Tuesday, March 5, 2013

2nd Generation Cube - First Impressions

One of the problems I had with attempting to help Cube users is that I only had a 1st Generation Cube.  I have no idea how many 1st Generation Cube owners there are.  But, based on the skyrocketing number of YouTube and CubifyFans Blog viewers since the 2nd Generation Cube was announced and released, I'd have to say that there is a rapidly growing number of 2nd Generation Cube owners,  And, that number will only get bigger.

I was being asked questions about the latest Cube that I could not research, test or answer.  And, since I do not do this as my living, it was hard for me to justify to my wife why I needed a new 3D printer in less than a year.  With her planning to retire in the next month, with a reduced income, that would have been a very tough sell. 

Fortunately, 3D Systems came to the rescue.  I'm grateful to 3D Systems that they have delivered a new 2nd Generation Cube to me so that I can be of help to ALL Cube owners.

And, I am very happy that they have done so,  It turns out that while both are great printers, they have quite different characteristics, as I have learned today as I fired it up and printed some of my own designs on it for the very first time.  So, here are some differences I've already noticed.

The CubeStick Works Differently that Magic Cube Glue

This may not seem like a big change; but, it turns out that 1st Gen Magic Glue owners will have a bit of adjusting to do when using CubeStick.  Magic Glue is heat sensitive.  When the print table cools the glue generally releases, freeing the pieces.  If we are in a hurry, all 1st Gen users have to do is flood the print table with water and the pieces generally pop loose.

CubeStick is very sticky... pre- and post-print.  While water still helps loosen the glue, the pieces don't simply pop off.  A small palette knife may be required to release the piece.

Adjusting the amount of CubeStick we use might also be something that has to come with experience. It's not bad.  It's just different.

Fidelity to the Design Specs

Features printed by the 1st Generation Cube tend to be "fatter" than the specified design by a fairly predictable amount.  Holes tend to be .5mm smaller and posts tend to be .5mm larger.  After a while it become second nature to make adjustment to the design to account for that behavior.

I can already tell that I am going to have to create separate designs for 1st Generations Cubes and 2nd Generation Cubes.  The 2nd Gen Cube prints amazingly close to the actual specifications.  Delicate pieces remain delicate.  If you are relying on a Cube for prototyping, then the 2nd Gen Cube is probably a better fit for your business.  But, as a hobbyist, the difference is not going to make all that much difference.  It all depends on the tolerances off your particular application.

I'm actually going to have to alter my original design to beef up the specs since the 1st Gen Cube did that for me.  Where having a 2nd Generation Cube is going to help me is that it should reduce the design alterations for going to SLA parts, with SLA's absolute accuracy,


The 2nd Generation Cube wins the speed contest on two fronts.  First, the print table does not have to be heated or cooled.  This saves a lot time between print jobs.  Secondly, depending on the print settings, it prints a bit faster.

Ability to Use PLA

The 1st Generation Cube only prints in ABS.  And, with its heated print table it does a fantastic job.  ABS is very tough material.  And, I love being able to print with it.

But, it's also nice being able to use PLA.  It's a far more forgiving material with which to print.  And, it has a bit of a sheen that makes for a nice finish.  The main benefit of PLA is that it is less likely to warp than ABS.

What I don't know, as yet, is how well the CubeStick handles the ABS material's tendency to warp.  Frankly, I have some doubts.  But, that IS pretty sticky glue!  I'll let you know when I try printing in ABS with the 2nd Gen Cube.  It may be that the higher temperatures required by ABS will reduce the differences in accuracy between the 1st Gen Cube using ABS and the 2nd Gen Cube using lower temperature PLA. 

Bottom Line

I love my 1st Gen Cube.  It is a real workhorse.  And, I am not planning to give it a moment's rest even though I now have a 2nd Gen Cube.  But, clearly 3D Systems has made some significant advances in accuracy and speed in just one new design cycle.  

I certainly understand that some 1st Generation Cube owners might be disappointed to know that an improved machine was released just after they purchased their Cube.  But, while I have to recognize that the 2nd Gen Cube is a better 3D printer, it still does not lessen my appreciation of my 1st Gen Cube.  Nor is the 2nd Gen Cube going to take away any of the workload I had planned for my 1st Generation Cube.  Of the thousands and thousands of things that can be printed on a 3D printer, only a small handful require such tight tolerances that having one version or the other will make a difference.

My granddaughters want me to print an owl for them.  It's not going to make one bit of difference whether it's printed on a 1st Gen Cube or a 2nd Gen Cube. 

I'm very impressed by the direction that the Cube is going.  I hope that you feel the exact same way... no matter which Cube you now have.


  1. It would be very interesting to see a large flat ABS part come off the printer without major warping. When I did my ABS insulated bed experiments a couple years ago I found that even if I was able to get the part to completely stick as soon as I removed it the unequalized internal forces would warp the part.

    PS. I think you're going to love PLA.

  2. I work exclusively with PLA with the RapMan3.2 and I do like the material. Interestingly, the Cube PLA is very forgiving and flexible... a characteristic that I am going to really use to advantage.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Compliments will NOT help you get by my SPAM filters!

  5. I'm glad 3D Systems supplied you with the 2nd Generation Cube. Now I'll be able find out what it's really like!

    I'd been wondering about the dimensional accuracy of the new Cube compared to the original one I have, so you've already answered that question.

    I'm especially curious to see what you find out about the new printing modes -- Hollow and Solid. The only 3D printer I've ever owned has been the original Cube, so I've had no experience with those modes at all.

    I'll be watching your posts to hear how those different build modes impact the warpage problem with ABS, too. This is gonna be interesting!

    1. Hollow is not hollow and solid is not solid... in the strict sense of the terms. Each uses some internal scaffolding. The only differences are the density of the scaffolding. ABS can warp with all three settings, depending on the design.

    2. Tom,

      Is there any way to print a 3D solid? This internal scaffolding is messing my whole project since I can have no leaks at all.

      Thank you.

    3. As far as I know, there is no way to print a completely solid model. But, I will ask about it the next time I talk to one of the engineers.

  6. Something else I'd be interested to hear about is how well the 2nd generation Cube is at bridging across air gaps, especially compared to the 1st generation Cube.

    1. I haven't compared the original Cube vs. 2nd Gen. But, I was know that the 2nd Gen Cube has bridged at least 2mm without any noticeable drooping. Good question.

  7. I, too, am thankful for your blog. Very helpful, especially as I haven't found any other place to learn more about our printers. Cubify should have a forum!

    Have to say I was quite disappointed when Cubify introduced this new device after I only had my hands on mine for a couple of months. I personally think their policy of not allowing 'uprgrade pricing' to their first bunch of loyal customers was a poor business move and one which I think will cost them business and customer loyalty. I know I would consider switching if I thought there was a better device out there with a more customer friendly marketing and sales department.

    Thanks again for all you do!

  8. We have a Cube 3D 2nd generation and on the settings there is "contrast", does anyone know anything about setting this? We have researched trying to find the answer, to no avail Thanks

  9. The next time I am in the YouthQuest 3D lab, I will check this out and get back to you.