Printrbot Simple Maker’s Kit 3D Printer
The print volume is small, at 4 x 4 x 4 inches, although a $139 expansion unit increases this to 7.2 by 4 by 5.5 inches.
The Printrbot Simple comes in a variety of versions, starting at $349 for the build-it-yourself kit or $449 pre-assembled. This is a no-frills printer that uses PLA material to create small prints quickly and with decent quality. The printer is built from laser-cut wood (a metal version is available, starting at $539) and has exposed electronics and printing mechanisms to keep the cost down, so it wouldn’t work for younger children who may be tempted to poke their fingers where they shouldn’t.
But it does mean that you see exactly how the device works. Simplicity means limitations, though. It can only print in PLA plastic, which means prints are more brittle than ABS ones. The print volume is small, at 4 x 4 x 4 inches, although a $139 expansion unit increases this to 7.2 by 4 by 5.5 inches. There is also no stand-alone printing: It has to be driven by a computer. But the Simple Maker provides an easy, low-cost introduction to the world of 3D printing without laying down a lot of cash.
The printer head moves on the Y (backward and forward) and Z (up and down) axes, while the print bed moves on the x (left to right) axis. The printer has a metal print bed includes an auto-leveling probe that works with the user-chosen computer software to calibrate the Z axis to create a level print. The hot end has a maximum resolution of 100 microns and includes a fan to help solidify the molten filament as it is extruded onto the print bed. The printer uses open source software and connects to the computer using the included mini-USB cable. Using an SD card (sold separately), the printer can be disconnected from the computer after initialization for untethered printing during long print jobs.
The guide rails have an 8-mm diameter for stability. The GT2 belt and aluminum pulley system and the NEMA 17 stepper motor system facilitate precise movement of the print head and bed. The printer includes a sample length of PLA (polylactic acid) filament.