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LeapFrog Creatr Front
Slick looking Creatr sports laser cut aluminium construction
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Leapfrog's expert days
The Leapfrog Expert Days have presentations by those in the know...
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Leapfrog's Expert Day
... and helpful discussions of best practices
Early in 2012 I decided to buy a Leapfrog Creatr Dual extrusion: after making an analysis of what printers were around and what I wanted my printer to do, I decided that the Leapfrog Creatr had the best features at the most reasonable price.
My initial review was marred with question marks due to the experimental nature of the initial printers... They steadily grew better with every revision... The philosophy at Leapfrog was to play Leapfrog with the printers, build a better one by learning from the mistakes of the previous version and go on till they were perfect.
Well I am writing you now because, in my humble opinion, the Creatr has reached a level of perfection for the most common uses of a 3D printer. The printer has come a long way from the version 1 model: improved bed with a heated glass surface that does not warp, better z-axis homing with an opto-switch that is far more reliable, a better calibration of the bed that sticks even when you travel with the printer in a car/truck, more accurate extruder heads of 0.35mm, improved z-axis that does not wobble (at all!). A few more improvements have been added of late: an improved cable management that prevents wires from running over the print bed and improved electronics, which integrate all the electronics onto one print and prints a lot more quiet, but still keeping it RepRap compatible.
All in all this makes the Leapfrog jump over its competition. The printer is still RepRap Marlin based, so it works with a plethora of slicing software and Rodrigo has done a great job of documenting all the settings for most of the common software ranging from Cura, Slic3r, KISSSlicer to Repetier Host and Netfabb... Every software has its advantages, but the base is to use slic3r and Repetier Host to get your prints started. Although Netfabb for RepRap looks promising it needs a Mac version to become the number one. Leapfrog does also supply a downloadable version of Repetier Host for Windows with the Leapfrog settings standard installed to make getting started even easier.
Another great advance for the Creatr are the accessories... A few brave souls have started making upgrades for the printer, which you can build yourself. Ranging from warranty-safe to warranty-breaking. The warranty-safe can be found on the Leapfrog Forum and the warranty-breaking ones are available on a third-party Creatr forum. Some of the upgrades are amazingly simple, from using Kinder-eggs to lubricate your PLA filament for the avoidance of clogging to a fan-based cooler that cools the nozzles and improves prints.. I have started a small collection on thingiverse to keep track of the various Creatr improvements.
This customisation culture shows again that Leapfrog has been able to grow a community of users that are willing to contribute to the improvement of the machine, especially on the official and unofficial forums. The responses on the Leapfrog forum are swift by a key group of members, answering basic questions quickly and the un-resolved ones are handled by Leapfrog properly. Another great initiative are the Leapfrog Expert Days (pictured to the left of the page), the first was in April 2013 and 14 Leapfrog owners came to Leapfrog HQ from all over Europe and learned the tricks of the trade and met with other printer owners to exchange experiences and concerns.
One of the very interesting advantages of the printer is its transportability... Once you get over the fact of moving a big 50x60x50cm case of aluminum (getting my arms around it is already a problem, but that is just me), the printer behaves very well to transport, due to the way it is built. The calibration sticks even after transportation, so no more hour-long calibration/rebuilding exercises: you place the printer on a level stable table and turn it on... Make sure there is enough electricity for the printer to heat up the bed and the nozzles. I did have problems at one demo exhibit in a 17th century house with no heating and snow on the roof: the sensors thought they were broken due to the low temperature, but running electricity through the heating elements and a few seconds later resetting the machine made it work... Apparently 3D printing is made for 21st century room temperatures and not 17th century room temperatures!
I have to say that in the last six months, the competition has also crept closer to the Leapfrog, but I still feel that for the money and the quality, you are getting a printer that exceeds the Ultimaker and Makerbot Replicator 2. Firstly, it prints on both ABS and PLA reliably due to the heated bed and the fairly "closed" construction allowing the heat to stay in the build volume (this can even be improved by some well measured plexi-glass doors). Secondly, the build quality of the machine is far better due to the custom-made aluminium parts. And of course the build volume is out of this world compared to the Ultimaker or Makerbot.