3DGence is undoubtedly a true revelation among Polish low-cost 3D printers and it has a real chance of becoming the third (after Zortrax and ZMorph) most recognizable Polish 3D printer in the world. The machine has been causing much stir and excitement due to its appearance in a VW Passat TV commercial, and, more recently, because of large investment made by Michał Sołowow, one of the wealthiest people in Poland.

We have had the pleasure to test 3DGence for the last few weeks. Now it is the time to share our thoughts on it with our readers.

3DGence One

3DGence has distinctive styling, enhanced by removable side panels available in different colors. 3D Printer design brings sports car to mind, but this is not a coincidence – the creators’ of 3DGence ambition is to become the leading provider of low-cost 3D printers for the automotive industry so there is much focus on this sector.

Technical specifications:
▪ Technology: FDM
▪ Number of printheads: 1
▪ Printing area: 240 x 255 x 200 mm
▪ Printer dimensions: 490 x 380 x 470 mm
▪ Extruder type: direct drive
▪ Nozzle diameter: 0.5 mm
▪ Filament diameter of 1.75 mm
▪ Firmware: RepetierHost
▪ Communication: SD card, USB
▪ Operating System: Linux, Mac OS X, Windows
▪ Maximum head temperature: 270 ° C
▪ Maximum bed temperature: 180 ° C
▪ Layer height: 100-400 microns
▪ X and Y resolution: 100 microns
▪ Price: 2 604€ tax excl.

1. First steps

3DGence arrived at CD3D in the classic packaging – a corrugated cardboard box. The device was rigidly secured with foam pads. In the box, in addition to a 3D printer, we also found all the necessary accessories – spatula, tweezers, gloves, SD card and so on.

There is not much work left for us to set up the printer – we only have to mount the spool holder and the filament guiding tube. The tube end features an interesting solution –  a tiny can for the sponge which collects dust from the filament entering the extruder. We can also equip our printed with decorative acrylic glass side panels.

 Photo-17-12-15-09-35-09

Just a quick software installation from a USB stick … and here is a first small disappointment. 3DGence, unfortunately, does not have its own dedicated slicer, and uses a personalized version of RepetierHost. This is a rather mediocre program, in which models can be cut using different engines – the makers of 3DGence recommend to use Slic3r engine. We get two default profiles – for ABS and PLA, but we have the ability to change all the setting to suit ourselves and to create new profiles.

When it comes to the 3D printer’s body – it gives a very strong impression of robustness and rigidity. The elements are well fitted and made of high quality materials. The device uses linear guides and ball screws and moves smoothly and quietly. All cables are protected by cable chains, so they moves only in one axis, which gives a good indication regarding their lifetime.

There is only one drawback of the construction, the part of the 3D printer on which the Y guide is mounted. It extends in such an unfortunate way that when the printing bed is in its lowest position, it completely covers the display. What can we do in a situation where we can not see what’s on the printer display? The answer is not obvious, but we have it for you: press the OK button on the panel three times. It will cause all axes to return to home position, therefore unveiling the display… Also, the Y axis guide is quite and exposed part of the 3D printer structure, and since it is heavily lubricated, so be careful not to get yourself dirty.

In order to install a filament, you need to lead it through the sponge can and the tube, stick it into the extruder and press it with a lever against a threaded pulley. The procedure is rather straighforward and should not cause any problems. From the printer’s menu you can extrude the material, however, be aware that this is somewhat counter-intuitive, because the filament flows in the opposite direction to the arrows on the keys, i.e. when you press the “^” button, it means increasing the E position value, hence extruding the material.

 

3DGence’s menu is clear, intuitive and allows you to smoothly proceed to printing. The printer heats up extremely quickly – in terms of heating time it is by far the best printer we have ever had at CD3D. On the other hand, the movement in the X, Y and Z axes is quite slow. For example, I wanted to take a picture of the printing bed in its lowest position, showing how it covers the display, but at this rate it would take me an hour or so to lower the bed… (update: makers of 3DGence pointed to us that there is a “Park Heat Bead” option in the printer’s menu that allows us to lower the bed promptly).

