My initial thoughts on opening up the box, setting up the printer and running the first print was that the Cube 3 is not an evolution as much as it is a revolution for consumer and educational 3D printing.
Coming from first using a RepRap style of 3D printer to the 1st Generation Cube was a huge step. The 1st Gen Cube was definitely a revolutionary product that lifted 3D printing from simply being a techies hobby into being a true consumers product.
The 2nd Gen Cube was an evolutionary step in making 3D printing more acceptable for use around young children by replacing the heated print table. Over the life of the 2nd Gen Cube it continued to evolve as a product through both hardware and firmware updates. The Cube design and software teams did an extraordinary job of upgrading various hardware modules and continually offering meaningful firmware updates. Considering the number of machines that must have been sold, I received very few emails with complaints from users. And, most of those ended up being related to their not fully understanding the cartridge unload process, gapping or how to apply the glue correctly. A few related to print table leveling issues.
Both personally and through the 3D printing classes I teach, I have printed hundreds and hundreds of objects on the 1st and 2nd Gen Cubes and considered them very reliable printers in the hands of experienced users. But, much of the care and feeding of the 1st and 2nd gen Cubes was manual, included in setting the printjet gap and leveling the print table.
The 3rd Generation Cube team set about to make the Cube even more user friendly by automating both the print table leveling and printjet gapping processes. But, they also provided the tools and techniques for us to perform both of these tasks manually in a much easier way than was available in earlier Cube versions.
As many of you know, I had stroke earlier this year. While I am fine, it did require us to completely alter course in the way I was delivering content to my 3D printing classes. Due to the pressures of my having to create an all new curriculum and countless videos for the 3D printing classes I have not had the time to completely test and evaluate my new Cube 3. So, I will have to deliver my thoughts in installments.
In this installment, I want to convey my absolute amazement at the huge leap in technology and usability that is the 3rd Gen Cube. It's quieter, faster and is capable of turning out beautiful prints. Combined with the new software, we are given the opportunity to control multiple aspects of the printing process, from fast "Draft" 200mm layer printing to super smooth "Premium" with 70mm layers. While ABS still has some propensity to warp, the warping I've experienced is less than with the 2nd Gen Cube. A LOT less. I had abandoned ABS with the 2nd Gen Cube, using the 1st Gen Cube when I needed ABS. But, as I write this, I am printing my "Cube 3 Torture Test" consisting of 3 test objects in ABS and only one of the three shows signs of warping. And, the warping that I do see is minimal and has not interfered with printing the bulk of the object. That's a big improvement.
The overall experience of using the Cube 3 is like that one might dream about (If one could afford it) in owning a fine ultra-luxury motor car. It's sleek, solid and comfortable.
Like Eric, I, too, have experienced a clog. But, in terms of bringing my printing to a halt it is a very different experience than that of any other consumer 3D printer, including earlier generation Cubes. It's more like having a nail in a tire than a broken valve in an engine. Clogs may be annoying; but, they no longer have to be "show-stoppers". Simply replace the cartridge and get back to work!
Interestingly, both Eric and I had clogs with a PLA Neon Green cartridge. Having now used four other colors in both ABS and PLA, I'm wondering, since the units were shipped with Neon Green, if we had very early cartridge builds.
There is one other small issue, that both Eric and I have observed, that we are certain that will be addressed in a firmware update. Small bits of filament sometimes fall onto the print table. They come from the wipers on either side of the printer. I was able to capture the process in slow motion video and have sent that video to 3D Systems. It's not a big deal; but, I will be happy when a future firmware update makes it a thing of the past. It's annoying like white lint on a black suit. But, again, it does not materially affect the precision and accuracy of the print.
And, speaking of accuracy, the first thing I printed was a "thin wall" test. Walls defined under 1mm in my software package are printed under .84mm. But, walls defined as 1mm walls print EXACTLY at 1mm in both circles, rectangles and triangles. Point of triangles are super sharp. I'm blown away by the astonishing accuracy of the 3rd Gen Cube.
I can't imagine a better printer for the classroom. It's rugged and compact. Like earlier Cubes it is built to travel well... which means it can be locked away in a secure place, brought out when needed and begin printing immediately.
The bottom line is, that aside from a single clog and a few random pieces of filament falling onto the print table, the experience with the 3rd Gen Cube has been absolutely wonderful. It is a significantly more impressive experience than with my previous printers and you KNOW I love my 1st and 2nd Gen Cubes!
I can't afford a Bentley. But, I CAN enjoy the solid feel and luxury of a 3rd Gen Cube.
P.S. OK... So, it's not EXACTLY the same experience. But, it sure makes me feel as if I'm living large to have such a wonderful 3D printer on my desk. :)