So it took me a while, but recently I fnally got around to assembling the Makerfarm Prusa i3v 3D printer that had been sitting in my “to do” stack.
The i3v builds upon the successful Makerfarm Prusa i3, by replacing the traditional system of smooth rods and linear bearings with beefy OpenBeam extrusions and Delrin wheels.
I have always been pretty well impressed with the original i3, so I wasn’t really thinking there was much that was broken, and was wondering about just what needed fixing, and how it would work out in the end.
As it turns out, it works out pretty darn well!
It’s not until you experience the quiet and the smoothness of the Delrin/OpenBeam system that you realize just how loud and irritating linear bearings can really be.
In addition to the lowered noise level, the smoothness of the motion and the dramatically increased stiffness that the double 20mm extrusions provide means that print speeds can be increased accordingly. With my original i3, a good shape and a well-tuned hotend would result in getting 100mm/s or so on perimeters, again assuming a shape that lends itself to fast printing. Recently, as a lark, I printed a split brain in PLA at 100mm/s, perimeter and infill at a 0.1mm layer height, and got a print I could be proud of. The shape included a lot of wrinkles, and the print was clean, without gaps, strings, or any of the usual issues that come up with trying to print too fast. Of course, the Prometheus V1 hotend that I was using might have had something to do with that as well (that review is coming shortly).
The i3v also comes standard with the updated manual bed-leveling system from Makerfarm, and so far the bed seems to remain more solidly level than its predecessor. I suppose eventually I’ll add the auto-leveling mod, but so far I haven’t really felt like it was necessary, and all else being equal, I’d rather keep things as simple as possible.
The build was about the same as we’ve come to expect from Makerfarm: generally uncomplicated and straightforward, with very clear video instructions that have successfully addressed the concerns I had with the originals (an occasional cofusion as to who’s “right” and “left” we were talking about). The hardware included with the kit is also now all metric, which certainly simplifies things when it comes time to fit any custom upgrades or add-ons. Some of the bolts I received were actually too short by about 3mm, but like any well-prepared RepRapper, I had a box of the correct-sized bolts on hand, so I didn’t even need to pause. There is no doubt in my mind that had I mentioned it, a replacement set would have been dispatched via priority mail immediately, but I saw no need to even bring it up.
On the down side, the Z-endstop adjustment system that comes with the printer is quite weak, and requires making small adjustments by loosening a screw and retightening it in a new position. No big deal if you’re trying to adjust within a few millimeters, but for a Z-endstop, the accuracy we’re looking for is measured in less than a tenth of a millimeter, so this system requires a LOT of trial and error, then more trial and error, more trial and error, a break for a drink, then more trial and error, you see where this is going.
The good news, as is always the case with open hardware designs, comes from the community. A user has created a mounting system for the endstop that puts it where it should have been in the first place, and offers extremely precise calibration through the use of an M5 bolt. Problem solved!
Overall, I have really enjoyed working with the i3v. What’s to complain about? The i3 was a great printer to begin with, and now it’s only gotten faster, quieter, and more stable. For over a year, I’ve been recommending the i3 as an ideal first printer, and the i3v has convincingly stolen the crown. In my humble opinion, there is no better deal out there when you consider “bang for the buck”. There are cheaper kits out there, but I have yet to see one that can really offer everything the Makerfarm kits do. Well done, Makerfarm!
As always, you can check out Makerfarm’s website at www.makerfarm.com.