A micro-manufacturing platform from the UK, the CEL Robox, comes with an impressive number of features. In this first review of this innovative machine, we will feature unboxing and building the printer.
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The CEL Robox is by all standards a top-notch printer. Although it’s just a traditional filament-based 3D printer with a decent sized build volume (8 x 6 x 4 inches), the super-fine 20 micron maximum layer resolution, and the fact that it supports all the major filament types such as Polycarbonate (a very tricky material to print), PLA and Nylon, make it a really promising machine.
The features on this printer make it tick and the smart add-ons and sensors are just impressive. Watch the unboxing video below to see the printer.
CEL Robox Features
The Robox comes with proprietary Automaker software that works hand in hand with its hardware features.
Coming to hardware, first there is the Headlock system on the head. This integrates an auto bed leveling system, which consequently allows you to swap the whole print head at the click of a finger.
QuickFill Dual Nozzle Technology
The print head also features QuickFill dual nozzle technology. The technology allows the printer to switch between a really large and a really small nozzle in the same print. The idea here is that the larger nozzle will print the areas where speed is more preferred than quality, while the smaller one will print where quality is preferred than speed.
Next is the SmartReel system. This efficiently detects the Robox filament you have installed and will adjust the print setting appropriately.
Then there is the SmartExtruder System. This is credited for adding more sensors to the filament path in a bid to make it more error-proof and easier to use.
Unboxing the CEL Robox 3D Printer
The Robox printer comes wrapped in a textile carrying bag. On the side, there is a small accessories box. The packaging is very light.
After removing the transparent fasteners, you are ready to begin using the Robox. The printer comes with ColorFabb XT filament already installed.
In the accessories box, you will find the AutoMaker software, a USB drive with a few 3D models, and a safety information booklet. Other items in the box include a pair of tweezers, a pack of four mini chisels for cleaning, a small bottle of lubricant for the linear axes, a few alcohols wipes for the printbed and the power and USB cords.
Making the First Prints
The Automaker is available for Linux, Mac and Windows. After installing the software, I loaded my personal STL files and began printing with the predefined printing profiles. If you don’t have any STL files, you can use the “my first print” option, which will load the Robox mascot and print it.
The SmartReel that the printer comes with simplifies everything. It makes installing the filament easy.
If you run out of filament, simply hold the end of the filament spool and lightly push it into the feed hole and the printer will automatically grab into it. The printer will then feed it to the print-head and if there was a different filament loaded beforehand, it will ask to purge it.
On initializing printing, the printer will first check if the door is closed. It will then begin to heat the bed and the nozzle, measure the bed surface for auto-tramming (auto leveling), clean the nozzle and finally begin to print.
The CEL Robox 3D printer is very trustable, even with the entire print space locked away and no means of correcting anything happening inside.
After all the printing information has been processed and successfully transferred to your host computer, you can disconnect your computer. Alternatively, you can leave it on to monitor the printing process.
To monitor the print process, you have to use your computer. The printer does not offer any avenue for this, except for an ambient LED strip that tends to always glow blue.
Below is the test print that I did on the Robox. The print was successful with very minimum user input, and it needed no single calibration or setup. The print was done within less than two hours. Pretty impressive, huh?
The CEL Robox, in terms of new and innovative features, outnumbers most 3D printers available on the market. The printer boasts of various innovative features.
However, do the features make it a better printer than its competitors?
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The CEL Robox looks just like any other ordinary consumer 3D printer. With a build space of 8 x 6 x 4 inches or 210 x 150 x 100mm, it will pass for an ordinary machine.
Its frame is made of black aluminum, but with bits of transparent parts. On the front, it has a hinged door, and on the side there is the filament holder. On purchase it will have a spool already stowed away in there for your first print.
Before we continue, check the CEL Robox 3D printer review video below:
CEL Robox 3D Printer Filament
The CEL Robox 3D printer uses a filament known as “SmartReel”. This is no ordinary filament.
The filament is a 600g spool with a re-writable memory for storing the printing parameters that should be used, the exact type of filament to be used, and the amount of reel that has already been used up.
