I’ve been following the news and development updates for a while, so I was eager to get my hands on one. What really intrigued me was the “not crazy” price point of $999. If you’ve been around the desktop 3D printing space for a while, you probably have seen the $2000 – 5000 personal printers already. While 3D printers are becoming more common, the price tag often limits who can access them.
Thankfully, with more Kickstarter projects and established companies getting into the market, prices have been coming down. The Dremel Idea Builder is the latest exemplification of this.
The Dremel 3D Idea Builder is one of the more hyped 3D printers to hit the market. Dremel is actually the marketing name, but the company behind the Idea Builder is the Robert Bosch Tool Corporation. Bosch knows a thing or two about building useful tools and mechanics, having been in the industry since 1986. In the following Idea Builder review, I’ve put their machine to the test to see if it’s a good value for the price.
At first, I didn’t know if I would like the clean – almost clinical – approach that Dremel takes. It’s a completely self-contained system. In the realm of 3D printers, you can run the full gambit from true “do-it-yourself” printers, to partially construction kits, and more “refined” finished products like the Idea Builder. The Dremel is definitely a printer you can place safely in an office as it will fit in nicely with other equipment.
It doesn’t have an “experimental” vibe or architecture. One isn’t better than the other, but preferring one over the other really depends on your personality and work-style. Personally, I love both extremes depending on what projects I have.
Main Features of the Idea Builder
The following are the core features of the Dremel printer i.e. the major “selling points” and marketing angles. I’ll comment further down about the “pros” and “cons”.
- Plug-and-Play: Do you like IKEA instructions? If not, the Dremel is probably a great option for you. It functions much the way a traditional printer does. Out of the box, you’ll get the full functionality. There’s no need to bust out the tool kit or sand the edges. This is a completely finished machine, ready to go from day one.
Self-Contained: This printer kind of feels like a microwave oven. You select your model, start the process, and come back a while later to a finished product. This has a number of benefits, namely quality control. With more experimental printers you often face calibration issues that require troubleshooting and modifications. This takes time, something the Dremel is geared towards saving for you.
Closed Architecture: Similarly, don’t expect to be able to modify this printer. What you get in the box is it. For most, this is probably a good thing. It might not be a good idea to be mucking around with a $1000 piece of equipment unless you are very mechanically inclined anyway. The system contains “proprietary” technology i.e. Bosch would rather keep their schematics to themselves.
Better Quality: The benefit of this closed system is better to control over quality. Even more so than competitors in the market, the Dremel allows for repeatable and consistent results from your printing.
Touch Screen Operation: In many ways, this is the next generation of 3D printing. With an easy-to-use touchscreen, the Dremel really has simplified and streamlined the process of printing into an intuitive interface that anyone can adapt to with limited experience.
Quiet: Some 3D printers can get pretty noisy. Not the Idea Builder. Like I mentioned previously, it operates much like a microwave and sounds similar as well.
Product Specifications (at a glance)
See below for the key specs at a glance:
|Build Platform Area / Print Bed||9″ x 5.9″ x 5.5″|
|Filament Types||PLA Filament (Dremel brand)|
|Layer Resolution||100 microns|
|Print Head Nozzle Diameter||0.4mm|
|Open/Closed System||Fully enclosed|
|Price||(see here for latest live pricing)|
Pros of the Dremel Idea Builder
The following bullets are some of the things that I really liked about the Dremel:
- Easy to Use: Dremel really pushes ease of use. Everything from the interface to the actual creation process is as simple as possible. You can even download “pre-modeled” models from their website to get started. There are also constantly adding to these models (for example chess pieces, Christmas tree ornaments, etc…). While advanced 3Ders might scoff at this, the value for beginners and intermediates cannot be understated.
- Excellent Quality Control: When I first started out 3D printing, a lot of my models came out with cracking or fissures. While some of this was “newbie” error on my part, a lot of it had to do with the more “experimental” and DIY printers that I was using. Subtle adjustments in the calibration (the heated print bed, for example) can lead to poor quality results. While this is fine for messing around, it gets frustrating if you are finally ready to create a finished product. Because the Dremel Idea Builder is such a tightly controlled self-contained system, print quality is reliable and repeatable.
- Excellent Support: The support staff for the Dremel is excellent. Having had to use them once, I can vouch for their helpfulness. Their website features easy to interact with support options as well as guides and manuals. UPDATE: Dremel also recently launched an amazing hands-on learning online Dremel Digilab for educational institutions, but it’s also great for small crafters, businesses, and individuals.
- Price: $999 might still seem like a lot of money, but it’s a remarkable price for the quality you get with the Idea Builder. Be sure to check out the latest pricing for discounts. The price also significantly undercuts many competitors at similar price points. It’s a step above “budget” 3D printers, while not getting into the hard to swallow $2000+ range.
Cons of the Dremel Idea Builder
The following are some of things that I didn’t really like about the Dremel:
- Dremel Brand PLA: Dremel does something that I’ve seen a few other companies do and that requires that you use their own brand PLA. This is like how the traditional printer market required you to purchase their ink at higher prices. Dremel states that this is for quality control purposes and that using other brands might clog the system. When you are talking about an expensive piece of equipment, you’ll get peoples attention with that kind of warning! However, I’ve use off-brand PLA material with no problem when I wasn’t able to buy more from Dremel. I’d still recommend using their brand for now, but you can experiment at your own risk with other (more affordable) brands.
- Very Closed System: The Dremel really has the feel of a closed system. More so than other “closed” systems, Dremel’s architecture is even more restrictive. I say “restrictive” as if its a bad thing. Sometimes it isn’t. But if you are really excited to modify your 3D printer, this is not the printer for you.
- Software Could Use Some Work: Again, you’ll have to use Dremel’s software to print your models. It works most of the time but can run into some problematic network errors that require you to continually restart the printer. They’ve released updates since I’ve owned it, which is good, but I think more work needs to be done here. This is another drawback of using a “closed” system that can’t leverage the value of open source software out of the box.
- Single Extruder: Dual extruders are really a luxury, so I wasn’t expecting to see them for a unit of this size. However, it’s still something you should consider based on your prospective projects and applications. It’s only a deal breaker if you really need it (most users don’t really need it, to be honest).
Other Dremel Alternatives to Consider
I always like to consider a 3D printer relative to the competition. So here’s a few close competitors worth considering (many of which I have also written about):
- Printrbot Play: The Printrbot Play is the latest from Printrbot, featuring an open design, but also a significantly more reliable device than the older Printrbots. Read the full review here.
- Lulzbot Mini: This Lulzbot 3D Printer is a fan favorite, featuring an open architecture (unlike the Dremel). You can also experiment with many other filament types. My full review covers all of the details here.
- Flashforge Creator Pro: The Creator Pro is another leading contender in this price range. I generally preferred the expanded capabilities of the Creator Pro: you can read my head-to-head comparison of these two here.
My Overall Assessment on the Dremel 3d Printer
Overall, I think the Dremel is a great 3D printer!
It’s the first “closed” architecture system that I have really fallen in love with. MakerBot Replicator, Flashforge Dreamer, and the like have some decent options, but always with a few significant “cons”. The drawbacks with the Dremel are really small in comparison.
It’s great for beginners, but also for people looking for repeatable quality and ease of use. In one swoop, the Dremel has streamlined and simplified the whole process. The peace of mind – even for someone who has experience with 3D printers – is invaluable.
You can find the Idea Builder for a really attractive price at this listing. Or, you can check out the product feed below with real-time pricing data: