Monday, January 7, 2013

New CubeX 3 Printjet 3D Printer

Little did I know, when I posted that I wanted to change the focus of this blog to pre-built business 3D printers that the first printer that I would talking about would be a bigger sibling of the consumer Cube 3D printer!

But, a surprising CES announcement brought news that 3D Systems is bringing the CubeX to the marketplace.  And, from the published specs, it looks like it is pushing the industry in exactly the direction that it needs to be pushed... high performance in an office friendly package.

CubeX 3D Printer
CubeX 3D Printer from 3D Systems
I have never seen a CubeX printer.  Nor, do I know a lot about it.  I'm learning about it just as you are.  But, I have been using a Cube 3D printer for much of the past year.  It has been a real workhorse.  So, I'm expecting nothing less from this bigger sibling.

The first, and only, video that I've discovered so far is very short and obviously by 3D Systems marketing.  But, it's worth a quick view to introduce the printer and show the build envelope potential.

The most controversial feature of the Cube printer has been the proprietary filament cartridge.  I expect that this printer, which also relies on cartridges will face the same criticism from many people.  Yes.  On, the surface it does add to the cost of printing objects.  But, from experience, using both bulk filament in a RepRap and the cartridge of the Cube, the actual cost differential is less than one would expect.  I have found the cartridge fed filament to be very, very reliable with little, or any, waste.  That has not been true of the reels of filament, where the tail ends are usually unusable.  The Cube has been a start it and forget it printer.  Again, I expect that of the CubeX.

I'm ready for a bigger printer that is also very compact and neat.  And, as you can see, the CubeX is exactly that.  All the cartridges are inside the enclosure and out of sight.  I, for one, really appreciate this feature.

So, aside from the cartridges, what do we know about this new entry into the business 3D marketplace?


The actual print envelope depends on the number of print heads that ordered.  The single color version boasts a print envelope of 10.8” x 10.45” x 9.5” (275mm (w) x 275mm (l) x 201mm (h)).  The 3 color version, as with all multi head 3D printers, has a slightly reduced print envelope of 7.3” x 10.75” x 7.9” inches (185mm (w) x 275mm (l) x 201mm (h) )  Note that the only dimension affected is the WIDTH of the print envelope.


From the FAQS we read...
Accuracy of the print is largely dependent on the geometry and orientation. Typical tolerances are around +/-0.5mm for dimensions less than 50mm and +/-1% for features larger than 50mm. If you need more accuracy, you can scale your file (either globally or locally) in your design software to account for the variance. There are no guaranteed tolerances on the CubeX printer.
At some point, I hope to set up an appointment to see the CubeX for myself.  While one of my current 3D printers can deliver the .125mm Z-Axis resolution.  So, what I will looking for is how they have dealt with any potential Z-Axis wobble.  Again, based on the fact that Z-Axis wobble is a non-issue with the Cube, I expect it to be a non-issue on the CubeX. The Z-Axis print tolerance allows for up to 1-1/2 of the selected nominal resolution. That's excellent.

But, what I really want to test is actual X/Y print tolerances.  The stated specification is +/- 1% of object dimension or +/- 0.2mm (0.008” / 200 microns) whichever is greater on the  x and y axis.  One of the things I want to test is the inner and outer (Hole & Post) fit of the same design specification.  We may still have to adjust designs for fitted parts.  But, if it's ALWAYS consistent, I will be a happy camper.

Actual Z-Axis resolution is selectable when the print file is processed and includes "HD - High-Def : 125 microns, CD - Crisp-Def : 250 microns or SD - Standard - Def : 500 microns."   Resolution of 500 microns obviously saves material when tighter specs are not required.


As one might expect, from the company that brought us the RapMan 3.2 and 3D Touch, the CubeX is able to print in either PLA or ABS.  They specifically mention a soluble clear PLA support option.  3D Systems already markets a heated ultrasonic tank for dissolving this material.

There are 17 ABS colors available...

17 ABS Colors

And 18 PLA colors...

18 PLA Colors


I've gotten very used to having a 3D printer that sports a heated print table to prevent ABS from warping.  So, I'm a little surprised that neither the new Cube Next=Generation nor the CubeX has a heated bed.  Instead, they have a glass bed that appears to be frosted.  And, in place of MagicGlue, which I use with the original Cube, they seem to be relying on something called CubeStick.  I have no idea if it is the same product with a different name.  But, I suspect that it is a different formulation.

Fortunately, we should be able to tell how CubeStick works since 3D Systems is showing both the new Cube Next-Generation and the CubeX on the floor at CubeX.  Certainly, with all those people around SOMEBODY will spot any warping and let us know.  But, again, based on my experience as a Cube user, I can't image they would take a step backward in this regard.

Well, we are certainly off to a good start on our new focus on pre-built 3D printers.  I want one.  :)

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