2. Printing on 3DGence

At first few attempts we could not sort out the printing bed height at first layer. We have heard a lot about the magnificent bed auto calibration, which we have, of course, performed (Head Bed Scan in the menu). 3DGence unhurriedly sampled the whole bed, point by point and… begun printing two or three millimeters above the table. We can of course manually adjust the bed height by clicking the arrows on the control panel, but that’s hardly satisfying … Fortunately, after consulting the manufacturer we have learnt that for the 3DGence to take into account the data collected by the heat bed scan, we need to make a small modification to the g-code.

We were given clear instructions on how to do this, and from the moment we inserted the provided code, we were able to enjoy a perfectly adjusted bed height in every point. We have to admit that this feature is very convenient and it works very well … with one flaw – when performing auto calibration one must make sure to wipe the nozzle clean of any filament remains. Because calibration is performed with a cold printing head, filament residue could cause invalid calibration.

The surface of the 3DGence’s ceramic table is grainy and rough and our prints will therefore also have a distinctive bottom surface. The surface roughness does not necessary mean that a better bonding of the model to the printing bed. This matter is largely dependent on the type of filament used, but it is somewhat safer to apply some glue-stick for better adhesion than to print on a perfectly clean ceramic bed:

3. Printing quality

Recently, the vast majority of filament testing carried at CD3D is performed on 3DGence, so our readers should have an opinion on the quality of prints that can be achieved on the printer. It is fair to say, that the quality is, well, excellent… unless the slicing engine (Slic3r or Cura) can’t cope with slicing the model. To sum up – if you will ever have problems with prints quality, it will probably be due to slicer’s imperfection.

Bottom of a rotor model with unremovable support structures

The main advantage of 3DGence is its really high quality components, that guarantee precision and accuracy of printing. There was no cost-cutting on the elements of the printer. Recently we performed a test of an ASA filament and he had to  reduce the cooling rate t0 10% because the fans are so powerful:

Different cooling rates: 45% (left) vs. 10% (right)

Another advantage of 3DGence is it’s ability to print from virtually any material available on the market. I know that sounds like a cliche, because every manufacturer of 3D printers with a heated printing bed will say so, but in the case of 3DGence it is sincere truth. Lately, we have been testing numerous non-standard filaments (some even in the experimental phase, other we are afraid to print due to the chemical compounds they contain) and each of them prints very well on 3DGence.

4. Software

As I wrote earlier, 3DGence One, by default, uses Host Repetier. Perhaps the following opinion will not be to everybody’s liking (not for the first time…), but from our point of view, this is not the most user-friendly software available for a 3D printer. Sure, we might be spoiled by great dedicated slicers from Zortrax, Formlabs or even Cura, nevertheless we think that Repetier host is the biggest disadvantage of this 3DGence.

On the other hand, those who were “raised” on Repetier, will be delighted to hear that this is the only drawback of 3DGence!

The printer is equipped with some amazing and unique features, ones which we have not seen before. For example, a procedure that allows us to measure material shrinkage from a test model and input that into the printer. The data will then be used to adjust the printing parameters to account for the shrinkage.

5. Summary

Apart from the few above-mentioned flaws, 3D Gence is all about pure pleasure of 3D printing. The printer brings a breath of fresh air when it comes to the style of interacting with such a device. 3DGence does not require the user to have immense experience and knowledge of all 3D printing aspects, but instead it lends him or her a helping hand with its advanced technological solutions. With the rigid design and high quality components we can enjoy perfect prints even layers:

Given the experience of the people who created 3DGence and their main shareholder, Mr. Michał Sołowow, it is safe to say that the company faces a bright future. Hardware issues are already tamed, all that is left is to  develop the software and strenghten marketing.

Adela Walczak
Rapid Prototyping specialist, graduate of Product Design Engineering and Paper Making and Polygraphy, vice champion of Poland in curling.

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