As resin 3D printers become more affordable, FDM manufacturers are trying to up their game in advancing FFF technology.
One of the advances the manufacturers have made is the introduction of dual extrusion system, which allows a machine to print different materials of different colors at the same time. FFF dual extrusion technology also allows the creation of support structures when printing complex models.
With FFF printers with dual extruders, one of the extruders prints with a special soluble material that is later removed. This simultaneous printing reduces the overall printing time and results in high-quality models due to improved accuracy.
Dual extrusion also helps to keep your equipment reliable. For example, if one nozzle becomes problematic, you can use the other one as a replacement.
One of the best dual extruder 3D printers available on the market is CraftBot Flow IDEX. Made by the Hungarian manufacturer CraftUnique, this 3D printer is poised to change the quality of prints you can expect from a dual extruder.
Read our CraftBot Flow IDEX XL review for all the specs, features, quality of print and price of the 3D printer.
CraftBot Flow IDEX XL Overview
The CraftBot Flow series comprises of four machines; the single extrusion Flow 3D printer, a bigger version known as the Flow XL and two printers with dual extruders (Flow IDEX and Flow IDEX XL).
All the four printers have been models after the CraftBot 3 3D printer but features some improvements.
To start off, the CraftBot Flow IDEX is more stable and reliable thanks to its reinforced steel housing.
The printer has a powerful motherboard powered by a Raspberry engine for more flexible printing.
The printer has a pause-and-pause function that enables it to stop and resume a print job at any time. Therefore, in case of power failure, you will not have to worry about your incomplete print going to waste. When power resumes, the job will continue where it had paused.
The CraftBot Flow IDEX has a filament monitoring sensor that will alert you when the filament runs out or there is a problem with it.
The CraftBot Flow can print a wide range of filaments, including standard and specialty ones. This is largely due to its high operating nozzle temperature of 300°C and the metal hotends. Therefore, you can print materials such as Nylon and carbon-reinforced composites.
The prints move along the linear rail guides. Therefore, you can be sure your prints will come out accurately and fast.
The CraftBot Flow IDEX 3D printer can be used for rapid prototyping, engineering, industrial design, and small-scale parts production. Watch the video below for an overview of the 3D printer:
CraftBot Flow IDEX XL Specs
|Display||5.5″ color LCD touchscreen|
|Extruder type||Direct drive independent dual extruder|
|Max. extruder temperature||300 °C|
|Nozzle diameter||0.4 mm|
|Build volume||425 x 250 x 250 mm|
|Operating heated build plate temperature||30–110 °C|
|Max. print speed||200 mm/s|
|Min. layer thickness||50 µm|
|XY accuracy||0.125 mm|
|Printable materials||PLA, ABS, PET, Nylon, Carbon-fiber reinforced composites, wood, brass, and many other materials|
|Operating systems||Windows, Mac OSX, Linux|
|Outer dimensions||635 x 450 x 540 mm|
Unboxing the CraftBot Flow IDEX XL
When you order the CraftBot Flow XL 3D printer, this is what you will get in the box:
- CraftBot Flow XL 3D printer
- An AC power cord
- A flash drive and USB A-B cable
- 2 filament guide tubes and holders
- 2 filament spools and holders
- 5 hex wrenches
- 2 nozzle kits
- A cleaning kit
The cleaning kit has the usual accessories you would expect for maintaining a 3D printer, such as a brush, a scraper, nippers, and other items.
CraftBot Flow IDEX XL Features
Large Print Volume
The CraftBot IDEX Flow XL has a large print volume of 450 x 250 x 500 mm. As you can tell, the printer is big when it comes to model height. With it, you have a total print volume of 56 liters.
This is one of the biggest IDEX printers in its price category, especially when it comes to Z-axis height.
On the Z-axis, the strong extrusion profiles reduce potential Z-wobbling and ensure smooth movement of the bed.
Independent Dual Extrusion System (IDEX)
The CraftBot Flow features Independent Dual Extruder System (IDEX), which allows two extruders to move in the Y-direction independently of each other. The two extruders have 0.4 mm nozzle for printing different materials as well as different colored filaments at the same time. These two extruders significantly reduce the print time for a job by 30 to 50 percent, compared to what is possible with a single extruder printer.
The printer has a large onboard color touchscreen with an intuitive user interface that is easy to use and 4GB internal storage memory for standalone operation.
The printer has a 5-inch color touch display with controls. Inside the printer is an in-built camera that you can use to watch an ongoing job remotely. To do this, the printer has to be connected to a wireless network. There is also an LED status indicator that flashes during a print job.
When connected to your network, you can upload files, preheat, start or stop prints, adjust temperature settings, or generate a print time-lapse video.
Heated Print Bed
The CraftBot Flow IDEX XL print bed can heat up to 110°C. This means better adhesion for high-temp materials such as ABS.
Moreover, its hotends are made of metal while the heated bed comprises of a blend of metal, tempered glass and Kapton. The heated bed allows prints to easily stick during the printing process and easy to remove after completion.
