CEL Robox 3D Printer - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: CEL Robox 3D Printer

Author: dougw

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Independent Products

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Ultimaker 2 - it also gets good reviews, but it cost twice as much.

What were the biggest problems encountered?: The software is simple to use compared to competing products, but still not entirely intuitive - more detailed step by step instructions or a more detailed tutorial would help to get first time users up and running. Action icons should have text explanations that pop up when hovering over the icon of what they do when clicked. It would be great if there was a "Feed Error" indicator to flag when the filament is not fully fed in. Clear PLA would be a great addition to the available accessories. [updated comment: Note the software is continually being improved and the manufacturer already seems to have responded with new versions that address all the issues I was having. This printer is more automated and less fuss than most others I have seen.]

Detailed Review:

Mine was one of the lucky proposals selected to participate in the road test of the fantastic Cel Robox 3D Printer.

I will be documenting my initial experiences here, but I will be using the printer in many future projects and will try to update the links here along with other links associated with this road test.

Links:

Cel Robox 3D Printer Road Test page: http://www.element14.com/community/roadTests/1354

My proposal: http://www.element14.com/community/roadTestApps/14932

Robox road test discussion group: http://www.element14.com/community/inbox/dm/185299?et=notification.direct.message

My first attempt at 3D design and printing: Tangible Badges - The 3D Tangible Badge Project

My Heart Reactor & Crown Tools design challenge project: Sudden Impact - Crown Tools and Heart Reactor - updates 1-39

My vibration sensor project: Tis The Season For Arduino

My illuminated star project: Tis the Season for 3D Printing

My phone rescue mission: Robox to the rescue

Arc Reactor: Wearable Interactive Arc Reactor

Trophy: Interactive Trophy

Maple Leaf: LED Road Test - Maple Leaf Christmas Decoration - Blog 13 Dec 24

Space Ship: The Starship Enocean Voyager - Pi IoT Blog 4

Heart Reactor: Sudden Impact - Crown Tools and Heart Reactor - updates 1-39

Dodecahedron: Dodecahedron Light Fixture

Phaser: 3D Printed Phaser

 

Unboxing

I was a bit clueless when unboxing, which is partly the point of the following video. The value is in the comments and followup video below.

The package includes a USB memory in a credit card sized USB dongle, where the USB connector flips out on a pivot.

The USB memory contains the AutoMaker software package, but I had already downloaded the latest version from the Cel Robox web site since it is free.

The AutoMaker software can load .stl files and slice them up into a printer command steam that downloads to the printer, even as the printer is operating. Once the print file is downloaded the USB connection is no longer needed and the printer can complete the job unattended.

Setup

It took a couple of hours of messing around trying to figure out what to do before I got my first print underway.

I had not fed the filament in properly even though the feeder seemed to have gripped the filament and because of this there was no "Print" button. It wasn't obvious to me what was wrong - It took a lot of scouring of the internet to even deduce what the "Print" button looked like and where it should appear. My model was loading fine, but there was no obvious way to proceed - no error flags, no diagnostic menus, nothing in the setup screens to indicate what the problem was. Eventually after a few tries at feeding the filament it properly grabbed the filament and auto-fed in about 10 inches of filament.


Printing

Since getting the printer running, it has run essentially non-stop for 20 hours on 7 jobs and it will continue for the whole weekend because I have a long backlog of things I want to print, and I can design them faster than I can print them.

My first effort was the design challenge "WINNER" badge linked above. It was not able to print the text section of the badge, possibly because the text was too small or possibly because the heat was not optimal. I tried it at both normal and fine resolution with white PLA, but neither worked well. It will take some investigation to see if it is possible to print at that size successfully.

My third print turned out perfectly, but I was hoping the 2 inch dome I was printing in white PLA would turn out more translucent since it will be illuminated from inside by an LED.

Since I couldn't get Robox PLA reels in clear, I bought a reel of clear PLA from a third party and rigged it to feed from an external axle (because the hubs are incompatible). This worked well as you can see in the video below.

Here are some closeups of the filler webbing set to 40% to conserve plastic and the overhang stranding in the interior plus a shot of the exterior finish - this was a normal finish, not fine.

Click image for a demo.

Note that this material is "clear" PLA which shows a lot more structure than the opaque PLA materials.

One of the projects I proposed to work on with this printer was enclosures for Enocean sensors:

Click image to view video.

