With the 3D printer market flooded with affordable printers for beginners, we take a look at DaVinci 1.0 as it attempts to be the first to provide industry-grade printing with a much bigger print platform. Since the company I work for bought this printer, and in turn handed over to me set up, I thought a first-hand review of the machine was inevitably due. Please bear in mind, this review is my analysis of a machine my company bought and is a personal first-hand experience.
DaVinci 1.0 – Printing Review
|Extruder||Single 0.015-inch nozzle|
|Print platform||Heated print plate|
|Print Technology||Fused Filament Fabrication|
|Build volume||7.8 x 7.8 x 7.8 in (20 x 20 x 20 cm)|
|Layer thickness||0.4 / 0.3 / 0.2 / 0.1mm|
|Nozzle diameter||0.015 in. (0.4mm)|
|Print speed||3.54 in/s (90 mm/s)|
|Scan volume||6 x 6 x 6 in. (15 x 15 x 15 cm)|
|Printer control||2.6-inch FSTN LCD|
|Printable materials||Proprietary cartridge containing PLA or ABS filaments (600g each)|
|Power source||230 V / 120 W|
|External dimensions||18.4 x 20.1 x 22 in. (46.8 x 51 x 55.8 cm)|
|X86 32/64-bit compatible PCs with 4GB+ DRAM (for PC)
Windows XP/7 ( .Net 4.0 required) (for PC)
Macs with 4GB+ DRAM (for Mac)Mac OSX 10.8 above-bit (for Mac)
Note: Standard VGA driver on operating system, or a graphics card doesn't support OpenGL 2.1, may cause unknown error in XYZware.
In order to give an accurate description of the printing, allow me to first introduce a few basic principles. For a 3D printer, a nozzle adds layer upon layer of the material. The DaVinci uses ABS (and PLS) filament which is one kind of thermoplastic. The DaVinci 1.0 hosts a single nozzle which means only one filament can be used at a time. The filament supplied with the printer as part of the package is a 300 gram filament which translates to 120 meters of filament tape. This is the criterion the printer uses to keep track of the filaments usage. This combined with the fact that the filament is housed in a casing offers a few advantages that spools (which is an alternative method of feeding a filament tape direct in to the nozzle head used by other 3D printers) lack.
The first advantage is the fact that the cartridge is fixed in volume hence the printer knows how much remains. Which means if there’s not enough to complete the print, it won’t even start printing. Beginners might think this is a red flag, but it’s actually beneficial because if your model is incomplete and you run out of filament, the time it will take you to change the cartridge, plus the time to feed the filament into the head plus the time to reheat the filament will allow the model’s latest layer to cool, hence adding the new layer would not give the same result.
Another advantage of the cartridge system is that its housing makes it hassle free. The housing keeps the filament dry producing much better results no matter the humidity in the ambience.
Once you finish the 300 gram filament, a minimum replacement of 600 gm is available. The filament cartridges are not refillable. Furthermore, the printing can leave amounts of residue on the print bed, for which a container rests at the very bottom. This is one of the features (as stated above) missing from the more advanced and expensive models. Since the base plate is not removable, leaning in to clean the plate after a print is always required in other printers. Before each print a layer of regular paste (UHU type adhesive) needs to be applied so the base of the model does not attach its molten to the base. Also, a metal rod fixed in place allows the print bed to automatically recalibrate itself. Another impressive factor was a cleaning tower to the right, over which the head drives itself in order to clean leftover filament.
The print head and its capabilities
Moving on, the printer itself hosts a single nozzle of 0.4 mm diameter. That’s accurate printing for the consumer level. The nozzle has the ability to print 4 different layer thicknesses which also determine the speed of the print. The four thicknesses are:
- 0.1 mm – Uber slow
- 0.2 mm – Regular
- 0.3 mm – Average
- 0.4 mm – Quick
Note: The print speed is consistent at 90 mm/s but the layer thickness dictates how many layers will get laid down. Due to the thickness, the volume of the layers changes hence even though the speed of the printing is the same, the time that the print takes varies with thickness.
The build volume (the maximum volume) that you can print in one attempt is 8 liters (i.e. 20cm x 20cm x 20cm). Due to some practical technicalities, I was unable to print that amount, but it should be noted that this size is behemoth for a printer of this price. The largest model I printed was a 20 cm high replica of the Eiffel Tower and later on an 18cm wide cross section of an engine pistons scale model. Both came out relatively well. The Eiffel tower replica took a little over 18 minutes with its mesh-like structure on a 0.2 mm layer render. The engine piston took about 25 minutes since it was a vertical cross-section of the part showing its insides at the same thickness as before. All in all, it was a good enough print.
One thing to note, is the fact that during a print job, the base plate moves vertically allowing for the head to move on the X (Width) and Z (Length) axis. The base plate moves on the Y (Depth) axis completing the 3D movement of the entire model during printing. The process of melting the filament and adding the layer is called fused deposition modeling (FDM), and also known as fused filament fabrication (FFF). This is the current 3D printing technology used in all consumer-grade 3D printers. Furthermore as stated above, only a single nozzle means single colored prints at a time and the the printing can’t be interrupted to change colors and material. This may be viewed as a shortcoming, but in my opinion is a simple enough sacrifice for a printer of this price.
Unwanted mesh or printing supports
The act of printing more than one model in the same job is the same as having one model divided into multiple parts that lack physical contact. During such prints, or when printing a hollow object, strands of the molten material tend to get stretched over from one end of the empty space over to the other. Such strands can create a web like mesh, which must be cleaned by getting cut off from the ends manually.
