels, or 72 microns
  • Uses the ChiTuBox slicer

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 17.8 by 14.3 by 30.7 inches (452 by 364 by 780 millimeters)
  • Weight: 92.5 pounds (42 kilograms)
  • Build Size: 10.9 by 6.1 by 15.7 inches (276 by 155 by 400 millimeters)
  • LCD: 12.5 inches (317.5 millimeters) 4K color LCD
  • Pixel Resolution: 3,840 by 2,160 pixels
  • XY Resolution: 72 microns
  • Manual bed leveling
  • Vat can hold 1.8 kilograms of resin
  • Touchscreen: 4.3 inches (109.2 millimeters)
  • Connectivity: USB, Ethernet
  • No resin sensor or camera

Pros

  • Big build volume
  • Bed leveling is a breeze
  • Very responsive user interface

Cons

  • Prints sometimes do not adhere to the bed, which results in printing errors
  • Can be very loud
  • There are no fill indicators

Phrozen Sonic Mini

phrozen sonic mini

The Phrozen Sonic Mini features a monochrome LCD like the Elegoo Saturn, which means that it prints faster than other SLA printers out there. The Sonic Mini is one of our choices for the best 3D SLA printer for 2020.

The thing with the Sonic Mini is that it is very affordable. This printer was introduced and sold for less than $200. But because of its performance and printing speed, prices increased over time.

Some of the features you should know include:

  • Monochrome LCD: Gives you fast printing times because the resin is exposed to more intense light, and you get an entire layer being printed.
  • XY resolution of 62 microns
  • Uses ChiTu board and ChiTuBox software, which is a breeze to use when you’re preparing your model
  • Affordable price, at around $200 to $300

Before You Buy

With the super-fast printing speed at a very low price, the Phrozen Sonic Mini does have a few tradeoffs. For one, the printer’s outer shell is made of molded plastic, not metal.

The resin vat is also plastic. What is more, this printer may use the same monochrome LCD as the Elegoo Saturn, but it has a much smaller build volume at only 4.7 by 2.7 by 5.1 inches (120 by 68 by 130 millimeters).

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 9.8 by 9.8 by 13 inches (250 by 250 by 330 millimeters)
  • Weight: 9.9 pounds (4.5 kilograms)
  • Technology: LCD-based masked stereolithography
  • Monochrome LCD: Measures 5.5 inches (139.7 millimeters) with resolutions of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels
  • Light source: ParaLED 2.0 Lite, 405 nm
  • Build volume: only 4.7 by 2.7 by 5.1 inches (120 by 68 by 130 millimeters)
  • Z-layer resolution: 10 microns
  • XY resolution: 62 microns
  • Touchscreen display: IPS measuring 2.8 inches (71.12 millimeters)
  • Connectivity: USB

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Straightforward operation
  • Faster than most 3D printers

Cons

  • The USB port is difficult to reach
  • Small print volume

Photon Mono SE

anycubic photon mono se

The Photon Mono SE comes from Anycubic, another reputable manufacturer of 3D printers. The Photon Mono SE uses a monochrome LCD to cure the resins for your 3D objects. And like the Elegoo Saturn, you can expect fast printing times with this 3D printer.

The monochrome LCD screen measures six inches with resolutions of 2,560 by 1,620 pixels with an XY-resolution of 51 microns. It is not the most precise 3D printer available today, but the print quality is still good.

The Photon Mono SE has a build volume of 5.1 by 3.1 by 6.3 inches (130 by 78 by 160 millimeters). That is more than the Phrozen Sonic Mini, and the Elegoo Mars Pro can give you.

This 3D printer has an upward opening door, which might present a problem when you’re refilling the resin. It uses two linear rails for its Z-axis, while its shell is made with metal. These materials make the printer more stable.

Features You Should Know

The Anycubic Photon Mono SE has several features that can help you decide whether to buy it or not.

  • You can use the Anycubic App to see how far along your printing job is going, as well as tweak the print settings even without going close to the printer.
  • The printing platform is made with brushed aluminum
  • Responsive and intuitive user interface
  • Affordable, selling for anywhere from $320 to $420
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Specifications

  • Dimensions: 7.9 by 7.9 by 15.7 inches (220 by 200 by 400 millimeters)
  • Build volume: 5.1 by 3.1 by 6.3 inches (130 by 78 by 160 millimeters)
  • Weight: 18.1 pounds (8.2 kilograms)
  • Touch display: 3.5 inches (88.9 millimeters)
  • Connectivity : USB
  • Light source: high-quality filament
  • Light source wavelength: 405nm
  • XY resolutions: 0.05 millimeters
  • Pixel resolution: 2,560 by 1,620 pixels
  • Printing speed: 3.1 inches (80 millimeters) per hour

FAQs

Question: What is the big deal with bigger build volumes anyway?

Answer: A lot of 3D printing enthusiasts will tell you to get a printer with a significant build volume. There are many benefits of owning one.

Print Bigger Pieces:
You get to print the 3D model in its entirety. A big build volume allows you to print your models in one piece, rather than printing it in parts and then assembling them afterward.

Not only does printing and assembling more parts take time, but it also costs more. What’s more, if you have to work with a smaller printer, you will lose details in the 3D model because you are forced to scale everything down.

Batch Printing
When you have a bigger build volume, you can have more pieces when you print in batches. For instance, you can easily print ten small 3D models with a printer that has a massive build volume as opposed to only three to five in smaller printers.

In effect, you save a lot of time and resources with a bigger build volume because you no longer have to do a lot of batches.

Question: What are the benefits of MSLA printers?

Answer: We have touched on how MSLA printers cost less and print faster than other types of stereolithography printers.

But there are more benefits to owning an MSLA printer like the Elgoo Saturn:

• It can produce more accurate parts, as well as include more details than other types of 3D printers.
• It has a smooth finish, so you can create stunning prototypes without spending a plot of time post-processing.
• There are many specialty resins available not just for MSLA printers but also for other types of SLA printers. You can get castable and flexible resins if you need them.
• There are some interesting things that you should know about SLA printers, as well.

These are what you might call the downsides of owning one:

• SLA Printer parts are less durable than those printed with other types of 3D Printers, such as those that use fused deposition modeling technology. As such, if you ar printing functional parts, it is best to avoid doing so with an SLA printer.
• SLA prints are vulnerable to sunlight. As such, these parts will change, deteriorate, and degrade over time.
• When printing with an SLA printer, you typically need strong supports. This process might add to post-processing time and work.

Should You Buy the Elegoo Saturn?

When it comes to affordable 3D printers, the Elegoo Saturn ticks a lot of boxes. Aside from the attractive price, you also get a printer that has a massive build volume, allowing you to get prints that measure 282 cubic inches (4,624 cubic centimeters).

It uses one of the newest technologies, MSLA, with a monochrome LCD that allows it to cure resins in two seconds and print up to slightly more than an inch (30 millimeters) per hour.

So while the Elegoo Saturn can be hefty and heavy, it’s really a difficult printer to pass up. However, it’s not always available and can be out of stock at several retailers, including the company’s own online store. Fortunately, there are alternatives that you can find.

If you want something with a bigger build volume, you can go for the Peopoly Phenom. This printer can give you a build volume of 1,043.9 cubic inches (17,106.3 cubic centimeters) and almost twice the maximum height. But you might be turned off by the price, which is more than six times that of Elegoo Saturn at $2,000.

If you’re working within a smaller budget, both the Phrozen Sonic Mini and the Photon Mono SE are closer to the Elegoo Saturn when it comes to pricing. Both of these printers use monochrome LCD and can deliver fast printing times. But both have smaller build volumes than what’s offered by Elegoo Saturn.

The Final Word on the Elegoo Saturn

The Elegoo Saturn is one of those 3D printers that gives you what you want: fast printing times, huge build volumes, and 4K clear printing resolutions. It also helps that the manufacturer doesn’t scrimp on the materials, giving you a sturdy, durable, and stable printer. Plus, it will not cost the buyer an arm and a leg to own this device.

It’s hard to go wrong with such a 3D printer, and we don’t have problems recommending it at all, if only Elegoo manufactured more of them, as it’s almost always out of stock.

How to Find the Best 3D Printer Build Plate

Best 3D Printer Build Plate

With all of the features of 3D printers, you may overlook the bed as one of the most important. However, you might want to think again. It can be the most noteworthy feature on your print quality, and it can define how easy it is to remove your print when it’s done.

While print beds come in many different materials, with various thermal characteristics, and at other price points, the whole point of the built plate is to offer a flat surface where the bottom layer of your print can rest.

It also provides an adhesive surface to which your print can adhere. The plastic extruded from the print head should form a temporary bond with the build plate without sliding around. This ensures that the print is built precisely.

If the build plate itself does not have an adhesive layer, it should provide a surface to which an adhesive layer can be applied.

Luckily, there are a lot of different options for build plates. Each has its own unique properties. Some 3D printers come with really fantastic build plates, and sometimes you need to buy your own and install it on top of your stock build plate.

Why a Build Plate is Important

buildplate

The first layer of your print is the most important. As your first layer goes down on the build plate, it needs to adhere correctly. If the first layer moves, the additional layers won’t line up correctly, and your final project won’t look the way it’s supposed to look.

