“Chinese 3D printer” – a phrase which, in the mind of an average user, for a long time will remain synonymous with trash and primitive, often useless fakes. There are two reasons: first, the products with the “Made in China” signature for decades have been in really poor quality, which was hardly compensated by their exceptionally low price. Second, although China has for many years tried to break away from this stereotype by launching numerous high class products, many companies operating on that market continue to conduct a policy of deliberate undercutting the product quality, focusing solely on achieving the lowest possible prices. The image of the Middle Kingdom is still so bad in this respect that any shoddy product manufactured in Europe or the US is contemptuously referred to as “Chinese”.
Interestingly, one of the largest manufacturers of 3D printers in the world – TierTime, even though it comes from China, is considered somehow separate and treated with a completely attitude than the rest of the producers of this country. Flashforge or Wanhao are out of luck – an average client, wanting the knowledge of the 3D printing market, approaches their device with a disdainful smile and mockery in the eyes, and the fact that the American Dremel has chosen Flashforge Dreamer as their company’s product is perceived rather as an economic decision than a technological one. People tend to treat Dremel’s 3D printer as an American product, not Chinese, and this way they justify their eventual decision to buy the device – “Made in USA”, after all, is incomparably better than “Made in China”. The fact that most of the electronics available on our markets comes from Asia is irrelevant – it has an “appropriate” sticker on the casing.
Do not be surprised then that when I first saw Einstart-S by the Chinese Shinning 3D company I experienced rather mixed feelings. On the one hand I tried to approach this 3D printer with an open mind, clean slate – one may say, but on the other hand I subconsciously treated it as another “typical Chinese”. Believe me – “Made in China” strongly influences the perception of things, especially for someone who is as old as me… I have spent three months with Einstart-S. During this time our relationship has undergone several stages: from initial curiosity, through great love, to a profound disappointment. I got to know this printer to the core. Here is its review…
Einstart-S Shinning 3D
I received the 3D printer for testing courtesy of Mirek Jaskułowski from Printila. In spite of first impressions, its production is overseen by a large and respected company which specializes in creating professional 3D scanners and software. The Shinning 3D scanners are among the best in their class in the world and their sales in Poland are conducted by the Oberon 3D company, whom we had an opportunity to meet already earlier, at the 3D Printer & Scanner Show fair in Warsaw. When it comes to the 3D printer, it is the first device of this type in the company’s product range. At first glance, it makes a very favorable impression, combining simplicity and elegance with a very solid performance. It has a white, box-shaped metal casing and removable front panels made of thick plexiglass in various colors. The build size is 16 x 16 x 16 cm, the plate is made of acrylic and is not heated. The kinematics deceptively resembles TierTime’s Up! Plus 2. The device is equipped with an LCD panel, communication is possible via USB and a MicroSD card.
- build size: 16 x 16 x 16 cm
- number of printheads: 1
- printhead diameter: 0.4 mm
- filament type: PLA
- build plate: acrylic, unheated
- LCD panel
- communication: USB, MicroSD card
The device’s price for the Polish market is not yet known (Printila is still considering whether to introduce the device for sale), but it would be at the level of 3500-4500 PLN gross.
Einstart-S has a number of very interesting features that make the work considerably more enjoyable. First of all, it is fantastically easy and intuitive, bettering probably the world’s simplest Up! Plus 2! It has a backlit build chamber, which changes the color depending on the work mode. The build plate holds up on three magnets, which is very useful for removing prints. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about the 3D printer is the raft… I have never seen a device which had the prints removed from the raft in such an easy and simple way. I have no idea how the Shining 3D crew accomplished it, but they certainly surpassed TierTime, not to mention Zortrax…
1. Getting started
Einstart-S does not require a manual. This is the simplest 3D printer I have had the opportunity to operate. Just turn it on (first the side button, then hold down the OK button next to the LCD screen), choose a model from the SD card, and start printing. The 3D printer did not need to be calibrated at all, despite the fact that it first came to Printila from China, and then went from Zgierz to me in Łódź (traveling the notorious, Polish roads). Of course, after some time, and dozens of printouts the plate required some calibration, but with the help of Mirek Jaskułowski I was able to quickly “get a grip” on that. The calibration is done with three knobs at the bottom of the table – we do not touch the printhead at all.
The printouts adhere to the table fairly well – only once or twice did I put some glue on the plate in order to improve adhesion, and as it later turned out, it would have been enough to level the plate in relation to the head a little better. Replacing the filament is a breeze. Place the filament in the tube extending into the extruder, then, from the 3D printer’s menu, choose the LOAD option, the head warms up to 195ºC quite quickly, and the extruder pulls the filament inside. To remove the old filament, choose the UNLOAD option – after the head gets warm, the filament comes out on its own, without any user intervention.
The SD card contains several simple prints, so a user who just wants to play with the 3D printer may work with it without ever connecting it to a computer for quite a few days.
The set includes two filament rolls, a box of tools (somewhat poorer than in the case of Up!, nevertheless, including absolutely everything you need), the cables and a CD with the software.
2. Working with the 3D printer
The beginning the work with Einstart-S is a pure joy, especially if you already have experience working with the RepRaps. Nothing breaks down and nothing requires your attention. Unfortunately, with time the problems begin to appear… The extruder and the head are covered by large, ugly casing printed on a 3D printer. In addition, it is uneven against the plate (which stems from a rather inept way it has been attached) and obstructs the view of almost the entire printout. It is troubling, because after prolonged use the table begins to drop slightly at the edges and the filament ceases to adhere well to it. If the filament detaches from the plate, it begins to stick to the casing – which is a recipe for a disaster I experienced with Up! Mini, when the filament got wrapped around the head to create a monumental plastic cocoon. It can be easily and quickly adjusted… provided that we take the casing off. So the first thing you should do when beginning to use Einstart-S is to remove the casing which secures the extruder and the head. Otherwise, it simply will not work in the long run. Sorry, Health and Safety Department.
