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It has been more than six weeks since I posted Part 1 of this Review, so I had plenty of time to test the ZYYX on a daily basis. It has been running smoothly overall, which allowed me to focus more on making new designs instead of tuning and fixing a 3D printer.
That’s the way it’s supposed to be! Especially for Creative Professionals for whom a 3D printer is merely a tool for creative output. This in contrast to the more established Tinkerer audience, that enjoys the actual tuning and improving of the technology over designing objects to print.
Of course I’m critical as ever, so I also discovered some downsides of the ZYYX. Read on to find out how the pros and cons weight up!
So how did the ZYYX perform in the last one and a half month?
I’ve already covered the software side of ZYYX in Part 1 of this review, but I must say that the longer I use Simplify3D, the more I like it. I’ve just updated my Simplify3D post to reflect the recent 2.2 update. My only critique on this is that S3D saves both a .gcode and an .x3g file to the SD Card, but the ZYYX only reads the latter. This just uses unnecessary memory space in my opinion.
The benefits of the generous 27 x 23 cm build plate of the ZYYX become clear when loading STL files into Simplify3D’s virtual build plate. There might not be many occasion when you want to print a single object with a footprint this big, but I encounter many modular designs with multiple smaller parts.
In Part 1 I mentioned that I found it odd that the ZYYX display orders the files by date with the newest at the bottom, making me click through the entire list to select the last-added file. The manufacturer pointed out that the solution to this is shamefully simple: just press up instead of down in the file list and it will jump through the list from the bottom up. This might sound silly, but it’s a big time saver when you have over 100 files on an SD Card.
Although the ZYYX comes with PLA on a 20 cm spool with a 5 cm center hole, the supplied spool holder seems to be optimized for 16 cm spools with a 3 cm hole since these seem to fit perfectly. The 20cm spools do fit, but they can wobble a little and when loading a full spool, there’s a chance that the filament get’s stuck between the spool and the machine. Also, there’s very little room between the edge of the spool and the feeding tube, which makes it hard to load filament without turning the machine. The ZYYX has handles, so it can be turned easily, but that’s simply not practical on a daily basis. I fixed this problem by 3D printing a 5cm spool holder next to the printer:
This way I can easily switch filament and have a clear view of the spool so I can see if it’s rotating correctly and how much filament is still on it.
In the introduction I explained that the auto calibration works by a sensor on the extruder that probes the open parts in the build plate surface, but this isn’t correct: The open spaces are where the nozzle goes when the pressure-sensor touches the actual build plate layer. This nuance is important because this allows you to put a temporary layer – like painters tape – onto the print surface in case your material really doesn’t stick to the ZYYX’ special surface. If you also put a piece of tape next to the open spaces, this extra thickness will be taken into account when calibrating.
Control Panel and Lighting
The monochrome LCD display on the ZYYX is nice and big and gives clear instructions and status updates. I particularly like the fact that it displays the print time and amount of filament used after each print and gives the option to do the same print again. Navigating the menus is easy because there are only 4 arrow keys and one selection key.
As with other 3D Printer’s I’ve tested the ZYYX print’s at it’s best at low speeds. The medium profile (200 micron) is pre-configured at 50 mm/s, but for the best results it’s best to step down to 30-40 mm/s (by the way: Simplify3D was just updated to version 2.2 and can now also display speeds in mm/s!).
While printing my Terminator Skull reference prints, I discovered a difference between the print time estimates of Simplify3D and the actual print times. The higher I tuned the speed, the greater the difference became. After some research I found out that the custom Sailfish Firmware that drives the ZYYX has a featured called “Accelerated Printing”. From what I understand, this is a set of advanced algorithms that can correct the acceleration, deceleration and print speed in realtime to achieve smoother movement and better print quality. It’s like the Economy Mode in most modern cars: no matter how hard you press the gas pedal, the car will accelerate according to an ideal curve for max fuel efficiency. The algorithms even look ahead in the .gcode and reduces the print speed when, say, a zig-zag pattern is coming up next.
This features works great, but you can’t rely on print time estimates on faster prints. You can turn it off, but that leads to considerably more vibration noise from the printer.
Printing with PLA
Printing with PLA works well. The ZYYX prints the first layer at an extra hot temperature of 235 degrees to get better adhesion to the special build plate surface and then switches to 205 degrees (or whatever you enter into the profile). I would describe the build plate adhesion as reasonably good: if you wipe it with acetone frequently most PLA print will stick to it, but they’re never too stuck and easy to remove. This balance works well to print big and medium parts without a raft, but it’s not sticky enough for small parts with minimal contact areas: these need a raft or painter’s tape to increase adhesion.
