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  1. #1

    Best Entry Level Printer for Kids...

    ...Or, what features are actually important in an entry level 3D printer?My youngest son is very much a "maker" - he loves to build various gadgets out of cardboard, rubber bands, plastic, basically anything he can cut, bend, or glue. He's found several projects online that he wants to attempt, but they require a 3D printer for several of the parts. His birthday is next month so I decided to try to find him an entry level 3D printer than he can use without too much frustration. I have zero experience with 3D printing but I am an experienced software engineer so I figure I can learn along with him.I've narrowed the choices down (possibly prematurely) to a handful of models, but each seem to have some but not all of the features I imagine would be useful to a complete beginner. I would like to get some more experienced feedback as to what features are actually important (and please let me know if I've got things completely wrong!).
    1. Heated print bed - From what I've read, heated print beds allow for more filament types, and tend to make the print stick better so there are potentially fewer problems. Non-heated print beds mean you can only use PLA (which might be ok for beginners, since PLA is pretty nice to work with).
    2. Removable print bed - Makes it easier to take the finished print off. Also potentially makes it harder to level?
    3. Auto-leveling print bed - I've watched a few videos and it seems like leveling the print bed might be a source of frustration. For a beginner, is auto-leveling a requirement/nice to have/not really a big deal? How about "assisted leveling?"
    4. Connectivity - My son has his own iPad, but I've only seen one company that appears to support printing from mobile devices. I have a laptop he can borrow, but having it physically connected for the entire print would be a problem. Once a print has been send to a printer, can the computer be disconnected? I'm assuming the printers with wifi would alleviate this issue.
    5. Software - The Da Vinci printers come with software that seems very much geared towards beginners, but I'm wondering if it will eventually become a limitation. I can probably figure out any setup problems without too much difficulty, but I don't want him to be forced to adjust a ton of settings in order to get a decent print.

    Here are the ones I've been considering - I'm not against other suggestions but all of the other printers in my price range (preferably less than $300, definitely less than $400) don't seem to stack up to these:
    1. XYZPrinting Da Vinci Mini
      • Pros:
        • Cheap
        • Ready to go out of the box
        • Easy software for kids
        • Auto-leveling
        • Wifi and controllable with an iPad (in theory, but I haven't actually found any videos online that show if this actually works)
        • Automatically sets up based on the filament that is being used
      • Cons:
        • Expensive proprietary filament
        • Non-heated print bed
        • Seems to be a lot of problems when it comes to support from the company
    2. Monoprice Select Mini V2
      • Pros:
        • Cheap
        • Ready to go out of the box
        • Wifi
        • Heated print bed
        • Several filament options
        • Controllable on the device with the screen.
      • Cons:
        • Manual leveling
        • The software situation seems a little less user friendly
    3. Monoprice Voxel
      • Pros:
        • Ready to go out of the box
        • Wifi
        • Heated, flexible print bed
        • Several filament options
        • Touch screen
        • Larger prints than other options on this list
      • Cons:
        • Very top of my price range
        • Proprietary filament? (I wasn't clear on this, does it just have a proprietary spindle but any filament can be used?)

    Sorry for the novel! I would appreciate any and all feedback!

  2. #2
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    Automatic levelling can often be more trouble than it's worth - and it's really of any use when the surface of the bed is not level.

    manual ;evelling is quick, pretty simple and doesn't need to be done that often.
    I don't think I've levelled my delta for at least a year :-)

    The voxel is a great choice - for a couple of reasons.
    1) it's actually a flashforge adventurer 3 so you can use flashprint - one of the best and easiest slicers to use around :-)

    Plus often the adventuere is actually the cheaper option.

    Monoprice do not make printers, they just buy them in and rebadge. Some are not great quality. But flashforge are one of the oldest and best manufacturers around.

    They will use any filament - for most you just use an external spool mount.

    Not sure how the wifi is implemented - but given that it's flashforge - it will probably stream the entire file to the printer and then print without needing the computer.

    Avoid the xyz's the cheaper units tend to have a lot of problems.
    The select mini is okay - but niether of them are even close to the adventurer - um, voxel :-)

    It's worth the extra money and you'll be surprised just how much stuff you can fit on a in a 150mm cube. It's larger than you think.

    So yeah, good choice - go for it :-)

  3. #3
    Thanks for the reply! I was leaning towards the Voxel and about to pull the trigger, when I came across the Monoprice Cadet. There's not as much information out there about it as there is with the Voxel/Adventurer 3, but it appears to be almost universally recommended as great beginner printer, especially for kids. So unless someone knows of a good reason not to start there, I think that's what I will go with. We can always go bigger in the future if it's actually something he enjoys doing.

    I've started to learn how to use Cura (which so far has been pretty simple; I've got a decent amount of experience with 3D modeling software and lots of experience programming 3D graphics so other than slicing there's not a whole lot of new concepts for me to learn). So hopefully it will be a good out of the box experience and he will really get into it!

  4. #4
    Whatever you buy do not get it from Banggood, their return or refund policy is meaningless and if you have a problem you'll just be out of pocket. Just look at some independent review sites. I wish I had!