You’ll find plenty of resources online to tell you why the first layer is the most important and why your build plate is the most critical feature of your 3D printer. If your first layer fails, the rest of your print will fail as well. Your first layer is a good indicator of the quality of the rest of your print. So, you can probably tell that the build plate is essential.

You simply can’t build without a build plate and how well the first layer gets created depends entirely on the build plate’s characteristics.

These characteristics include thermal variations, flexible materials, and many different price points. But it’s also important to remember that there are other factors to successful printing, like printing temperature and extruder height, just to name a couple.

To get the best accuracy, you have to tweak multiple settings until you get it just right, and it will be different for every job.

It also doesn’t mean you need to buy the 3D printer that comes with the best build plate. While some 3D printers come with really fantastic build plates, you can also purchase aftermarket build plates or use other adhesive solutions that will make your build plate function better.

Best Build Plate Surfaces

There are a lot of really great choices for build plate surfaces. What you choose will depend on what you need. As 3D printing has evolved, there’s been a lot of research into the area of build plates and adhesion.

Here are some of the most popular choices and why they’re great.

Glass

Glass is one of the most popular building surfaces because it’s simple. A glass sheet is an easy solution for most printers. It’s stiff and flat, so it won’t warp over time, meaning it’s a great long term solution that will only cost you a one-time fee upfront.

It’s a great solid surface that’s dense with low thermal conductivity. It takes longer to heat up than other materials, but it will spread the heat more evenly across the entire surface. Varieties include borosilicate glass sheets and mirror tiles.

glass buildplate

Most people pair their glass sheets with the painter’s tape, hairspray, or a glue stick to get the adhesion they need for the bottom layer and avoid delamination during printing. If you use hairspray or a glue stick, your print will likely have an incredibly smooth finish on the bottom.

You can also use adhesive stickers like PEI sheets or BuildTak with glass, which we’ll get to in a minute.

The main downfall of using glass is that it’s incredibly fragile, which means you have to use care when removing your print from the bed. It’s not flexible, so manually separating your print from the bed must be done very carefully to avoid breaking either.

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Anycubic Ultrabase

The Anycubic Ultrabase is also made of glass, but it contains nanoparticles on its surface that give it a few extra features, making it easier to use. The print will cling to the build plate while it’s hot, but the plate will release the object once it cools.

Because the Ultrabase is made of glass, it retains all of the same great properties like conductivity, flatness, and stiffness. Unfortunately, the bottom of your prints won’t have the same smooth finish. They’ll be slightly porous, which is what helps them release so easily.

Anycubic Ultrabase

You also can’t use any additional adhesive solutions like hairspray, glue, or Buildtak because it could damage the nanoparticles. However, you wouldn’t want or need to use these solutions because the Ultrabase is already adhesive enough.

Damaging the nanoparticles would result in a typical piece of glass that could still be used as a build plate, but you’ve just paid a premium for a regular piece of glass.

One downside to the Ultrabase is that this built-in adhesive does wear out over time and can be damaged from improper use. You will eventually have to replace it, which becomes costly for those who print a lot.

For those who want the ease of adhesion without the need for additional tools like hairspray as well as easy removal without damage to the glass, this is definitely worth the investment.

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BuildTak FlexPlate

This build plate system originally came with the Prusa i3 MK3, but now you can add it to almost any 3D printer. The BuildTak FlexPlate is a unique system that allows you to snap your prints off the bed just by flexing the bed.

It’s made of magnets along with a removable spring plate that’s made of steel. All you do is remove the build plate surface, which is interchangeable, and flex the steel to pop your print off of the surface.

BuildTak FlexPlate

This allows for faster printing, assuming you have multiple print plates that you can put in its place. It’s common in production environments where many prints need to be made in succession.

The FlexPlate is made to be used with BuildTak adhesive stickers or with PEI, but you can also use other brands of adhesive stickers as well as painter’s tape. However, you probably shouldn’t risk using hairspray or a glue stick directly on the spring steel.

It’s also not recommended to print directly on the build plate surface, which may inconvenience some who just want to put the build plate in place and go.

The FlexPlate does need to be installed on a perfectly flat surface, like glass. If it’s not, your printer needs to have a mesh leveling system, and the surface needs to be flat. Without a flat surface, likely, your prints won’t stick well to the bed, which will cause warping.

BuildTak Printing Build Surface
$50.35 ($16.78 / BuildTak Sheet)
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Easy-Peelzy

The Easy-Peelzy is another solution for those who want a removable, flexible build plate. It’s similar to the FlexPlate. It has a flexible magnetic sheet that you can peel off of the magnetic base. Once that’s done, you can peel it off of the bottom of your prints.

This system is very kid-friendly, so it’s a popular system among schools and 3D printers meant for kids. There are no tools involved with removing prints, and there are no sharp edges, spring steel, fragile build plates, or heavy objects.

Easy-Peelzy 3D Printer Build Plate

The built-in surface is similar to BuildTak in that it doesn’t require any additional adhesive help like hairspray or a glue stick. It’s also not advised that you use painter’s tape or anything else to avoid damage to the surface. It’s meant to be adhesive but easy to peel.

However, it’s also similar in that it must be installed on a completely flat surface, like a glass build plate, or it will cause warping. It also shares the same problem as the Anycubic Ultrabase in that it will wear out over time and can be damaged if it’s used incorrectly.

This can be costly over time, but it’s still the best solution by far for those who are just starting in the world of 3D printing or who want a safe and effective solution for children who will be using the 3D printer.

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Polypropylene

You can use polypropylene sheets, and it’s another common solution because they offer good adhesion for an affordable price. You don’t need to use additional adhesive solutions on top of these sheets either.

These sheets are durable with proper care, and they won’t wear out as quickly as things like the BuildTak or other stickers. They’re almost as smooth as glass, and you’ll get a very smooth finish on the bottom of your print.

Mamorubot Polypropylene Build Plate

It acts much like the Ultrabase, and your prints will stick well when it’s hot but release easily after it’s cool. You can also clean the surface quickly with water or alcohol, which means maintenance of polypropylene is a breeze.

You can use build surface stickers with polypropylene, and they’ll work reasonably well, but they’re not necessary. It almost seems as if there are no downsides to using this solution at all.

Unfortunately, there’s always something. Many people report that these sheets scratch very easily if they’re not cared for properly, and they warp over time, so they don’t stay as flat as glass for as long. They’ll need to be replaced. Luckily, you can afford to do so.

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Aluminum

This is the most common 3D printing surface after glass. It’s a conductive metal, which means your print bed will reach the appropriate level of heat and distribute it uniformly throughout.

However, it’s also susceptible to expansion under higher temperatures, which can cause warping or poor adhesion in your first layer.

Even still, aluminum is used so widely because it can withstand the rough removal of prints from the bed. It’s an affordable option and can take a lot of wear and tear before needing to be replaced.

It’s one of the best and most affordable options for distributing heat evenly, especially when it comes to uniform adhesion at the first layer, as long as it doesn’t get too hot.

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Heated vs Non-Heated Beds

Now that you have a better idea of which materials may be right for you, it’s time to look at whether or not you should be using a heated bed or a non-heated bed for all of your 3D printing.

Most 3D printers on the market today come with a heated bed. While a heated bed definitely gives you some distinct advantages, it’s not always necessary. And there’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all solution.

3d printer heated bed

Whether or not you need a heated bed depends on how you’re using the machine.

Advantages of a heated bed

The primary advantage of a heated bed is to prevent warping at the first layer. We all know that even adhesion at the first layer is critical to establishing a firm foundation for the rest of the print’s quality.

Without this first layer, the rest of the print would fail. It helps to maintain uniform heating of the material and eliminate uneven cooling problems when the job is finished.

The print bed’s temperature is based on the melting point of the material you are using, so it will vary from one filament to the next. This factor will help you determine what kind of bed you need.

Some beds can be heated to higher temperatures than others, so be aware of the filaments you’re using before you determine what kind of build plate to buy.

Disadvantages of a heated bed

The one drawback to a 3D printer with a heated bed is that it consumes a lot of power. If you don’t need a heated bed, you may reconsider getting one. It can cost a lot of money to power this machine.

You’ll pay extra in your monthly bills, plus you may have to install an enclosure to keep your components hot. It’s not worth the extra hassle if you don’t need it.

Filaments like PLA don’t need a heated bed at all, so if that’s all you plan to print with, you don’t need to worry about it. However, more complex materials like ABS do. If you plan to print with multiple materials in the long run, get the heated bed now, so you don’t end up spending more money later.

If you don’t get a heated bed, your creation will be limited, which may be acceptable in the near term, but you’ll regret it once you start expanding your horizons, and you’ll wish you would have gotten a 3D printer to grow with you.

Bed Additives

Not only do you need to decide on a build plate and whether you want to heat it or not, but you also need to consider whether or not you want to use any bed additives. You don’t always have to enhance your adhesion, but you can, and sometimes you may need to.

Easy-Peelzy 3D Printer Build Plate

Glue sticks

Hearkening back to the days of elementary school supply shopping, you may remember the cheap, washable glue sticks your mom bought. They didn’t exactly work well on paper, and your third-grade art project fell apart by the time you turned it in, but they work great here.

