By Contributing Writer, Jennifer Jarret
Using a 3D printer may not get any simpler than with The Cube from 3D Systems. This intuitive 3D printer has a simple set up process and, believe it or not, an even more simple step-by-step printing process. We were impressed with the simple navigation and directions that led us through the 3D printing one step at a time.
When you power on the printer, you will notice a display screen light up on the front lower right quadrant of the machine. The touch screen is simple to use and will prompt you with what's next. The first screen you will see will have "Print" or "Setup" with associated graphics under each. You won't need to set up the printer before each use, but you will need to press "Setup" as your starting point if you are using the printer for the first time.
For a first time print job, you must set a print gap. This gap will exist between the printer head and the print pad. If the gap is set too close, the print head will drag the printed filament across the print pad; if the gap is too large, a similar problem will arise where the filament will not lay properly on the print pad to harden, and instead it will be strung across the print pad. To set the gap, you will select "Setup", tap the "Next" arrow and touch "Set Gap" when it appears. Step-by-step, the display screen will guide you in what you need to do to set the proper gap. It takes only a few minutes and as we mentioned earlier, you won't need to set the gap each time you use the printer, it's simply part of the initial set up. It took a few tries but we eventually found the sweet spot for our Cube. Currently, our Cube’s “Z Gap” is set to 1.65.
When you begin a print job, the display screen will prompt you to either "Load Cartridge" or provide a "Cartridge Status." Step-by-step instructions will be displayed assisting you in either unloading a cartridge, loading a cartridge, or both if you want to change one out. The printer will tell you how much filament is left in each cartridge and warn you if you don’t have enough filament in a cartridge to complete your project. The Cube will bring up a screen that gives a bar graph comparing how much filament you have versus how much you need to print the project. At the bottom there is an X box and a check box. You may choose to go ahead on the print even if there seems to be less filament than needed by pushing the check box. If you hit the X box, the printer backs you out of the print and into the Setup section to help you swap out the cartridge.
Side note: each cartridge is marked with the filament’s material, either ABS or PLA. Each creation file name will automatically end in the filament type unless you change the file name in the Cube software. The filament/cartridge must match the file type or the printer will not let you proceed with your job.
Once the cartridge, the filament, and the creation file have been properly loaded into the printer, your print job will begin when you confirm the job using the display screen. We were impressed that once we began printing one of our creations, the display screen gave us continuous progress on our current job; including the height and how much time was remaining for the job to be completed. You could walk away at this point and come back later to check on your project, or, if you are like us, you can watch the 3D printer at work, seeing each line and each layer unfold. It’s incredible to watch one of your creations take shape right before your eyes.
The overall strength of this 3D printer is that it’s simple to use and easy to navigate. Once you have set up the printer and witnessed your first 3D creation come to life, you are ready for round two. Believe it or not, it gets easier! Instead of reading the manual to know where the filament cartridge goes, you already know. Instead of learning how to transfer files from your computer to the printer, you already know. Don't be afraid to try a new material or to attempt a different creation. The more familiar you become with your Cube 3D printer, the more impressed you will be with all its capabilities.