Introduction and design
XYZprinting has been producing budget printers since 2013 and unlike many other companies, such as Ultimaker, which has developed printers with fast print speeds, material compatibility and resolution, XYZ has strived to make the technology simply accessible and cheap.
The Da Vinci range of printers aims to give the less tech-savvy user an inexpensive way to get into 3D printing. XYZprinting printers have always been exceptionally well-designed featuring fully enclosed cases and a professional finish that is in stark contrast to more expensive 3D printers, such as the Lulzbot Mini which still looks like it’s been built in a garage.
The reason that the XYZprinting machines are so cheap is because the company has a clear mission to build the best machine possible for the cheapest price that will reach the greatest amount of people. This means that components such as bearings will be brass or nylon rather than ball or polymer. The hot-end where the filament is melted will be a basic model, and rather than using high precision lead screws, threaded bolts will be used.
There is a careful balance to be met between cost and quality and this is certainly true with the Da Vinci Jr. From the outset, this 3D printer proves to be something exceptional for the price.
The Jr. is the smallest and lightest of the XYZ printers, but as XYZ don’t build anything small it can really only be called ‘junior’ when compared with the rest of the XYZ range. Up against an Ultimaker 2 it looks big, and against the Ultimaker 2 Go it looks huge! Weight-wise however it’s relatively light at 15kg, and transporting the printer around is easy enough, although unlike its larger sibling the Da Vinci 1.0 there are no hand holds cut in the side.
Although not small it has a footprint of 42 x 43 x 38cm which is much more manageable than the original XYZprinting Da Vinci which had a colossal footprint of 46.8 x 51 x 55.8cm.
Build quality is a major factor for XYZ, despite the printer being in the budget price range – it’s priced at around £270 at the time of writing ($339 over in the US, which is AU$480). The plastic formed shell and T-Slot tubed interior creates an ultra-solid platform for the moving parts. Wobble and vibration can be a major issue for 3D printers so the more solid the frame the better the print you can expect, and this is definitely something that the company realises and takes into account with the design of its printers.
The entire printer is covered with a solid top, sides and base so during the print process as long as the top-hinged door is closed there’s no way that stray fingers can get burnt.
On the side of the printer is the USB port for firmware updates and tethered printing as well as the power socket. On top of the machine the filament feed pipe can be seen and this moves within the slot during the print process.
Moving round to the front of the machine you have the control panel where you can navigate settings and print menus. The front of the machine is covered by a top-hinged door that once open reveals the build platform.
The Junior is only designed to print PLA and this is supplied by XYZprinting at a competitive price, although at present the range of colours and finish for the filament is limited. Due to it only needing to print PLA the print bed is unheated and measures an impressive 15 x 15 x 15cm.
On the inside left is the filament reel which needs to be clicked into place when first commissioning the printer. On the front mounted control panel is a small LCD to show menu options and a handy navigation pad, along with an SD card slot for card printing.
Setup and printing
Once the machine is taken out of the box, all that’s required prior to the first print is the removal of the packaging – of which there is quite a bit – and the installation of the filament reel. You also need to feed the filament through the system. This process is well illustrated and described in the printed instructions.
Once the machine is plugged in and powered up it takes about five minutes to complete the commissioning process, which involves clicking the filament reel into the holder on the side and then sticking the filament into the feed hole, attaching the filament tube into the correct slots and selecting the load filament option in the menu. It’s very much a step-by-step process and far easier than many other similar systems.
The Junior features a cold print bed which limits the material that the printer can use to PLA as we’ve already mentioned. However, there’s a good selection and PLA is fast becoming the choice material for many.
The print base requires preparation in order to make sure that the base layers of the model stick during the print process. In the box are several sheets of textured bed tape – this is stuck to the glass plate and then for extra stickiness an application of stick glue further helps the PLA to adhere to the platform during the build process.
After commissioning the machine is ready to go and it’s worth printing out a test model just to check that everything is as it should be. Sample models can be downloaded from the XYZprinting website and loaded onto the SD card by means of the XYZprinting software.
The XYZ Printing software is required in order to enable printing and this can be freely downloaded from the XYZ website at the same time as the models. Once everything is installed all you need to do is select the correct printer during the software setup and then load the model into the software and onto the build area.
The controls for the software are incredibly easy to use with simple sliders enabling you to move the model around the build area, before you save the model to the SD card, or print direct if you’ve connected the USB cable between the printer and computer.
If using the SD card this can then be ejected from the computer and inserted into the printer in the slot just above the control panel, then the control pad can be used to navigate the printer menu to SD card printing. Once that’s done a list of 3D models will appear on the small LCD screen ready for you to select the one you want.
After a five minute warm-up needed in order for the hot-end to get up to the right temperature, the selected test print begins. It took just under an hour to print and the resulting model showed that this is a very capable printer.
The printer’s low resolution does mean that ridges from the layers are pronounced, but overlook this and the actual extrusion is precise resulting in good clean models with little signs of common issues (such as under-extrusion, stringing or warping). The factory calibration for the Junior was spot on with no adjustment or fiddling required.
The XYZprinting Da Vinci 1.0 Jr. is an ideal entry-level printer. It has been designed to be as accessible as possible, from the initial setup through to actual usage and support. The supplied software does the job perfectly enabling the easy opening and export of models ready for printing.
It also has good support for models either downloaded from the XYZprinting website or from other sites such as Thingiverse.com, and your old model files exported from popular programs such as Sketchup.com can also easily be imported and printed.
Print quality at this price is good, but don’t expect the high resolution detailed models of the Ultimaker series. Models are well rendered and although layering is clearly visible, detail, edges and corners are all clearly defined.
XYZprinting aims its printers at education and for this market the Junior model is ideal – it enables educators to clearly demonstrate 3D printing technology easily and safely at a great price.
Despite the Junior label this printer is still sizable so while it will fit on a desktop it will require a little more space than other printers with the Mini/Jr. tag.
Layers are pronounced and visible which means that if you want a refined model with smooth surfaces you’re going to have to spend more time on the finish. The Junior is also limited with the materials that it is capable of printing and although this isn’t a huge issue the present range of PLA filament supplied by XYZ is limited.
As a budget 3D Printer there really is nothing at present that comes close to the quality build and well thought out print process of the Da Vinci 1.0 Jr.
Initial setup takes minutes and you can be up and running printing your first model within 10 minutes without issue. The pre-calibrated print bed, choice of direct SD card or tethered printing and easy to use software make it an ideal first printer.
Reservations only crop up when the print resolution is taken into account as although the prints are good especially when it comes to accuracy, when you compare the models to those from other printers, less refined in design and not a great deal more in price, you do feel that the print resolution could have been slightly higher.
But then although there are printers at this price point none come close to the quality of design and build of this machine – plus this is a printer that you’d be happy to let kids use without fear of electrocution or burning.
If you’re looking for a budget no-fuss printer that produces good accurate prints, albeit at a low resolution, then you really can’t do better at present than the Da Vinci 1.0 Jr. The ease of use and enclosed case design make it an ideal and cheap choice for education, but if you want refined prints, then keep saving your pennies.