Price: $ 399
3D printers have really prevailed, and dozens of models are available to choose from. Monoprice, known for its cables and other components, has a growing number of printers, including the low-priced Voxel 3D.
Here's What We
- Excellent print quality
- Large, pull-out platform facilitates object release  Affordable
- Closed design keeps fingers away from hot parts.
- With the heated print bed, you can use a variety of filament types.
And what we do not
- Uses a non-standard filament spool
- Should have come with a spatula
The voxel is not Monoprice's only offering – there are more and more models, many under $ 500 , and both FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) and SLA (Stereolithography) resin printers. The voxel is like Goldilocks, not too expensive, but not too cheap. The $ 399 price is just above the entry-level Monoprice and XYZprinting printers whose da Vinci printers are direct competitors with the voxel.
3D Printing Types and Conditions
Before we dive into the test, a bit of background information is fine. 3D printers are not all the same. There are two main technologies in the $ 3,000 market. The more expensive models are mostly SLA resin printers. These use a liquid resin material that solidifies when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. The other technology used is Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), sometimes referred to as Filament Deposition Manufacturing or FDM. With FFF, a thin plastic thread is melted and extruded layer by layer onto a building board, which builds up the printed object. If you're familiar with a glue gun, think of an FFF printer as a device with a glue gun that moves in three dimensions.
In the voxel, the hot end or where the filament is actually extruded is shifted up and down and side to side as the build plate also moves forward and backward. This double set of movements reduces the distance that the extrusion head must travel when the object is created and reduces the time required to create the object. Keep in mind, however, that FFF printing is very slow and can even take hours to make even a small object.
About the Voxel
The Voxel – actually a fallen FlashForge Adventurer 3 – is well designed and included in all directions with a transparent front door that opens to allow access to the build platform. There are transparent panels on the left and top of the printer, so you can monitor your progress from different angles. This is to keep your fingers away from the hot, moving parts in the printer when it is used, a good security feature when the printer is to be used by younger builders.
On the right side of the printer is a removable cover that covers the bobbin and the feeder. The voxel uses a standard 1.75mm filament on a 7 inch spool, but can not accommodate standard 1 gram spools because the width of the voxel spools, with a maximum capacity of 700 grams, is less than that of the standard is.
The printer has a heated print bed. This is a must if you want to use ABS filament that is a bit more stable than PLA. PLA filament is printed at a lower extruder temperature, is somewhat more flexible than ABS and is biodegradable where ABS is not. PLA does not require a heated bed either. The voxel measures 15.7 x 15 x 15.9 inches and should fit anywhere. There is no special ventilation, although some people find the odor generated when printing on ABS plastic disturbing.
Monoprice can deliver these narrow filament spools from both PLA and ABS plastic, and they are not unduly expensive. The 0.5 gram spools of PLA and ABS with a monoprice are between $ 13 and $ 15, depending on the material and color. 1 gram spools (which do not fit the voxels internally) cost about $ 18. If you do not want to leave the door on the right side of the printer covering the bobbin and feeder, you can print out an external bobbin holder with 3D printing that allows you to use standard bobbins available from many manufacturers. The voxel comes with a thread spool so you'll want to put this project on your to-do list once you've printed some objects and are familiar with the process.
What's in the box?
The test printer packed well and arrived in good condition. The package includes the printer with the extruder already installed, a filament spool, the power cord, the user manual, several print bed setting tools, if necessary (which was not the case in my tests), a plugging tool In this case, the extruder clogs with molten plastic and a package of grease. The user guide also lists a USB drive that was not included in my box and is not listed on the manufacturer's website.
The Flashprint Slicer software can be downloaded from the Monoprice website for a larger version of the User's Guide. Not included was a tool that I think is necessary for every user of a 3D printer – a scraper. One problem with 3D printing, which you will encounter sooner rather than later, is that printing either does not stick to the build platform or is almost impossible to remove.
The voxel addresses the later by providing a build platform The top surface slides and is flexible, so you can bend the removable surface and hopefully the print will jump off, or one edge will lift up so far that you have a wiper can push under it. In my tests, I occasionally got an expression that failed because it did not stick to the board. But it did not happen as often as I experienced with other printers. Failed prints must be accepted with 3D printers regardless of cost. Scratches are easily available in the paint shop of any hardware store.
Setup: Configure quickly, bring your own software
Setting up the printer was easy. After I removed the packaging material and connected the printer, I put in the supplied filament. It fits into a bobbin holder under a door on the right side of the voxel. A charging function is available on the 2.8-inch color touch screen.
