I finally got around to purchasing a new 3D printer. This time, instead of a cheap ‘assemble it yourself’ kit, I did what I should have done the first time….paid for quality. I ordered a Monoprice Maker Ultimate 2. The printer is factory assembled, factory tested/calibrated and has auto-levelling. It is the more traditional style, where the Z axis moves up and down and the X-Y axis print head moves. All in a solid metal enclosure with door on top and front for accessing prints and loading filament. Ships with a pre-configured copy of Cura for slicing your own files to .gcode for printing.
Weightwise, this thing is a beast at 44 pounds. Packed with a good 6″ of foam around and 2″ of corrugated cardboard top and bottom. Unpacking and setup was a breeze, and within 30 minutes, I had it printing a test print.
This took roughly two hours and is about 3″ high. Not sure of exact settings it used, since the object was pre-sliced .gcode format and not an STL that I could load and view. Print quality was excellent, flat surfaces were smooth with curved surfaces having that slight layer texture that all 3D printed objects have. Next up, I started printing the main event….DragonLock Ultimate Dungeon Tiles from Fat Dragon Games using Hatchbox grey PLA filament (note, it is a few dollars cheaper on Amazon than direct from Hatchbox).
(Paper miniatures from Kev’s Lounge, Printable Heroes and Reivaj minis)
Depending on the complexity of the tile, it can take between 2 hr and 50 min (for a 2×2 or 10′ square wall/floor tile) to up to 6 hrs and 30 min (for a 4×4 or 20′ square floor tile, no wall attached). This is running the recommended hot end movement speed and layer thickness. It could be sped up by changing the move speed (at the risk of losing adhesion to the build plate and ruining the print) or by changing from a layer height of .1 mm (for detailed objects) or .15 mm (for standard objects) to 2.0 mm, at a resulting loss of print quality.
Overall, this is one hell of a printer. At work, I have access to two Makerbot printers (that weighed in at 2K and 3K USD respectively). Even using the Makerbot filament and tweaking the settings (it makes horrible prints with non-Makerbot filament, regardless of settings), the results are inferior to a $550 Monoprice. Here’s a picture of two wall segments. The leftmost is the Makerbot…notice the stringing…it was 10x worse when I tried Hatchbox with those printers. Also, even with taped bed, it was a crapshoot whether the Makerbox would lose adhesion and ruin the print unless you wasted filament having it print a raft. I have not lost adhesion or used a raft on the Ultimate 2.
Support – Monoprice support is a joy to work with! I emailed them late afternoon with a couple questions. Support form said 24 hr turn around time. 2 hrs later, I had a response from a Monoprice 3D printer tech. Turns out, Cura isn’t the best at printing by USB…the files that were randomly aborting from Cura printed great if I saved them to SD and printed from the card. One downside…the interior is lighted so you can see your print….sounds good? But you cannot turn it off. So much for sleeping while printing if you are light sensitive like me.
Would I buy it again or recommend it to friends? OF COURSE! I’d love to have 2 or 3 more myself, to crank out dungeon tiles and 3D scatter terrain! I highly recommend this printer to anyone wanting to print for gaming.
– The Gamemaster