I think it was Mary Ann Evans under her pen name George Elliot who first said in 1860: “never judge a 3D printer by its cover”… or words to that effect anyway.
When reviewing printers so far I’ve found this adage to be true, frankly the UP! Plus isn’t exactly a looker, but it has been solid and the parts off it can be marvellous. The UP! sits next to a sleeker looking and more user-friendly Cube but owing to the fact that the Cube’s filament is expensive and accuracy is poorer the first gen machine barely gets a look in.
But there’s a new contender for the throne that entered the 3D printing lab this week, BEEVERYCREATIVE’S BEETHEFIRST machine, kindly supplied to us by the exclusive UK & Ireland reseller Hawk 3D Proto. And this contender sure looks pretty but how does it print? Can it match the UP! Plus?
The first thing that impressed me about the printer was the packaging, previous packaging of printers reviewed had been a little ad-hoc (sometimes leading to vital parts breaking in shipping) but the packaging from the Portuguese start-up has been meticulously planned. From the moment you slice open the box to be greeted with a friendly branded poster to the second you slide the machine out of the final piece of packaging to find a hidden compartment complete with all the peripherals one would need, you know that packaging has not been an afterthought
Once the printer is out, supplied blue tape is applied to the magnetic build plate, filament is placed onto its slot and the software is downloaded, you’re pretty much ready to go. The software talks you through a very simple bed levelling process using the old piece of A4 technique, before running a quick and efficient calibration process.
The software, BEESOFT, is fairly easy to use and certainly for a first attempt is a lot more intuitive than the first poorly translated software package that came with the UP! Plus or the open-source software that is par for the course with machine likes the Lulzbot. It took almost two years before the Mac version of the UP! software became fairly useful, BEESOFT has all the necessary functions for you to start extruding plastic on an XYZ axis right away.
Here’s my first and only gripe on usage; the machine isn’t standalone, the Macbook needed to remain plugged into the printer for the entire print, which seeing as I was only printing the test print for 14 minutes wasn’t an issue. However, the software told me to make sure the computer doesn’t go into standby mode this could become problematic for longer higher resolution prints.
That being said it doesn’t state anywhere in the marketing material that the printer is standalone so it is a bugbear that you should know before buying, solutions like AstroPrint may become available in the future.
As for the printer itself, when it springs to life it looks beautiful, the LED lighting puts a spotlight on your print and really gives an impending sense of theatre as your print gets bigger layer-by-layer. Printing dimensions are 190mm x 135 x 125 mm, so a considerable step up in size from the Cube and Up! Plus, printing resolution is as high as 100 microns and at priced at £100 cheaper than the Up! Plus 2. These factors may well come into play for anybody looking to purchase a machine.
The test print itself was done in 14 minutes and the printer is fairly quiet, emitting a sturdier noise than the others in the office. The finished article printed on the lowest res (300 microns) adhered and then lifted off the blue tape with ease. For a first print, there was no trial and error required; it worked first time, which is something to shout from the rooftops about in the 3D printing world.
Overall I was delighted by the first experience and I’m sure as I get to know the machine I’ll love it even more. My minor gripes are fixable software related gripes, BEEVERYCREATIVE should certainly consider adding a pause function thus enabling the user to change the colour of the filament, but for now I'm increasingly excited to try something bigger and better on the machine.