Articles, Blog

Review: The Printrbot Play!

November 13, 2019


Love is a smoke rais’d with the fume of sighs;
Being purg’d, a fire sparkling in a lover’s eyes;
Being vex’d, a sea nourish’d with lovers’ tears:
What is it else? a madness most discreet, A choking gall and a preserving sweet. Yeah, that was, ah, poetry, by Shakespeare.
/ Let’s move on. (Intro) So here it is, the Printrbot Play! It’s Printrbot’s
cheapest printer, which they consider entry level – and that means, it sells at $399.
I don’t usually start out with the price of a printer, but it is kinda relevant as to
why I think that the Play is Printrbot’s # best printer so far and maybe even # the overall
best 3D printer on the market right now. So the Play is the printer that is replacing
the Simple Maker’s kit, a printer that was a bit cheaper, but really just a minimum viable
product – take anything away from the Simple Maker’s Kit, and it’s not a usable printer
anymore. And it’s not like it was a particularly well-performing machine anyways. It printed,
and that was about it. The Play is a totally different story there
– it feels like a genuinely premium printer, even though you can tell that every single
part of this machine is super cost-optimized. And cost-optimized doesn’t just mean cheap,
it also means you’re getting more for your money. Now, the Printrbot Play is actually
a really massively-built printer. The frame is cut, folded and powder coated
steel, mine is red because it’s a pre-production model, but all the internal components have
been upgraded to the same parts that are used for the retail version, which comes with a
white or black frame. The assemblies used for the X-axis and the extruder carriage also
build on sheet metal, this time made from aluminum because they # moving parts, and,
wow, are these pretty. This is some of the most intricate sheet metal work i’ve ever
seen, and it not only makes the assembly of the printer a lot easier, but it also takes
out so many possibilities for mistakes, misalignments and failures down the road. / Even if you
don’t assemble it yourself, and buy it pre-assembled. And that simplicity doesn’t end there. Since,
like all Printrbots, the Play uses a bed probe to automatically adjust for a slanted bed
surface, there’s no need to have the bed adjustable – so the bed assembly is literally
just a slab of aluminum, bolted to the motion parts. The only thing that’s adjustable
there is the belt tension, everything else is done in software. The entire base of the
printer frame is a single part with mounts for the electronics, stepper motors, linear
bearings and the Z rods. For linear motion, Printrbot also did not cheap out and went
with actual precision 8mm rods and matching LM8UU bearings that get bolted to the frame
with injection-molded plastic parts and CNC machined Delrin fittings. And all that makes
for a very sturdy motion platform, especially if you’d compare it to one of the Printrbot
Simple models, / but because the axis are as # short as they are, the Play is overall
already more rigid than a regular full-size printer like the Prusa Mendel. Even though
the Play’s Z-axis is only driven on one side and the bearing structure isn’t exactly
perfect for keeping it from jamming on the other side, jamming or backlash are absolute
non-issues thanks to that aluminum backbone that keeps both sides synchronized. You can
even pick this machine up and move it around while printing without affecting the print
result too much. And boy, does it print well. And that’s not just a “good for $400 printer”,
but i’ve seen printers that cost four times as much and didn’t print this well. Look
at this, this is my Play’s very first print, using the included clear PLA and the stock
Cura profile for the Simple Maker’s kit, so basically for the wrong printer, too. But
those two are similar enough to the slicer / to be interchangeable. Before printing this,
the only thing i adjusted was the nozzle height over the bed’s surface, which is done in
the firmware, everything else, like extrusion widths, speeds, extruder calibration and such
were completely untouched. And this print looks better than what my main printer, a
big, custom, Mendel90 produces. It’s not quite as super-consistent as, say, an Ultimaker
or one of the other highest-end machines, but it’s more than impressive for, again,
an entry-level printer. Things like overhangs, / bridges, / corner sharpness, / surface quality,
/ small detail reproduction, and all that kind of stuff, that’s all there / up to
par / right out of the box. The version of the Play i have here still
uses a classic UBIS hotend, but i’ve heard that the Play and the rest of Printrbot’s
lineup will eventually be upgraded to an all- #metal UBIS, and the printer carriage is already
prepared for that. It has two fans in the front, one pointing downwards at the print,
providing ample cooling for printing PLA at decent speeds, the other facing inwards towards
the hotend and extruder block, which serves as an additional heatsink for the hotend.
Under this fan shroud / thing, the classic UBIS hotend already needed that extra fan
blowing over the cold side, as i’ve found that it has a tendency to clog with PLA if
you leave it sitting heated up with no filament movement for too long. During printing, when
the fan is # spinning after the first layer, it worked pretty much flawlessly, all the
time. Printrbot is already working on changing this to have that top fan always spinning,
independently of the part cooling fan. The extruder itself is a direct-drive-type Alu
Extruder v2, take note, it doesn’t actually extrude aluminum, it’s just made from aluminum.
Basically, it’s an improved and simplified version of the proven Alu Extruder v1, which
is used in the rest of Printrbot’s lineup right now. It’s still using a spring-loaded
lever with adjustable tension and a stainless steel drive gear, which is about as good as
it’s going to get these days with a “normal” extruder. There’s a few downsides about
this particular setup, one is that the idler tension is not adjustable unless you take
off the fan shroud, which can be somewhat annoying until you figure out a tension that
