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I wrote this review in 2014. Since the beginning of 2016, I’ve been getting emails from multiple people claiming they ordered a Cyrus and haven’t heard from the manufacturer. I’m not sure if they got a reply at the moment you read this, but I advice you to contact the company before ordering.
Another week, another 3D printer to review. This time I’ll be printing with the Cyrus, a €1499 (ex VAT) 3D printer made in The Netherlands that was originally launched as a Kickstarter project in April 2013. The crowd funding, however, was cancelled by the makers one month later. According to them, user feedback caused them to get back to the drawing board and design Version 2 – which I’m testing – to better alight with the needs of potential customers.
The Cyrus 3D printer is clearly aimed to stand on a Creative Professional’s desk: a stand-alone, silent machine in the form of a small (37 x 37 x 40 cm – way smaller than the original which was 52 x 50 x 50 cm), shiny, black cube.
As always, I’ll write a first impression part, followed by a second part reporting on print quality and user experience after a few weeks of use.
Getting Cyrious? Read on!
The Similarities of 3D Printers
Although all current consumer/prosumer 3D printers might look and function similar to most people, they’re actually all quite different. Yes, the basic technology of the printers I’ve tested is the same: they al use the Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) technique – also known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) but that’s a Stratasys trademark. Fused Filament Fabrication covers the basics very well: by melting (Fusing) a special type of thermoplastic (Filament) it can fabricate objects. But similar to cars with combustion engines that burn a mix of gasoline and air to power an enige, every brand develops different ways of doing this as efficient as possible. This is the same with 3D printer manufacturers.
What Cyrus does Different
The printers I’ve reviewed before – the Replicator, Creatr & Builder – don’t only have names that imply what they do, they also use “direct drive” extruders to do it. This means that the motor(s) that push the filament through the hot end are mounted on top of the extruder itself.
The first difference with the printer I’m testing for you in the coming weeks, is it’s name: Cyrus. Although Google Image Search might imply this machine is meant for music-loving teenagers, the name is actually inspired by the Cyrus Cylinder: a Persian clay cylinder in which king Cyrus the Great set the basic human rights n the 6th century BC. Just so you know!
The second difference with the 3 other printers is that instead of a direct drive extruder, it uses a Bowden-type extruder. With this setup, the motor is located on a static part of the printer and feeds the filament to the hot end through a tube. Both techniques have their own benefits. The biggest benefit of a Bowden extruder is that the print head is lighter which should lead to more accurate 3D printing at higher speeds. A downside of Bowden extruders is that they’re generally not very suitable for printing with flexible filament.
The third difference is the build plate of the Cyrus: while the other printers I’ve tested (and most other FFF printers with it) use a glass build plate to print on, the Cyrus uses a stone build plate – granite to be precise. According to the manufacturer, one of the benefits is that stone hold heat better than glass, requiring less energy to keep it warm. Yes, this printer has a heated build plate, which is required by some materials (like ABS and colorFabb XT) but can also help to prevent warming of large PLA prints.
The fourth (are we still counting) difference is the way the print head moves around. While the gantries of most 3D printers are made out of cylindrical beams, the Cyrus uses lineair guide blocks. According to the manufacturer, this construction is responsible for making the printer operate more silently than other printers, one of it’s biggest unique selling points and one that might be attractive for Creative Professionals that want to place a 3D printer in the same room they’re working in.
The fifth – and last – different is connectivity. Most stand-alone 3D printers have an SD Card or USB interface to load files and some (like the Replicator) offer either wired or wireless network connectivity so you don’t have to walk around with (old skool) physical things anymore (pun intended). The Cyrus does offer wireless connectivity, but instead of WiFi it uses Bluetooth to transfer files and monitor the process. Because this feature is very new (it’s not even on their site yet), I’ve yet to discover the details, but the Cyrus Remote app in the Google Play Store suggests that this would allow to use an Android Smartphone or Tablet to operate the 3D printer. I happen to own a Nexus 5, so I will definitely test that.
Unboxing & Hardware Setup
The other 3D printers I tested came in very large and heavy boxes, so I was surprised to see our regular postal service parcel man carrying a rather small box to our studio last week – and he’s not very athletic. The printer weighs only 11.4 kg and is suspended in an unbranded cardboard box with many small airbags. Apart from the 3D printer itself, the box contains a printed manual, a 3D printed filament spool holder, thumb screws to level the print bed, bearing grease, a Staples glue stick and an 8GB Micro SD Card with a USB reader.
After taking it out of the box one thing becomes very clear: this printer indeed “comes in black”. Both the interior and exterior are made from custom cut glossy plastic. Cyrus logo is engraved into the front panel in white (if you order the starter kit, they can also engrave your name). The buttons are also black, as is the granite build plate.
