3D printers are very popular right now. Because of their popularity, many new manufacturers have gotten into the business of making them, prices have fallen, and the competition for your dollars has grown. The old benchmark standards are giving way to new up and comers, and it is difficult to decide what to choose.
For me, my first printer was very small and limited in what it could print. Customer service was almost non-existent, and their grasp of English was not helping matters any. In fact, nearly as soon as I posted my review on the printer, it broke. I was left with filament I could not use, and nothing to show for my out of pocket expenses. That was over 3 years ago.
Choosing a printer
Over the summer, I got brave and purchased another. This time, I spent time looking at what others had to say, and once I had narrowed my list down to the top 20 or so, before settling on choosing specific properties I desired.
One thing I wanted to look at was print bed size. The print bed is your usable workspace. The one I got 3 years ago, was about 90x90x90mm, which in the States is better known as just a little over 3.5 inches cubed. Needless to say, nearly every model I found was too big to print. This time around, I looked at a minimum of 220x220x250mm, which is 8.6×8.6×9.8 inches. A huge difference. At this size, I can print things like a Ukulele, or print and assemble a guitar, a trombone, plastic pinewood derby cars, parts for a new printer, and more. Even a dollhouse for my granddaughters, or a 3d printed photo known as a lithophane.
Another feature was the diversity of print materials. Some printers only print with a single type of filament, usually PLA which, while a great filament for a number of projects, is not suitable when tensile strength is needed. Other types of filament include ABS, TPU, Wood, Pet-G, and metal. I know there are more, but these are the most common. Each type has applications and model types that they are best suited for.
Rather than get into all of the types and their respective uses, I will briefly say that PLA is for regular everyday use, ABS is for things that need strength such as tools, TPU is for bracelets or things that need to be flexible, Wood, for things that need to have that look, and Pet-G for things that need to be food safe.
The printer I chose states that it can print PLA, ABS, Wood, etc. The etc. was not specified though I have learned that it includes the others mentioned, though metal is not recommended unless I move from a brass nozzle to a steel one.
Heated or not
My first printer was not heated. In fact, it did not have even a print mat available which meant I had to use tape to print on which was not very nice as it left color and lines on the bottom of prints. However, back to the issue of heated versus non-heated beds. This is very important as a cold bed does not allow some filaments to adhere to the surface of the print bed. When things do not stick, the results can be disastrous. PLA, for example, sticks best when the bed is heated to 60C. and ABS works best at 100C. I have not yet printed any other filaments so I cannot speak to their needs at this time. The printer I have has a heated bed, which brings me to the next consideration.
The print bed printing surface
Until I got this new printer, I only knew that I needed tape to place on the bed and every time I printed, the tape had to be scraped off the metal bed, without scratching it, and off the print without breaking it. This was a real pain. My new printer comes with a fiberglass bed covering, which has some kind of heavy-duty covering on top of that, which is very strong and durable. Other surfaces are glass which I have been told is very nice to print on.
A word of caution make sure you understand bed leveling, (Dragon blogger nor this author is affiliated with this site) or you risk damaging the mat, your printer, and possibly more. I failed to level correctly and gouged my mat so badly that I had to get a new mat. My prints were often not very nice, and eventually, the mat covering pulled off and stuck to the bottom of my prints. Leveling also makes the difference between a poor-quality print and one that turns out flawless right off the mat.
In the future, I might look into a feature known as auto-bed-leveling to see how that stacks up, for now, I have to do this the old fashioned way with a plain sheet of printer paper, and manually turning knobs while sliding the paper in and out from under the nozzle until the desired resistance is discovered. (This is not easy, and had to be repeated often).
My first printer retailed at $300.00 not too bad, considering some I saw in the range of $3000-5000 US. As someone on a tight budget, the price was a major factor. By the time I narrowed things down, my printer came in at $220.00 which was a great price.
So, what did I choose?
After factoring everything in, and choosing the ones whose features seemed to me to be the most appealing, and then looking at the average ratings of those who purchasers took the time to review, I chose the JG Magic printer from JG AURORA.
At the time, I had no clue if this printer would be good or a lemon, like my last one turned out to be. I am pleased to say, this one was not a lemon.
One of the first prints I did was a cute little tugboat named Benchy. Benchy or Ben for short is as the name implies, is a benchmark print. When printed correctly, a great deal can be told about the quality of the printer, and the settings chosen. Needless to say, my first attempt failed miserably.
I learned what I did wrong, which was everything, and tried again. (I was using PLA print settings for ABS filament. No adhesion took place, and before long, it was chaos). However, with the right settings, the print was perfect.
After that, I wanted to print everything. I only had a small bit of PLA and two huge rolls of ABS. I really want to try to print a few flutes. And whistles, but ABS is toxic and cannot be used for anything intended for consumption or that would come in contact with food or the mouth. Instead, I used my PLA for some small things, like something for my granddaughter’s hair and a few things that needed flexibility. While beyond the scope of this review, I found a great way to make PLA flexible to the point of becoming bendable.
