Reviewing the Prusa i3 MK2 is very tricky for me, especially considering how my user experience with it changed my whole view of the performance I should expect from a 3D printer. A number of people have told me that I ìfell in loveî with the i3Öand maybe they are right. I doubt there is another printer on the market right now that can completely satisfy my expectations like the Prusa. However, I want to assure you that this review will not be based on my obsession for this printer, or have anything to do with my marketing expeditions; this review is based purely on my personal experience with this printer.
What is Prusa?
Prusa, Prusa i3, i3, or even simply i4, is a household name in the 3D printing industry. Actually, there are a good number of 3D printer kits that have adorned this name, but not all are actually the real Prusa 3D printer.
Josef ìJoî Prusa, an IT knack from Prague, is the brain behind this household name. His first design, the Prusa Mendel, was his first design that became popular. It is a simpler and cheaper version of the old Sells Mendel. As of today, there are about 60 people that form a strong team thatís behind the Prusa Research brand, engineering, and selling. They are credited for the original Prusa i3 MK2 that has hit the 3D printer market with a storm.
Features and Specifications of the Original Prusa i3 MK2
The original Prusa i3 is designed with a completely open source software and hardware. It is also packed with extremely intelligent features that are responsible for the satisfactory user experience that most people attest to.
This machine has a massive build volume with 250mm (10 inches) in width, 210mm depth and 200mm height. Its design is the common vertical center plate carrying the Z and X axis and the M12 threaded rod base that carries the vertical plate and the Y axis.
The MK2 heated bed on the Prusa i3 is a thick, custom Printed Circuit Board (PCB) made from a glass-fiber reinforced resin, and therefore lacks glass, aluminum or anything else that any other printbed would require to give it stiffness. The printbed also has a thin PEI foil on top that helps your prints to stick. What this translates to is an extremely light Y axis setup and the bed also heats up and cools down unbelievable quick especially when youíre printing PLA.
The MK42 heater PCB also contains zones that have varying heating properties. The differences in the heating properties aid in the fast cooling of the bed, especially on its edges. This is what contributes to an even temperature distribution at all points of the bed. You will find this very useful when doing large print jobs with high-temperature plastics.
The hotend of the printer bed is an authentic all-metal E3D v6.1. This is a versatile material that allows you to print with any material be it PET, PLA, ABS, Nylon or even wood infused materials. You can print these with a 0.4mm brass nozzle and a stock setup. If you want to print carbon fiber reinforced filaments or glass material, you can use a coated or hardened nozzle; you could even swap in a Volcano nozzle and heater if you want your jobs to print very fast. Placing the fine 0.25mm nozzle on the v6.1 will give you more precise prints, although the default setup will naturally do this too.
This printer has some exquisite specs that, for me, should be a must-have for every 3D printer in the market. One of these is a bed probe thatís found next to the hotend. This probe is a unique probe thatís nicknamed P.I.N.D.A due to its small size. Itís a custom made sensor that reliably runs of 5v directly as opposed to using voltage level adaptation common in larger, standard industrial probes. This probe also takes up much less space.
This probe is advantageous on the Original Prusa i3 MK2 as it executes a number of tasks.
- Automatic mesh bed leveling
This application makes it possible for the printer to correct any slight warp or bow in the build platform instead of just a planar misalignment.
- When the printer is built form the kit version, it uses the embedded calibration spots in the MK2 heated bed to square up the X and Y axes. This means that even if you build your Original Prusa i3 MK2 very poorly with the lower frame not well aligned to the rest of the machine (which is very common), once you let the printer calibrate itself; your prints will still be square.
The auto-squaring and mesh leveling applications were both developed by Prusa Research team. The good news about these is that soon everyone will be able to use these applications since the main Marlin firmware has started incorporating them. Imagine not being compelled to manually adjust the square sides while building the printer and your prints still coming out square? Cool huh?
Another feature that will surely blow you off your mind is the dazzling LCD controller. This has an easy-to-use click wheel knob that can be effortlessly manipulated with one finger. It may not seem like a huge feature, but the very small details on the printer are what makes it user friendly.
The LCD has all the options for loading and unloading filament, and also for running the calibration routines. The best part about these is that they are so efficient that they will detect any abnormally in the printer for instance failure of the sensor to trigger at the expected height or the heaters not responding properly.
This printer has a generic power supply behind the frame on one side. Unfortunately, this gets warm to touch during regular use due to the absence of a fan. However, the machine is run by a genuine Ultimachine Mini Rambo and therefore has a solid fusing concept that protects it in the event of any short-circuiting and very trustable components for driving heaters.
The cover on the connector side is the milk on the cocopops (although I think every other feature is). This comes pre-installed even on the kit, and makes it easy to set up the machine since it wonít require you to wire up mains voltage into the machine. All you need to do to start off is plug in your power cord into the Mini Rambo mainboard and the other side into the fused IEC connector and baas!! The power supply also helps the frame to be the stiffened as it braces the vertical frame against the sub-frame, and also gets it properly grounded.
The wiring is made durable and safe by a 3mm Nylon filament piece that keeps it from wearing out and kinking due to repeated bending, this is especially important for the most strained wire bundles (the one that go to the heated bed and to the extruder).
How Easy Is Assembling the Original Prusa i3 MK2?
I opted for a ready to use Prusa printer since I was extremely anxious to start test printing with it. I was lucky that the assembled machine that I was sent wasnít distorted from shipping and everything was pretty intact. Nonetheless, I wouldnít have panicked if this had happened since Prusa Research does not mind seeing replacement parts.
