304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
The Snapmaker is a 3-in-1 printer manufactured by Snapmaker which is a tech company that’s based in Shenzhen, China. It was launched on Kickstarter in 2017 and it’s been one of the top success stories in the spectrum of crowdfunding. It managed to raise $2, 277, 182 from 5, 050 backers making it one of the highest funded 3D printing projects on the Kickstarter platform.
Its biggest selling point is that it can be transformed into either a 3D printer, a laser engraver or a CNC carver. It also comes with a heated bed, allowing you to experiment with many different filament materials. The three modules perform well and the machine itself is compact and very sturdy. It’s relatively easy to assemble too and uses one software to manage the three modules.
This Snapmaker 3D printer features an entirely open-frame design, which means it’s quite easy to work on and you get to view everything during the printing process. Despite that it’s open, the printer does look sleek and professional.
All the wiring and cabling has been well managed. Most of the wires and cables are hidden out of sight right behind the frame, giving the unit a clean and tidy look.
The only wires that are visible are the ones that connect to the three interchangeable modules, the one that connects to the control touchscreen as well as the ones that connect the X-axis and Y-axis modules.
The printer features an all-metal body with a frame made of strong and durable aluminum material. It anchors the printer down very well keeping it stable throughout the printing process.
With regards to the size, the whole unit is pretty compact, measuring just 11.4 x 13.2 x 10.7 inches. It can easily fit on any desk without taking much space, making it ideal for small workspaces or studios. It’s a bit heavy though, at around 21 pounds, so you may need some help if you’re going to move it around often.
The single direct drive extruder of this Snapmaker printer is equipped with a 0.4mm nozzle that can achieve a layer resolution of between 50 to 300 microns. It’s equally able to attain temperatures of up to 250°C which is enough to handle materials like ABS.
The majority of users did report getting decent quality prints most of the time. There’s little to no warping or stringing problems which are common on most budget 3D printers. Every print came out almost perfect each time.
We printed two 3D Benchy models at around 150 microns with 20% infill. Both results were quite impressive – the details were fine and immaculate such that you could almost clearly read the 3DBenchy nameplate that’s on the rear part of the boat.
The printer was able to handle bridging very well too although the fan’s position tends to undermine the cooling process, which sometimes ends up affecting some printed parts of several models.
There were also no reports of nozzle clogging. A majority of the prints ran to completion without any issues whether using ABS or PLA. Plus, the installation manual features a well-explained procedure for addressing a clogged nozzle should you experience one.
The printing speed is moderate, at around 100 mm/s. The 3DBenchy models, for instance, required around 2 hours and 30 minutes each to print which is fairly decent compared to other 3D printers that are priced slightly lower than the Snapmaker.
The print volume is a little restricted due to the compact size of the machine. It offers a build area of 4.9 x 4.9 x 4.9 inches which is on the smaller side. Nonetheless, it should meet the needs of most enthusiast beginners as it’s enough to print Lego-like parts, figurines or different sorts of puzzle pieces. There’s an extension that you can get too should you want to increase the height so that you are able to print taller objects.
The main advantage is that the print bed is heated. It’s specified to reach up to 80°C, but many claimed that the temperature goes up to 100°C, making it easy to successfully print materials such as ABS which is prone to warping. Users did report getting great results with both PETG and ABS filaments.
Layer adhesion on the Z-axis was fine too. The print bed is equipped with a sticker which seems to work better than glue stick or blue tape. Most of the prints manage to stick well on the bed and they detach easily from it when completed.
As already mentioned earlier, aside from being able to do 3D printing, this Snapmaker model has two other modules that make it a multifunctional printer. It features a laser engraver and a CNC carver both of which work fine.
The Snapmaker laser engraving module offers a 200mW laser power with a wavelength of 405nm. It’s not the most powerful laser but it’s sufficient enough to engrave designs on a variety of materials like wood, leather, fabric, plastic and paper. The engraver also offers a modest workspace of around 4.9 x 4.9 inches.