Note the clear PLA allows light to reach the solar cells while completely enclosing the sensors.

 

Another project that I proposed was to make a case for the clock version of the Henrietta Project.

This case took over 8 hours to print because I printed it with a solid 100% fill (I wanted to drill and tap screw holes and that works better in solid fill)

However, the printer performed flawlessly and you can see the results below.

Click image to view video.

Here I replaced the clear acrylic faceplate with a printed PLA faceplate to see if it looked better. It is great to have a 3D printer so things like this can be tried on a whim.

Conclusions

The Cel Robox 3D printer is phenomenal. It makes a huge difference in transforming my projects from crude and boring rectangular black boxes into aesthetically attractive and interesting systems. The learning curve is well worthwhile and this machine has been designed to keep it to a minimum. So far I have not had to think about or learn about calibration - I just import an STL file and start printing. As far as cost goes, for most of my work this machine effectively replaces a whole machine shop full of far more expensive equipment. The results are far superior to any other home-made solutions both in aesthetics and functionality, and although the printer can take hours to complete a print, the labour of designing the item is actually less than the labour involved in manually hacking some other enclosure together with appropriate mounting and cutouts (both time-wise and physical effort-wise).

One general note is that clear PLA is an important material in many applications where lighting effects or internal illumination are desired and it also allows you to see internal hidden fit and tolerance of finished parts.

If I had known how strong the plastic was and how easy it is to get decent results, a 3D printer would have been much higher on my wishlist. It is already hard to imagine how I could ever get along without a 3D printer. I do dozens of projects every year and this printer will feature in most of them, so stay tuned for future blogs.

 

Update: The Robox has been running for 2 years now - it runs every week, sometimes several objects per weekend. It has lasted amazingly well - I have been through many kg of pla. I am still extremely happy with the printer and now find it to be an indispensable tool. It has dramatically changed how I do things and greatly improved my performance.

Anonymous
  • Hi Clem,

    That looks like a great price. I have not used or even seen a da Vinci printer so I can't comment on their value beyond repeating what is published on the internet. Generally, I would recommend you buy the most rugged printer you can afford. 3D printing requires many hours of continuous full speed operation and it has to be hard on any machine to maintain precision performance under this type of usage.

    Doug

  • Clem

    If you do some more digging you'll find these use a proprietory filament packaged inside a coded holder.

    There has been some hacks to the holder/cartridge.

     

    They are quite large, and one model has a built in 3D scanner.

     

    I suggest you do a google search and formulate you own thoughts.

    IMO it seems an expensive 3D printer given the others around, and the resolution it offers.

     

    Mark

  • @Douglas Wong,

        I was in a microcenter yesterday and saw a 3D printer retailing $399 in store. I do not remember the name, but it maybe this

    XYZprinting da Vinci 1.0 3D Printer       http://www.microcenter.com/product/429864/da_Vinci_10_3D_Printer

    Can you take a look and compare to yours?

     

    Thanks,

    Clem

  • Doug, just spotted your badges have the same issue as mine in that the lettering is not correctly filled in on the top surface. I'm wondering if it's an issue with the Slic3r software? I've a new version of the software so will give that a go before sending my printer back.

    Element-14-badges-600x344.jpg

  • Yes it does seem quite tough, the train track I printed yesterday is nice and sturdy

  • Perhaps if the object is large, by the time the next layer is added to a specific area, it has cooled so much that adhesion is not a good melted bond. I did not have this problem so far, but have not yet tried anything close to the maximum size possible with this printer. Some of my objects have been dropped on a hard floor without any damage. Printed PLA is quite a bit stronger than I expected.

  • @DAB mentions threading in one of his PrinterBot tests, it's where the layers don't bond together properly. I've not had that problem but my experiments did not get very tall.

  • I was running the printer in the kitchen

    I note that some bench surfaces will tend to amplify any vibration making them louder than they shiuld be.

    Could this be part of the problem/volume.?

     

    Mark

  • I was running the printer in the kitchen and thought it was actually quite loud, I've got a primitive sound sensor on my phone so might measure it.

  • I'm not sure I know what you mean by threading. I tried an aggressive "overhang" when printing the dome in the video - the finished device is demonstrated in this video:

    Active Business Card Holder

    There are some bridging threads visible in the interior, but obviously the exterior came out fine.

    I will try to add a picture above. I will also add a sectioned image of the partly complete dome so you can see what 40% webbing looks like.