However, my colleague, who built his machine from the kit, warns me that building the Original Prusa i3 MK2 personally is extremely fun. You can check out how the Original Prusa i3 MK2 is built here.
The kit with the printer parts comes with a user manual that has each step of the assembly process clearly laid out. It will also show you how to prepare your own prints and guide you on the auto-calibration. The manual guide has pictures that can help you out, but if these donít help enough, you can check out the additional online guide and use the images there.
Both the pre-assembled machine, and the one personally assembled from the kit perform in the exact manner and with the same quality of output. With each package (kit or pre-assembled), you are also given a testing protocol. This is a dummy setup with hooked up components (for the kit) and for the assembled one all components are tested to verify performance.
One of the most impressive prints that’s been done with the Prusa is the silver dragon. This was printed using Filament Rapunzel Silver filament and GCode. In this print, Prusa i3 proved its level of quality as unquestionable and in the same level as Ultimaker. Why? The silver dragon print is just way too perfect!
The Original Prusa i3 Software
When it comes to the software, Prusa Research provides a full installer for Mac OSX and Windows, but also has full instructions on how to set up tools for someone using Linux or GNU. The software package is inclusive of a preconfigured slicer, drivers, a Netfabb installer, a color print tool, a firmware updater and a printer host
Drivers: You can use the Original Prusa MK2 with any printer host; any cloud printing solution, a Raspberry Pi with Octoprint, or any full computer. This is because on plugging it into any USB port, it shows up as a serial port. Moreover, it will also identify straight-up as a 3D printer to Windows 10 and Windows 8.2 so you can print directly from professional CAD tools like Solidworks without being compelled to install a different 3D printer or a separate slicer, or you could use the integrated 3D Builder App to do your prints. In this line of work, I think Prusa i3 drivers is king, seeing that I only know of a handful of other Stratasys machines and 3D Systems that allow you to worth this way.
Using Prusa is therefore very simple; you simply get the Original Prusa i3 MK2 to show up as a printer device, and then get a print queue for it. After doing, this all applications that support the Windows 3D printer interface will be able to directly use the MK2. If you find the traditional way of exporting your model as an STL file and taking that through a slicer easier, Prusa i3 still gives that freedom. You will be given an improved new version of pre-configured Slic3r version thatís better that what you can be able to download.
The Slic3r has a full profile for the printer with various layer heights and attractive nozzle sizes (even a small 0.25mm), which you can use to print a wide variety of materials including PET, PLA, ABS, Bridge Nylon, Taulman T-Glase. I was impressed with how all of these worked and did not need to tweak anything, but you can do this if you need to.
You could also choose to download ready-to-go profiles from Prusaís site if you prefer using a different slicer like Simplify3D or Cura. By all means this is the most efficient slicer, or slicer application for that matter, that I have ever come across. If you donít want to temper with the settings by doing manual tuning for fear of it messing with your first prints, then this one click slicing will be your life saver, and the well-tuned-in profiles that this Original Prusa i3 MK2 comes with will be your drug.
Basically, I was happy with the stock profiles that I got and there was no printing material I used that was supported out of the box. I therefore did not find any need for tweaking. However, I did some hotend priming on the bed edge. As a result, I ended up getting more reliably primed hotend without any wasted space on the printbed, and also because of this, the slicer didnít draw a skirt around the print.
The Original Prusa i3 MK2 comes with a firmware update tool since itís improved continuously. This also helps in the event that you mess up the settings during unboxing. If you use the pre-installed Slic3r, you will also get notification on the LCD screen if a firmware update is available before a print. There were some performance improvements that popped up as I did my test prints, but I wouldnít complain about the performance even in the absence of these.
Another interesting feature to note about the Original Prusa i3 MK2 is that it allows you to print multiple colors by swapping filament mid-print, although itís a single color 3D printer. The swapping can be done in two ways:
- At any point of the print using the LCD controller. (You can also use the LCD controller to drop in a fresh spool of filament when your old one runs out)
- You can insert color change positions to the ready-to-print GCode file before a print. The printer will pause and ask you to swap its filament in those positions.
Demerits of the Original Prusa i3 MK2
Every single time Iíve told someone about my experience with the Original Prusa i3 MK2 their reaction has been, ìwait, are you telling me this is a perfect 3D printer with no limitations whatsoever?î
Well, I would be a liar if I said that this regular FDM-based 3D printer has been made to perfection that it has not a single limitation.
- The Original Prusa i3 MK2 is designed with two different run models; silent and power mode. On the silent mode, the machine runs quietly and the only loud noise is the hotend fun. However, in this mode if you scale down your print or it has extreme overhangs then the printer might skip and the material curls up. But printing the same object with the power mode might yield more successful. However, the power mode is considerably louder and will need you to work far from other people as it could cause disturbance.
The Original Prusa i3: Does it give value for money?
At Ä739 or $845.79 kit and Ä999 or $1,087.79 for the assembled machine, the Original Prusa i3 MK2 is definitely on top of its class. Although this 3D printer is a super-streamlined mainstream design, it performs way better than those with a form-follows-function approach and comes with a desirable number of attractive features. You will definitely never go wrong when printing your 3D objects with this exquisite machine.
The print quality on the Original Prusa i3 MK2 is not only the best, itís also very consistent and reliable as it will print perfectly even immediately after being unboxed, without needing you to tweak or tune anything. This machine is the pace setter for all the others in terms of raw print quality, features and ease of use. If you are a 3D enthusiast or professional and havenít tried this printer then you have no idea what youíre missing.