Monoprice Select Mini v1
I finally took the plunge into the 3D printing world after reading positive reviews of the Monoprice Select Mini v1, and bought one in early 2017. It was great! Mechanically, it is well constructed. There was no assembly required. You can take it out of the packaging, add blue painter’s tape to the build plate, thread in filament, and start printing. As I usually print fairly small items, the small build volume didn’t bother me. The print quality was excellent. Parts printed very precisely, with good tolerances, and very square. The only printing defect I noticed as a small amount of Z-banding. I passed this printer along to my Dad as I didn’t use it for awhile due to starting a new job.
Monoprice Select Mini Pro
The next printer I tried, was the Monoprice Select Mini Pro. Although this printer was very similar to the v1, in a few small ways, it was inferior to the first one. The tiny touchscreen was a bit harder for me to operate precisely compared to the click wheel, and the print quality, although similar to the v1, displayed a consistent z-banding through the full height of the printer. The removable build plate was nice, but it had no ability to flex to remove the parts. Due to the enclosed Z-axis design of the printer, I wasn’t sure how to fix the banding artifacts. Since it was nearly brand new, I decided to send it back. I bought an Ender 3 Pro instead.
Ender 3 Pro
The Ender 3 is a kit which requires a minimal amount of assembly. The printer went together quickly. I noticed some concerning quality issues during assembly. A plastic tab was required to be cut off to achieve proper placement of the Z axis limit switch.
After assembly, it was not all smooth sailing. Although I was able to print items fairly quickly after assembly, I noticed the top surface of printed items was rough, due to the hot nozzle dragging into previously printed layers. The nozzle dragging also caused issues printing thin towers, where the nozzle would bump into the model and sometimes tear it away from the build plate. I was able to compensate for this issue by enabling Z-hop when printing very tiny parts, but it was frustrating. I embarked on a mission to improve the print quality.
I upgraded the bowden tube and bought better couplers to attach the tube to the frame, as the couplers included didn’t grip well and soon began to slip during filament retractions. I continued to struggle with the print-quality. I made adjustments to eccentric nuts on rollers, adjusted the spacing between the frame and the Z-axis lead screw, swapped nozzles, and even completely disassembled the printer to attempt to loosen and retighten the screws holding together the frame to make things more square.
After all of the small tweaks I’ve made, the printer can print objects that look great superficially. It exhibits very few Z-banding artifacts compared the Monoprice printers, which was the main reason I decided to go with this printer. It prints statues and toys impressively well, and fairly reliably.
But I have never been able to get it to print completely square. I’ve printed boxes for origami paper that ended up like parallelograms. I had to increase the gap between the walls of the box quite a bit to get the paper to sit inside. I’ve also had trouble with the Z-axis leaning slightly to the right as well. I’m sometimes able to compensate by orienting the narrow part of a taller box along the Y axis.
In summary, I’ve really enjoyed the Ender 3’s larger print volume, and aside from issues with squaring the printer, I’ve enjoyed the open frame design, as it does allow for adjustments. I recently purchased a machinist’s square and will see if I can use that to square the frame assembly. It is a good printer for people willing to invest considerable time in learning to solve its deficiencies.
I attached my Raspberry Pi 3B+ with OctoPrint installed to my Ender 3, and it has made a world of difference. It is so much easier to print directly from Cura, using the OctoPrint plug-in, to the printer than using a MicroSD card. I now print more often, and am able to more quickly try changes and adjustments to improve print quality.
- Hatchbox Silver PLA — This is the first filament I purchased. It prints great, sticks well and was consistent. The silver color reveals defects well, but this is high quality PLA filament.
- Hatchbox Glow in the Dark Blue PLA — Prints great, sticks great, with a nice glossy slightly translucent finish. It prints very precisely.
- Hatchbox Orange PLA — Prints great, no issues.
- Hatchbox Dark Blue PLA — Prints great, no issues.
- CCTree PLA+ White — A sample of this filament came with my Ender 3. I liked it so I picked up another Kilo of it. It prints great! It is a slightly translucent white. You'd only notice it is translucent when comparing it to other more opaque whites though. It sticks well to itself, but still allows for tiny margins in print-in place hinges. It prints with a nice smooth texture as well, and hides small layer lines and defects. It is tough filament, bending slightly before breaking, but it less strong than standard PLA.
- CCTree PLA+ Gray — This filament is similar to the white, but reveals tiny defects much more. It prints and sticks well to the build plate, but I have seen tiny divot defects throughout and I'm not sure how to fix them, or what causes it. Maybe they are also in the white but just less noticeable?
AIO robotics makes nice 1/2 KG sizes, and I’ve had fairly good luck with them. The are easy to print with, but each color has had slightly different attributes.
- AIO Robotics Red PLA — Prints well. Maybe a slightly crumbly brittle texture. No real issues though.
- AIO Robotics Pink PLA — Tended to under-extrude a tiny bit. I had to increase the flow rate to get infill to make good contact with the walls. Good for making print in place hinges and parts because it doesn't stick as well to itself. This one has more of a slick smooth texture.
- AIO Robotics Thermochromic Green / Yellow PLA — I've had good results with this one. The color change works well, and it has been fun to use it to print a Raspberry Pi case that turns yellow as the computer heats up. It prints well and sticks to the build plate well, but sometimes has a bit of a brittle crumbly texture. It can be used for print in place hinges, but needs a bit more care in freeing them than other filaments.
- Amolen Silk-Like Pearl PLA — Good printing quality, but tends to fuse together. It is not usable for print in place hinges, but has a great shiny appearance.
Middle of the Road
- Overture White PLA — This is an OK filament, but not great. It sticks to the bed, but it suffers from some problems that I haven't seen with other filaments. Although it sticks, it also suffers from more severe warping / contraction issues than other filaments. As the printed part gets larger, it will pull away from the build plate. You end up with very rounded bottom surfaces unless you use a large brim. It also has a strange toothpasty, gummy consistency that sometimes sticks to the nozzle, leading to occasional dark burnt plastic artifacts where it transfers off the nozzle onto the print. I've used this filament more than I expected due to its nice solid opaque white color, but I probably wouldn't buy it again.
Brands I’ve had trouble with
- Sunlu PLA+ Black — If you can get it to stick to the build plate, it prints great. Smooth, even, shiny black. But getting it to stick is a struggle. I've only had good luck when I switched to printing with blue painter's tape instead of using the Ender 3 flexible magnetic bed. Worse, after you attempt to print with this filament, it puts an oily residue on the build surface which even prevent other filaments from sticking to it. It suffers from heat creep, and melts higher up in the extruder, and I ended up with clogs. I don't recommend it.
- Gold PLA — I found this on Amazon and took a chance. Unfortunately it is brittle. This may have been older filament when I got it, but it has been by far the most brittle filament I've bought. I've had it break while printing and cause jams. I've had more parts printed from it break than any other filament I've ever used. Stick to name brands.