Looking to buy the Flashforge Creator 3 3D printer? Before you do so, read our review to find out about the specs, features, performance, and more.
Flashforge Creator 3 Review
Recently, we got a chance to test the Flashforge Creator 3 3D printer. Here is our in-depth review of what you should expect of this 3D printer.
While this printer is called Creator 3, it has nothing to do with the Creator Pro and Creator 2 models. In fact, the Creator 3 is very different from both Creator Pro and Creator 2 models in size, design, and capabilities.
The Flashforge Creator 3 3D printer is equipped with almost all the most modern functions and capabilities we’ve come to expect in 3D printers. Quick examples include two independent extruders, filament end sensors, semi-automatic table calibration, touch screen, Wi-Fi/Ethernet, print area illumination, webcam, extruder cleaning system, and so on.
But first things first.
Let’s look at the features:
Flashforge Creator Features
|Printing technology||FDM / FFF|
|Thread diameter||1.75 mm|
|Material type||ABS, PLA, PETG, Flex, Nylon, PC, Bronze, Wood, Carbon, etc.|
|Plot area size||300 * 250 * 200mm|
|Number of extruders||2|
|Site heating temperature||Max. 120 ° C|
|XY-axis positioning accuracy||0.011 mm|
|Z-axis positioning accuracy||0.0025 mm|
|Nozzle diameter (mm)||0.4|
|Extruder operating temperature||up to 300°C|
|Display||touch 4.5 “|
|Connection interface||USB, Wi-Fi, Ethernet|
|Software||FlashPrint, Cura, Simplify3D, Slic3r|
|OS||Windows 7 and later, Mac OS X10.9 and later|
|System requirements||OpenGL 2.1, RAM 4 GB or more|
|Supported file formats||STL, OBJ, 3MF, SLC|
|Power supply||100-240 V AC|
|Dimensions (without packaging)||627 * 485 * 615mm|
|Country of Origin||China|
|The cost||Check Price|
Outside the Printer
The external dimensions of the Flashforge Creator 3 are 627 x 485 x 615mm. On the outside, the printer is covered with gray and black plastic.
There is a touch screen and a USB flash drive connection port on the top of the front panel.
There are also transparent plastic doors on the front and top. When printing with materials that tend to shrink, such as ABS or nylon, closed doors keep the chamber warm. And when printing low-temperature materials, for example PLA, you can open the doors to dissipate the heat so that the printed part doesn’t overheat.
The printer has covers on both sides and behind them are the filament compartments.
On the back there is a connector for a power cable, an ON/OFF button, an RJ-45 port for connecting to an Ethernet network, and two exhaust fans with filters.
The body of the printer is very strong and heavy, weighing 40 kg.
Inside the Printer
Let’s take a look inside.
The printer’s frame is made of steel and the whole structure is sturdy. On the other hand, most of the moving mechanisms are made of aluminum and there are a few plastic parts made by injection. However, there are no printed parts in the printer.
The axles move along 12 mm shafts on high quality linear bearings. During our tests, we did not observe any backlash or jamming is observed. The axles are parked without limit switches using stepper motor drivers.
The main feature that sets the Creator 3 apart from its competitors is two independent direct extruders. Each of the extruders can move separately from the other along the X axis. This opens up interesting possibilities, such as printing two identical parts at the same time (Duplicate mode), or printing one model and its mirrored copy (Mirror mode).
All the extruders are made of metal and have steel nozzles. The extruders can heat up to 300°C without any problems. The high extruder temperature means that you can print a wide range of plastics with this printer.
Each extruder has special nozzle cleaning brushes on the right and left. Under them are plastic compartments, where the remains of plastics brushed off fall.
The Creator 3’s kinematics are similar to that of the MakerBot. However, as expected, there are some differences due to the independent extruders.
Flashforge Creator 3 Build Volume
The Creator 3’s print area is quite large, measuring 300 x 250 x 200mm. The printbed is removable and flexible, making it easy to remove large models from the platform. The printbed is fixed to the frame with various sliding mounts.
The printbed can be heated up to 120°C.
There is a special surface glued to the top of the printbed, like BuildTak, which provides good adhesion. However, it is still advisable to use an additional adhesive, such as a glue stick.
Flashforge Creator 3 Calibration
Calibration is performed in a semi-automatic mode without using a separate sensor. The touch is detected using magnets located in the table.
The printer takes measurements at three points and shows on the screen how many degrees and in which direction each lamb should be turned. After basic calibration, you have to calibrate the extruders relative to each other. On the Z axis, this happens automatically. In X and Y, the printer prints longitudinal and transverse stripes, respectively, and, if they do not converge in one line, suggests changing the offset of one extruder from the other.