They’re a simple favorite when it comes to attaching the first layer of a print job to your build plate. They’re washable, so you can apply them directly to the print surface and then wipe them off later with water.

They’re affordable, so you will have to go through a lot of glue sticks before you ever pay for a fancy Anycubic Ultrabase.

Spread the glue evenly over a glass or aluminum build plate, and you’ll experience perfect adhesion at the first layer with little to no effort. Your finish will be just as smooth as glass.

Hairspray

Hairspray is virtually the same as a glue stick. It works with most of your standard materials and filaments. Spray it on in an even layer, and you’ll get great adhesion and a smooth finish. Aquanet isn’t just for your grandma anymore.

Unfortunately, it can get smelly, and it can also be a little bit harder to clean than a glue stick. It also doesn’t work well with polycarbonate or ABS. It makes those materials more susceptible to warping.

Aqua Net Hair Spray (Unscented)
$12.08 ($0.55 / Ounce)
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Painter’s tape

Applying painter’s tape to a glass or aluminum build plate offers a rough surface for your first layer to grab onto. It’s like the tread on your tires providing traction. Your first layer will hold firmly to the bed, and it can help prevent warping.

One problem with painter’s tape is that you may find small amounts of curing at the corners, but you won’t be able to see them unless you look closely. The surface finish also won’t be as smooth as it will with a glue stick or hairspray.

PEI

PEI has a rougher surface than painter’s tape so that it can offer even more traction for your materials. There are more bumps for your filaments to hold onto. You can use it with materials that require a heated bed, the prints are easy to remove, and you’ll notice little to no warping.

Of course, as you can probably imagine, your surface finish will be very rough.

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FAQs

Question: What is the best surface to 3D Print on?

Answer: The most popular 3D Print bed material by far is glass. It’s simply the easiest solution for most people. Because it’s stiff, it won’t warp. It’s solid and flat, so your prints will always have a smooth surface.

It may be fragile, but as long as you treat your glass bed with care, you’ll get great life out of this solution and likely never have to replace it. For the best adhesion, use glue sticks or hairspray.

Question: Why is my 3D Print not sticking to the bed?

Answer: There could be a lot of reasons why your print isn’t sticking to the bed. Don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that you’re not using the right type of bed or the right type of adhesive.

Instead, make sure you have it set at the ideal temperature for your print material. If it’s not too cold, the material won’t adhere. If it’s too hot, the material will soften too much and peel right off.

You can also try switching up your adhesive technique. If you’re using hairspray, switch to a glue stick, or vice versa. Coat your build surface with a thin, even layer and try again.

If neither of those things works, try a thorough cleaning of your print bed surface. Water or rubbing alcohol can go a long way to ensuring that you have removed any dust you can’t see that could be interfering with your adhesion.

Question: What kind of tape is used for 3D Printing?

Answer: If you’ve decided to go the painter’s tape route for adhesion on your print bed, most users go with Gizmo Dorks blue painter’s tape. It’s affordable, and it works the best. Both PLA and ABS stick well to this type of tape. It offers strong adhesion and it’s easy to remove later on.

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Final Thoughts

Because the first layer is so important for successful printing overall, your build plate is one of the most essential features of your 3D printer. Ensuring you have a great print bed will set you up for achieving your 3D printing goals from the start.

It will ensure reliable adhesion, prevent warping, and can go farther in guaranteeing that your entire print will not have any deformities.

A heated print bed increases the number of filament types with which you can print, and a glass print bed will give you the most versatile and long-lasting solution. Although you may need to be prepared to use additional adhesives, it’s one of the most popular choices.

There are many other options out there for specific needs, so make sure you do your research before making your decision. You’ll get the best, most accurate results if you know your options and know what you need before you buy!

Hatchbox Filament Review: How Good is This 3D Printer Filament?

If you need filament for your 3D printer, then our Hatchbox Filament review will give you everything you need to know. Hatchbox is a Californian based company however the filament itself is manufactured in China.

They have been around since 2013 so they aren’t exactly new to the market and have built up a loyal following. This includes 3D printer enthusiasts and businesses who need filament for 3D printers in various price ranges.

By the end of this review you’ll know all about Hatchbox filament including its different features, how it performs when printing, its pros and cons and also what alternatives are out there.

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Key specifications of Hatchbox PLA Filament

Find the specifications for the Hatchbox PLA filament below.

Filament size 1.75mm and 3mm
Material Polylactic Acid
Recommended Extrusion/Nozzle Temperature 180°C – 220°C
Spool Diameter 7.88 inches
Spool Width: 2.69 inches
Spool Hub Hole Diameter 2.20 inches
Warranty 30-Day Satisfaction guarantee
Latest price Click here find the latest price

Core features of Hatchbox PLA Filament

hatchox pla filament

There are a number of different Hatchbox filaments that you can buy for your 3D printer and we are going to focus on one of the most common – PLA.

Whether you need filament for plastic prints, wood, or even other materials, you should be able to find a Hatchbox branded filament to do the job. There are many different features of Hatchbox filament so let’s dive into the specific features for the PLA filament.

Types 

Affordable

One of the biggest selling points with Hatchbox PLA filament is that it is very affordable when compared to many other filaments on the market.

You won’t need to splash out a ton of money to get a hold of PLA filament from Hatchbox. This is especially good for 3D printing home users who perhaps don’t have a ton of money to spend on the filament. 3D printers can be very affordable however for some people it can still represent a fairly large cost.

By being able to get good quality PLA filament for a low price, it cuts down on the overall price of using your 3D printer. It also means you can print off more objects and use more filament without incurring large costs.

Smooth finish

A testament to the good quality of Hatchbox PLA filament is that it gives smooth finishes to your 3D prints.

It is clog-free which means that there won’t be any air bubble or clogs in the final print. This gives off a nice and professional finish. This filament also gives off a glossy color to your objects. Overall the quality of the filament when in use and also when it is crafted in different 3D objects is very high.

Variety of different colors

Another feature of using Hatchbox PLA filament is that it comes in a wide variety of different colors. This is especially useful if you need to print different objects with several color schemes.

Multi-color 3D printers are becoming more popular as their affordability is rising and the quality for the everyday user is getting better as well. Hatchbox PLA filament comes in a variety of different colors from black to green, white to yellow and you’ll find some great shades in there too such as copper.

If you need a certain color for your 3D printing ventures, you’ll find a Hatchbox PLA filament to do the job.

Works with most 3D printers

Hatchbox PLA filament is available in both 1.75mm and 3mm this means that it will work with the vast majority of 3D printers.

Most 3D printers that are aimed at enthusiasts and small businesses as well as some larger units will use either 1.75mm or 3mm filament which means Hatchbox PLA will be compatible with your 3D printer.

You won’t need to worry about this filament not working with your 3D printer. While some 3D printer manufacturers require you to use their own filament, this isn’t the case with most models.

Moisture-proof

If you live in a humid climate then you will know that moisture can be very troublesome when using and storing filament. It is also a problem in certain workspaces.

Hatchbox PLA is fairly moisture-proof (not completely) and it won’t absorb a lot of moisture. It comes vacuum sealed for added protection as well. One thing to mention with this filament is that the bag that the filament comes in isn’t resealable.

You’ll need to get a dry box or something else that is properly sealed to store it once you open the pack for the first time. That being said, compared to some other filaments it has very good moisture-proof qualities, and when you consider the price it is a great feature that you often find in high-end models.

The spool is well designed

A well documented flaw with Hatchbox spools was that the center hole used to be too small. It only measured 1.25 inches which wasn’t big enough. This meant that you had to 3D print a spool holder or buy one if you wanted to use Hatchbox filament in many 3D printers.

However, this has been updated so the hole now measures around 2.2 inches which means you don’t need to print off a special holder. This is a big upgrade and one that will make your life a lot easier when using Hatchbox PLA.

The spool overall is well designed and it is sturdy as well. It doesn’t have a lot of tightness so the filament can run evenly and smoothly and you shouldn’t come across any filament tangles when using it.

How does Hatchbox PLA Filament perform?

pla filament

When you consider that Hatchbox PLA filament is pretty compared to many other filaments on the market, you might be tempted to think that it is below average. Some cheap filaments don’t perform well at all.

So, what about PLA from Hatchbox?

We have found that it performs really well. When we put it to the famous 3D Benchy test, our models came out really well. There wasn’t any warping and the overall printing process was pretty seamless.

Even with more intricate and differently shaped models, we didn’t come across any noticeable or major issues when using this filament. It offers high quality and a smooth finish and the absence of blemishes or warping is a big bonus. In fact, we’d say it compares to some of the more expensive filaments out there.

All in all, the Hatchbox PLA filament performs very well indeed.

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Pros of Hatchbox PLA filament

There is a lot to like about Hatchbox filament, here are the best bits.

New spool design

The previous issues with the spools from Hatchbox didn’t completely put us off using it – it was just a hassle having to print off or buy a special spool holder.

The new design with a bigger center hole is a major plus. The overall design also allows the filament to flow smoothly and evenly without encountering any tangling or problems.

Variety of colors

If you need a specific color for your 3D printers or you need several colors to use on a multi-color 3D printer, you’ll find what you need with Hatchbox PLA.

There are a wide variety of different colors with this filament and it is easy to find what you are looking for. Rather than just printing off 3D models in boring monotone colors, with this PLA you can really make some bright and colorful prints.