You do get varying degrees of success, though, with different materials. Wood, for instance, worked very well, as did leather and colored plastics. Even denim produces good results, although it smells terrible. Clear acrylic, on the other hand, only works if the top surface is painted and washed off.
That said, at only 200mW, the Snapmaker engraver doesn’t really have the power to cut through materials and it’s also not able to etch certain materials like glass, gem, transparent material and metal.
The machine is nonetheless expandable – you can increase the laser power by replacing the provided engraver module with a 1600mW module offered by Snapmaker. It’s more powerful and capable of cutting through and engraving much more materials than the 200mW module.
The engraving options of the 200mW module include black and white, text, grey, and vector. All four options work fine although there’s no documentation provided or available online to help explain the ideal use cases for each. However, the black and white, and grey options work with standard file formats like Jpg to deliver detailed drawing work and gradients. Ther vector mode works with SVGs, probably for scaling work without losing detail.
Similar to the other two modules, the CNC carver offers a limited work area of just 3.5 x 3.5 x 2.0 inches. Even so, you still have enough room to create some basic carvings and with a shank diameter of 3.175mm and a spindle speed of 19,000 RPM, you’ll be able to perform simple carvings relatively fast anytime you want.
The provided carver comes with two separate carving bits that give different finishes, but the results are good when using either of them. The carving goes smoothly, plus the level of detail is pretty impressive, especially on wood and acrylic. You can as well work with other materials such as carbon fiber sheet and PCB. This module also supports different file types including SVG, IGES, DWG, DXF, STEP, etc.
Carving a 2D shape with the laser etcher is easy since it’s just a matter of setting the SV image you want and centering the machine. However, the process becomes complicated when you want to carve 2.5D or 3D shapes. Snapmakerjs software doesn’t offer an option to prepare 3D models – it’s limited to SVG files as source material for generating G-code.
You have to prepare the G-code outside the Snapmaker ecosystem using a program like Autodesk’s Fusion 360. You can set the right cutting heights and depths using the program and then save it directly as an NC file which you can use with the Snapmaker.
That said, the speed of both the laser engraver and CNC carver is fairly moderate just like the 3D printing module.
Featuring a heated bed, the Snapmaker can support various types of filaments including PLA, ABS, PETG, Nylon, and others. It works with the standard 1.75mm filament and you can use third-party filaments which gives you complete freedom to print models with different textures and properties.
Operating this printer is simple. It comes with a 3.5 inch LCD color touchscreen that’s placed right in the front to make it easy to reach it. The screen is connected using an extensible cable to allow freedom of movement. You can remove and handle it just like a small smartphone which is convenient compared to printers where the controls are built right into the main body.
It’s big enough to allow you to see the settings clearly and the interface is intuitive for both beginners and experienced users. It’s easy to navigate and the touchscreen response is fast.
You can also control the printer via the company’s Snapmakerjs software which features an easy-to-use interface with several intuitive tools and features. You can control all three modules using this software by just changing to the one that you want to use.
As for connectivity, you can use either a USB disk for standalone printing or a USB cable to connect to your computer where you can initiate printing using the Snapmakerjs software.
The Snapmaker 3D printer utilizes its own software which is known as Snapmakerjs. It’s a 3-in-1 software featuring sections for all three modules. You can use it for slicing, engraving, and carving. The software is very interactive, allowing you to perform most of the functions and tasks. You can load your files/models and prepare them for printing right from the software.
The downside is that it offers limited capabilities. You can’t perform functions like scaling of models/objects in a single direction, adding multiple models to a print run, pause or adjust a print, slow down the print, or tune the temperatures.
The good thing though is that you are not limited to just the Snapmaker’s software as the printer can work with a wide range of third-party software.
The company provides profiles for both Simplify3D and Cura which are the two most popular 3D printing slicing software. You can also use Slic3r software with the printer. It supports OBJ and STL file formats and can work with either Mac OS X or Windows operating systems.
