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11-07-2013, 11:43 PM #1
Product Review: Maker Farm i3 Prusa 8"
The i3 Prusa 3D Printer by Maker Farm is supplied as a 99% complete kit. The purchaser only has to provide an 8 x 8 sheet of glass to cover the heated print bed, and a 12V DC power supply capable of providing more than 16 Amps.
Purchase and delivery:
I purchased my unit over the internet and requested delivery by UP PS Global Priority. The unit was shipped on the day I ordered it, and arrived in Australia 10 days from having been accepted by the Post Office. This 10 day period between making a purchase from the US and having it arrive is quite normal.
The unit was sensibly packaged in one cardboard box. It came through the delivery undamaged. Delicate parts such as the electronics and extruder head came in hard plastic lidded boxes and were wrapped in padding before being placed in the box. All the nuts, bolts and screws were in once plastic bag. The steppers were in a padded bag.
The only negatives about the packaging were that the laser cut sheets of ply containing the frame parts could have been packaged between supporting sheets of cardboard. During transit pieces dislodged from the sheets, and on unpacking, these items looked like a half finished jig-saw puzzle left over from last Christmas holidays.
It would have been good to get a list of contents to check that everything which was supposed to be in the box, was in the box. (Everything was there)
The components supplied were of a very high standard. A lot were commercially available items ( electronics, steppers, linear bearings, extruder etc) I was pleasantly surprised to see the quality of the hardware supplied. Having been involved in aviation hardware, I could tell that the nuts, bolts and screws supplied were not el cheapo Chinese rubbish. I'd say they were high standard, made in the US of A products.
The frame parts are laser cut from birch plywood. As a result the wood has burn marks on one side. This does not distract from the integrity of the components, but unless they are given a coat of paint, the aesthetics of the finished machine are reduced. I bought a cheap can of spray paint and painted everything (except the cut edges) before I started assembly.
The Maker Farm says that you can assemble the machine in 3 hours. You can - if you are "He who made us all'. I suggest that you take your time and double check all assemblies.
You need to download the Build Instructions in pdf format from the Maker Farm site. However, all these instructions can help with is collecting all the components for each sub-assembly. I suggest that you get some small plastic bags to hold the sub-assembly components before they are required. That way you will know that you have everything that you need.
The rest of the build instructions can be found on YouTube. You can find them here: http://www.youtube.com/user/elderfarrer
There are a couple of things to watch out for. Be careful that you are watching the video for your machine. The 6" differs from the 8" in some areas - especially the length of the toothed drive belts. Also, the videos are shot from the point of view of a person sitting in front of the demonstrator, so what has to be in your left hand is in his right hand and vice versa. Be prepared to watch each video several times before committing to a build action.
While the laser cutting of the plywood was very accurate in plan view, it seems that the laser cutter had been knocked a few degrees off vertical, so that the cuts through the ply were off line. Once noticed, it only took a few swipes with a flat file to obtain a good fit. This matter was brought to the attention of the manufacturer who has since began to monitor the angle of the cutter. Otherwise, the machine fell together.
There may have been a change in materials supplied at one stage because the plywood pieces that hold the Y-axis bed linear bearings had too large a space cut out. This resulted in the rods rubbing on the Printer bed and jamming. A quick email to Maker Farm had a new set of pieces in the mail to me the same day.
Any questions I had regarding assembly problems were sent by email and answered almost immediately (bearing in mind time zone differences). Parts replacement was efficient.
Calibration and Software.
The electronics come already flashed. The only thing I had to get done was to download the Arduino drivers and install them in my controller computer. Since my son is an IT Systems Engineer, this took a lot of begging before it was done - a little like the plumber's wife and the leaky faucet. However this task was easily accomplished (eventually) and things moved when the power was turned on.
A person named Zennmaster has posted a three part review of the Maker Farm printer on YouTube. Here is the link to Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkPcoWVvpNw
Old Man Emu
Last edited by old man emu; 11-07-2013 at 11:47 PM.
02-18-2014, 12:34 PM #2
This past fall I too built a Makerfarm Prusa i3 8" after doing a lot of research. The price was great and I read good reviews. I agree with most of the above only the packaging was sufficient in my case. Nothing dislodged during shipping. I had a few friction issues too, small, and fixable with a dremmel.
The printer, now a few months old, is making absolutely beautiful prints. I could not be happier with the results. I don't have to continually adjust the physical printer parameters so it seems solid and nothing is drifting. I only check my Z-Home every few weeks or if I see an issue. It just stays true.