The plate was placed on the bottom of the machine to prevent the aluminum build plate assembly from bending during transport. The heating element is nicely fitted inside the 21 x 21 cm slab of stone (the effective build area is 19.5 x 19.5 cm). The aluminum build plate holder is connected in the back by one large active lead screw and two passive rods. The build plate is connected to the printer with wires and is not completely removable. After rotating the lead screw to move the plate holder up a little, the granite plate can be moved in place.
The 3D printed spool holder has to be screwed onto the back of the machine. I found it a little inconvenient that the 3 small Allen screws have to be put in from the inside of the printer. Especially the bottom one, because it located in the exact center of the back, right behind the lead screw. I can imagine a click-on spool holder would make installation more convenient, but let’s be honest: you only have to do this once.
Next up is inserting the four thumb screws into the aluminum build plate holder. The manual guides you through the steps to calibrate the build plate, so the distance between it and the nozzle are consistent in all corners. Unlike the other printers I’ve reviewed, the home position of the Cyrus’ build plate is on the bottom of the machine, instead of close to the extruder. The manual takes you through the calibration process step by step. The machine sends the extruder to the four corners of the build plate and your instructed to turn the thumb screws until the nozzle touches (it stresses that it needs to touch) the build plate. While doing this I discovered that the completely black interior of the printer isn’t very functional when it comes to visibility: it’s almost impossible to see the nozzle when it’s in the back of the printer. The dim blue LED lights arent bright enough to help with this. And my work space is very well lit (I make all photos with just the ceiling lights on). So I did the calibration of the back positions on touch. After that you have to zero the z-position and save it to the machines memory. First-time 3D printer users might find it a bit technical, but if you just follow the steps closely, you’ll be fine.
To start printing, you naturally have to load filament. Because both the spool holder and the extruder motor are located on the back of the machine, you have to turn around the machine to do this every time you switch filament. This isn’t a big problem, because the printer is light, but you have to place it somewhere you can freely turn it or get behind it. Filament loading is straight forward: insert the filament into the motor, tighten the thumb screw on the motor and activate the filament loading function on the display. After the extruder is heated to 190 degrees Celcius, the motor pushes the filament slowly through the tube, into the hot end and out of the nozzle.
The last thing needed to print is loading a gcode file. I chose the easiest option to start with: the Micro SD Card. I don’t really understand why Cyrus chose the Micro SD format for a desktop machine. They’re mainly used in very small devices like smartphones. Maybe that’s the whole point: making it easier to print from a tablet of smartphone with an Micro SD slot. But otherwise Micro SD cards aren’t very practical for everyday use and can easily get lost on a creative’s desktop (especially a creative’s desktop). What’s also a bit odd is that the card slot is in the back of the machine (the blue-lit hole in the right bottom corner on the image above). So like filament loading, you have to be able to turn the machine freely. But, because of the Bluetooth connectivity, the SD Card might be just intended as internal storage (like in smartphones) instead of a transfer device. I’ll test that later, but for now I generated a gcode with Simplify3D (more on that in a moment) and started printing. There was still some glue on the build plate from the factory testing, so I didn’t need to re-apply that for my first test print, which was nice because glue stick has to dry before you can print well on it.
You can use the free, open source Repetier Host software with the Cyrus, but because of my previous good experiences with Simply3D I directly chose that option. It will cost €99 (ex VAT) extra if you just buy the printer, but it’s included in the €1649 (ex VAT) Starter Kit that also includes a Toolkit, the name engraving mentioned earlier and 5 rolls of premium filament to your choosing. I got a roll of Magenta PLA with the printer, which made a good first impression.
Installing and setting up Simply3D is a breeze: the Cyrus profiles are pre-installed in the software. Because they’ve been updated since the last release of Simplify3D (S3D), the manufacturer sent me the latest version by e-mail, which can be imported with a single click. Honestly, after using Cura for a while while reviewing the Big Builder, it’s good to be back in S3D again!
Preparing Print Zero
As you might expect, setting up print jobs on a single extruder machine is even easier than on one with two extruders, so I dropped in Marvin (my Patient Zero for every review), exported the gcode to the Micro SD Card and put it in the printer. It detects the card and displays the files on it automatically, so printing is just a turn on the wheel and a click on a button away. This clickwheel works like the first generation iPod, but after decades of using that device, it’s a bit counter-intuitive that Cyrus decided that turning counter-clockwise is down and clockwise is up – the opposite of Apples implementation. Like the first gen iPod, the clickwheel has four clickable buttons on the side to navigate through the menus. They work as expected, but you have to get used to where to find certain functions.
One minor issue I have with the LCD screen is that it’s placed fairly deep inside the machine, so when it’s on a desk you can’t read the first line while standing. But in practice I found that I usually kneel when starting prints anyways, because I want to see if the first layer is printed correctly. What is nice though are the LEDs underneath the LCD screen that turn on when the fan is turned on or the heaters of the extruder of bed. Those last two heat up surprisingly fast.
Minor things aside, my experience with unpacking the machine, setting it up and making my first print was good. It wasn’t the fastest so far (it took me about 45 minutes), but after that it was ready to print.