The unit comes in a kit, meaning it’s unassembled, hence you have to set it up yourself. It comes in many different pieces which may sound intimidating, but it’s actually relatively easy to assemble. The provided manual is very clear, detailed and properly guides you through the whole process.
Besides pre-wiring the electronics within each of the linear modules and setting up the module/print head you want, the other components that will require installation are the base plate, heated bed, and the touch-screen control module. So, it’s not really a completely DIY 3D printer kit since you only get to handle the final mile of construction.
The whole process can take 30 minutes if you are an experienced user and 1 hour if you are a new user. After completing the assembly, the next step is loading up the filament into the extruder which might be a fiddly operation if you are a beginner.
Moreover, the filament spool holder is positioned to the rear of the printer where it feels counter-intuitive because the filament is likely to get tangled in the power cables or even during a print job.
The extruder box is also closed, meaning you have to pry it open in case of a filament jam. On the upside though, the unit comes equipped with a filament run-out detector that automatically pauses the print job to allow you to load more filament and immediately resume from where you left off. The system is also able to save the progress of a print job in case of a power outage.
The second task after assembly is calibrating the printer. It doesn’t have an auto bed levelling feature nor does it come pre-calibrated. You have to do it yourself and the process involves manual adjustments and some refinements carried out vai the touch-screen controls.
If you have experience calibrating a 3D printer, then you will find the process easier. Beginners might find it a bit challenging initially, but you get to learn quickly because Snapmaker provides a guide that clearly walks you through the process.
The three modules are fairly simple to swap out and setup. It’s just a matter of loosening four screws and fixing the module you want without dismantling the entire machine. All three modules have identical fittings and dimensions, as well as the same screw holes. Each includes the motors, bearings, rails and wirings, so no struggling to determine what goes where.
Switching the 3D printing head with the laser engraver, for example, requires unscrewing four hex screws from the baseplate of the module and unplugging the RJ45 cable to remove the print head. Next, you just attach the laser head, fasten it with the same hex screws and then attach the RJ45 module cable.
The heated bed has to be also switched with the engraving platform, which is equally a fairly simple process. Reaching the four screws at the bottom of the bed is the challenging part.
You have to calibrate the laser too after switching the module and base. This involves focusing the laser to a point using a focusing ring and the Z-axis height (varies based on the thickness of the material).
The CNC head requires the same setup process, but there’s no wasteboard provided – you’ll have to source your own in order to protect the printer’s metal platform. The entire conversion from one module to another can take at most 5 minutes. However, the lack of end stops for both the CNC and laser functions mean that you’ll need to set an origin point for every new job.
Another downside is that the supplied screwdriver is abysmal. Many reported that it keeps falling apart which makes assembly and switching the modules challenging since you have to mess with screws every time.
In operation, the printer doesn’t make much noise. It’s, however, very noisy during the CNC process. The smell is strong too when doing laser engraving – you have to place the printer in a well-ventilated area.
Snapmaker is a company that seems serious about the presentation and delivering of its products. Many attested that the printer comes so well packaged in a neat and very professional manner like a new laptop or a games console.
Each component/part has been snugly wrapped in solid cut foam and arranged in sections where they are equally held by black foam inserts to keep them securely in place. There’s hardly any chance of the parts becoming loose or moving inside the box during shipment.
Moreover, tools and additional accessories have been stacked in different boxes making them easily accessible during assembly. Having such a well laid out packaging at the start is quite convenient as everything becomes easier, especially when you have to set up the unit from scratch.
Included in the box is a spool of PLA filament along with its holder, power pack, a pair of wrap-around safety goggles, and some wooden squares to start you off on your laser engraving journey.
The company’s customer service is great and very helpful. They follow up on most of the orders after placement and continue to provide after-sales support to ensure the printer works properly. Also, the replacement of defective parts is simple and done without a hassle provided though they fall within the warranty period.
There’s also a friendly and active community both on Facebook and the company’s forum where you can find plenty of helpful tips and troubleshooting guides from thousands of experienced users.