I’ve built the only two 3D printers I’ve owned from inexpensive (sub $300) kits. So when Dremel offered to loan us one of their $1800 “professional” 3D printers, I was excited for the opportunity.
Stuart’s Note: By “offered,” Ben means Dremel finally gave in to my persistent requests.
The printer arrived a few days ago, sooner than I expected, so I scrambled to clean up the spot it would live for the next few months. I quickly set it up that evening and started printing. Before we get to that, lets take a quick look at Digilab 3D45 printer.
The Dremel 3D45 is an upgrade from the 3D40 Stuart wrote about back in 2016. It features an upgraded all-metal hot end and a heated bed so it can print more materials than just PLA – materials such as Eco-ABS, Nylon, and PETG.
The 10 x 6 x 6.7″ build volume has stayed the same, but they’ve increased the z-axis resolution so you can get more detailed prints, although they will take longer to complete.
The new 3D45 is approximately the same size as the 3D40, but is slightly shallower. It also weighs slightly more: 19.4 kg vs 16 kg.
Here are all the relevant specs for the Dremel 3D45 3D printer:
- Size: 20.25 x 16 x 15.9 in
- Weight: 42.8 lb (19.4kg)
- Single extruder
- Max Extruder Temp: 280°C
- Max Bed Temp: 100°C
- Bed Material: Glass
- Min Z-Layer Resolution: 100 microns
- Materialxs: PLA, Nylon, Eco-ABS, PETG
- Filament Diameter: 1.75mm
- Nozzle Diameter: 0.4mm
- 8GB Internal Storage
- 4.5″ full colour IPS touch screen
- Semi-automated bed leveling
- USB, Ethernet, and Wifi connectivity
The printer comes with two spools of filament (I got black Eco-ABS and black nylon), power and USB cables, 2 glue sticks, an object removal tool (think sharpened putty knife), USB flash Drive, and unclogging tool.
These upgrades come at a price. The 3D40 printer can be found for as low as $1228 over on Amazon, while the new 3D45 is being sold for $1800.
Crash Course in 3D Printing
In order for the non-initiated to follow some of the above specs and the processes below, I’ve written a short crash course in 3D printing below. Feel free to skip to the next section to get to more about the 3D45.
The printer has a single extruder, which is the part of the printer that takes the raw 1.75mm filament from the spool, melts it, and pushes it through the 0.4mm nozzle. So with a single extruder, you can only print one color or type of material at a time.
The nozzle diameter is basically the X-Y resolution of the printer, and so with a 0.4mm nozzle, you can’t make any details finer than 0.4mm. 0.4mm is a common compromise between speed and resolution in many 3D printers.
The Z-layer resolution is the thinnest layer the printer can create in a single pass. When you prepare a 3D model for printing, you run it through a program called a “slicer.” This slicer cuts a 3D model into thin slices that are printed a layer at a time in the X-Y axes. When the printer is done printing a layer, the extruder moves the Z-axis and then prints another layer.
The maximum extruder temperature is important in determining the types of material you can use. Depending on the brand, PLA is workable in the 220°C range, while nylon needs at least 240°C. The all-metal hot-end becomes important in this range, because some of the materials other 3D printers use in the extruder can’t handle temperatures this high.
The heated glass bed, or build surface, is also important when choosing filament. PLA can be printed on a cold bed, while other materials like ABS and Nylon require the bed to be at a higher temperature in order for the first laters to stick. Glass beds usually require some sort of adhesive to help the prints stick. Other bed materials like PEI don’t need adhesives.
Setting up the Printer
I won’t go into too much detail here, just enough so that you get a feel for how easy the printer was to set up.
The printer was packed pretty well. It’s surrounded by Styrofoam in the box and then it has these cardboard trays that fit inside the printer for holding the contents and to prevent the extruder and bed carriages from moving during shipping.
After spending about 1/2 an hour digging the printer our of all the packaging, I plugged it in and ran through the on-screen setup.
First, I set up the WiFi. You can also upload files to the printer via ethernet, USB cable, or USB drive, but I choose WiFi because it was the easiest.
Then, I loaded in the filament. There’s a door on the left side of the printer that twists off to access the filament holder. After mounting the filament reel, you thread the filament through a tube that leads to the top of the printer, and then push the end into the extruder head. There are on-screen prompts that tell you what to do during each step.
Finally, you have to level the bed. Although not strictly part of the leveling process, the on-screen instructions prompt you to spread the glue over the bed at this point. Again, the glue helps the part adhere to the bed.
When you hit continue, a bed leveling sensor pops down out of the extruder. The sensor starts in the back center of the bed. The printer raises the bed until it contacts the sensor, and drops it again. It repeats this a few times, then the extruder moves to the front left side of the plate. The printer raises and lowers the bed a few times, measuring the height of the bed. If the bed is too high or too low, the follow photo pops up:
The process continues for the front right side. Once this process is done you are ready to print!
My Experiences with the 3D45
I really like the 3 point semi-automated bed leveling process. I think it is a good compromise between manual leveling and automatic leveling.
In manual leveling, you have to measure the bed distances and adjust the bed height by hand, and in automatic leveling the printer measures the distance from the print head to the nozzle in several places and uses this information to change the z-height of the extruder in real time to compensate for the unlevel bed.
Manual leveling is time consuming and not very accurate, whereas automatic leveling can go wrong in many different ways.
The 3D45 has a built-in camera and lighting system. When a print is finished (and you are connected to the cloud), the printer will send you an email with a photo of the finished print and a link to a time lapse video.
I’ve been showing some experiences with the printer on Instagram:
So far I’ve tried printing with nylon filament and had issues with it adhering to the bed. I’ve also used Dremel’s ECO-ABS (which does not contain ABS), and have been quite pleased with the results.
I have also used non-Dremel filament with the printer. The Dremel filament uses smaller spools, so I had to print a spool holder and keep the larger spool outside the printer. This has several disadvantages. First, the printer is no longer sealed. This isn’t a big deal for PLA filament, but with trickier filaments like ABS and nylon it might make it harder to get good prints.
Second, the non-Dremel spools don’t have an RFID tag. The Dremel spools have a built in RFID tag which tell the printer which filament is on the spool. When you use a Dremel spool, all the settings are taken care of for you. If you use an off-brand filament, you have to experiment to find the best settings.
I have this printer for another 2+ months before it goes back to Dremel. I plan on running it hard, at least several hours a day, probably more, and reporting back what I find.
Is there anything in particular you want to see me print as I continue to test this 3D printer?
Thank you to Dremel for loaning us this review sample.