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Solidoodle 2 Review

I know, I know. I’ve had this thing for months. But shouldn’t product reviews be performed only by those who know all the in’s and out’s of a product?
With great adieu, I give you the Solidoodle 2 Review!
The Solidoodle 2

The Solidoodle 2 was (still is?) the first ready to print 3D printer for under $500. That’s right, for $500 you can have a fully functional desktop size printer.

The company was founded by Sam Cervantes, the ex-COO of Makerbot industries, and in my opinion offer much more value for price in their product. After all, I could buy almost four Solidoodle Pro printers for the cost of one Replicator…

No but seriously the Makerbot Replicator is a great printer, but I’m not sure it really commands a $2200 price point… All consumer grade printers have their faults and not one is perfect — but the Replicator 2X really is quite slick. 

Anyways, enough background. Let’s start with the specs!

  • $499 for the base model
  • Entire printer is about a cubic foot in size
  • 150mm x 150mm x 150mm build size
  • .35mm nozzle diameter
  • 0.1mm minimum Z layer height
  • Fully tested and assembled
  • 0-120C heated bed (Pro model only)
  • Rigid steel frame
  • RepRap Sanguinololu v1.3a electronics
  • Weighs 17lbs

Now I’ve had my printer for about 3-4 months and I’m pretty well versed in it’s inner workings. I have some good news, and some bad news. But first, let’s take a look at my very first impressions — Here is the original unboxing video I made:

Yep — my very first print was a Batarang — I know, I’m a nerd.

In the past few months I have gone through an entire kilogram of white plastic, almost a kilogram of red plastic, and maybe another kilogram of various colors.

I have run 10 minute print jobs to 20 hour print jobs. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing but I’m very satisfied with my printer overall.

The Solidoodle printer will print out of the box — takes a bit of time to setup the software if you’re not familiar with it, but it is fully possible to be printing within half an hour of opening the box. The only thing that slows this down is the rather tedious install of the opensource software used to run it (python libraries for Pronterface).

Unfortunately you’re probably not going to get perfect prints out of the box. Here are some of the things that seem to go wrong:

  • Prints don’t stick to the bed
  • Prints peel up or curl at the edges
  • Extruder grinds filament instead of feeding it
  • Extruder clogs
  • Prints crack at the layer changes (like wood along a grain)
  • Small areas with solid infill get melted/squished from the extruder nozzle emitting heat
Sound scary? Don’t worry — these problems plague almost every consumer grade printer out there. 
The good news is most of these things can be easily fixed — if you’re handy. But let’s be honest, if you bought a 3D printer, you’d better know how to use a damn screw driver.
So why should you buy a Solidoodle instead of any of the other 100 similar printers out there? 
The Solidoodle 2 (or 3) is an amazing starting point for a 3D printer — unlike completely home built rep-raps or other variations, this printer has a baseline — they all print pretty well out of the box, and this can be improved on by simple upgrades! 
That being said, there is lots of room for improvements, and if you like that kind of stuff, you’re going to get excited — it’s fun, and it makes the machine truly yours.
FIX #1 — Enclosure
One of the best upgrades you can do to the Solidoodle is build an enclosure from it (see my blog post here). Why? Stratsys (the biggest 3D printing company out there) has a patent for heated build chambers. It improves print quality by regulating the environment the part is being printed in. With open build platforms like regular rep raps, a breeze can easily cause layer delamination (rapid cooling of plastic while hot layers are being put down). Since it’s patented, you won’t be seeing any printers with this — but  you can certainly add it yourself if so inclined. 
Mine consists of a few lexan panels, some foam gaskets, and a few neodymium magnets. The heated bed actually ends up heating the chamber quite effectively, and I noticed a huge improvement in the number of prints that failed. 
Simple enclosure
I’m actually planning on adding PID controlled heaters at some point to regulate the chamber completely — but it’s probably not overly necessary.
FIX #2 — Backlash fix
One problem with the Z-axis is the 5/16th-18 ACME drive screw. This thing isn’t all that precise, and could really be upgraded… but there is a way to help improve it without changing the printer drastically.  I’ve already covered this in another blog post — the Anti-backlash nut fix!
To summarize, backlash is the minuscule slip between the teeth of the nut and the thread of the rod — it’s almost imperceptible by eye and feel, but you can really see it in printed parts
The easiest way of fixing this is by using two nuts with a spring in between them to force the teeth of the nut against one side of the threads — like so (shown backwards):
And the results speak for themselves…
Again, check out the blog post for full information on how to do it — all you need is a 3/8th spring and a 5/16-18 ACME nut.

FIX #3 — General printer know-how


Are your prints not sticking properly? Here are some simple things you can do to help this. 
  • Using a rough grit sandpaper, sand down your kapton tape base – get it nice and rough, this will help the plastic stick to it. Wipe off with acetone when you are done
  • Adjust your Z-axis limit stop to squish the first layer more
  • Print with rafts (now available in the newest version of Slic3r — a very popular Gcode generator)
  • Last resort: ABS slurry
    By mixing failed prints in with acetone you can create a kind of ABS glue — spread a thin layer of this on your bed before you start your print — it will help ensure the print will stick no matter what!

    If you’re printing with PLA, use hairspray instead!

Conclusion:
The Solidoodle is a great 3D printer, it has an amazing price point, it is easy to use, and easy to upgrade. However, it doesn’t have jaw-dropping print quality (although it’s pretty close, and on par with most other printers), you will have to troubleshoot it now and again, and for now it doesn’t have dual extruder support.
But besides that, I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a good printer you can toy around with (upgrade) but don’t really feel like building it completely yourself from scratch (rep rap).
My next printer will probably be home built because I know exactly what features I want, but until then, my Solidoodle 2 does just fine! 
If you have any questions I’d be more than happy to answer them in the comments section of this post.
Thanks for reading!

Solidoodle 2 Unboxing!

IT CAME!

I am now in possession of a 3D printer. Review coming soon. It’s amazing. In the mean time, here’s an unboxing video I made!

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