Very affordable

Some filament brands can be pretty expensive and the higher price does not also represent a jump in quality.

With Hatchbox PLA filament you are not only getting filament that does offer high-quality finishes but the actual cost is low as well. This benefits everyone but especially home users who may be on a tight budget.

Compatible with most 3D printers

As this filament comes in both 1.75mm and 3mm varieties you will be able to use it on the vast majority of FDM 3D printers. If you have an inexpensive 3D printer that you use at home or if you have a more expensive model that you operate for business purposes, Hatchbox PLA filament should work on your printer.

Fairly moisture proof

While the filament won’t completely moisture-proof, it doesn’t absorb a great deal either. This is handy if you live in a humid environment and it can spoil the filament fairly easily if you don’t store it properly. The fact that it has a low moisture absorption constructed is an advantage.

Cons of Hatchbox PLA filament

Before we have a look at some alternative filaments, there are a few cons of using Hatchbox PLA.

The bag isn’t resealable

The bag that the filament comes in isn’t resealable. It is reasonably moisture-proof however you still need to store it properly. This means you’ll need a dry box or something else which is sealed.

It isn’t a massive drawback but we would have liked a resealable bag. It is a fairly simple thing that would make a big difference in how we view this filament.

Support isn’t the best

There aren’t a ton of different ways in which you can contact Hatchbox if you have any issues. They do have a short contact form on their website.

We found that contacting them to be a bit difficult in terms of getting a response and it is something that could definitely be improved upon. They aren’t the worst to get in contact with but it could certainly be a lot better.

Are there any alternatives?

Makerbot PLA Filament

If you don’t want to use Hatchbox PLA filament, an alternative is to use Makerbot PLA filament.

makerbot pla filament

This is another high quality filament that is going to get you really good printed jobs with little to no blemishes.

It is slightly higher priced than the PLA from Hatchbox however it is still very affordable.

You’ll also find this filament in a number of colors as well which is ideal if you want to use it for multicolor printing.

The Makerbot PLA filament is great for printing off objects especially if you have a Makerbot printer and it represents a good alternative to Hatchbox PLA.

OVERTURE PLA Filament

Another filament to consider which also isn’t going to break the bank is the OVERTURE PLA Filament.

OVERTURE PLA Filament

It comes in a wide variety of different colors from black to red to green and many more too. You’ll find a shade that will suit what you need with this filament.

It comes in 1.75mm as well and will fit the vast majority of FDM 3D printers which is handy as well.

Its clog and bubble-free construction mean that you will be able to get high-quality prints with this filament and it isn’t expensive either.

It is in and around the same price as the Hatchbox PLA filament so it’s definitely in the affordable category.

All in all the OVERTURE PLA Filament is pretty decent, offers good quality and reliable prints, and isn’t going to cost a lot of money either.

FAQs

Question: What filament sizes for Hatchbox PLA filament come in?

Answer: Hatchbox PLA filament comes in both 1.75mm and 3mm filament sizes. This means that it will fit and can be used in the vast majority of FDM 3D printers especially those used by home users and small businesses. Some 3D printers may only be able to use filament from the same manufacturer, so make sure that you check this out first.

Question: What is the recommended printer temperature when using Hatchbox PLA filament?

Answer: The recommended printing temperature with Hatchbox PLA filament is 180°C – 220°C. The bed temperature should be around 60°C as well.

Question: Is Hatchbox PLA filament good quality?

Answer: Yes. Even though this is very much an affordable filament it still prints off objects in high quality with little to no blemishes or imperfections. When we tested the Hatchbox PLA filament we found that our objects came out very well indeed and it represents good value for money.

Question: Can I get Hatchbox PLA filament in different colors?

Answer: Yes. Hatchbox PLA filament comes in a variety of different colors including black, green, white and yellow right through to more unique color schemes such as copper. You should be able to find the shape you are looking for when printing in different colors or using a multi-color printer.

Question: Can I paint over objects after being printed with Hatchbox PLA filament?

Answer: Yes. When your 3D object has been printed using Hatchbox PLA filament, you can paint it if you wish. We would recommend using acrylic paint rather than oil based paints. If you are using a paint that is oil based, test it out on a scrap piece of PLA first to see how it responds.

Question: Do I need to print off a spool holder to use with Hatchbox PLA filament?

Answer: No. The spool has been upgraded recently with a bigger centre hole. Previously you would need to print off a spool holder in order to use Hatchbox filament effectively however the new design means you don’t need to do this anymore.

Final thoughts

When it comes to using filament on your 3D printer, there are a lot of options out there. While some 3D printers will only use filament from that manufacturer, the majority will be compatible for 3rd party filament.

Hatchbox PLA filament works in most FDM 3D printers.

There is a lot to like about this filament and to be honest there isn’t much we didn’t like about it. That being said, there are a few things to remind you about.

The fact it doesn’t come with a resealable bag is one downside that we think would be a fairly easy thing to fix and would make this filament even better.

Storing it isn’t hard but having a resealable bag is a small thing that would make a big improvement. OK, their support could do with being a bit better as well but these are small niggles with an otherwise great filament.

This PLA filament from Hatchbox is cheap and affordable but that doesn’t mean it isn’t of good quality. Any of the prints that we put this PLA filament to the test with came out really well. There were no clogs or bubbles and it is easy to use.

The upgraded spool is a nice addition and it means you don’t need to print off a spool holder which is a big bonus. This is definitely somewhere they have improved upon in recent years. We also really liked the different colors that you can buy with this filament and it works well in humid climates too.

Overall the Hatchbox PLA filament is a very good filament indeed. It comes in 1.75mm and 3mm varieties, works with most 3D printers and for the price it offers great value for money as well.

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6 Best Sketchup Alternatives in 2021 You’ll Love

The thing with 3D modeling programs is that there’s one or two that’s perfect for you. You can have a lot of options when you’re looking for the best one.

A lot of people will suggest Sketchup, but what if you’re not entirely sold on this program just yet?

The good news is that you have fairly competitive alternatives in:

  • Art of Illusion
  • Fusion 360
  • Autodesk Inventor
  • Rhino 3D
  • Tinkercad
  • Blender

What should you know about all of these Sketchup competitors? And should you stick with Sketchup, or are they better?

What Is Sketchup?

sketchup

Sketchup is one of the most intuitive computer-aided design software that can help you create two- and three-dimensional sketches with ease. This software was once known as Google Sketchup.

It comes with a variety of features and tools that you can use to create your models. Plus there are no steep learning curves when using Sketchup. Using the program is very much like using a pen and paper to draw your designs. What features should you know?

  • Push and Pull, helps you convert flat surfaces into 3D objects just by clicking and then pulling on it to make it look how you want it to appear
  • Access to a vast database of pre-made models that you can down and use, eliminating the need to create from scratch
  • If there are functionalities that you are missing, then you can use a third-party plugin that can serve the purpose
  • You also have customizable palettes that allow you to rearrange, remove, or add palettes to make it easier for you to find things
  • Sketchup also uses icons rather than feature lists that most other CAD software have
  • A free version is available, while the paid versions can cost you $119 annually for personal projects and $299 for the Pro version
  • Overall, Sketchup is known for how easy it is to use, from having a very intuitive user interface to user-friendly features and tools. It’s also known for its rendering capabilities that are native to the program, the plugins that make it more useful and powerful, and the free option.

So if you’re not sold with Sketchup, what are the alternatives that you should be looking at?

1. Art of Illusion

art of illusion

Art of Illusion is a 3D rendering and modeling program that has capabilities that are on par with other software. The biggest difference is that Art of Illusion is free to use.

The open-source program is very powerful and can be used even by serious illustrators, designers, and other professionals for their work. Beginners, on the other hand, will like the surface-based modeling features. These tools are very easy to use and understand.

As you advance in your skills, you will like the advanced tools, such as those for creating textures and animation. This program can also give you easy 3D renderings as well as an extensive range of lighting options. You can do primitive modeling and 3D sculpting to create your objects.

What’s more, the user interface is fully customizable. This feature is a big plus for beginners, as well as the help files they offer. the tools have contextual help as well as detailed explanations of what each tool does.

If you’re ready to dip your hands into 3D modeling, you can start with the software’s tutorial on how to create an hourglass. Plus it works on just about any operating system, including macOS, Windows, Linux, Unix, and others. The source code is also available.

Art of Illusion also has its Plug-in Manager feature that allows you to download and use plug-ins and scripts that allows you to extend the program’s functionality.

Art of Illusion: Bottom Line

Overall, Art of Illusion can help you come up with some high-end animations and 3D models. You can customize the user interface, expand its features and functionality, and not only is it easy to use, but it also offers a lot of help. And you get to enjoy all that for free.

2. Fusion 360

fusion 360

If you’re looking for an alternative to Sketchup because you need something more powerful, then look at Fusion 360. This software has more capabilities such as animation, simulation, and 3D rendering features that are not found in Sketchup.

You can even use Fusion 360 for computer-aided manufacturing. It comes from Autodesk and uses parametric modeling techniques.

You can also use Fusion 360 for slicing your 3D models for printing. The software is free for hobbyists, students, and educators. Startups can also use this program for free, provided that they don’t earn more than $100,000 a year. If you don’t fall into these categories of users, you will need to pay $60 per month to use Fusion 360.

