Leapfrog Dan Review
I’d like to preface this review by telling you that I, like millions of people out there, would not class myself as a ‘maker’. I failed my technology GCSE because the light reader I had designed didn’t read light. However, I am a tinkerer; forever patching up broken iPhones, PlayStation pads, computers etc. I know my way round a circuit board and I can follow a YouTube guide better than anybody!
But when it comes to 3D printing I am a “noob”, I’ve learnt a lot in a short space of time about the philosophy and can tell you about most 3D printers and their pros and cons. But just as I understand how to kick a football (soccer) that doesn’t make me Lionel Messi, the same applies to 3D printing.
I, like many, am excited by the technology and I am willing to learn. The Leapfrog Creatr is my first experiences in setting up and using a 3D printer on my lonesome, the following is my experience as a first time user.
The Creatr arrived on a big old crate, one like you’d see Wylie Coyote receive a giant rocket in. The size of the packaging is down to one of the Creatr’s USPs is the build volume; it boasts a whopping 230x270x200 mm in comparison to the Replicator 2’s 285x153x155mm.
This means it’s a big old machine to have sitting on your desktop but the sturdy aluminium frame and sleek design mean it doesn’t look out of place next to an office-grade 2D printer.
The design is another of the Creatr’s plus points, it looks great and the quality of the parts appears at first glance to be exceptional. Other printers we’ve had in the office tend to be a RepRap derivative; although the technology is the same the Creatr does not look like something put together in a hipster’s garage. It looks like a well-oiled machine with heavy-duty motors and driving belts.
Now, despite the machine’s plug and play claims, the installation process took a little longer than I had expected. At the time of reviewing the instructions for installing on OSX were a little thin on the ground and it took some reading of forums to find out what the best solutions were.
Since then Leapfrog have updated the installation page on their website and it appears to all intents and purposes to have a much easier walkthrough guide for Mac installation.
Not using their own software but using an open-source software like ‘Repetier Host’ does slow up the process at first but it does also allow modification of the machine to your specific needs.
If you have never used Repetier software it will take some time getting used to but the help on the Leapfrog forums is exceptional and vast in the extreme. As with all desktop 3D printing at the moment there’s always going to be an element of trial and error. I recommend that you read the tutorials thoroughly, a few times as opposed to doing what I usually do and skim read.
You will also need slicing software; the one that comes recommended from Leapfrog is Slic3r, which works in conjunction with Repetier Host. Inputting the settings is something you need to do, but only the once, if you have input them correctly you shouldn’t need to change them again.
The Leapfrog Creatr has dual extruders, and can print in either ABS or PLA. To switch materials you simply need to switch between the options in the software and you should be able print with either material.
My first print was a roaring success; an iPhone kickstand downloaded from Thingiverse and ran through NetFabb, printed in ABS. It is still being used to this day and makes viewing the BBC quiz show ‘Pointless’ on the train home a piece of cake.
However, that particular slice of cake appeared to be the beginners luck slice. The second and third prints didn’t go so well, the two-coloured traffic cone collapsed in on itself like a pack of cards and a test cube got stuck halfway through.
After some frantic Googling and forum browsing the solutions started to appear. A second attempt at printing the traffic cone with some adjustments to Slic3r along with the application of a new ‘3D Printing Sticker’ to the heated bed and voila a two coloured traffic cone, albeit a pink and orange one.
The aluminium casing aids the ability of the bed to keep a warm build volume, which improves reliability of prints. The sturdiness of the casing also greatly helps the calibration stick through transportation the majority of the time.
On the downside it is a little on the loud side for a desktop 3D printer, I’m sure you could get a pretty wicked tune out of it if you knew how to program the G-Code correctly.
We’ve touched on this briefly and Deepak goes into much more detail in his review but owning a Creatr is to be part of an exclusive club. A club designed at getting the best out of your printer.
There’s an official and unofficial forum in which you will find some of the most helpful people in the world of desktop 3D printing. There’s troubleshooting guides a-go-go, if you get stuck head over there and you will get an answer usually within 24 hours.
Leapfrog also offer ‘Expert Days’ were owners are invited to come and discuss their findings and show off their prints.
As with many 3D printers the key to perfecting the process is by using it, you might end up with some landfill at first but eventually you will smooth out the process and you’ll be creating superb models like this stunning vase.
The Creatr offers fantastic value in its price range for dual extrusion, the heated bed, sturdy case, huge build volume and seamless support. For a novice like me, I’d perhaps prefer a bundled software package but for those who enjoy experimenting the open-source software is far superior.
Since we had the Creatr Leapfrog have made some minor improvements including:
- Implementation of a cable harness, now the cables are no longer positioned on the bed but up high in the air so that it 100% does not interfere with your print
- Implementation of an easy-reachable switch at the bottom of the printer to make it possible to switch between American and European current
- Internal changes which make the printer print faster and more quiet
In all it’s a great looking machine and if you’re looking at taking the plunge into a desktop 3D printer, this is certainly one I’d recommend.