The Flashforge Finder 3D printer entered the market in September 2015. Although it is marketed as an easy to use 3D printer, this little 3D printer with very unique features is ideally not for beginners. I can testify to this as I used it as an introductory 3D printer for a new associate and I had to come in to help. So I should warn you that although it is somewhat easy to set up by an intermediate or an expert, a first time user will find building this printer somewhat challenging.
In this Review…
- Introducing Flashforge Finder
- Features and Specifications
- Flashforge Finder printer set-up
- Printing with Flashforge Finder
- Addressing Concerns
- Conclusion and Recommendation
Introducing Flashforge Finder
What you should expect in your package when your order for this printer is shipped include; one Flashforge Finder printer, a power cable, a USB cable, a Quick Start Guide, three Allen wrenches, one screw driver, one spool of PLA filament to start you off, and a filament guide tube for directing the filament from the spool to the extruder. You will part with 499$ for this, which in my opinion, is a mid-range price.
This printer is made from brightly colored plastic, with a square body that has rounded edges and corners. It has a build volume of 140 X 140 X 140mm on every axis. Although this printer has an open framed body, it has a very sturdy feel and looks very compact. The print bed of this printer is a sliding tray, which makes it very easy to remove and to insert.
This is a fused filament fabrication (FFF) printer, and is therefore very easy to use. Since it only uses one type of filament (1.75mm PLA), thereís no stress of getting a heated print bed, normally required of more complex materials like ABS. However, the fact that it accepts only one type of printing material can also be a huge limitation to what you can print with it.
Flashforge printer features Wi-Fi connectivity port. This makes using it even easier since you can manage your printer even over your local network.
Features and Specifications of Flashforge Finder
Physical Attributes – This machine weighs 20kg but the shipping weight is 28kg. It is 420 x 420 x 420 mm [16.5 x 16.5 x 16.5 in]. The shipping dimensions however are 500 x 500 x 500 mm [19.7 x 19.7 x 19.7 in]. Both the frame and the body are made of plastic alloy. It is a single extrusion machine.
Technical Dimensions – This machine uses FlashPrint for both the Software & Firmware. The AC Input is 115-230 V, 50-60 Hz, 150 W. It can support multiple operating systems, namely; Mac OS X, Windows 7/ 8 / Vista and the file types available are STL, and OBJ. Transferring data or information to and from this printer is very easy since it has capabilities for USB Stick, USB Cable and Wi-Fi. It also features both Chinese and English languages.
- Build Volume
140 L X 140 W X 140 H mm
5.5 X 5.5 X 5.5 in
- Layer Resolution
- Positioning Precision
XY: 11 microns [0.0004 in] Z: 2.5 microns [0.0001 in]
- Filament Diameter
1.75 mm [0.069 in]
- Nozzle Diameter
0.4 mm [0.015 in]
- Printing Technology
FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication)
Flashforge Finder Printer Set-up
Flashforge Finder is almost an out of the box ready-to-use printer. Very little setup for it is required, and the printer comes with a USB stick that contains a user guide on basic preparation for printing. The very first step after unboxing this printer is to switch it on, pretty obvious, no?
Now that your printer is on, you need to level the build plate so that your objects will be fabricated on a perfectly flat surface. This process is pretty simple; first select the ìlevelingî icon on the printers touchscreen interface. The printer will instruct you to tighten down all the three wingnut adjusters on the underside of the print platform. The extruder will then use a retractable sensor to move to one of the corners on top of an adjuster from where it will test the distance between the sensor and the platform.
When this step is completed, the interface will instruct you to unwind the corresponding wingnut. This will raise the platform at the particular spot, until when you hear a continuous beep. The other two adjusters will follow the same process.
The next step is to load the filament spool into the closed vertical compartment located at the top back of the printer (capable of sliding). This spool compartment accommodates only a specific height and diameter of spool and you will therefore be limited by the type of filament material you can use for this printer. The filament guide tube will then direct the filament to the top of the extruder.
After loading the filament, wait for the extruder to heat up to the temperatures as per the Quick Start guide instructions. After this, push down the spring loaded tab thatís on the side of the extruder, and then use moderate force to pull it out. You might find this to be difficult, and the guide limits the amount of force you should use. However, you can try applying what according to the guide is too much force and this might work.
As you can probably see, this is a pretty easy preparation especially if you compare it to the steps you need to take for other printers. In fact, after about one and a half hours you will have your very first print item in front of your eyes.
Printing with Flashforge Finder
The slicer software that Flashforge uses to prepare itís STL files for printing is called a FlashPrint, and its contained in the USB stick that the printer comes with and from where you can install if from. You can also download it for free from their website.
This printer will allow you to view your design from any distance or angle either automatically or manually. It also has functions for rotating the object in any direction, scaling the object, moving it, and you can also add supports. After you are satisfied with the possible outcome, click on the ìprintî icon.
There are additional options that pop up on one window after you click on print. The options are for setting the print resolution, rafts, and there are also more advanced options like infill, speed, speed and temperature. Click on ìokî and choose a location for saving your model (now in GCode). You can then transfer this model using a USB cable or stick, or via Wi-Fi connection.
My first test print was the Snake.stl. Example design that comes with the FlashPrint slicer. In comparison to other printers we have tested before, this one is amazingly quiet in operation. However, our very first disappointment came when the first layer separated from the print platform. After this unexpected outcome, we attempted to recalibrate the printer.
We then decided to print our usual 3DBenchy test object. To enhance first layer adhesion, we decided to print this on top of a raft. Unfortunately, this also started out well but the same thing happened when the print was just about halfway through.
So we finally attempted something that other printer reviewers have used before, hairspray! We applied this to the print platform prior to printing, since we were told that it helps the first layer to stick well to the surface. And Voila! This actually worked. Our 3DBenchy print came out almost perfect and the only post-processing that we did was for removing the raft that we had printed on.
According to the printer manufacturer, this printer is capable of transferring files through a Wi-Fi connection. However, we were unable to create a Wi-Fi connection between Flashforge Finder and our computer. Repeated tries, even with the computer showing ìlimited connectionî and the finder interface showing ìreceiving fileî all yielded futile.
I tried printing the file from the printer interface. However, when I selected the file, the printer showed that the object had been printed even though this wasnít the case. According to the user guide, the solution for this was supposed to be entering the printerís IP address into my browser bar, and from then it should allow me to change the Wi-Fi settings.
However, I found out that the menu that was available was not the same as the image on Finders user guide. This means that it had since been updated. It therefore follows that the settings that, according to the user guide I was to change, had been scrubbed from the new menu. So, after thoroughly confirming that it was impossible for me to transfer the files using Wi-Fi, I finally decided to use the USB stick.
Conclusion and Recommendation
The Flashforge Finder 3D printer is an ideal printer for using in the classroom and at home, not only because itís affordable, but also for its intuitive user interface. It is very user friendly, and when it works the prints are admirable. The secret to getting a successful print is to get the first layer to stick, the rest is magic.
In my opinion, the target group for this printer, beginners and kids, is a little overrated. What is described in the Quickstart Guide as a simple set-up is actually more complicated than we imagined. And as I said earlier, I tested the theory on this printer being easy for beginners by giving it to a beginner, and they were extremely challenged. The instructions language is English, but this has grammatical errors.
So the points for Flashforge Finder are the slide-out print bed, and the quiet operation. Also the moderate ease of build and use, the build quality, and the admirable prints it produces make me rate this computer high. So yes, I would definitely recommend this printer for any 3D printing enthusiast.