This means that you will get an almost plug-and-play experience with the official SmartReel filament from the Robox ecosystem without tweaking anything; no setting the cooling system, the speed or the temperature.
The Robox can print with common filaments; the ColorFabb XT (a type of PET), PLA, ABS, and HIPS. It also accommodates filament from standard spools, like the Nylon. However, you cannot use high-temperature plastics like Polycarbonate, or the more flexible filaments since the hotend won’t get hot enough for these.
CEL advertises the Robox as capable of printing Polycarbonate However, this is only applies to some few special blends with low temperatures.
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How to Load Filament on the CEL Robox
The Robox has greatly simplified the process of loading filament. To load the filament, grab the end of the filament and push it into the required feed hole beside the spool mount. You don’t need to unhinge any extruder parts, pre-heat or guide the filament into some tiny orifices.
You will probably take more than one try to load the filament the first time. However, loading the filament is definitely still simpler than loading filament on other printers.
Unloading the filament is equally simple. You need to use the big glowing button at the center of the SmartReel mount. Hold the button up to a second to trigger the Robox to warm up and rewind the filament to a point that you only pull it out.
At the end of the filament path, there is a pair of nozzles that seem to be oddly placed considering that this is a single filament feed.
The Robox version with dual-filament and dual-extruder also has two identical nozzles, one for every filament that will print parts in two materials, two colors, or a separate support material that’s dissolvable. This is not any different from all other dual-extruder printers.
Let’s get back to the single-filament and single-extruder CEL Robox version.
Here, the pair of nozzles is of different sizes but the same filament stock feeds them. The idea behind this is to enable your prints to finish much faster but maintain the quality. I was surprised though that the larger nozzle is not used for the “fine” and “normal” prints, but rather for the lowest print quality, i.e., “draft”.
CEL Robox Print Quality
The quality of prints made by CEL Robox is above-average. There are some very few short-comings that make the prints not as impressive as they should be.
To begin, the horizontal top surfaces tend to be inconsistent and with an incomplete fill at whichever quality setting. However, the vertical surfaces mostly come out consistent and smooth, and the layers are hardly visible at the “fine” print settings.
I did my entire test prints (see below) with default profiles for “coarse”, “normal” and “draft”. In the brown print I used Hatchbox PLA; in the black one I used eSun ABS and for the green ones, I used the included ColorFabb XT filament.
The profiles I used are meant for the CEL filaments. However, you can copy and use them for non-SmartReel plastics also.
CEL Robox Software: Automaker
The CEL Robox 3D printer comes with a proprietary Automaker software. The software efficiently does everything; from slicing and printing your files, to running the printer’s diagnostics. It also enables every intelligent feature around the SmartReels.
There are 3 basic screens that the software goes through before the final print.
First, there is a status overview that will show you if the filament is loaded and alert you on anything about the printer that you should be attentive to.
The second screen makes it possible to fill the build plate with printable designs.
Finally, you can then choose your print settings and initiate printing.
If there is any other thing you should do before initiating printing, let’s say purging old filament from the extruder, you will be prompted by the software and given instructions on how to do it.
The Automaker firmware has the basic functionality and everything runs pretty smooth. However, it is not as robust as you would expect. For instance, its easy to trick the printer into printing with the door wide open. This should have been prevented when the “safety features” are turned on.
Also, the SmartReel that the printer comes with will always show zero material left. You have to reprogram it to solve this issue.
The purge process also tended to fail multiple times since the Automaker won’t prevent you from doing other stuff while purging.
The custom filament profiles that I tried to create without a SmartReel would also tend to disappear from the list of options after I did only one print.
So, the general interface and workflow of the Automaker isn’t intuitive. However, this does not make the printer a poor performer.
The CEL Robox 3D printer is ideal for anyone that doesn’t mind the Robox ecosystem for filaments. I would also recommend it for someone looking for an easier experience than that in other bare-bones printers.
The Robox doesn’t tie you down like other printers that use a closed ecosystem but gives decent prints. And although it would be nice to see the bugs in the Automaker software fixed, they are not all that bad.