Friday, May 10, 2013

CubeX 3D Printer Review and Test

 (Review updates are at the bottom of this post)

May, 2013     
So I had the CubeX trio for almost one month now. I created a blog to share my experiences which might help others, but also hoping to get feedback from other CubeX users.

My background is mechanical engineering, working on instrumentation and systems design in the medical field and using SolidWorks 3D modeling software a lot.

The waiting time for the CubeX shipment was quite long because it was a new product release, so I almost ordered a Makerbot Replicator X2, but the waiting time there was just as long.

Quite exciting when it finally arrived, so I got one of the first batches.

The setup sheet that came with the CubeX is too brief and does not tell all the important stuff to get started and print successfully, so reading thru the user guide is suggested. (There is an updated version on the Cubify website). And check out the “Initial Setup” post in this blog.
One of the internal packing straps seem to have come loose and the print bed got some shipping damage and flaw. Luckily there was enough useable print area to continue till I got a replacement part. The customer service was very quick sending the replacement part.  -thanks. The packaging seemed otherwise adequate, the strap must have just snapped. The shock sensors on the shipping box were all tripped, but I guess any shipping will do that usually.

Of course at first I just rushed immediately into printing something but got a bunch of spaghetti because I did not check the initial basic but important setup steps. (z-gap, wiper offset, etc.)

The system startup is very quick and the touch screen menu is pretty straight forward. First I did not like the touch screen so much because it required some force to activate properly, but after some usage it seems to be ok now.

The print bed leveling take a little practice, and the front leveling screw is covered by the large print bed, -but there is a easy workaround (see "Print bed leveling aid" post). Without this little modification, the printbed leveling is a pain.

The printer comes with a bunch of sample print files, some are pretty nice and some very basic. My first print was the Dino head which I scaled way down to not waste filament if something was setup wrong. But the print came out great.

The "Cubify Invent" modeling software that comes with the CubeX is quite nice. It imports STEP, IGES, SAT, and SolidWorks files directly and can fix or heal models. So I import a SolidWorks file directly and have Cubify Invent convert it into a STL. file. There are also several other free solid and surface modelers online to create, fix or convert models. I do wish the Cubify Invent software could import .stl files. Hopefully in a future version.

The CubeX software then takes STL. files and creates a build file with the chosen parameters.

In the CubeX software you can select the print parameters, (3 layer height/resolution options, Four fill options, etcc) also what color/print jet to use and scale the model. But overall very limited in print parameters compared to other slicer software.

So far all my prints have been with PLA, since the ABS was on back order, but should have it soon.

I have not found any reviews for the CubeX but have read thru many other reviews or blogs of other 3D printers, so I don't have a direct comparison.

Here are my overall general comments:

The CubeX is fairly large and heavy, but as compact as can be for the capable print volume size and the mass is probably needed to be stable.

The xy stage is very solid with large bearing surfaces.

The z-stage is absolutely wobble free with its flex mount for the drive spindle.

Overall solid, clean design and cable routing (except a cable underneath the unit that can get in the way of the power cord but can easily be tied away).
Very easy access to everything and to the print bed due to the large front and side openings and removable lid. Can always see what's going on when printing.
The print cartridges are nice and keep the filament protected, but they are a bit expensive. Many colors are available.

The filament is fairly easy to load.

Having the CubeX trio, I could print 3 colored part, but so far have only done one three color test print and two 2 colored parts. With the current software setup printing a part with multiple colors can take very long, especially if there are multiple colors in one layer. For example the two color Globe model where one color is water the other earth, compared to the traffic cone model where the different color rings are staggered on top of each other which prints a lot faster since only one print jet is heated and printing at a time, so when switching colors, there is a pause till the other color print jet is heated and ready to continue. This uses less energy, but takes a lot longer.
The $ difference between the CubeX Duo and Trio is quite high ($1000.-)
To me, I don't think I really need 3 color printing much and my multicolor print results have been not what I expected, but with the Trio, it is very nice to have always 3 colors or different materials immediately available for printing. Printing supports / rafts and parts with different materials or different colors takes a lot longer.
Choosing between the CubeX, CubeX Duo and CubeX Trio, I would go with the Duo and get the aftermarket heated print bed.
So far the printer has been reliable and robust. It prints very consistent. If a print comes out nice it will again the next time, if some challenging part prints with some flaws, they will be the same on a repeat print.
The supplied "glue stick" works quite well (once you figured out how to properly apply - see the blog post). I have not had any parts "lift off". Very happy with the glue, and it dissolves with water so it's easy to clean the print bed. Just put the print bed into the sink and rinse with cold water, the part will come off with a few pushes with the supplied spatula, then scrape the print bed with the spatula and running water and dry off with towel. - ready to go for the next print.
I really like how quickly you can go from power up to printing.