The best part of the the printer is Colin. He must never sleep. If I email at 2AM (EST) he'll frequently answer. He is the most helpful support person I've ever seen and I can't say enough how much that helps when you are getting started.
The only problem I had, and this has nothing to do with the printer, was wire management. There were wires everywhere. I tamed them with twist ties by making neat bundles and tying them all together in neat ropes. I bet I have 100 twist ties keeping it all neat.
02-18-2014, 01:26 PM #3
Colin is the best isn't he? I'm beginning to think he printed himself a robot replacement or something LOL.
I must've overlooked this thread, but I have to agree with everything OME and Rob said about the MakerFarm experience, just superb.
02-18-2014, 02:19 PM #4
It is a good printer, But i find 1 negative point,
That is that its made from Plywood and it has alot of vibiration/not stabile, Due that it makes quiet some noise!
After that it is a very nice printer,
It came from US to Belgium within a reasonable time, But 1 piece (ply wood) did break, Colin did send a replacement right away, (Even tho i fixed it myself before, But i asked to send it anyhow for if it comes lose again)
After that Colin is indeed a very responsive friendly person, if you have trouble with a Gcode he will ask you to send it to him and he will take his time to print it himself.
Again, its a nice printer, i only wish they had a box version (Like Ultimaker) or a more metal/stable.
Just due i realy think this has so much vibiration and isnt very sturdy.
02-18-2014, 03:08 PM #5
This is my first printer and I've never handled a metal one but I don't think I've had any issues with vibration or harmonics. What is it you think that makes noise in the wood? The loudest components are the stepper motors. Wood absorbs noise better that metal so I don't believe your noise is coming from the wood. I just measured mine printing a part and it's 67 dB (it ranged from 62dB to 69dB) which is about the volume of an average conversation. It was printing octagonal infill which is the noisiest part. That's pretty quiet.
As with all things, extra components raise price. I'm sure Makerfarm could design and sell a chamber but that would drive up the price. What the Makerfarm i3 is good for is to get into 3D printing with a smaller budget yet deliver a high quality machine without frills. Then if you find you'd like or need a printer that has more features, you can buy another one. Many guys into 3D printing have several printers. And after all, we are all using the same hot ends, Arduino (I know RAMPS and Marlin aren't the only ones but you know what I mean) and stepper motors. All the different designs are really only frames. The rest of the hardware we all pretty much use is the same all over.
What I didn't want to do was spend $2000 to find out I didn't like 3D printing. So for less than $1000 I feel I got a fantastic product on which I can learn. I've modified mine a bit and I feel like it's a great investment. I don't even treat it like a starter printer. I think I'll buy another brand one day but for now I have nothing bad to say about it. I have a few friends with more expensive printers and I can print nicer looking prints than they do.
I'm not a spokesman for Makerfarm just so you know. But, since this is the Makerfarm Forum, we should probably not talk too much about what we "wished" it had or what we "wished it was make of" because it is what it is. If we didn't have Makerfarm i3's we be reading a different forum.
What we should talk about here is how we can make them as good as they can be. We should talk about mods or retrofits or upgrades. It's just like if you own a Ferrari. You really don't complain about it because you are proud of it. What you talk about is how you treat it, how you interact with it and how you make it better.
02-18-2014, 04:20 PM #6
I haven't had any noise problem. My printer sits on a sheetmetal-topped table. The loudest noise comes from the operation of the steppers. Perhaps Dr. Luigi should go over all the nuts and bolts to tighten them as he has been doing a lot of printing and I found that some nuts worked themselves off. Also check that the printer is sitting evenly on its base.
I am looking to make some modifications to the machine. I am going to fit the auto-leveling package. I have fitted a relay switch for the heater bed as I was having trouble getting it over 100C. I have also added insulation in the form of cork sheeting under the bed and aluminium foil between the bed and glass plate. I made a small shelf and moved the controller board to the top rear of the frame so I could access the pins more easily. I was trying to fit another relay for the extruder heater, but crossed a wire and burnt out a connection on my Arduino board, so I'mm waiting for a replacement sourced locally.
One of the greatest assets of the MakerFarm printer is the access one has to the manufacturer. I don't know if you would get the same high degree of after sales service from any of the other commercial printer manufacturers. Colin has always replied to my emails quickly and doesn't seem to take offence at dumb questions. I don't know who Zennmaster is, but it is well worthwhile following his videos on Youtube.