If you will be printing temperature-sensitive filaments, you can get acrylic covers for the Flow IDEX XL from CraftBot. These covers are sold separately
Enclosing the printing chamber with the covers can provide ambient conditions that will greatly enhance the printer’s performance with temperature-sensitive materials.
The CraftBot Flow IDEX XL has a semi-automatic bed leveling system.
The printer’s BLTouch V2 probe provides a mesh bed leveling function performed at three different temperatures (60°C, 80°C, and 100°C) to ensure you get the perfect level for different material since the build plate surface will expand slightly depending on the temperature. The leveling itself is manual, with a three-screw mechanism beneath the plate, but with the BLTouch sensor guiding the user.
There is a user-friendly Wizard that will guide you through the calibration steps.
CraftBot Flow IDEX XL Setup Instructions
The CraftBot Flow IDEX comes already assembled. You simply need to plug it into your electrical outlet to start your first print job.
However, like is the case with most 3D printer, you should calibrate the machine before starting it. The 3D printer has a semi-automatic calibration. Follow the steps below to calibrate it:
Step 1: Prepare the Printer for Calibration
Get alcohol wipes from the maintenance kit and wipe with print bed to remove any objects. Also, make sure there is no filament in the system.
After cleaning the print bed, you can start the calibration procedure.
There is a handy Wizard that you can follow to ensure the calibration is done properly.
Step 2: Calibration Steps
Tap the Settings button on the LCD touchscreen to get the printer ready for calibration. From there, click the Calibrate button and choose the Wizard option.
Set the options for the Extruder, Mesh Bed, Manual Bed, and so on as prompted by the Wizard.
Step 3: Offset Calibration
After calibrating the printer, you will be informed of offset calibration tasks as shown in the image below:
Let the Wizard perform the processes automatically.
Step 4: Set Z Leveling on Second Extruder
When the Wizard has detected the offset between the BL touch sensor and the first nozzle head, set the Z leveling on the second extruder. To do this, you’ll need to use the wrench that comes in the box to loosen two screws on the side of the second extruder.
When you have pushed the hotend down, click Next so that the Wizard can confirm whether the extruder is set to the right height. After this, tighten the screws back up and click Next.
Step 5: Align the Two Extruders
The next step will be done by the Wizard. After the X-calibration has successfully been done on both extruders, the Wizard will set the XY to offset between the two extruders to make sure they are in alignment.
Step 6: Bed Leveling
The next step is leveling the bed. Click the Start button on the Wizard to start the bed leveling process.
The printer will take various measurements across the build plate and use the information to ensure that the bed is calibrated correctly. In case you need to turn any of the adjustment screws, the Wizard will notify you.
Step 7: Mesh Bed Leveling
For this next step, the setup program will take measurements at various points throughout the plate to ensure there are no inconsistencies.
Step 8: Filament Sensor Calibration
Finally, the program will calibrate the filament sensor. To do this, you have to select the type of filament you have on either side as well as the temperature to use
When the hotend heats up, load the filament into the extruders and click Done. The Wizard will then start calibrating the filament sensors.
When the calibration is complete, the printer will be ready for use.
CraftBot Flow IDEX XL Software
The CraftBot Flow IDEX is powered by a proprietary software known as CraftWare slicer. However, you can also use third-party slicers such as Smplify3D or Cura to create your 3D models.
CraftWare makes it easy to manage all the printing settings and quickly generate G-code files that are ready to print. Using the program reduce the build time and ensures optimal supports are created through interactive management.
The software also has a G-code visualizer that allows you to see each print from any angle, layer-by-layer as well as determine whether there are areas that need to be modified.
CraftWare is convenient and easy to use. Whether you are a beginner or professional 3D maker, you will love the program.
Watch the video below for an overview of how to use the software:
CraftBot Flex IDEX XL Print Quality
The prints produced by CraftBot Flow IDEX XL are highly detailed. For example, check this Hulk model by Polyalkemi.
The model was printed with a 0.6 mm nozzle and 0.3 later thickness. As you can see, despite the large nozzle size, the surface finish is smooth.
The filament used is Smartfil Chlorophyll Green.
There are also these two 350mm-tall figures made by Fuse3D1.
Their level of detail is amazing.
Pros & Cons of the CraftBot Flow IDEX XL
- Easy-to-use and effective slicer software
- 4GB internal storage
- Semi-automatic calibration
- Filament runout sensor
- Print-and-pause function
- Well-designed printbed for strong adhesion and easy removal
- Built-in camera and LED status indicator
- Reinforced steel frame
- Large build volume
- 2 independent extruders
- The unit is quite big. Therefore, it is not suitable for an office setup
- The cost is a little high for hobbyist makers
CraftBot Flow IDEX Review: Our Verdict
The CraftBot Flow IDEX is a masterpiece that makes 3D printing faster, accurate and more refined. This printer produces high-quality prints and has various features that make it suitable for a wide range of applications.
This is an advanced dual extrusion 3D printer that we recommend for professionals, schools, universities and small workshops.CreatBot F160/su_box]