I power it up, (the print bed was already cleaned after the last print), There is no real on/off        switch so I have it plugged into a power strip to completely turn it off when not in use.
Hit the "Home" button.
-  Make sure the jets don't have any filament left stuck on them otherwise it can affect your z-gap measurement.
-  Only for larger parts I recheck the print bed leveling to ensure good adhesion over the whole part
Then hit the "z-gap" menu button and check or adjust the z-gap with the up/down button.
-  Properly apply the "glue" to the print bed area the print will be on.
Insert the memory stick with the print file and load the print file.
Make sure the glue is tacky.
Start the print.
-  The print jet will heat up and then it starts printing.

I usually watch the first layer to go down on the print bed properly, but which has rarely been a problem since having this setup routine.

The initial software had several bugs, none which prevented printing, but a little annoying. A new software update to fix the know bugs was shortly released, also with some added features like "draft" print and "hollow" print. The user menu and workflow was also improved. (yes, keep on improving).
The software interface is intuitive and easy to use. I like the ability to ability to scroll thru the slicing and see the print pattern. This is quite helpful to avoid misprints due to too small of features or to see if support for the part (overhangs) is needed. I have scaled models down in size for printing, but then realized looking thru the slicing that some features would have not printed because the scaling made them too small.

The build process in the software is quite fast, and it tells you the approximate build time. The given build time seems to be an approximation, since prints have taken shorter or longer than the estimated time. Longer prints have taken usually hours more than estimated.  It is still also good to use to compare the print time differences between different resolution settings.

There is a "fine detail" enable checkbox, which pulls the jet away from the part so the fans can cool the part before continuing, it can give better detail results, but will take longer to print. I have not played much with that feature yet. When I used it, I got more "fuss" on the part. Don't really care for that feature, also I could help on some models from the plastic getting smushy (too hot in small detailed areas).
Most of my prints so far have been in 0.25 resolution with various fill settings. The CubeX seems to be well tuned for this resolution, it prints quite nice and reasonably fast. (See 2 posts with pictures and settings of printed parts in this blog). Have done two prints with the 0.5 resolution, but the layer stepping was very noticeable and overhangs did tend to droop. I think 0.35 could be a better alternate resolution option. Since the 0.25 prints come out quite nice I have not experimented much with 0.1, partially because the print time is of course longer. The 0.1 did excellent and very detailed on the "hand" print.

The file transfer is with memory stick, but I wish it was wireless. I bought an aftermarket wireless memory stick, but have not gotten it to work yet, so I am swapping the memory stick between PC and CubeX, not too big a deal but still hope to get the wireless stick to work.

The printer has a jet wiper to clean the jet off before printing.
The possible print volume is quite large. Not sure if I need it that big, but it also gives me the option to print multiple parts on the platform in one process.

My print bed is not perfectly flat. It droops in the corners. So far my prints have not been large enough for that being an issue, but I would expect the print bed to be flatter.

Not plug and play, but fairly easy to use and low maintenance so far.

It is quieter than I thought it would be when printing. But for overnight prints I'll keep the door shut.

Customer support has been great and very responsive, even got email responses after hours or weekends.

Compared to what I have read on the other 3D FDM (fused deposition modeling) printers, I am happy with how consistent and solid the CubeX has performed printing with PLA.

Getting more familiar now with 3D printing and understanding the process and process challenges, I am hoping that there will be soon an "advanced user" menu available for the CubeX where advanced users can fine tune print temperature, more layer height options and selective support structure options.

The basic print options can produce quite nice prints (see in my blog) but more complex models might need some fine tuning and support features. That would be the case for any FDM 3D printer.