    Best to buy from a reputable retailer or from Amazon, at least you'll have some customer rights.

    I just bought a Flashforge printer and it was missing a uk plug lead, just supplied with a two pin EU one. I emailed Flashforge support and four days later a received the correct lead from China. So pretty good customer service I think.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    well for one thing whenever an advert says: 'easiest to use printer ever' - that usually means when something inevitably does go wrong - you're screwed :-)
    But the main issue is that 100x100x100mm IS just too small.

    So while it might be a decent machine - at the end of the day it will only ever be your first machine and pretty swiftly you'll outgrow it - say in about a week.

    I would say that 99% of what I make will fit in a 150 mm cube. But only about 50% would fit in a 100mm cube.

    It's just too small - and yes, i do have a printer with a 100mm print volume. It's used almost exclusively for tiny high detailed stuff.
    It's definitely not a general use machine.

    Spend the extra and get a machine that you won't outgrow too quickly.
    And cura really is pretty awful.

    Actually the more yu read te blurb for the cadet - the worse it looks.
    No heated bed - that right there should ALWAYS be a deal breaker.

    Sure you can get pla to stick to an unheated bed - but it doesn't like it. And it either has a tendency to pop off mid print or sticks so hard you can't remove it without breaking.

    The 'world's easiest auto levelling ' is also not that hard when you have a fixed bed that does not move.
    As long as it's flat, there is no actual need to level it - one of the things I love about deltas. Once level, it's level for a looong time (probably running at about 15 months since I last levelled my delta and it's used almost every day).

    Cheap and cheerful is not always the right option :-)
    Last edited by curious aardvark; 06-05-2020 at 10:15 AM.

  6. #6
    You may want to watch this video series on 3D printing https://youtu.be/nb-Bzf4nQdE I think he has only finished the first 2 of 8, but if you are new to 3D printing I think this will be helpful.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Bikeracer2020 View Post
    Whatever you buy do not get it from Banggood, their return or refund policy is meaningless and if you have a problem you'll just be out of pocket. Just look at some independent review sites. I wish I had!

    Best to buy from a reputable retailer or from Amazon, at least you'll have some customer rights.

    I just bought a Flashforge printer and it was missing a uk plug lead, just supplied with a two pin EU one. I emailed Flashforge support and four days later a received the correct lead from China. So pretty good customer service I think.
    Thanks for the warning - ordered from Amazon so no worries there.

    Quote Originally Posted by curious aardvark View Post
    well for one thing whenever an advert says: 'easiest to use printer ever' - that usually means when something inevitably does go wrong - you're screwed :-)
    But the main issue is that 100x100x100mm IS just too small.

    So while it might be a decent machine - at the end of the day it will only ever be your first machine and pretty swiftly you'll outgrow it - say in about a week.

    I would say that 99% of what I make will fit in a 150 mm cube. But only about 50% would fit in a 100mm cube.

    It's just too small - and yes, i do have a printer with a 100mm print volume. It's used almost exclusively for tiny high detailed stuff.
    It's definitely not a general use machine.

    Spend the extra and get a machine that you won't outgrow too quickly.
    And cura really is pretty awful.

    Actually the more yu read te blurb for the cadet - the worse it looks.
    No heated bed - that right there should ALWAYS be a deal breaker.

    Sure you can get pla to stick to an unheated bed - but it doesn't like it. And it either has a tendency to pop off mid print or sticks so hard you can't remove it without breaking.

    The 'world's easiest auto levelling ' is also not that hard when you have a fixed bed that does not move.
    As long as it's flat, there is no actual need to level it - one of the things I love about deltas. Once level, it's level for a looong time (probably running at about 15 months since I last levelled my delta and it's used almost every day).

    Cheap and cheerful is not always the right option :-)
    I probably should have mentioned that my son is turning 6 :-). I’m hoping that the cadet will be a good fit for him - I don’t see him printing out anything large for quite some time.

    Quote Originally Posted by airscapes View Post
    You may want to watch this video series on 3D printing https://youtu.be/nb-Bzf4nQdE I think he has only finished the first 2 of 8, but if you are new to 3D printing I think this will be helpful.
    Thanks for the link, I will definitely check it out.

  8. #8
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    So my take on the best 3d printers for our kids or ourselves are the ones we have to assemble. Just because of the maintenance and failure rate of these things even today. It is far better to teach our young'ns about the workings of a printer so that by the time you have a working machine even your kids understand how to level a bed or adjust belt tension or adjust forward current to a stepper driver or check for play on a given axis, etc. It is with mentality that i had all 3 of my kids help me assemble the first printer I bought 4 years ago now in May of 2016..

    I kept up this habbit as I bought each of the printers I have. Every one I had my chr'n help me assemble..

    And then as a reward for my decision to take this route with my minions I got to have the youngest help me 3d print a whole i3 printer..

    The REAL question here is do you want an easy button for your kids or do you want to use this as a springboard to force as much learning as possible on them little minds?

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