First off I think I’ll declare my interest here, Kitronik are good friends of mine and I occasionally do work for them, so they are my recommended retailer for the CEL Robox 3D printer if you are thinking of buying. They are very nice chaps and very earnest in their desire to provide good products. I’ve been lucky enough to see the team at Kitronik weighing up different machines to support and can see they have thought very carefully before choosing the Robox. They offered to let me borrow their evaluation and support machine for the weekend so I thought it was a good opportunity to do a review!
Unpacking, downloading the software and uploading an .stl file I had already took less than 10 minutes. The AutoMaker software, which will run on Mac, Windows and Lunux is very intuitive and well laid out, it reminds me very much of how simple and easy it was to download and try the Sillouette Studio software for my vinyl cutter. You can download and play about with it without having to have a machine.
The overall build quality is very high and unfussy. The machine ships very well packaged with it’s own tote bag as well as a nicely made tool kit for maintenance. From that point of view the Robox is everything a RepRap isn’t it really is a “take-it-out-the-box-plug-it-in-and-off-it-goes” machine. If tinkering endlessly with bed levelling and calibration IS your thing, this machine will be disappointing for you. The Robox has an auto purge at the start of the print and a 9 point bed levelling check.
Whilst the Robox has “smart reel” technology you’re not limited to using their filament, you can wind you’re own filament onto their reels if you want too. If you do so though you loose some of the functionality which the smart reel provides (which is mostly tell the machine what type and colour of filament it is and what temperature to work it at). The smart reel is also capable of telling the AutoMaker software if you’ve enough plastic to do the job you’ve sent it. When I used it I was using Robox, “Highway Orange PLA” and “Chroma Green ABS”.
The machine has a door which helps keep the temperature inside the machine even which is something that causes problems on other unenclosed machines. This is a useful feature for Kitronik as they are catering primarily for schools and educational users. The door is a glass clear plastic and allows a good view of the work piece, a side view panel enhances viewing even this further. The build area is 210 x 150 x 100mm which is okay, perhaps not as tall as some would like.
Printing in draft mode is quick and the quality is really very good, the Robox has twin nozzles with needle value control. These nozzles are 0.3mm for fine printing upto 20 microns and 0.8mm to splurge our draft quality prints and provide infill. Filament is shifted through a dual pinch wheel to feed it into the hot end. Extrusion is performed in the case somewhere so the moving head only has the twin nozzles and hot end making it lighter than other travelling parts on 3D printers.
I’m told that there will be head upgrades for twin colour printing or dual material at a later date. I noticed that the feed in from the reel is marked extruder 1 and extruder 2 so hopefully the machine can be upgraded to that with the it’s clip-on-clip-off head (that’s not what they call it).
For me, beyond prototyping in draft, I’m still a little uncertain what 3D printers are for. However I do see that they add a valuable “I really designed and made this thingy.” element for CAD and design education. I think scanning, assuming people who allow it to happen, could make a great way of tailoring clothing and in my case producing a miniature me to help me understand by weight and get a realistic body image.
This machine is available for £999.90 from Kitronik which includes a reel of filament. That’s a pretty good price I think. I’d quite like to get one… but don’t really have the need or application for one.