The complete calibration procedure takes about 10 minutes.
Flashforge Creator 3 Slicer Software
The proprietary slicer FlashPrint is used to prepare models for printing.
The slider has all the necessary functionality.
In addition to the basic features (moving, rotating, centering, resizing models), there is a very useful function that allows you to cut models into parts, and the cuts are automatically closed.
Also, if you load 3D models with errors into the slicer, Flashprint will see this and offer to fix them automatically.
In the Extruder menu, you can choose which extruder will print the selected model, as well as select the Duplicate or Mirror mode.
Supports can be placed either automatically with the specified settings, or manually. There are classic line supports as well as arboreal ones.
There are two modes for slicing settings: simplified (Basic) and fully functional (Expert).
In Basic mode, you can select the type of head and the most basic parameters, the rest will be set for you by the slicer itself.
In Expert mode, you can change any parameters you need and create your own profiles for the heads.
FlashPrint saves files in gx format. The slicer saves and embedded picture of the model, which will be displayed on the printer screen during printing and preview. However, the slicer has a very slow preview. When printing large models, you’ll have to check the cutting of layers with very strong brakes and delays.
You can also use other slicers that you may prefer (Cura, Simplify3D, Slic3r, etc.).
The Flashforge Creator 3 3D printer understands ordinary gCODE files. However, it does not display a picture of the object.
The models to be printed can be sent to the printer from FlashPrint over Wi-Fi or a wired network. The printer has a built-in 7Gb memory to save the received models.
You can control the printer’s operation using the FlashCloud web service. To do this, you need to register on https://cloud.sz3dp.com. After registration, connect the printer to the Internet using a Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection and add the printer to your account. That’s it.
FlashCloud doesn’t have a lot of features. Here are some highlights about the slicer software:
- You can monitor the print and, if necessary, pause or stop.
- View the image from the camera. While the slicer does not transmit streaming video, the picture is updated every few seconds. From the images, you will know whether the printing is normal.
- You can load STL models up to 100 MB and slice them in Flashprint. However, the slicing settings are quite few. You can only move, rotate and resize the model.
The slicer only has basic preset media types for which you can select print quality. There are also functions for turning ON/OFF raft, support, brim and walls, as well as the ability to select an extruder and an operating mode for two extruders.
If you don’t like FlashCloud, you can also use PolarCloud, a third-party service from Polar3d, to remotely control your printer.
To test the versatility of this printer, we printed a wide variety of materials. Let’s see the results.
The first thing we tried to print on this printer was the head of the T800 terminator. The model was printed without supports. There are only a few auxiliary posts under the jaw already built into the model.
Plastic: Hatchbox Blue ABS
Speed: 60mm / s
After that, we loaded the Creator 3 with Polymaker PolyMax PC. This material has very high strength, toughness and high temperature resistance (softening point – 117˚C). The filament is great for making functional models, electronics housings and parts that will experience heat.
To begin with, we printed a dremel attachment, which makes it convenient to use it as a compact router.
Plastic: Black Polymaker PolyMax PC
Speed: 60mm / s
Then, we printed the body of the control unit in a larger size. The model has two parts. The lid has curves on all sides and is printed with a lot of supports. The case is not perfect, but pretty good. At the bottom, one corner is slightly bent due to plastic shrinkage.
Plastic: Polymaker PolyMax PC black
Speed: 60mm / s
Fiberglass Nylon Printing
To test the printer’s operation at extreme temperatures, we printed a small gear from a Priline Fiberglass Filament. This is a fiberglass filled nylon, an industrial filament with very decent performance. Its printing temperature is 240-260 degrees. The Creator 3 coped with this task without any problems.
Plastic: Priline Fiberglass Filament
Speed: 30mm / s
Since the printer has direct extruders, that is, the feed mechanism is located directly above the hot end, you can print on it with flex-plastics without any problems. We printed a pair of Polymaker PolyFlex phone cases for testing. It is a fairly soft flex with a Shore A hardness of 95A.
Plastic: Polymaker PolyFlex white
Speed: 30mm / s
I also wondered how the Creator 3 would handle printing with wood-added composite filaments. With three different types of such plastic, we printed three Groots at different stages of his maturation. After all, it should be wooden, right?
The smallest Groot printed fine. The print at the bottom was just perfect. In the upper part, the model began to sway a little. As a result, the hair did not turn out very even. There were also quite a few strings, but this happens with almost all wood heads. Changing the retraction and temperature settings doesn’t help much. But the strings are easily removed with a knife.
