That day had finally come. I decided it is time to get myself a 3D printer.
I started the research. I quickly stumbled upon Ultimaker printers. A nice looking printer with great quality praised by everyone. But the price… I haven’t got any better options so I started saving for the Ultimaker.
And then I discovered Prusa in September 2016. Bob from I Like To Make Stuff posted his review of Prusa i3 Mk2. Then I’ve found another review. And another. Everyone was saying good things about this printer. And the price was good.
I changed my plans and in late September 2016 I placed an order for my first 3D printer – Prusa i3 Mk2.
About Prusa i3 Mk2
As I was waiting for the printer I was reading about the printer and its creator. Prusa i3 Mk2 was designed by Josef Prusa in Prague, Czech Republic. He’s a well-known person in the open source 3D printing world. I even found his TEDx Talk in Vienna. That guy is passionate about 3D printing.
Prusa i3 Mk2 is an open source printer. It means that all the plans how to build it are available for everyone. If you want you can buy all the parts and build it yourself. You can improve and customise the printer however you want to meet your needs.
Also, look closer at the picture of the printer. Do you see the orange parts? These orange parts are all 3D printed. About 50% of the printer’s parts are 3D printed. Josef shared a video from the 3D printing farm printing parts for new printers. All we need right now is to make affordable metal 3D printers and 3D printed electronics, and we can have a printer that can print a copy of itself!
When you order Prusa i3 Mk2 you can choose between assembled version and a kit. I have chosen the kit.
The printer arrived in one big box with a dragon on its side. Inside, there were four more boxes, a spool of filament, power source, manual and assembly guide, and gummy bears. Prusa i3 Mk2 is so far the only printer I know that comes with a pack of gummy bears!
The assembly itself wasn’t particularly hard. It took me about 8 hours in total to build the printer.
The kit comes with all the tools you will need to build the printer. It also comes with assembly guide, but I’d recommend using the online version of the manual. It has much better quality photos and you can actually see what you need to do.
I’ve found the mechanical part of the assembly quite easy and straight forward. I cannot say the same about connecting the cables. That was the most difficult part of the build. In the pictures, the cables inside the electronics case were all nice and tidy. I was nowhere close to that. My inner OCD still can’t forgive me for the mess that’s inside the case.
Once the build was done the moment of truth had come. I plug the power in, turned the printer on, and it was alive!
Little I know the most frustrating part was just ahead. The calibration. Building the printer was my first contact with a 3D printer. I didn’t know what I was doing and the calibration took me way longer than it should. Eventually, I got it right and I was ready for my first prints.
The first print
My first print after the calibration was the Prusa logo that was on the SD card that came with the printer. I used that model as a test print to make sure the printer was set up correctly. It took me couple more prints to be sure the settings were good enough. Then I was ready to print the dragon from the box.
It came out beautiful. As I said a couple of time right now, that was my first encounter with a 3D printer. I was amazed how the printer handled the details. The claws, the wings, the belly. Everything looked amazing.
The printer was assembled and the first prints were done. My journey into the world of 3D printing had just begun.
Six months later
It’s been six months since my first print. In that time I learned a lot. I’ve learned how to make a model and how to prepare it for the print. I’ve learned how to design for 3D printing. I’ve learned about the materials and their pros and cons.
Prusa i3 Mk2 became a solid partner in my dive into the 3D printing. There were times it surprised me with the level of details it can print. I thought that some details were too small and will be lost in the printing, but when the print was done I was surprised to see them.
There were a couple of times when I had to go and fix the printer. The 3D printing technology isn’t mature enough like smartphones to give it to everyone and expect everything to work out of the box all the time. It’s a machine you need to take care about. The fixes I needed to do were all simple and when I wasn’t sure what to do next, the support and the community was happy to help me and guide me to the right solution.
I like the wide range of materials the i3 Mk2 can print in. So far I was using PLA and Bronzefill, but Prusa’s website says the printer can print in many more materials – ABS, NinjaFlex, filaments with carbon fibres, nylon, wood and metal composites, and many more.
The upgradability of the printer is its another advantage. People came up with many improvements for the printer. I, for example, have replaced the original spool filaments with a different spool holder. Right now I’m working on adding Raspberry Pi and camera to the printer (more on that soon, stay tuned!). Recently, Prusa announced two upgrades to i3 Mk2.
Recently, Prusa announced two upgrades to i3 Mk2.
The first one, i3 Mk2S fixes some mechanical issues. The second one, multi-extrusion, allows the printer to print with 2 or 4 different materials at the same time. The great thing about Prusa is that you don’t need to buy a new printer to have this upgrades. You can just get the upgrades and add them to your printer. If you have i3 you can get an upgrade to i3 Mk2. Just replace the parts and you are done. I love it. It means the long-term costs of the printer are way lower than other solutions.
The thing that annoyed me the most was the calibration process. i3 Mk2 has a system to compensate the bed levelling, but you still have to manually adjust the distance between the nozzle and the heatbed. Adjusting the PINDA probe is also difficult, but it was addressed in Mk2S update and I’m looking forward to test it out.
Although Prusa i3 Mk2 is my first printer ever, I highly recommend it to everyone. I don’t know if you can get a better quality for such price. It’s upgradable, the community is always helpful and you can print with it practically anything you want.
When it comes to assembled vs kit version, it all boils down to what you want. If you are a maker or it is your first printer, I would recommend taking the kit. I’ve learned a lot about the printer from building it. I have a better understanding how it works. Plus I’ve learned some interesting design ideas.
Prusa i3 Mk2 is a solid printer and after using it for six months I can see why people are praising it.