Fusion 360: The Skinny

You will love how Fusion 360 allows you to design 3D objects and slice them without using another program. This software is an excellent choice for those that need precise 3D models and even the free version is fully-featured.

However, Fusion 360 is only available on Mac and Windows machines. Plus the interface is not that user friendly. What’s more, Fusion 360 might be powerful for those who like to do technical or mechanical designs, but it’s not the best when it comes to 3D rendering.

Fusion 360 can also get very slow if you have a bad Internet connection. It can also drain your device’s memory.

3. Autodesk Inventor

autodesk

Autodesk Inventor is very much like Fusion 360, but this program is made for professionals and those people who may have complex projects that they need to handle efficiently. Inventor is largely for industry users.

Needless to say, this program suffers from a steep learning curve, often requiring users to have some knowledge in engineering. But if you’re looking for a powerful CAD program that can adequately handle both 2D and 3D designs, then this is probably your best choice.

With Autodesk Inventor, you can do computer-aided design and engineering. You can also perform manufacturing and simulation, as well as other tasks. Inventor is best known for its tools that allow you to design parts and assembly.

With the current version of Inventor, you now have a cleaner and mobile-friendly user interface, a good number of modeling tools that you can see on Fusion 360, and more.

What You Should Know About Autodesk Inventor

With Inventor, you can do a whole lot more than just 3D modeling. You will be able to come up with computer-aided manufacturing and engineering. But it comes at a cost: a single license will cost you $260 per month, less if you opt for a longer contract.

On that note, you might be better off getting Autodesk’s Product Design & Manufacturing Collection where you pay $2,720 a year and you get access to Inventor, AutoCAD, Fusion 360, and Navisworks Manage.

Back to Inventor, you should know that it is not for everyone. For one, it is not easy to learn, which delegates Autodesk Inventory to professional users rather than for the 3D printing enthusiast.

Read our full Autocad vs Sketchup comparison here.

4. Rhino 3D

rhinoceros

Perhaps, Rhino 3D’s strongest point is the ability to allow you to easily visualize a 2D drawing in 3D. It has some free-from 3D tools that you can find in more expensive software.

You can use this software to create prototypes or tinker with the designs of whatever it is you want to create. It will help you engineer, manufacture, or analyze everything.

It also allows you to work with files from other software, and can even repair meshes and IGES files. And the thing is that it has all of these advanced features yet remains very intuitive, easy to learn, and accessible.

Further, the Rhino is pretty lightweight. It doesn’t hog too much of your resources, nor would you need stellar computer specifications to use it. And yes, it’s easily extensible with plugins that can help you do your tasks with more ease.

Rhino 3D: The Bottom Line

If you’re into turning a sketch into a 3D model, then Rhino will be for you. You can have an easy to use and intuitive 3D modeling program and still get quality renderings that even professionals can use. It’s great for creating complex and complicated geometry.

However, it might not be as precise as other CAD software. You will also be hardpressed to get support from the company itself. The good news is that there are user communities online that can help you if you do get into a bind while using Rhino.

5. Tinkercad

tinkercad

For beginners who are looking for easy to use CAD software, Tinkercad will be a good choice. It uses primitive modeling that makes it easier to piece together your 3D model even if you’re not a technical person.

Tinkercad’s biggest draw is the tutorials that can help novices come up with their 3D models with ease. The interface itself is all drag and drop. Once you’re done, you can upload your work to the Gallery of Things, where you can find other user-generated models that you can also use for your own projects.

You can create 3D models for printing using Tinkercad and it’s easy to learn that you will probably not have any problems figuring it out even if you’re using it for the first time.

What You Can and Cannot Get from Tinkercad

Tinkercad is an excellent introduction to 3D modeling. You can use geometric shapes and reshape them to create your 3D models and you have access to a library of drawings that other people made. It’s free and you don’t even have to install it on your computer. You only need a browser to use Tinkercad.

However, Tinkercad does have some limitations. It’s not as powerful as other programs on this list and there are only a few rendering features. There are no lighting options, either. And when your Internet suddenly goes off, you will not be able to use Tinkercad.

6. Blender

blender 3d

Blender is one of those 3D design software that proves that you don’t have to compromise on features just because it’s free. You can create professional-quality 3D models and animation and you have a well-thought-out user interface to work in.

Blender is feature-rich with tools for 3D unwrapping, physics, real-time creation, and shading. You can render edges with ease, simulate collisions, or use procedural brushes for both 2D and 3D designs.

This software is also compatible with a wide variety of file formats, allowing you to work with other software and with a wide range of filetypes. Plus with all those features, you have a large work area and drop-down windows to keep everything easily accessible.

Blender is not easy to learn, which is probably what most beginners complain about. But there are a lot of help options that you can take advantage of and these materials are comprehensive and extensive.

The Bottom Line on Blender

If you only have to work on 3D models or animation, then Blender should be a good choice for you. It has an extensive array of tools that you get to use for free.

However, if you’re in a hurry to create your 3D masterpieces and you’re new to Blender, then you might be turned off by how difficult it is. But don’t worry, help is always available.

Other Software You Can Consider Alongside Sketchup

While these six programs are the ones that you should consider first, here are four more that you can check out if our top recommendations are not what you’re looking for.

1. Shapr3D is an excellent tool if you are an Apple user and would like to create 3D drawings on the go. You will need the Apple Pencil to create your 3D renders. This app is only free for two of your designs or with an educational license. You will need to pay $240 for using the Pro version.

2. Maya is one of the software that you may want to check out if you can splurge on a 3D modeling software. This software has everything you need for your 3D models, including texturing, rendering, and lighting tools. You can easily add cloth textures, hair, particles, and even character animation and fluid simulations. But it costs $1,620 per year and you may not even need some of its features.

3. Lightwave 3D is an excellent 3D modeling software that used to be the darling of science fiction shows on TV. If it’s good enough for TV production, then you should check out the features it offers, especially the physically-based rendering engine that’s quite speedy and fully interactive. You will need to pay $995 for Lightwave 3D, but you might want to consider other alternatives because most of the features they offer are quite outdated.

4. ZBrush is the go-to software if you want to do some sculpting for your 3D models. There are so many features that it’s easy to become overwhelmed, and it shows in their user interface. Nevertheless, they do have the ZBrush Classroom where you can find video tutorials.

You will positively love Dynamesh, which allows you to stretch the mesh when you’re sculpting, as well as PaintStop for those who like 2D drawings. ZBrush charges $40 per month for a subscription or $895 for a perpetual license.

FAQs

Question: What is primitive modeling?

Answer: Primitive modeling is a modeling technique that uses a base object such as a sphere or cube. you use geometric forms as your starting point and you modify these by making them bigger or smoother.

This video will explain what primitives are and how you can use these geometric shapes to create your 3D model:

Contrast this with digital 3D sculpting, which allows you to use brushes to work on details, shapes, and edges.

It’s similar to shaping a piece of clay, as this video explains:

Further, you also have parametric modeling where you can change your 3D models easily just by inputting the dimensions.

You only need to enter one dimension and the CAD software will make adjustments to the entire object.

Question: What should you look for in a 3D modeling software anyway?

Answer: There are several 3D modeling programs that you can choose from and sometimes too many options may not be a good thing. If you’re confused, here’s how you should narrow down your choices:
a. What do you need the program for? Sometimes, 3D modeling software is packaged as different things, and it comes with functionalities and features that you might not even need. If you’re looking to use the software to come up with 3D models for printing, and that’s all you plan to do, then you can save more by not getting a more expensive software because of features you will not use. Then check if your chosen software has all the tools that you need.
b. Choose software that’s compatible with your operating system. This might sound basic, but it’s worth repeating. You may find a 3D modeling software that’s free and full-featured, but if you’re using a Mac and it’s only for PC machines, then you should be looking at something else.
c. Consider industry-based software. There are 3D modeling programs that are geared towards a certain industry. For example, RhinoGold is made for jewelry designers, while ArchiCAD is best suited for architects and interior designers.
d. Stay within budget. There are free, yet very powerful, 3D modeling software out there. You should have a budget and try to see if you can afford your preferred software. Some programs are accessible via a one-time purchase price, while others are available by subscription.
e. Look at the user community. You will want to know how helpful the user community is, or how much education and training material is available for your chosen software. Having excellent support and an active online community will help you if you’re stuck on something while using the software, or if you’re a beginner and still learning.

Question: What are the things that you should remember when you’re creating a 3D model for printing?

Answer: The best 3D software like Sketchup and any one of its alternatives are not guaranteed that you will have a successful print if you don’t consider the following:
a. Material physics. When you’re creating a 3D model, you don’t have to worry about such things as physics. The 3D model will float and you can rotate or flip it without problems. It doesn’t work that way with real-life objects. So be sure to consider this when you’re still working on your 3D model.
b. Weight distribution. Ensuring that your 3D prints will not be unstable and keep falling over is also one of the things that you need to remember when you’re designing your 3D prints.
c. What printer do you have? You should create 3D models that are too big for your 3D printer. Also, you might want to ease off on the elaborate details if your 3D printer cannot handle accuracy and precision to flesh out the intricate designs you have created.

