When a $200 3D printer just doesn’t cut it anymore, consider the da Vinci Jr. 1.0 A Pro. It produces great prints; there’s an optional laser engraver module for it; and with an optional extruder, you can print with carbon fiber and metallic PLA filaments.
I Want More!
Some great $200 (and under) 3D printers are available on the market. And these are terrific for learning how to use 3D print technology and software that turns models into printable files (called slicers). But at some point, you’re going to want more. More flexibility in filament choices and a larger print platform, so you can print larger objects. For $449, XYZprinting’s da Vinci Jr. 1.0 A Pro gives you a considerable step up in what you can print.
Part of this flexibility comes from the size of the print bed: 8 x 8 inches. Many lower-cost 3D printers provide a more limiting 5-inch square print surface. Another feature the da Vinci Jr. Pro 1.0 A offers is the ability to use XYZprinting’s own filaments or OEM filaments. Many of the non-“Pro” printers from XYZprinting require that you use filament from the vendor, which contains a small RFID chip in the spool. The Pro lets you use a chipped spool, which tracks the amount of filament used as well as pre-sets the print parameter settings for the particular filament being used. Or, you can use OEM filament and set the parameters (or use the software default) yourself.
Unpacking and assembling the bright orange printer takes only a few minutes. After removing the packing materials, you need to install the extruder, which just snaps into a fixture that holds it in place. Then plug the Bowden tube, which reduces the friction of the filament as it moves from the feeder on the loft of the printer, into the extruder. Hang a spool of filament on the holder built into the left side of the printer, and feed the filament into the feeder directly above the spool holder. You can load and unload the filament from commands on the front control panel. Finally, place the included tape on the glass build platform and you’re ready to go.
Almost as Pretty as a Picture
To judge print quality, I printed several reference/benchmark objects on the Jr. Pro and on a Monoprice Voxel, a 3D printer that’s pretty close in features, cost, and capabilities. The first of these is a small tugboat called the 3D Benchy. In this object, there are several things to look for.
Some of the things to look at are the fishing rod holder and smokestack, which should be round with clean lines. The holes in the front of the boat where the anchors are dropped should also be crisp and round. On the blue Benchy, which was printed by the da Vinci, if you look inside the cabin you can see the steering wheel and a lack of stringing. On the black Benchy, printed on the Monoprice, this wheel is difficult to make out and there’s a noticeable amount of stringing inside the cabin and on the left side of the prow.
The second reference object was developed jointly by Kickstarter and Autodesk. There are multiple attributes tested with this figure, and for more information on what they are and how to score the output, you can check the Assessment Protocol on GitHub, which has both the .stl file and the scoring rubric.
Reference prints such as these can be informative in both output quality and results of using default slicer software settings. When stringing is a problem, as it is here, there are a number of possible reasons, most of which you can address by changing some of the print parameters. A good guild to troubleshooting print problems is at Ultimaker.
Although it might look like the object on right is of better quality, applying the scoring rubric resulted in the print from the da Vinci scoring slightly better. Stringing is a problem that can be easily solved (though I didn’t want to tamper with the default settings of either printer), and the overall quality of the various test objects I printed on the da Vinci ranged from very good to excellent.
The Slicer software lets you adjust retraction settings
Printing Metal and Carbon Fiber
An optional $80 extruder with a hardened steel nozzle gives you capabilities you won’t find on many other 3D printers in this price range. XYZprinting offers two PLA filaments that are out of the ordinary: copper-filled and carbon fiber-filled. These are still PLA plastic but have the look of the different materials. Using them is not difficult: The extruder pops right off, and the optional extruder simply clicks in. You have to move a ribbon cable from one extruder to the other, and the Bowden tube, too, through which filament travels from the feeder to the extruder. Load the new filament, and you’re ready to print.
The demo figure below was printed at default settings with the “Copper” filament. If you’re going to print with a somewhat exotic material like filled PLA, it pays to access the setting menus and slow the print speed and enable retraction. The time it takes to generate a print increases a lot, but the output quality is noticeably better in many cases.
And it’s important to realize that printing the object might be just the first step, whether you’re printing a standard filament of something metallic. For example, the “Copper” filament in the test object looks more like wood until you put in an hour or more with a rotary tool and buffing wheel to bring out the metallic look.
A 3D Printer with Zap
Some of the da Vinci models are unique in that you can purchase, for another $199, a laser engraving module which replaces the extruder head and lets you engrave on various materials, such as cardboard, paper, cork, and other non-reflective materials. Although I did not receive the module in time to do enough testing for a detailed review here, I have, in the past, done some testing of the module on a different da Vinci printer, and the results at that time were impressive. And the laser module is something you won’t find on 3D printers from other vendors.
One note if you consider the engraving module is that it “engraves” by burning the surface of the material. Figure on doing your laser engraving in the garage or outside where the smell of burning material won’t bother you or possibly set off the smoke alarm.
Go for the Extras
The list price for the da Vinci Jr. Pro 1.0A is $449, though bundles are available which include some of the add-on options. Our review unit had an extra extruder with a hardened nozzle. The extruders can be easily swapped, and the hardened nozzle allows you to print with some of the more exotic materials, such as carbon fiber and metallic filament. Both of these filaments are actually still PLA. Without a heated print bed, you can’t print with other types of filament, such as ABS or Nylon. Adding the additional hardened extruder raises the bundle cost to $499.
The da Vinci Pro Jr 1.0 A is a very good value for the money. With a little experimentation, it produces really good quality prints, you can use filaments from other vendors, and with optional modules, print metallic-filled and carbon fiber filaments, as well as perform laser engraving. The software is easy to use in default mode but still gives more experienced users considerable control over the print process when needed. If you’ve pretty much reached the limit of what you can do with a beginner’s 3D printer, the da Vinci Jr Pro 1.0 A is an excellent next step.
Here’s What We Like
- Large build plate lets you make larger models
- Can use filament from other vendors
- Optional extruder lets you print with specialty filaments
- Removable print bed simplifies detaching prints
And What We Don't
- Build plate is not heated
- Chipped filament from vendor is somewhat expensive
- Glass print bed can break if dropped
- Specialty filaments may need extensive finishing