Printing with PLA at 205-215 works great and get very detailed. I found no warping or layer adhesion problems with PLA. Filament flow is consistent, so surfaces are mostly nice and smooth. I did notice that the Fine (100 micron) setting delivers slightly less smooth prints than the Medium (200 micron) setting. I think this can be improved by finetuning the extrusion multiplier.
Printing with ABS
So PLA prints well, but that could be expected because PLA is generally known to print well on an unheated print bed like the one on the ZYYX. ABS, on the other hand, does usually need a heated print bed, often heated around 100 degrees. This prevents warping of the material because ABS shrinks when cooled too fast, but it also helps with layer-to-layer adhesion.
The ZYYX has no heated bed, but instead uses a special kind of build plate layer said to work with ABS. The fact that it’s advised to wipe the plate with acetone to refresh it makes it clear that it contains at least some amount of acetone-soluble plastic. ABS is fully acetone-soluble, so the first layer slightly fuses with the build plate material when printing, making it stick surprisingly well.
Actually, the ABS build plate adhesion is a bit too good: it’s extremely hard to remove raftless ABS prints from the plate! On printers with heated beds, re-heating the plate makes print-removal a lot easer, but on the ZYYX you can only use a sharp (putty) knife and force. Luckily the plate is removable, so you can to this in a comfortable, safe position (be sure to always wear protective gloves when combing brute force and sharp objects!).
Another thing to note is that the brand and quality of ABS makes a real difference on the ZYYX. I made testprints of the famous Wrench with both black and white ABS (not the most expensive kind, admitedly) that I’ve been using with 3D printers with heated beds without problems but both resulted in warping on the ZYYX, even with rafts. When I tested with a spool of Magicfirm Premium Green ABS – supplied by ZYYX – the result was suddenly a lot better. Almost no warping at all! So thats something to keep in mind.
The Fume Filter works great when printing with ABS: The funny smell it gives is still slightly noticeable in the room, but my estimate is that about 80-90% of the fumes are absorbed by the filter.
My conclusion is that the ZYYX is indeed able to print ABS under the right conditions and with good-quality filament. This is a great alternative if you want to print something stronger than PLA once in a while. This is the case for me personally and might be enough for most Creative Professionals. However, if you’re planning to mainly print ABS, you should consider a printer with heated build plate.
Printing with other Materials
As I’ve written in my Filament Guide, there are many different kinds of Flexible Filaments and they generally work best with direct drive extruders like the one on the ZYYX. The ZYYX Profile comes with a Flexible Filament preset.
I only made a very small test print with the bambooFill I got at ColorFabb when I toured their factory (read this post if you want to know how filament gets made!). I’ll do more prints with this when I’m actually going to review the material itself, but for now I just wanted to know if the ZYYX could print it…
More importantly, I wanted to use this material to test the limits of the fume filter. If you’re familiar with printing Wood or Bamboo Filament, you know that you’re print room actually smells like a wood worker’s place! While this is fun at first, you wouldn’t want to have this smell in your Creative Studio or Home. The Fume Filter is a great solution to this problem because it keeps the smell bearable. You’ll have to wait a while before opening the printer’s doors after printing is done, though.
So PLA prints great, but ABS results might be mixed with the ZYYX? What if you still want stronger prints? You might consider ColorFabb XT. Although the ColorFabb website advises to print it on an heated print bed, I made a few XT prints with the ZYYX that looked good and where a lot easier to remove from the bed than ABS. Results may vary depending on the object you want to print, so consider this experimental.
Printing with Multiple Colors
Huh? Isn’t this a single extruder 3D Printer? Yes, it is! So it’s just printing with multiple colors by pausing the printer and switching filament? Well… kind of, but there’s something special for that on the ZYYX (and other 3D Printers with the Sailfish Firmware) called “Pause @ ZPos”. This allows you to program the height at which the printer will automatically pause. This way you exactly determine when a color switch should occur. You can set the z-value in mm either on the control panel or enter M322 Z# (where # is the pause height in mm) directly into the gcode in Simplify3D’s script menu. The pause height can easily be determined with Simplify3D’s cross section feature.
Since it’s the season, I’ve designed a Christmas Hat for the famous Yoda Bust!
The only real problem I discovered seems specific to the ZYYX: As you might know, when printing small, thin or sloping parts with PLA, the printed material can creep upwards a little – even with active cooling. While this makes the print layers a little messier, it’s usually not a big problem because the hot nozzle pushes the elevating print down again when printing the next layer. However, on the ZYYX these parts can come in contact with the auto calibration pressure sensor that’s located left of the nozzle. This can lead to deformations in the left side of the print, but it can also knock small prints of the build plate entirely!