Another example where this happens is when you need to print “supports”. When printing a model that needs to be suspended in air or requires additional support to be held high, the base of that part of the model gets an additional print added beneath it to provide support, hence the name. This and the web-like mesh as mentioned above need to be manually scrapped off after the print is complete. This is a process common to all printers due to the nozzle leaking the molten material when moving from end to end.
DaVinci 1.0 Includes 3D Scanning
Another thing to take into consideration is the fact that the printer also acts a 3D scanner, which in my opinion is not one of its strong suites but nonetheless is a valuable feature. Many 3D printers nowadays bring this feature with their portfolio. The scanning volume is 15cm x 15cm x 15cm. The scanning options are light, dark and auto; auto being where the color of the object is determined automatically.
After the initial scanning, the model can be tweaked using the XYZScan software supplied by the manufacturers. If the scanning option is selected, the base printing plate rises up to show the scanning plate which is pretty much the same in appearance. The need for two different plates is unclear to me, but I’m sure the manufacturers had their reasons. The software allows touch up the details, layer thickness/volume, and surface smoothness manipulation. Once the model has been scanned, it can be saved in “.das” file format which can be edited or exported to the “.stl” format. Once in the “.stl” format, no editing can be made and the model is ready to be printed.
Proprietary software of the DaVinci 1.0 3D printer
The software that XYZPrinting provides is raw and basic. Since the product is for the average consumer, it does not have a modeling/designing package but instead allows you to position the design virtually before the printing. That’s the most important function of the software in terms of what you’re going to use. The other significant bit is where the software slices up the design based upon your choice of layer thickness and feeding the final render to the printer. The printer’s software also allows you to add more than one model into the same job (where the entire printing is treated as one model without physical contact) as long as the filament is enough and the print volume is not exceeded.
It should be kept in mind that the software is the firmware for using the device. The drivers are separate and are included for each OS (Win 7 and higher, MacOS 10.8 and higher). Windows 8 drivers may take a while to install and configure but WinXP and Win7 had no problems for me on my Lenovo X201 tablet/laptop. Since the MacOS version I had was 10.7, the drivers took a bit of time to assemble. In my opinion, another issue that I faced was due to the printer head randomly getting stuck in between models and thus would produce random error messages about head status and job status. The XYZ customer support acknowledged such bugs (and not any correlation between the OS and the device) and promised to improve on these bugs.
Apart from the firmware and the drivers, there are the file formats that need to be taken into consideration. The standard format for the DaVinci 1.0 is ‘.3w’. This is the format that your final control file needs to be in. If it so happens, that you have a design in the just-as-popular ‘STL’ format, the .stl file will need conversion. There are freeware applications available for conversion.
FYI: The conversion process is necessary because many other softwares that create STL files, create the file according to their own standards of encoding. Even though the end result contains the same information (pertaining to the actual printing criteria) there is additional information that needs to be stripped or added when converting from .stl to .3w. Once the file is converted, any and all designs/models print seamlessly.
Product delivery and packaging of the DaVinci 1.0
XYZPrinting, which is the company manufacturing the DaVince 1.0, is based in Taiwan. The packaging was solid. All removable parts were in their separate compartments shielded with Styrofoam covers. Thick, transparent packing wrapped all around presented a neat, protected and open look. Removing the box, the printer ate up the entirety of the desk space and sat with its 18.4 x 20 x 22 inch (WxHxD) frame showcasing a clean and sleek interior behind a glass door. It’s all industrial in its design, looking like a microwave oven. The 3D printer is just right for the beginner, consumer, and hobbyist.
In the image above, it can be seen the inside is clean and offers some features missing in even more expensive and advanced models. Two plates can be seen at the bottom, one on top of the other, moving on well talk about them individually.
The design of the DaVinci lives up to the products name, it’s as innovative as the famous philosopher, offering some features completely non-existent in more advanced models. As mentioned, the removable parts were removed and kept aside for DIY assembly upon arrival.
Once open, the boxed contents were extracted and put in place one by one, the filament (the material used for printing) first (see below) added into the rear, with a proprietary chip as to disallow people from using non-proprietary printing filament (there’s a way around it, but we won’t cover that here) with the device.
The filament, as can be seen in the bottom (the white tape) housed in a fancy cassette-type casing meant for easy replacement as need be.
Once the filament is in place the printer can be turned on. No need to connect the USB cable at this point, as no input is required. Even the calibration and initial heating procedure can be actuated right from the panel on the front (see below).
The last step of assembly
Once the cartridge is in place, you need to pull out the filament strip and feed it into the printer head. A firm push in, and press of a button on the LCD panel causes the printer to start the heating of the filament and with a slight suck, the filament gets pulled in, a small droplet of molten filament oozing out of the print nozzle lets you know, the printer head is ready to get to work.
A few other things that should be discussed include the fact that this printer/scanner bring industry-grade printing to consumers. Even though it does make some noise, it’s much quieter compared to many other printers in the same cost-to-benefit arena.
The XYZprinting Da Vinci 1.0 3D Printer was voted the 2014 CES Editors’ Choice Award Winner – The Most Affordable 3D Printer. As stands the cost of just the printer, the title is well-deserved, allowing for DIY hobbyists and hackers to get a chance to experiment and tinker without deep pockets.
At the end, if you want a printer to experiment with or for other DIY purposes (educational, recreational etc.) this is definitely the best definition of the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’.