Plastic: Polymaker PolyWood PLA
Speed: 40mm / s
Little Groot, but with legs. It turned out well, although there were also quite a lot of strings.
Plastic: ESun Wood PLA natural
Speed: 40mm / s
And finally, the adult Groot. This model turned out worse. Despite the fact that the layer height was 0.12, like the previous ones, the layering is noticeable. In some places, uneven layering is visible.
Considering that the printer did not notice the filament was running out, we think that the problems are likely because of the the instability of the plastic supply, most likely this is a problem of the material itself.
Plastic: Priline Wood Filament
Speed: 40mm / s
Now it’s time to try two-color printing.
For two-color printing, it is necessary to calibrate the extruders well along the X and Y axes. Also, when printing with two plastics, it is advisable to use a wipe wall, so that the nozzle passes through it before printing the main part.
During idle time, a little plastic may leak from the nozzle, and after passing along the wall, the plastic will reach the nozzle and will be evenly fed when printing the model itself. We printed a dice using orange and gold PLA plastic.
And right after the cube, we printed a complex two-color model; the Tree frog.
The mode was printed without support, on a raft and with a rough wall. We printed it using the same plastic and the same colors.
Soluble Support Printing
Besides printing with two colors, a very useful way to use two extruders is to print models with dissolvable supports. There are two main types of materials used as dissolvable supports.: PVA and HIPS.
PVA is water soluble and is usually used in combination with PLA or a similar temperature plastic. And HIPS – dissolves with d-limonene, and is printed with ABS plastic or other high-temperature filaments.
In one of our tests, we printed from PLA + PVA. This is Hilbert Cube, this model cannot be printed at all without using two extruders. And with two extruders, you can simply print it in two colors. And in the case of printing one of the parts with a dissolving material, you can get a cube of a very interesting complex shape.
To dissolve PVA plastic, simply place the model in a container of warm water and wait a few hours. We did not wait for complete dissolution. When PVA softens, it can be easily removed with ordinary tweezers and washed off with water.
For the next test, we printed a wind-up sprint mechanism with a combination of ABS + HIPS. This model exists in a printable version in parts. However, this option is printed in its entirety using dissolvable supports.
Plastic: Tiger3D ABS blue / Esun HIPS natural
Speed: 60mm / s
To save time, after printing, we broke off some of the supports using wire cutters. Then the mechanism was lowered into d-limonene. It took about a day to dissolve the HIPS.
Ideally, after dissolving the supports, rinse the part again in fresh d-limonene. We did not do this. Therefore, a thin film of dissolved HIPS remained on the surfaces.
Unfortunately, the mechanism did not work. It was made for printing PLA plastic, and ABS was not suitable for it. All gears move, but the spring tension is not enough to move the entire mechanism.
In any case, the printer did its job well. The fact that the mechanism did not work was not because of the printer.
Now, we wanted to check how the using two extruders at the same time worked.
The first mode we tested is the Duplicate mode. In this mode, two extruders simultaneously print the same part on different table halves. We loaded ESun eCopper PLA with copper filler in one extruder, and ESun eAlfill with aluminum filler in the other.
The extruders printed two Chinese coins at the same time; one copper, the other aluminum. These filaments take on an interesting sheen like real metal when they are lightly sanded after printing.
The second mode of using two extruders at once is mirror printing (Mirror). In this mode, one part is printed on one half of the table, and on the other the same part, but mirrored.
To tes this mode, we printed the Flexi Dragon model with ESun eSilk plastic. This filament shimmers and shines in the light.
Instead of printing the left and right wings one by one, we printed one of them in mirror mode. Thus, we immediately got both wings, spending 2 times less time on it.
Plastic: Esun eSilk
Speed: 60mm / s
Printers with 2 independent extruders are a trend in the FDM printer market, especially those meant for industrial use.
Flashforge has offered a desktop version of such a printer.
In our experience with the Creator 3, we have seen that 2 independent extruders significantly expand the printing possibilities, especially if the printer accepts all plastics with a melting point of up to 300°C.
During our experiments with different plastics, we periodically had to “negotiate” with the printer. However, it coped with all the tasks. The printer stood out for its its reliability, usability and ease of use.
The Flashforge Creator 3 is a modern 3D printer that comes with a large number of useful features, such as a built-in camera, filament sensor, backlight, semi-automatic calibration, nozzle cleaning brushes, etc. Moreover, there is a cloud platform that makes it easy to operate the printer.
The Creator 3 is suitable for both professional use and for hobbyists who want to have a printer at home that can confidently print wide variety of filaments. You can use the printer to print prototypes or functional objects. Its large build volume and versatility make it an excellent printer for bringing to life your imaginations.