I have made a great number of things, such as
a hair tool for making a bun,
followed by a second one that is easier to use,
knobs for my lamp,
a cord keeper for earbuds,
puzzle pieces of the United States.
and a few lithophanes, or picture that can be seen as a photo when the light shines through them.
These are just a few of the many possibilities. I plan to try some tools, as well as jewelry items later on.
How is the company?
With my last printer, they were good until the review was done, and then I could not get any help with the issues that developed with my printer. It basically melted down, and they blew me off like I was nobody. That is not the way things are with my new printer. The seller I purchased from answered questions nearly real-time through Email.
I had a missing part and they worked with me trying to figure it out. Unfortunately, I had to put the printer aside for a month after I had to have emergency surgery, and I was kind of scared to assemble it. We still could not find the screw and missing T-Nut, and almost as I was ready to hit send on the Email message, my son found it hidden under the printer. After that, putting it together was a snap.
Somehow, while asking questions and searching for answers, I connected with a lady in China, who is a direct rep of the manufacturer, and she has been amazing. It can take a while sometimes to get connected through messenger, but when I do, she has sometimes spent 2-3 hours at a time chatting with me about the printer. When I messed up my mat due to my not knowing how to level the bed, she secured me a new one. When I completed and posted a product review on Amazon and got is approved, even though her site was not the same as the seller I bought the printer from, she sent a roll of PLA. I am eagerly waiting for it in the mail right now. And when I had the most mundane questions imaginable, she patiently replied to each and offered encouragement.
If she is this helpful, I can only imagine how nice the rest of the company is. She has definitely made a lasting impression on me and had perhaps been the best customer service rep of any company I have done business with to date. And, at over 200 reviews so far, that is saying a lot.
Would I buy from this company again?
If I could shout loud enough for the world to hear, it would be a resounding yes!!!
I am already setting my sights on a printer from them that is even bigger, at over 400mm cubed. That is somewhere around 12.5×12.5x 15 inches in size. At that size, I can print tubas, trumpets, banjos, shoes, even things like purses, hats, and well, the skies the limit.
If asked, I would give this printer the best possible rating I could give any product, not just because I can, but because all around, this printer has been the easiest to use, the quickest to assemble, (even with the delay in putting it together due to not finding the T-Nut, and having to wait a month while I recovered from surgery) than I expected. The price and availability of print material aside, are not as important as how amazingly the printed items turned out, even with those that messed up due to my errors. And as already mentioned, the customer service is incredible.
But, what did I get?
I bet you thought I would not get to what I actually purchased. The company is called JG Marker, and the model I bought is known as the Magic. In my opinion, the name says it all, this printer is magical. I am extremely pleased with this printer and have had many hours of fun printing amazing things with it. I look forward to many more prints in the future. If you are in the market for a 3d printer and have never used one, this is an amazing product. If you are an old pro and need an extra machine, this one is for you.
Set up as I mentioned before, is easy. They provide not only a picture filled diagram of each part, with written instructions showing where and how to put them together, but also a video showing a machine being built that you can watch while you are putting yours together. It took maybe 20 minutes total.
A few last-minute bits of information before we conclude. The print bed gets hot. With PLA, the optimal setting is 60c which is 140 Fahrenheit. ABS is 100c or 212 F. While all this is going on, the nozzle is even hotter. For PLA that generally means a 200c or 392F. and as high as 240-250c or 464-482F. for ABS, That’s hot, as I well know, since my printer sits just over a foot from where I sit. Even after you complete your print, the bed and mat can be hot for 5-10 minutes.
And lastly, make sure you buy some PLA at the same time you buy your printer. There are so many options, just search PLA Filament when you do, and pick a few basic colors to start with. I plan on getting a good deal of white since it can be painted, or colored in with a permanent marker. However, there are so many possibilities, it is almost overwhelming. Most importantly, relax, smile and enjoy. And don’t forget to take a look at www.yeggi.com for over 2 million possible models to start printing. Some cost, most are free.
Before you leave, I want you to enjoy this video. It is just a 3-minute clip I pieced together to show off how the print progressed from nothing to a photo of one of my granddaughters. I hope you enjoy. This printer is $219 on Amazon right now but only $179 on Gearbest right now.
This 3D printer was purchased by me and was not given in return for a positive review. All opinions are 100% mine and mine alone.
I have worked in and around many different types of computers. In the Navy, I used a magtape drive computer that was a step down from pen and paper. I later worked for a big computer company and after that, taught computer class’s nation wide. I had the privilege of teaching 14,000 students in a 2 years period of time. Afterwards, I owned a small computer training and repair shop for a few years. I have owned C-64’s, Pc’s of various types, Amiga’s, and even Mac’s. I now have included the android to my collection. At any time, I have close to 15-20 computers or combinations of computers and game systems in the house. I look forward to more.