The Best Alternatives to Sketchup

While Sketchup might be one of the best 3D modeling software right now, it’s not for everybody. If you’re looking for a suitable alternative, then the programs we mentioned here are your best bets. To make it easier, you can think of it this way:

For those who are just beginning their journey in making 3D drawings, Art of Illusion is the ideal choice: it’s free and it serves the purpose. If you want something quick and easy, there’s Tinkercad. This program is perfect for those simple 3D models, or perhaps to introduce kids to 3D modeling.

Further, if you’re working on a technical design, you will love the parametric modeling used by Fusion 360, but it may not be the best 3D rendering program out there. Then for turning 2D sketches and ideas into 3D models, you have Rhino 3D. And if you like a powerful suite of tools, there’s always Blender.

Phrozen Transform Review [2021]: How Well Does It Perform?

LCD 3D printers are the new kids on the block, but they are getting noticed because they can give better prints than other resin 3D printers. They are more affordable too. The Phrozen Transform gives you a chance to work with resins to create large prints.

Is the Phrozen Transform the way to go? What are its features that you should know? We will be looking at the technologies, specifications, and functionalities that you can expect to get from Phrozen Transform.

Plus, we will also present alternatives for this printer to help you decide on whether the Transform is really what you need, and if you should buy it.

Phrozen Transform Review

The Phrozen Transform is huge, measuring 14.9 by 13.7 by 24 inches (37.8 by 34.8 by 61.0) but there is a good reason for its significant size. This printer is one the very few that deliver a sizable print volume at 11.5 by 6.5 by 15.75 inches (29.2 by 16.5 by 40.0 centimeters).

There are downsides and upsides to this. But looking at the benefits, you will be able to print huge things with fewer parts. If you have to assemble a lot of small prints to create a big costume, then there will be a lot of weak points that can affect its durability.

With the huge build size of the Phrozen Transform, you are no longer limited to miniature action figures, you can create sizable ones as well. The downside is that you will need a lot of desktop space for your printer.

Phrozen Transform Review

LCD Printer: What the Phrozen Transform Uses

The Phrozen Transform uses masked stereolithography technology to deliver your 3D prints. MSLA uses liquid crystal display to work on the resin and create your prints.

The LCD takes the place of the lasers used in laser stereolithography and the projector used in digital light processing 3D printers. The LCD exposes the liquid resin to light, which hardens the resin.

Two types of LCD are used in Phrozen Transform printers. The standard LCD is in full color, the same type that is used in smartphones. However, because color LCDs have color filters (green, red, and blue), it lowers the amount of violet and ultraviolet light getting to the resin.

Because of this, color LCDs in 3D printers are both a blessing and a curse. It’s a good idea as it is cheaper than lasers, projectors, or even monochrome LCDs because these are mass-produced for smartphones.

But it works slowly because of the filters. With filtered light reaching the resin, it will need more exposure time. The longer exposure results in the resin taking quite a while to cure.

Monochrome LCDs do not have these filters and can get more light to the resin. This ability makes it faster for it to cure. The reduction in printing time is significant. But because monochrome LCDs are not as widely manufactured as colored ones, they tend to be more expensive.

Further, finding a replacement for the monochrome LCD can prove to be difficult or expensive.

Phrozen Transform, as we mentioned, offers monochrome and colored LCD versions. However, you will need to decide beforehand if you’d be willing to pay more for faster printing times. The monochrome LCD version of the Phrozen Transform sells for $2,700, while the standard version with the colored LCD sells for $700 less at only $2000.

But how fast is fast? Phrozen Transform printers with the monochrome LCD can print 1.57 inches (40 millimeters) per hour, while standard Transform printers can only print a quarter of that at 0.39 inches (10 millimeters) per hour. That puts the monochrome LCD four times quicker than colored LCDs.

Version Fast Standard
Print Speed 40 millimeters per hour 10 millimeters per hour
LCD Panel 13.3-inch monochrome LCD 13.3-inch RGB LCD

Dual or Single Panel

On top of the monochrome or colored LCD options, you can use the 13.3-inch (33.78 centimeters) panel or the dual panel that measures 5.5 inches (13.97 centimeters) each.

One advantage of having a big print volume is that you can easily print a number of different models simultaneously. Phrozen Transform allows you to do that using two different plates.

Not only can this 3D printer accommodate several models, but you can even print them on two different plates. This capability helps you to save a significant amount of time.

What’s more, you can easily swap panels in a matter of seconds. And the resolutions on both of these panels are nothing to sneeze at. The 13.3-inch panel delivers an XY resolution of 76 micrometers while the dual panel has resolutions of 47 micrometers.

Panel 13.3 Full Panel Dual Panel
Build Volume 11.5 by 6.5 by 15.75 inches 4.97 by 2.68 by 15.75 inches per tray
XY Resolution 76 micrometers 47 micrometers
Z Resolution 10 micrometers 10 micrometers

Tall 3D Models? No Problem

If you’re looking for a printer that can print tall 3D models, then Phrozen Transform is worth looking at. It can print objects as tall as 40 centimeters (15.75 inches). This is roughly as tall as a bowling pin.

What You Will Like About the Phrozen Transform 3D Printer

Users who are looking for a 3D printer that will allow them to print huge objects can rely on Phrozen Transform to do just that. Not only that, the print quality of this printer should be amazing.

This 3D printer is also efficient because of the ParaLED Optical Engine feature that can deliver a more focused angle for the light. This focus allows the light to penetrate better.

Phrozen Transform

What’s more, this 3D printer is very stable with aluminum support for the Z-axis, as well as double linear rails and ball screws. This kind of setup is usually found on more expensive printers.

Specifications at a Glance

Dimensions 15.16 by 14.02 by 24.29 inches
Weight 72.75 pounds
Light Used 405nm Ultraviolet LED with ParaLED Matrix Technology
Z-axis Mechanisms Ball screws and dual linear rails
Cooling System Multiple fans
Support Software ChiTu Box
Operating System Proprietary (Phrozen OS 1.0)
Touch Display Yes, 5-inch touch panel
Connectivity Wi-Fi, USB, and LAN

Phrozen Transform: The Bottom Line

For a consumer 3D printer, the Phrozen Transform has a huge build volume. This capacity allows you to take advantage of the space and print bigger parts or print several small prints simultaneously to save time.

Apart from the build volume, the Taiwanese company offers its users a lot of choices to make 3D printing more convenient. For one, you can choose to save money with the standard version or create faster prints with the fast version.

You can also choose to print huge 3D objects using the full LCD panel. Or literally, divide the task using the dual LCD panel that allows you to print two separate objects at the same time.

And there’s not much downside to getting Phrozen Transform, too. The biggest complaint we’ve seen is that the printer doesn’t come with free resin, so you will have to remember to buy it separately if you want to start printing immediately.

Pros

  • Huge build volume
  • ParaLED lights
  • Stable Z-axis, which is twice as tall as comparable 3D printers
  • Options that will allow you to save money or get fast print speeds
  • 405-nm ultraviolet LED makes it compatible with most resins
  • Solid built with top-notch materials
  • Wi-Fi, LAN, and USB Connectivity

Cons

  • The company doesn’t ship free resin with your purchase
  • Can be more expensive than comparable printers

Alternatives to the Phrozen Transform 3D Printer

If you’re not convinced with Phrozen Transform, there are several competitors that you might want to consider. The Phrozen Transform stands out because of its build volume, attractive price point, and use of LCD technology.

Its competitors, the Sonic XL 4K from the same company, the Tronxy X5SA, and the Peopoly Phenom, all bring something different to the table. Is the Phrozen Transform the better choice, or should you buy one of its alternatives?

1. Phrozen Sonic XL 4K

The Phrozen Sonic XL 4L 3D printer is another LCD printer that can selectively harden resin to create your prints.

It uses a 4K LCD that has a pixel resolution of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels.

phrozen cure

This printer has a build volume of 4.7 by 7.5 by 7.9 inches (12 by 19 by 20 centimeters).

It has printing speeds of 7.9 inches (20 centimeters) per hour, mainly because of the monochrome LCD used by this printer that only needs 0.2 seconds to cure the resin.

This printer costs $2,300.

Pros

  • Ideal for dental uses
  • High level of detail at 4K resolutions
  • Large build volume means that you can print several models simultaneously
  • Works with most resins, even third-party products

Cons

  • Has a smaller build volume and slower speeds than the Phrozen Transform
  • Can be very expensive
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2. Tronxy X5SA

The Tronxy X5SA is an excellent 3D printer that can similarly handle large prints.

It has a build volume of 13 by 13 by 15.8 inches (33 by 33 by 40 centimeters) and a printing speed of four inches (10 centimeters) per second.

TRONXY X5SA 3D Printer

However, instead of working with resins, you will be using filaments for this 3D printer. The single extruder will push out the hot plastic to form your 3D model. The Tronxy X5SA is compatible with different kinds of materials, including HIPS, ABS, PVC, PC, and PLA.

Features on this 3D printer include automatic bed leveling, resume print, filament level detection, and a 3.5-inch (8.9 centimeters) touch display. In short, it has all the features you would expect from a Bowden-type extrusion 3D printer.

But the most impressive thing about this large-format 3D printer is that it’s very affordable. It sells for less than $400.

