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  • Atli

3D printer

Recently we added to our arsenal by purchasing a 3D printer. The driving reason behind getting one was to make prototype enclosures for our custom PCBs. Having outsourced our enclosure prototyping previously we believed it now time to start offering this to our clients as a standard by adding both the modelling capability and prototyping capability.

Knowing where we wanted to get to, we were faced with two questions. What mechanical CAD package to choose? And what 3D printer to choose?

For the first question we sat down and weighed a fair few options, eventually settling on Autodesk’s Fusion360. The reason we chose this was that it was easy to use, had plenty of tutorials online, and provided a cost-effective solution for small businesses. It also has several features allowing collaboration with clients that don’t have a 3D CAD package, giving them access to the web viewer. After months of using it, we are still very happy with the package, its features, and its capabilities.

The second question was in my opinion a much harder one. There are literally hundreds of 3D printers out there and very little literature which has any meaningful comparison between them. We found a lot of websites offering opinions, but most of them did not seem to have the necessary experience with the printers in question to give us confidence in that they had actually used the printers. We started by defining what it was exactly that we wanted from the 3D printer. After much deliberation we decided that we wanted something like the Ultimaker II or better, i.e. an out of the box “ready” experience, similar build size, and similar capabilities. After looking at the top of the line printers, the new Ultimakers, Makerbot’s replicator, FlashForge’s Creator Pro, and some others, we decided on the printer we wanted, Anycubic’s 4Max Pro. The top of the line printers had far too many bells and whistles for what we wanted; whilst it is nice to have features such as automatic bed levelling, internal cameras, network capabilities, these were all extra features that we didn’t feel we needed. It would literally take an hour and a Raspberry Pi to add the network and camera to the printer! Regarding the bed levelling, our thought was that this is a process that should only take a few minutes occasionally. One feature we would have liked to get from the printer was dual extrusion; however, most of our enclosures do not require this, and we therefore decided that the extra size of the build plate (compared with the Creator Pro) was more valuable in the long run.

After purchasing the 4Max Pro we set out to see whether we had made the right choice. Straight off, our shipment got lost, and couldn’t be re-shipped, but instead had to be refunded and re-ordered. At this point we almost went with a different printer, as this could easily happen again, and based off some comments on Amazon, has happened several times before. After going through the options again, we did however decide on giving it another chance. It arrived the day after. Unboxing it and getting it to start the first print took about 30 minutes. Straight from the box it was set up, we did tighten the nozzle a tiny bit to reduce the oozing coming from it while it was hot, but other than that we did not even visit the troubleshooting section. The first print came out better than expected, as we had literally not done anything to improve on it. Since then we have tried various different prints to challenge the printer and I cannot fault it in any meaningful way. It is quiet (very quiet as 3D printers go), it has nice internal lighting (albeit slightly too blue for my taste), its user interface is intuitive and helpful, the slicer support is good, it doesn’t need bed levelling except after being moved so far, and more important than the rest, the print quality is phenomenal. So far I would say it matches or outperforms the Ultimaker II in every aspects, which is impressive seeing as it costs less than half of the Ultimaker.

Have a look at the pictures from a few of our initial prints and the unboxing of the printer below.

We will share more of what we are making through posts about the products in the future. If you have any product requirements needing electronics and enclosures, we would love to hear more about them, get in touch through

Let us know about your 3D printing experiences by commenting or getting in touch.

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