works for your filament; another is that you have to be kinda careful with the screws that
hold everything together here. They thread directly into the aluminum faceplate of the
stepper motor, and those threads are fairly easy to strip out. This is an issue all extruders
have that are built like this, with everything mounted to the motor, it’s just that you
have to be a bit careful when assembling it to get it to last. And use threadlock. Lots
of it. And with this shroud over the printhead, ah, while it does do a decent job of keeping
fingers away from the moving and hot parts, it also keeps you from seeing the object building,
at least for the first few layers. Maybe, i don’t know, there might eventually be
one made from acrylic. Now, one of the things that i’ve always
complained about with every Printrbot was the absolute lack of # proper cable management.
Sure, there were a few cable wraps and stuff, but a bunch of wiring always ended up being
tied to, like, a stepper motor’s wiring and was straining that last bit of wiring
inside the motor. But not anymore, baby! Not with the Play – check it out, the wiring that’s
the most strained is the one going from the extruder carriage to the x motor, and not
only is the entire wiring sleeved, but there’s now even things like a little Delrin flap
there to support that last bit of wiring closest to the carriage where it bends the most. It
was a bit challenging to keep the wiring from sliding over the bed too much, but that last
bit of the bed is not used anyways, so it’s not a huge deal. Still, this is something
that Printrbot should, and probably will, improve on. And it’s fairly easy to fix
yourself, just reorient that flap to point a bit further upward.
/ So other than that, the one thing that usually comes up with low-price printers like these
is flexibility. There’s two, or maybe three, limitations to what the Play can do. Number
one, it is kinda tiny. I’ve seen Kickstarter printers that are even smaller than the Play’s
10x10x13 cm or 4x4x5 inch build volume, anything smaller than that this might just be too small,
but i think the Play’s build volume is big enough. Well, big enough for me, at least,
i never used the huge build space my main printer used to have, so made that one smaller,
because i, i just didn’t need it that big. Let me visualize the Play’s volume for you
– i didn’t actually print, like a loaf of bread to fill the entire build volume, # that
would have taken way too long, / so i’m just going to use what i have at hand. This
is the size of the build area of the Play, it really doesn’t look that big, but this
is the kind of object that fits inside that build volume. Obviously, this mug wasn’t
printed. Or this failed buddha from my other printer, this is printable on the Play! Look
at that, that fits perfectly. So, personally, i’d be happy to use a printer
that size. Totally fine with me. And the other two things that are a limitation
of the Printrbot Play are that, one, it doesn’t have a heated bed, so ABS and some other plastics
are very challenging to impossible to print, and two, the hotend tops out at 240-ish degrees
Celsius, so the higher-temperature plastics are a no-go as well. Now, PLA prints pretty
well on unheated blue tape, but if you really want one, a heated bed is pretty easy to add
on – you can just stick a heater to the bottom of the aluminum build plate, and that should
be good to about 80 degrees celsius, maybe. The Printrboard, which controls the entire
printer, already has everything you need to add a heated bed, the only other thing you’ll
need to get is a better power supply. The one that’s included is perfectly fine for
the Play out of the box, but doesn’t have the headroom to also power the bed. And that
other thing about the hotend, well, if they do start shipping with the all-metal UBIS,
then you can print just about anything, until then, it still works with PLA, Nylon, any
of the wood- or metal-filled filaments, and, if you have that heated bed, even with ABS.
Though, i guess, the Play is going to be used for PLA 99.9% percent of the time, anyways,
and that’s totally ok. So what’s left to say about the Play? Not
much, actually, when you look at the printer itself. We’ve already talked about the price
a bit, i still think that what you get for your money here is exceptional. It does cost
the same amount for a build-it-yourself kit or for an assembled one, i’ve enjoyed building
the Play, so i’d personally go for the kit again, and would recommend you doing the same
if you like assembling fancy tech and have about four hours to spare. But if you don’t
and would rather skip right to the ready-to-go printer, that’s cool, too, and it’s not
going to cost you anything extra. Printrbot has also promised to publish all
their printer’s design files as Creative Commons again, i’m # looking at you, Brook,
and is manufacturing the largest amount of parts for their printers in the United States
of America. So you’re not just getting some anonymous Chinese Prusa i3 Clone, you’re
actually getting a product that stands for something. I’m not sure if making sense
here, but i’m sure you get my point. Anyways, overall, the Printrbot Play, highly
recommended if you can live with the relatively compact build space. It’s well-built, it
prints nicely, it looks good, it’s cheap, it’s fire-and forget-reliable – what more
could you want? So there you have it, my opinion on the Printrbot
Play, if you also have an opinion about it, i’d be interested to read about it in the
comments below, if you liked liked or disliked this video, leave me a rating to reflect that,
ahm, what else, yeah, ebay links, now if you’re still going to buy some shoddy Chinese 3D
printer instead of the Play, or want to buy anythings else that’s available on ebay,
please at least do so through the ebay links in the video description, since i get a small
kickback from ebay each time you buy something through these links, which helps me keep this
channel running. So, thanks for watching, and thanks for sticking
around for so long, here’s something else by Shakespeare:
Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow. See ya!