Pros

  • Very affordable, especially when you consider the sizable build volume
  • Stable build
  • Fast printing times

Cons

  • The 3D printer comes to you as a kit that you will need to assemble
  • Some quality control issues where some parts may be missing or broken
  • Support and help documentation can be a lot better
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01/18/2021 12:11 pm GMT

3. Peopoly Phenom

The Peopoly Phenom stands out with a height of 30.7 inches (78 centimeters).

This budget 3D printer allows you to print large projects with a build volume of 10.8 by 6.1 by 15.8 inches (27.4 by 15.5 by 40.1 centimeters).

peopoly

This LCD printer uses a 4K laptop LCD screen as well as ultraviolet light to harden the resin. Plus, it costs only $2,000.

The Phenom can deliver quality prints, but you might find yourself tweaking on the settings too much to get there. Another problem is that the software can feel a bit unpolished sometimes.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Compatible with a wide assortment of resins
  • Big print volume

Cons

  • It can get really noisy when it’s running
  • Wi-Fi connectivity is not offered
  • Might not be a good match for beginners or those who like to switch up when it comes to resins

FAQs

Question: What is LCD 3D printing?

Answer: 3D printers use different kinds of light sources to harden the resin and give you your prints. In the case of LCD printers, LCD panels are used. These panels are similar to the ones you see on your smartphones.

LCDs replace the projectors and the lasers found on other types of 3D printers.

Laser stereolithography uses lasers to cure the resin. Lasers make for fast printing times, can accommodate a large build area, and high-quality prints, but they can be very expensive.

Meanwhile, digital light projection technology makes use of projectors instead of LCDs or lasers. Projectors in 3D printers allow you to have speedy printing time, much faster than laser printers. However, because DLP also needs digital micromirror device chips, these 3D printers can be very expensive with a limited build volume.

Compared to these two technologies, LCD 3D printing can be very inexpensive. LCD panels are widely manufactured because it’s being used by mobile tablets and other devices. What’s more, LCD 3D printers do not need expensive DMD chips.

However, because the light is not that intense as lasers or projectors, LCD printing can take a lot longer and the print quality might not be as good as the resolutions you see on DLP and laser printers.

To give you an idea, here are the three technologies and their rankings.
Build area:
• Laser 3D printers top this category as the lasers can shine on a wider coverage area
• LCD 3D printers are the runners-up in this category, as they can accommodate a bigger build area by using more LCD panels
• DLP 3D printers are limited by the DMD chips, which usually measure only 1,920 by 1,080 pixels
Price:
• LCD 3D printers are very affordable compared to laser and projector-based 3D printers.
Printing seed
• Projector-based 3D printers are some of the fastest out there, with laser printers coming in a close second
• LCD 3D printers are the slowest because you need more time for the light to cure the resin
Print quality
• Both laser and DLP 3D printers can deliver high print resolutions and intricately detailed prints
• LCD printers are not known for their astounding print quality

Question: Are all resins compatible with LCD 3D printing?

Answer: Seeing that there are significant differences in these three technologies harden your resins, you may be wondering if all resins are compatible with all LCD, DLP, or laser 3D printers.

If you’re thinking that the answer is no, then you’re correct. For instance, if you have an LCD 3D printer, you will want a fast curing resin because of the low intensity of light it has.

You should first read the data sheets provided by the resin’s manufacturer if you’re going to use third party products. Or you can always just buy from your 3D printer’s manufacturer.

The good news is that Phrozen has its own line of resins that works quite well with the Transform.

Question: Is Phrozen a trusted brand?

Answer: Phrozen is a Taiwanese company that launched its first 3D printer via Kickstarter. They initially wanted $30,000 to develop their prototype, but got more than ten times that amount in funding: $375,000. They subsequently did another crowdfunding drive with an initial goal of $30,000 but got $519,000 in 2019.

The company has been churning out LCD 3D printers since its 2017 launch, along with toners and resins. They also sell replacement parts and accessories for 3D printers.

So far, Phrozen has been coming out with quality 3D printers, slowly solidifying its reputation in the 3D printer market. They have several innovations under their belt, including the ParaLED ultraviolet engine and the use of linear bearings on a pair of sturdy rails for the Z-axis movement.

What’s more, the brand is known for its affordable products. When you check their technical characteristics, you will find that their closest competitors can be twice as expensive as their printers.

Final Thoughts

LCD 3D printers are proving that you don’t have to spend too much on a stereolithography printer. The Phrozen Transform doesn’t disappoint with its large build volume, fast printing speeds, and reasonable price tag.

If you’ve always wanted to work with resins, then the Phrozen Transform should be a perfect choice for you. However, if you’re looking for a printer that can handle elaborate and intricate details, you should give the Phrozen Sonic XL 4K a try.

Or, if you’re not averse to tweaking and configuring, the Peopoly Phenom might allow you to save money on your resin printer. Further, if the budget is a little tight, you might want to skip the resin and just go for filaments with the Tronxy X5SA.

Best Stepper Motor Driver for 3D Printer

One way you can massively upgrade the performance of your 3D printer is to find the best stepper motor, driver.

This important component plays a vital role in how your 3D printer will perform. Not many 3D printer owners know what this driver does. It isn’t a common piece of 3D printing terminology. However, it is essential in the smooth running of your 3D printer and helps to create accurate and high-quality models.

The best stepper motor drivers for your 3D printer that we are going to show you, can really improve how it operates. We’ll also give you everything you need to know about this component. This includes how it works, the best brands, and things you should consider when buying one.

Best Stepper Motor Driver for your 3D Printer – Overview

As a quick snapshot, these are the top 5 stepper motor drivers that you can get for your 3D printer:

Best for saving money Hobbypower A4988 Stepper Motor Driver  Check latest price
Best for versatility SparkFun EasyDriver Stepper Motor Driver  Check latest price
Best for DIY 3D printers BHL DRV8825 Stepper Motor Driver Check latest price
Best for upgrading A4988 drivers BIQU A4988 Compatible StepStick Stepper Motor Driver Check latest price
Best for reducing 3D printer noise Trinamic TMC2130 Stepper Motor Driver Check latest price

What is a stepper motor driver for a 3D printer?

A stepper motor driver is a component that you will find in every 3D printer. This includes the more affordable models right through to the high-end machines. To understand how it works, we need to look at the actual printing process.

First of all, your 3D models are turned into three-dimensional coordinates that are known as G code. The code also contains information for things such as the speed of the fan and temperatures.

This is fed to the 3D printer microcontroller which is essentially a basic computer within your machine. It reads the code and determines which stepper motors need to be moved in order to create your 3D models.

Each stepper motor has a driver that allows it to move independently.

In order to do this, pulses of electrical current are sent between the microcontroller and stepper motor driver in order for the stepper motors to move correctly.

Types of stepper motor drivers for 3D printers

stepper motor driver

There are different types of stepper motor drivers that are designed for 3D printers.

Here are the three main versions that you will come across.

L/R Stepper Motor Driver

This type of stepper motor driver carried out rotations at a low to medium speed and this can result in fairly limited ranges of power output. They can still offer a full rotation but they don’t usually offer control in regards to variable current levels.

Many people would class the L/R stepper motor drivers as low performance or at least low to medium performance.

Chopper Stepper Motor Driver – Micro-step

A chopper stepper motor driver is also known as a PWM (pulse width modulation) or micro step driver. It works on a solitary supply of high voltage and has output transistors that have come on and off automatically.

These types of stepper motor drivers are able to use a micro step mode. This means that it runs smoother and more efficiently as the current rate is regulated at all speeds. This provides a boost in performance however it comes with a higher price tag and the design is generally more complex.

They are also known to produce RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) and can sometimes overheat too.

Bi-level Stepper Motor Driver

The third type of stepper motor driver is the bi-level and this can use both high and low-level voltages.

It works by powering up to a high rate of current and when it reaches the level that you need, the high voltage is turned off. The low voltage is then used to maintain this level of supply when it is in use.

These stepper motor drivers are usually more efficient than others and they generally come at a fairly low cost as well.

Benefits of upgrading your stepper motor driver

Upgrading this relatively simple component on your 3D printer can produce several benefits.

Let’s have a quick look at why upgrading your stepper motor driver can be advantageous.

They can cut down on the noise your 3D printer produces

3D printers – whether they are fairly affordable models or pricier multi-color machines – usually make some noise. Some will be a bit quieter than others however upgrading your stepper motor driver can help reduce the decibels your printer produces.

Some stepper motor drivers have a silent design and they use technology to cut down on noise. With the right model you may find that your 3D printer operates a lot quieter than it did before.

You can get more reliable prints

As the stepper motor driver is what controls the stepper motors, an upgrade version can help you to get more reliable prints.

Buying the best stepper motor driver can help the motors move more precisely with better positional accuracy.This in turn will ensure that all parts of the 3D printing process benefit. You’ll be able to print off higher quality and better objects simply by upgrading a fairly easy component.

Your 3D printer can save on power

Another benefit of upgrading your stepper motor driver is that it can have an impact on power consumption.

Some stepper motor drivers are smart in that they will reduce the current when not in use. This cuts down on the overall power consumption that your 3D printer uses. The various safety features on some stepper motor drivers can also help prevent damage if there is a surge in power or if it overheats.