I printed some prototype mounts I needed for work and it is nice to have a part overnight. Even using PLA the mounts are working great. Mounting holes and counter bores are coming out great. Hole sizes print a tad smaller, which then can be drilled to exact dimension. Taping a tread into PLA was not an issue and the thread is quite strong. Just have to drill and tap slowly to keep the heat down and not melt the plastic.

I keep a log of all my prints in a excel sheet with part name, print time, part weight, color, etc.. So I can easily see the part cost and how much filament I have used.  The CubeX tracks and displays how much filament is left in the cartridge, but I want to compare and have my own tracking.

3D printing at home for the consumer is still very new and is definitely not plug and play (yet).
One needs to understand the print technology and printer setup well, to get successful prints.
There are many things/models that will print just fine, but one needs to understand the FDM 3D printing process and limitations. Not every shape is successfully printable. Some models need modifications, special support features or be split into multiple parts.
With all the 3D models out there and people posting their results, you can just pick the stuff that seems to work and you want to print.

The CubeX and the Makerbot Replicator ones, seem to be the most advanced and user friendly 3D printers and there are pros and cons for all of them. There was no user experience on the CubeX since it was just getting released, but there is a lot of info on the Makerbot, and some of the reliability issues I have read have pushed  me to get the CubeX, despite the Makerbot has more "advanced user" tweaking options and has been around for longer and a big user community that shares experiences etc . which will also happen for CubeX users.

The smaller Cube Printer has been available for over a year and has gotten good reviews for being solid and reliable, so I figured the new bigger CubeX hopefully displays the same quality, which it does so far.

With a brand new product, and as an early adapter I can't expect everything to be perfect right away and was happy to see a quick software update after release with already improvements and added features which I am sure will continue. I am looking forward to hopefully have more "advanced user" adjustment capabilities to get the most out of this solid 3D printer.

It is quite awesome to upload a model or designing a part and see it getting printed or have it printed overnight to see in the morning when you  wake up.   - It's like Christmas every day  :)

I will keep adding to this review or write a new one once I have done some ABS printing and more multicolor stuff.
After trying several ABS prints, I find that without a heated printbed, ABS printing is quite limited due to exessive warping of the ABS material. For ABS printing, I highly recommend the aftermarked heated printbed for the CubeX. See my other post about the heated printbed from GRM products.

Update Nov. 2013:
The hardware of my CubeX has been holding up well. There were a few little issues, but any needed replacement part was covered under warranty.
The cartridges have been troublesome (as you can see in my other posts). Even any defect cartridge is getting replaced under warranty, it needs a long term solution.
The software is improving and works very well for certain prints, but is overall not matching what the hardware is capable off.
The lack of for example, support adjustability, wall thickness adjustability, print speed, etc. limits successful printing capability.
With more adjustment options of course, more things can get messed up too, and I think Cubify is trying to keep it simpler for the user, but this technology is still far from plug and play and different parts often need different print settings that are not available with the standard CubeX software.
So several users are trying to get other slicer software to work with the CubeX, but some knowledge is needed to use those. Search the CubeX user group on Google for more info.
With other slicer software options the very good hardware platform can be taken advantage of without the standard software limitations to produce nice prints.


  1. awesome review Rick. I concur!!

  2. Thanks for all the information, it is very helpful!

  3. Fantastic summary! I'm leaning toward the CubeX Trio, and your info has certainly helped in the decision process. As an electrical engineer, I'm look forward to your future postings. Thanks for taking the time.

  4. Hi,

    Everywhere I look, except the Cubify website, indicates that this printer is Wifi network capable. Are you saying it is not?

    Than You!

  5. This 3D printer is really good with so many great features. The printer should be able to create the required details and CubeX is looking worthy for it.

  6. Great work....

    3D printers got a lot of popularity in the recent past and are considered high tech because of their capability to generate architectural models, medical implants; bone grafts and artificial organs, however there are very limited people who are able to understand how these things work.

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  8. Great articles, much more informative than the official site:)

  9. Any help with X Y and Z axis. My trio will no longer read any of these and bang into the sides. Have not been able to use for months

  10. Hello,

    I assume when you select "Home" the print carriage runs to the left side and grinds and / or the back wall and grinds??

    Your sensors might have come loose and got pushed in, and therefore not triggering to stop the carriage before hitting the wall(s).

    Can you respond with some more details what is happening?
    Best to e-mail me directly and I can try to help.

    thank you,


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