The CEL Robox, in terms of new and innovative features, outnumbers most of the other printers in the market currently. In the first review we looked at unboxing and building it. We discovered the vast number of innovative features that it contains. But does the presence of all these interesting features make it a better printer than its competitors?
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In reality, the CEL Robox looks just like any other ordinary consumer 3D printer. With a build space of 8 by 6 by 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.
Video printing parameters
What a Smart Filament!
Letís begin to talk about the innovations on the CEL Robox. The first being the smart filament that it uses, what is called ìSmartReelsî. This is no ordinary filament. It 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.
What this means is 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.
As of now the Robox can print with the more common filaments; the ColorFabb XT (a type of PET thatís rapidly gaining fame), PLA, ABS, and HIPS. It will also accommodate filament from standard spools, like the Nylon. However, you cannot use high-temperature plastics like Polycarbonate, or the more flexible filaments since the hotend wonít get hot enough for these. Please note that although CEL advertises the Robox as capable of printing Polycarbonate, this is only applies to some few special blends with low temperatures.
How to Load Filament on the CEL Robox
The Robox has greatly simplified the process of loading filament. All that is required for you to load the filament is to grab the end of the filament and push it into the required feed hole beside the spool mount. And thatís just it. You donít 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, but this is definitely still simpler than loading the filament on other printers.
Unloading the filament is equally simple. You make use of the big glowing button at the center of the SmartReel mount. You hold this for up to a second, which will 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 thatís dissolvable. This is not any different from all other dual-extruder printers.
But letís 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 ìfineî and ìnormalî prints, but rather for the lowest print quality, ìdraftî.
The Print Quality of the CEL Robox
So, with all these new interesting innovations in the CEL Robox, what Iím sure you are curious to know is the quality of print with the Robox. Well, I must say the quality is above-average. There are some very few short-comings that make the prints not as impressive as they should be.
To begin with, the horizontal top surfaces tend to be inconsistent and with an incomplete fill at whichever quality setting. Although the vertical surfaces mostly come out consistent and smooth, and the layers are hardly visible at the ìfineî print settings.
I did my entire test prints (see below) with default profiles for coarse, normal and draft. In the brown print I used dasfilament PLA; in the black one I used eSun ABS while I used the included ColorFabb XT filament for the green ones. The profiles I used are meant for the CEL filaments, but interestingly, you can copy and use them for non-SmartReel plastics also.
The CEL Robox Automaker
The real debate in the CEL Robox for me should be the Automaker software. This comes out as both the strongest and the weakest point of the Robox. It efficiently does everything from slicing and printing your files, to running the printersí diagnostics. It also enables every intelligent feature around the SmartReels.
The center point of the Automaker is based on Slic3r engines and the Cura. It embraces them with a nice interface thatís designed for the Robox. There are 3 basic screens that it will go through before the final print. The first is a status overview that will show you if the filament is loaded and alert you on anything on the printer that you should be attentive to, the second makes it possible for you to fill the build plate with printable designs, and you can then choose your print settings and initiate printing.
If there is any other thing you should do before initiating printing, letís say purging old filament from the extruder, you will be prompted by the software and given instructions on doing it.
However, the general feel of the Automaker firmware is that itís not well polished. Yes it contains the basic functionality, and everything runs pretty smooth so thereís no reason to be particularly worried, but itís just not as robust as you would expect. For instance, itís easy to trick the printer into printing with the door wide open, which the ìsafety featuresî should have basically prevented when they are turned on.
Also the SmartReel that the printer comes with will always show zero material left, and you have to reprogram it to solve this which should not be the case. The purge process also tended to fail multiple times since the Automaker wonít prevent you from doing other stuff while doing that. 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 yeah, the general interface and workflow of the Automaker doesnít have an intuitive feel to it, also we can excuse it because not many other control softwareís are better.
My verdict for this printer is that itís ideal for anyone that doesnít mind the Robox ecosystem for filaments and someone looking for an easier experience than that in other bare-bones printers.
The Robox doesnít tie you down like other printers that use a closed ecosystem for instance Cubify printers, and yet it will give you decent prints. And although it would be nice to see the bugs in the Automaker software fixed, they are not all that bad; there are tougher issues fully custom-built printers.