If you do not level the plate properly, the bigger prints will start to deform and roll up, despite the fact that you might print them with PLA! It did not happen to me with the original filament, but when I printed with colorFabb, Barrus and Plastink, I had problems with that every time.
The 3D printer is quite slow. Although in theory the software could accelerate the pace of work, in reality it makes no sense to print at a speed faster than 30-35 mm/sec. At the speed of 50 mm/sec. the quality is so poor that you should not start printing at all.
The 3D printer’s loudness is a big problem. Accustomed to working with the silent Monkeyfab Prime, after the first few days of printing on Einstart-S I went on strike and did not switch it on for a few days. Unexpectedly, a visit by Kasia and Karol from Ekoteria helped. When they heard the working Einstart, they concluded that compared to the new Makerbot Replicator 5, it sounds like the wings of a dragonfly compared to a working tractor. This comparison helped me come to terms with the noise until eventually I got used to it. However, I can not imagine working on Einstart-S at home. The noise of the device stems from relatively poor quality of the stepper motors and the closed, metal structure which really resonates the sound.
Comparison of the sound of working Monkeyfab PRIME and Einstart-S
0:16 – Einstart-S begins work, 0:30 – it turns the fan on, 2:15 – the end the raft print and starting to print the model
However, these are all in fact just insignificant details in comparison to what matters most – the output quality. As long as we print simple things, which do not require supports, everything runs smoothly. Once we begin to print more advanced models, the device’s stylish design and ease of use are no longer relevant… The quality of the printouts is just awful …
3. Printout quality
Einstart-S is a 3D printer for printing simple models: key chains, vases, cups, mats or other more or less useful gadgets. 3D printed whistles are exceptionally good on Einstart-S (we printed them live during an event in Manufaktura). When we move on to more complex models, or elements of an industrial nature (heaven forbid!), the 3D printer becomes useless.
Let us start with the good things though. As I mentioned, the software Einstart-S generates a fantastic raft, from which the models are “taken off”, not “torn off”. I have no idea how it works, but during the 3D printing the model remains intact, and after the print is over you just need to gently pull it with your fingers and it comes off the raft like a skin off a ripe orange. As far as the supports are concerned, everything works just fine as well. Although they are very dense and there is no way to adjust their “saturation” they come away from the model without any hassle.
What we find under the supports is a problem though…
The “lost” perimeters completely disqualify Einstart-S in my eyes. It is most definitely the software’s fault. In the process of calculating the particular lines of the print it shortens them on the particular layers. This occurs on both the printout’s surface and in its interior or the side walls. What is more I noticed, on several occasions that when depositing the first layers of the model on the raft, the head has a habit of springing up with a fragment of the printout is has just printed, which may as well end up in detaching the whole model off the plate.
As for the dimensional tolerance, it also leaves much to be desired. During one attempt I printed first a body of an element, and then the item that was supposed to be fitted inside of it. Without several minutes of sanding of the edges there was no way I could combine the two elements together. If you want to make anything of this kind, you need to keep it in mind already at the designing stage, leaving an adequate margin of error especially for Einstart-S…
Just like the 3D printer itself, the software running on Einstart-S definitely looks much better than it works. The proprietary slicer, called 3D Start, looks very professional, and in terms of usability is the best program of its kind that I had the opportunity to work with. It is, unfortunately, terribly slow… This applies to both editing an object in the window and its subsequent slicing. Trying to 3D print anything more complex than the mentioned whistle, anything which might require generating supports, means 15-30 minutes taken away from your life. Not only can you make a cup of tea during this time, but you also have the time to drink it and then maybe come to the conclusion that you might like another one… During the slicing the program performs several operations, which are displayed, one after the other, and each of which takes two or three… ages. Only when using the 3D Start I began to appreciate the power of KISSlicer, which so far I perceived as a rather silly tool.
Apart from the severely slow pace of work, the software is in fact responsible for the problems with the printing quality. I am convinced that if we could even replace it with the mentioned KISSlicer, Einstart-S would become a true revelation and one of the most popular 3D printers on the market!
Einstart-S is a device for the very beginners and undemanding users. On the one hand, it is brilliant when it comes to ease of use and general usability, on the other hand has a very low utility value. If it cost about 2000 PLN it would be an offer worth considering, even for schools, where it could serve as the ideal tool to introduce the students to the arcane art of 3D printing. Unfortunately, the amount would not be enough even to ship it to Poland. If it was available for 3.5 – 4000 PLN, it would be a waste of money.
For now, Einstart-S is a great, untapped opportunity. If Shining 3D improve the software and a number of structural details which have a negative impact on the daily work with the device (the noise!), the printer might have a chance to gain a good position on the consumer devices market. For now, it should be definitely given a wide berth… It is no longer the typical “Chinese”, as the device is produced by quite a serious company and it is clear that they did some serious work on various elements and details’ design, nevertheless, they do tend to reproduce certain models. Shame, shame, shame… It could have been a really cool 3D printer.
Even with the hopelessly stupid name.
- great looks
- the simplicity and ease of use of both the 3D printer and the software
- a number of small but very useful features
awful quality of more complex printouts which require the use of supports
- very slow
- very loud
- horribly slow software.