The MakerFarm might well be labeled an entry-level machine, but it does produce prints of equal quality to other printers, and its design and construction is simple enough to provide the background necessary to build ones own design.
Old Man EmuYou may go past me,
But you won't outlast me!
02-18-2014, 04:52 PM #7
One thing I did was to take an old inner tube and cut a 2"x5" strip and fold that in half so that I now have a 2"x2.5" folded piece. That size measurement isn't really critical as I just eyeballed them and just measured one so I could talk about it here. What they become are feet. They keep the printer from sliding around and dampen vibration even more. There are 6 of them under each main support position. It's simple and works very nicely.
Another mod I made was really easy because the frame is wood instead of metal. I've had a lot of issues getting the cooling fans I have to turn on and off at the right time. That's the fault of different slicers, not the frame. I drilled two holes in the frame and mounted two toggle switches that control the front and rear cooling fans I have for when I use PLA. That way I can override a fan that's blowing when I want it off. It also keeps the fans from blowing when using ABS should I find that the gcode has turned them on. I know I could just issue a kill code but it's really easy to just flip a switch. If the frames had been metal it would have been much more difficulty to drill the 1/2" holes I needed without putting a lot of force on the frame and possibly torquing everything out of shape.
So far I've pushed 4kg of filament through the printer and nothing has loosened up. Everything has stayed tight. Maybe I put enough initial torque on the frame when I built it. I did have one part break and I'm glad that I had printed new extruder parts from the very beginning. The pressure flap that pushes against the hobbed bolt cracked and my filament was not extruding. I simply swapped it out, printed a new backup and was on my way. I've had no other issues with the frame itself. All of my issues have been calibration related and that has little to do with the frame as long as things don't drift out of alignment on the frame.
02-19-2014, 12:11 PM #8
02-19-2014, 12:48 PM #9
DrLuigi, I'm not trying to be argumentative with you here. Just enjoying talking about it. Thanks for the noise samples.
I can confirm that mine sounds exactly like that however it appears to come from the motors in my case. I don't think the wood is amplifying the noise in any way with my printer. It seems that yours might be different.
This is my only printer. My feeling is that they are just a bit noisy. Even as the noise may be present, I don't think it affects the quality of the output unless there is a lot of vibration. High speeds can cause that. I don't print over 40mm/sec because I need cleaner prints. And, even though it takes a long time, most of my prints are at 20mm/sec, the perimeters anyway. At this stage of the game for me, a 3D printer is not a production device. It's a prototyping device. Once I have the part worked out, I'd plan to use injection molding or some other production process to mass-produce.
I can't speak from experience but I'd expect that some of the other models of metal printers that have housings are noisy with the doors open or housings off. Just a guess. I don't know how old you are but if you remember the first dot-matrix paper printers, they were so loud that a whole industry was created to build Plexiglas shells to cover them. And it did not help that much. Those things were incredibly loud. Maybe 3D printers will have the same development curve and the stepper motors will get quieter and quieter. I still can't believe how inexpensive they are, mine anyway. Maybe there are some super-quiet stepper motors out there but I've never researched that.
I will acknowledge that the printers make noise, but I just don't see how the design of the i3 in wood increases the noise levels. I do suspect that excessie print speeds will cause a lot of instability and vibration. Each machine will have different tolerances for that. It could be true that a metal frame will allow for higher print speeds and lower harmonic distortion but again, I've never used one, so someone else would have to discuss that.
For now, the Makerfarm i3 8" is a fantastic device for me to use to prototype. It's making some beautiful parts and it's quiet enough for me. It sits in my office and prints along while I work and it doesn't bother me. The cost was right. And because I built it, I learned a ton about RepRap design. That's something I would not have gotten from a prebuilt machine.
I can't say enough good things about it. One day I might outgrow it but if someone wants economy and quality in one package, it's a great option to explore.
02-19-2014, 01:03 PM #10
It might just be the sensitivity of the recording but I can definitely recommend adjusting the pots again to get the stepper motor noise down. My Prusa sits on a sheet of neoprene I cut from an old laptop sleeve and it doesn't make a sound aside from some nice robotic motor noises from the steppers. Then again, I do print very slowly, 20mm/s on all fronts and have adjusted settings in my firmware that deal with jerk speed, so my steppers don't work as hard and vibration is minimal. My thinking is, why print fast and have it look ok when you can print slow and have it look fantastic!