I’ve seen similar problems occur with dual-extruder printers (like the Leapfrog Creatr I reviewed earlier) where the idle nozzle can come in contact with the print. I solved that by heating the idle nozzle as well on single-color prints, but this solution won’t work on the ZYYX of course.
Be assured that this only happened with certain prints, especially thin, tall objects with a small surface area. I found a few ways ways to reduce this problem along the way: printing slower at lower temperatures to reduce the heat creep; using a raft with a smaller than default raft-to-print separation so prints aren’t knocked over easily (makes the raft harder to remove though); or using painter’s tape to increase build plate adhesion.
It should also be noted that the brand, quality, and also the color of PLA influences the print’s tendency to creep upwards. For example, natural filament didn’t have this issue and white and deep primary colors seem to suffer from it the most. I’m not sure but I guess that the amount of dye used to color the filament has an effect on it’s temperature characteristics.
I’m not an engineer, but I think this problem could be solved by placing the pressure sensor a few millimeters higher than the nozzle and compensating this difference in the firmware. The holes in the build plate’s top layer – where the nozzle goes when the plate hits the sensor – are deep enough to allow this.
Zero Extruder Jams
This one is simple: I had none! I have printed all kinds of objects, with many different materials and colors and the ZYYX’ extruder didn’t clog once, making it the first 3D printer I’ve reviewed with a 100% clog-less experience! The only maintenance I did was clean the extruder gears once, which is a remarkably simple procedure.
Wiping the Build Plate
As I’ve said in part 1, the special build plate can be wiped with acetone when it gets worn and it’s advised to replace it after 4-5 months of use if you want to keep the bottom surface of your prints smooth. To increase the lifespan of the build plate, I would advice to constantly print in different locations, so you’re not constantly wiping the center. 3D Printers with manual calibration need to be calibrated extremely well to print consistently at the edges, but because of the Auto Calibration any location works on the ZYYX.
Refreshing the Fume Filter
If you want the fume filter to continue to catch fumes, it should be replaced once in a while. Of course my testing period was to short to notice any decrease in the fume filters capability.
The ZYYX is a very capable 3D Printer. Although it’s the first ZYYX, it’s obvious that it’s based on technology that has already proven itself in other 3D Printers manufactured by Magicfirm – like the MBot Grid II – and that it’s open source Sailfish firmware has been improved over the years. For me the ZYYX is what a successor the MakerBot Replicator 2 should have been: offering the same reliable PLA printing capabilities plus extra features like Auto Calibration, a Fume Filter and an easily accessible hot end – plus the possibility to print with ABS once in a while.
After getting used to Auto Calibration, it’s hard to imagine why so few 3D printers have it. It truly takes the hassle out of 3D printing and lowers the threshold for newcomers. However, the calibration sensor can touch the print in some specific occasions, increasing the possibility of print fails. That said, I’ve used printers without such a sensor that have a significantly higher fail rate than the ZYYX. It has actually proven to be very reliable and has printed consistently good with zero extruder jams on a daily base for six weeks.
The enclosed build chamber combined with fume filter is a win-win for both noise and smell reduction. It should also be noted that the build chamber is exceptionally well lit, so you always have a clear view of the printing process (and make nice pictures of the process). The generously sized build plate makes it possible to print large objects or batches of small things. It’s special layer isn’t a complete replacement for an heated build plate, but it works surprisingly well in most scenarios without the hassle of constantly applying temporary surface coatings like tape or glue. If really needed, these can just be applied on top and the sensor will take it into account.
Although I think most users will use it with PLA, the ZYYX can print with a great variety of materials, including flexible filament. ABS printing works, but only with certain filament brands (like the one ZYYX sells) and under the right conditions. It’s a great feature to have as an alternative to PLA, but I would advise it to people that want to print ABS on a regular basis. Honestly, I believe most Creative Professionals won’t, so I don’t consider this a big downside.
To top it off, the ZYYX comes complete with a nice set of tools and the great Simplify3D software for a competitive price of €1550 plus VAT (almost half of the costs of a MakerBot Replicator 5th Gen!). Also noteworthy is that the ZYYX team is actively improving both the printer profiles and printer’s firmware, and offers great support.
Want to know anything specific? Feel free to drop a comment below and I’ll answer it for sure!
I’ve published all designs I made for my reviews on My Thingiverse Profile.