18 Comments

  • Reply Joshua Biralde June 21, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Thomas, Do you still think the Play is still one of the best 3D printers on the market today? It's almost been a year since your review of the play. What are it's competitors now?

  • Reply Jesusreignonhigh July 2, 2016 at 12:46 am

    the intro was sweet…

  • Reply Rehuel Galzote July 22, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Are all printrbot uses Marlin firmware? Btw, that printer is sexy 😀

  • Reply CookiesNMilkFilms October 24, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    I'm thinking of getting a 3d printer. I'm stuck between 3 printers, the M3D Micro, The DaVinci jr 1.0, and the printrbot play. i've heard that printrbot play is a very good printer but sometimes it breaks and the customer service doesn't help too much. The DaVinci is less expensivethan all of them but people consider it to be a little inconsistent with printing. The m3d is small but takes longer than the DaVinci and the printrbot.

    Prices:

    printrbot play-400$
    m3d-350$
    davinci-300$

    if you don't know please suggest one

  • Reply Ken Barisoff October 30, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    This printer has untethered functionality with an sad card. How is it done? Get started printing, then just disconnect from computer? This did not work for me. It just stopped the print job mid way.

  • Reply valmach November 10, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    it's 2017 .. nearly, which is the best 400$ machines. Cheers

  • Reply Amr Fwwz December 25, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Great vids, Tom. I'm always love your video!! And im agree with you, this is the best 3d printer under 500 usd!
    Can you pls make a video review about Printrbot Plus?

  • Reply Connor Burke December 28, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    +Thomas Sanladerer, I have the Printrbot Play, and am having trouble with bed adhesion. I'm using PLA and the only success I've had is with the sample filament. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  • Reply Paul Cumber January 12, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    can you use abs as well

  • Reply Paul Cumber January 12, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    can you use abs filament

  • Reply Eru2001 January 15, 2017 at 5:56 am

    Hi Thomas,

    Love your videos! I purchased the Play after watching your video. I was wondering if you knew how to have the top fan on while printing the 1st layer. Currently, (with M106G-code) I am able to have both fans on, but this results in horrible prints.

  • Reply Amr Fwwz January 29, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    Help me! I am confused to buy Printrbot Metal Plus or Play or even simple metal, I have a plan to make income from 3D Printer. Can someone tell me which model is the best?! I see on the internet the Printrbot Metal Plus mainboard is failed or something like that but idk. Sry for bad english, i hope someone will answer me, thanks

  • Reply Aisha Love March 14, 2017 at 12:32 am

    Never shave again!! XD

  • Reply DroneXFun April 2, 2017 at 5:47 am

    this thing has quite a few bad reviews on amazon.

  • Reply John Smith September 24, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Very happy that Printrbot is still doing such good work. My first printer was a Printrbot Simple Metal. It's only after 'upgrading' to a Wanhao Dup i3 Plus for the heated bed and larger build space (yes, some of us do use it!) that I can fully appreciate how good it was as a first printer. I never had a single print quality or print success problem that was caused by the printer, it was always something I did in the slicer, or something I failed to do. Not the slightest hint of ringing or z wobble or anything, just great prints once I figured out what I was doing.

  • Reply npgoalkeeper _ February 2, 2018 at 2:32 am

    1:51 sounded like be said shit metal. Other than that, nice review! >_<

  • Reply markman63 October 19, 2018 at 5:41 am

    what size filament does this take? I just inherited one and can't find a manual

  • Reply jack black May 4, 2019 at 6:27 am

    Fitting ending words indeed for the play Tom.

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