Things to consider when buying a stepper motor driver

stepper motor driver

Buying the wrong model or a stepper motor driver that isn’t ideal for what you need can actually have a negative impact on the way your printer performs. These are some things to keep in mind before you purchase one.

Torque

The torque is related to the size of the stepper motor and it is related to how big the motor is. In a simple sense, the more torque the more power. You will need to take this into consideration with what printer you have.

Some 3D printers won’t be able to handle higher torque and some won’t perform correctly with lower torque.

Accuracy

Most stepper motor drivers that are an upgrade on your stock one will probably help create more accurate prints anyway. That being said, you need to consider how much accuracy you need.

This can and often does impact on the price as well. The accuracy is usually determined by either small steps or a convoluted gear train.

Cost

There are a ton of stepper motor drivers out there and many manufacturers have been producing them for years. They aren’t the priciest things you can buy for a 3D printer but even for a small component, you need to factor in the cost to your budget.

Remember that the more a stepper motor driver costs don’t necessarily equate to how well it will perform. Many manufacturers will offer discounts and less price per component the more you buy at once.

Compatibility

Even though the majority of stepper motor drivers are compatible with most 3D printers, you will come across some that are designed for certain models. Make sure you read into the types and makes of 3D printers that the stepper motor driver you want to buy is compatible with before you make a purchase.

Best Stepper Motor Driver Brands

Stepper motor drivers for 3D printers are made by different companies and manufacturers. These are some of the top brands you will come across.

Trinamic

Trinamic is a well-known manufacturer of stepper motor drivers for 3D printers. They have their HQ in Germany but they also have research labs in Estonia and operate across the world.

Trinamic tends to focus on larger orders from big companies but there are many of their stepper driver motors available for everyone to buy.

Pololu

Pololu is an American company that is based in Nevada. They have been around since 2000. They often focus their attention more on individual 3D printer owners, hobbyists, and enthusiasts although they do offer a large amount of stepper motor driver models.

BIQU

BIQU is a relative newcomer to the market and they were established in 2015. They are based in Shenzhen City, China and manufacture and sell stepper driver motors to a global market.

Sparkfun

Sparkfun is based in Colorado, United States. They produce a wide range of different electronic components and they were founded in 2003. Stepper motor drivers is just one area they produce hundreds of different open source kits and boards.

5 Best Stepper Motor Drivers for 3D printers

There are many stepper motor drivers on the market. They can be relatively simple components but they perform a powerful function when 3D printing. Let’s have a more detailed look at the top 5 stepper motor drivers that you can buy for your 3D printer.

Hobbypower A4988 Stepper Motor Driver

The Hobbypower A4988 Stepper Motor Driver is a cost-effective stepper motor driver which is ideal for DIY built 3D printers or even many other affordable models.

These drivers are capable of 1/16th micro-stepping and come with various features. They are also capable of five-step modes: full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, and 1/16.

powerday A4988 StepStick Stepper Motor Driver Module

Other features include automatic current decay mode detection, synchronous rectification for low power dissipation, and thermal shutdown.

If you want a stepper motor driver for your 3D printer without paying much money, then the A4988 is really the one to go for. Cheap, cheerful and essentially does what you need it to without a lot of fuss.

Pros

  • Cheap and affordable stepper motor driver
  • Will help the performance of your 3D printer
  • Five-step modes and capable of 1/16th microstepping

Cons

  • Is prone to accidentally burnouts

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01/18/2021 12:10 pm GMT

SparkFun EasyDriver Stepper Motor Driver

The next stepper motor driver on our list is the SparkFun EasyDriver Stepper Motor Driver which is another fairly low-cost model.

This is a great component if you need some versatility in your driver as it works between 7V and 30V.

SparkFun EasyDriver Stepper Motor Driver

You can use this stepper motor driver with 4, 6, and 8 wire stepper motors as well which is great.

The fact that it can handle higher voltages means that you can get more torque and power with your 3D printer. This stepper motor driver is also easy to use and install and is ideal for beginners and experienced users alike.

Pros

  • Very versatile and works with a wide voltage range
  • Is compatible with 4, 6, and 8 wire stepper motors
  • Easy to install and use

Cons

  • May need some additional parts to install

BHL DRV8825 Stepper Motor Driver

The BHL DRV8825 Stepper Motor Driver is ideal for replacing a stock A4988 which can help to upgrade your 3D printer.

It is the go-to choice for DIY enthusiasts who build their own 3D printers.

5x StepStick DRV8825 Stepper Motor Driver

It comes with a variety of step options which include full-step, 1/2 step, 1/4 step, 1/8 step, 1/16 step as well as 1/32 step.

This is one of the easiest stepper motor drivers to use and that is why it is very popular with people who build their own 3D printers. It is also aimed at people who are upgrading a component for the first time.

It has an over-temperature thermal shutdown as well as over-current shutdown, and under-voltage lockout.

The adjustable current control lets you manually set the output while this is an affordable and cost effective component too.

Pros

  • Range of great features including adjustable current control
  • Easy to install and use for DIY 3D printers
  • Affordable and won’t cost much to buy

Cons

  • Some reports of being quite noisy

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01/18/2021 12:11 pm GMT

BIQU A4988 Compatible StepStick Stepper Motor Driver

The BIQU A4988 Compatible StepStick Stepper Motor Driver offers five step modes – full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 and 1/16.

This component also comes with a variety of different features including an intelligent chopping control for the selection of the correct current decay mode.

BIQU A4988 Compatible StepStick Stepper Motor Diver Module

There is also a thermal shutdown circuitry and they are an affordable piece of kit for your 3D printer too.

While they aren’t silent and will produce a bit of noise, this isn’t a dealbreaker by any means. There are some issues with the potentiometers in that they are difficult to adjust and also aren’t the most durable.

That being said, these are good stepper motor drivers for 3D printers and would suit anyone who wants to upgrade a4988 drivers.

Pros

  • Very good choice for upgrading a4988 drivers
  • Have an intelligent chopping control
  • Five-step modes and thermal shutdown circuitry

Cons

  • Potentiometers difficult to adjust and not very sturdy

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01/18/2021 12:11 pm GMT

Trinamic TMC2130 Stepper Motor Driver

The Trinamic TMC2130 Stepper Motor Driver is the best choice if you want a silent component to reduce the noise that your 3D printer makes.

It is an upgrade to the previous 2100 model. This stepper motor driver comes with a ton of features which isn’t always a necessarily good thing.

Trinamic TMC2130 Stepper Motor Driver

It can get a bit distracting especially if you are new. However, this is a very good stepper motor driver for the price.

It has a sensorless stall detection, noiseless current control mode as well as stall prevention and lower temperature operation.

A high functional and high performing stepper motor driver for your 3D printer but one that isn’t suited towards beginners.

Pros

  • Has a wide variety of great features
  • Noiseless and quiet operation
  • Upgrade to the 2100 model

Cons

  • Amount of features can be overwhelming

FAQs About Cold Air Intake Systems

Question: Does my 3D printer need a stepper motor driver?

Answer: Yes. Even if you don’t know it, your 3D printer will have a stepper motor driver. It provides a very valuable function in determining how the stepper motors move and operate.

Question: Can I install a stepper motor driver myself?

Answer: In most cases, yes. They aren’t particularly difficult to install and even if you are a beginner when it comes to 3D printers, you should be able to do this. Make sure and read the instructions properly and ensure that you are confident before taking this on.

Question: Will a new stepper motor driver improve my 3D printer?

Answer: It should do. If you upgrade from the stock version on your 3D printer and install a stepper motor driver with more features, you should notice a difference in printing. This includes better torque to produce more power and more reliable prints/.

Question: Are stepper motor drivers for 3D printers expensive?

Answer: No. They are a small component and one that is relatively cheap to buy. As they are so small, you will usually find that you will get better prices the more you buy. That being said, some sellers will offer good prices on low quantities too. The actual component itself is pretty cheap compared to other 3D printer parts.

Question: Will any stepper motor driver work on my 3D printer?

Answer: No. Most are fairly universal with the connections however you should always make sure that it is going to fit and be compatible with your 3D printer. Some will only work with certain brands and others should work with most 3D printer models.

Conclusion – what are the best stepper motor drivers for 3D printers

Upgrading your stepper motor driver on your 3D printer has a number of benefits. While they should all provide more torque which equates to more power and better accuracy with printing, the one you choose depends on what you need.

For example, if you want to reduce the noise with your 3D printer then the Trinamic TMC2130 Stepper Motor Driver is the best option. It comes with technology which produces low to no noise and you should notice a big difference when printing.

For any DIY 3D printing enthusiasts and those that have built their own printer, the BHL DRV8825 Stepper Motor Driver is the better choice. It is favored by many hobbyists for a number of reasons as it is very easy to use.

The SparkFun EasyDriver Stepper Motor Driver is highly versatile and it works with a variety of voltages and 3D printers too. It allows for more torque and power and many beginners like it too because the installation is easy and it is straightforward to use.

Finally, for the budget-conscious, the Hobbypower A4988 Stepper Motor Driver is the best model. It is cheap and does basically what you need it to without much fanfare. It is still a powerful stepper motor driver and one that won’t break the bank when purchasing.