Press this button and slide the thread into the feeder mechanism, and the printer automatically grabs and loads the thread. You can also perform a build platform calibration from the control panel and even print the object if you place the cut file on a USB flash drive. There is a USB port on the front of the voxel. I did not feel it was necessary to calibrate, but depending on how much pressure the printer went through before using it, you may need to adjust the bed. If you do, this is not particularly difficult or time consuming.
Unlike some 3D printers, the USB port can not be connected to a PC or Mac. The Monoprice documentation states that you can switch the USB port between a flash drive and the internal camera. I could not use the camera feature on my network, but a YouTube video shows how it should work. You should also be able to view the camera in the cloud if you subscribe to Polar's cloud service (Polar continues to sell the voxel printer). The cloud connection also lets you save models in the cloud and perform printing operations, such as sharing models remotely. For more information about the Polar Cloud, its configuration and use, visit the Polar 3D website, including some videos that guide you through the setup and usage process. To be honest, the product also works without the Polar 3D subscription.
The voxel can be connected to a PC or Mac via Wi-Fi or, as in my case, via an Ethernet connection with an RJ-45 socket on the back. The slicer software, which converts a model into G-code statements that tell the printer how to print the model, can be downloaded from the product page of the printer on the Monoprice website. Installing the MP Flashprint software also installs the driver.
Monoprice does not offer 3D modeling software. If you want to create your own models, you need to use an application like TinkerCAD or Fusion 360. Ready-made models that you can modify or print are abundant on sites like Thingverse.
For my tests, I have a standard printed benchmark model of a tug called Benchy. If you look at different parts of the Printed Benchy, you can identify problems and / or the quality of the printed model. There is a guide to the evaluation of the printed model on the website.
The enclosed screenshots show the software functions. If you are unfamiliar with 3D printing, you can continue with the default settings and get good results.
Installing and using the MP Flashprint software for the first time displays a very simple screen. After loading the model with the Load command, you can place it on the build plate. Change the view. Rotate the model if you think it will print better after repositioning, or scale the model to make it larger or smaller. If your model is significantly overhanging the build plate, you might want to add supports (which will be removed manually after printing the model). If you click the Support icon, you can do so. Then you can start printing. When you click the Print button, a simplified Control Panel appears. Until you become familiar with printing, you should probably keep the default settings.
With increasing familiarity, the advanced settings menus are used to control layer height, speed, extruder and platform temperatures, and so on.
Before you actually print, you get an estimate of filament consumption and printing time. Benchy took 3 hours and 48 minutes to print, using 4.4 meters of filament. Unfortunately, no provider actually lists how long the filament is on the spool, only the takeoff weight (in this case, 0.5 kilograms), so you have no idea what was actually used. However, this limitation is common in FFF printers.
Here the finished Benchy is still tied to the build platform. At the bottom of the model is a tiny bit of string and a raft – a horizontal grid of filaments – that I use on most prints to help the model hold onto the build platform. The raft (and the strings) just pull off.
The finished model can then be examined for quality or printing problems. It was easy to see in this print that the voxel easily handled gaps such as the windows in the wheelhouse and the round hole at the front for an anchor.
The Verdict: Great Value, Cheaper and Easy Parts Replacement
Overall, I believe the voxel is one of the best printers currently available under $ 500, and a good choice for a rise from the models with $ 150 to $ 200 or as the first 3D printer of a user. You can get cheaper models from Monoprice and other vendors, but they have smaller print areas than the square 6.9-inch voxel platform, which is very large for a printer at this price.
I also like the voxel slot platform surface, which makes it easier to share the object. If the die on the extruder is hopelessly clogged, replacement dies are available, although they are a proprietary design available only from Monoprice or FlashForge.
Finally, the print quality on the Benchy benchmark and other items I printed on the printer The standard slicer settings were very good for an FFF printer, even better than some of the more expensive printers I've tested. My only criticism is the small coil width. However, you can turn off the door and use an external spool holder. If you do not feel like printing one (designs for an external holder can be found on Thingiverse and other websites), you can easily buy a finished part like this popular stock-based design.
Here's What We Like
- Excellent print quality
- Large slide-out platform facilitates object release
- Closed design keeps fingers away from hot parts
- Heated print bed allows the use of a printer Variety of filament types
- Uses a non-standard filament spool
- Should come with a spatula