Review: The Printrbot Play!


Love is a smoke rais’d with the fume of sighs;
Being purg’d, a fire sparkling in a lover’s eyes;
Being vex’d, a sea nourish’d with lovers’ tears:
What is it else? a madness most discreet, A choking gall and a preserving sweet. Yeah, that was, ah, poetry, by Shakespeare.
/ Let’s move on. (Intro) So here it is, the Printrbot Play! It’s Printrbot’s
cheapest printer, which they consider entry level – and that means, it sells at $399.
I don’t usually start out with the price of a printer, but it is kinda relevant as to
why I think that the Play is Printrbot’s # best printer so far and maybe even # the overall
best 3D printer on the market right now. So the Play is the printer that is replacing
the Simple Maker’s kit, a printer that was a bit cheaper, but really just a minimum viable
product – take anything away from the Simple Maker’s Kit, and it’s not a usable printer
anymore. And it’s not like it was a particularly well-performing machine anyways. It printed,
and that was about it. The Play is a totally different story there
– it feels like a genuinely premium printer, even though you can tell that every single
part of this machine is super cost-optimized. And cost-optimized doesn’t just mean cheap,
it also means you’re getting more for your money. Now, the Printrbot Play is actually
a really massively-built printer. The frame is cut, folded and powder coated
steel, mine is red because it’s a pre-production model, but all the internal components have
been upgraded to the same parts that are used for the retail version, which comes with a
white or black frame. The assemblies used for the X-axis and the extruder carriage also
build on sheet metal, this time made from aluminum because they # moving parts, and,
wow, are these pretty. This is some of the most intricate sheet metal work i’ve ever
seen, and it not only makes the assembly of the printer a lot easier, but it also takes
out so many possibilities for mistakes, misalignments and failures down the road. / Even if you
don’t assemble it yourself, and buy it pre-assembled. And that simplicity doesn’t end there. Since,
like all Printrbots, the Play uses a bed probe to automatically adjust for a slanted bed
surface, there’s no need to have the bed adjustable – so the bed assembly is literally
just a slab of aluminum, bolted to the motion parts. The only thing that’s adjustable
there is the belt tension, everything else is done in software. The entire base of the
printer frame is a single part with mounts for the electronics, stepper motors, linear
bearings and the Z rods. For linear motion, Printrbot also did not cheap out and went
with actual precision 8mm rods and matching LM8UU bearings that get bolted to the frame
with injection-molded plastic parts and CNC machined Delrin fittings. And all that makes
for a very sturdy motion platform, especially if you’d compare it to one of the Printrbot
Simple models, / but because the axis are as # short as they are, the Play is overall
already more rigid than a regular full-size printer like the Prusa Mendel. Even though
the Play’s Z-axis is only driven on one side and the bearing structure isn’t exactly
perfect for keeping it from jamming on the other side, jamming or backlash are absolute
non-issues thanks to that aluminum backbone that keeps both sides synchronized. You can
even pick this machine up and move it around while printing without affecting the print
result too much. And boy, does it print well. And that’s not just a “good for $400 printer”,
but i’ve seen printers that cost four times as much and didn’t print this well. Look
at this, this is my Play’s very first print, using the included clear PLA and the stock
Cura profile for the Simple Maker’s kit, so basically for the wrong printer, too. But
those two are similar enough to the slicer / to be interchangeable. Before printing this,
the only thing i adjusted was the nozzle height over the bed’s surface, which is done in
the firmware, everything else, like extrusion widths, speeds, extruder calibration and such
were completely untouched. And this print looks better than what my main printer, a
big, custom, Mendel90 produces. It’s not quite as super-consistent as, say, an Ultimaker
or one of the other highest-end machines, but it’s more than impressive for, again,
an entry-level printer. Things like overhangs, / bridges, / corner sharpness, / surface quality,
/ small detail reproduction, and all that kind of stuff, that’s all there / up to
par / right out of the box. The version of the Play i have here still
uses a classic UBIS hotend, but i’ve heard that the Play and the rest of Printrbot’s
lineup will eventually be upgraded to an all- #metal UBIS, and the printer carriage is already
prepared for that. It has two fans in the front, one pointing downwards at the print,
providing ample cooling for printing PLA at decent speeds, the other facing inwards towards
the hotend and extruder block, which serves as an additional heatsink for the hotend.
Under this fan shroud / thing, the classic UBIS hotend already needed that extra fan
blowing over the cold side, as i’ve found that it has a tendency to clog with PLA if
you leave it sitting heated up with no filament movement for too long. During printing, when
the fan is # spinning after the first layer, it worked pretty much flawlessly, all the
time. Printrbot is already working on changing this to have that top fan always spinning,
independently of the part cooling fan. The extruder itself is a direct-drive-type Alu
Extruder v2, take note, it doesn’t actually extrude aluminum, it’s just made from aluminum.
Basically, it’s an improved and simplified version of the proven Alu Extruder v1, which
is used in the rest of Printrbot’s lineup right now. It’s still using a spring-loaded
lever with adjustable tension and a stainless steel drive gear, which is about as good as
it’s going to get these days with a “normal” extruder. There’s a few downsides about
this particular setup, one is that the idler tension is not adjustable unless you take
off the fan shroud, which can be somewhat annoying until you figure out a tension that
works for your filament; another is that you have to be kinda careful with the screws that
hold everything together here. They thread directly into the aluminum faceplate of the
stepper motor, and those threads are fairly easy to strip out. This is an issue all extruders
have that are built like this, with everything mounted to the motor, it’s just that you
have to be a bit careful when assembling it to get it to last. And use threadlock. Lots
of it. And with this shroud over the printhead, ah, while it does do a decent job of keeping
fingers away from the moving and hot parts, it also keeps you from seeing the object building,
at least for the first few layers. Maybe, i don’t know, there might eventually be
one made from acrylic. Now, one of the things that i’ve always
complained about with every Printrbot was the absolute lack of # proper cable management.
Sure, there were a few cable wraps and stuff, but a bunch of wiring always ended up being
tied to, like, a stepper motor’s wiring and was straining that last bit of wiring
inside the motor. But not anymore, baby! Not with the Play – check it out, the wiring that’s
the most strained is the one going from the extruder carriage to the x motor, and not
only is the entire wiring sleeved, but there’s now even things like a little Delrin flap
there to support that last bit of wiring closest to the carriage where it bends the most. It
was a bit challenging to keep the wiring from sliding over the bed too much, but that last
bit of the bed is not used anyways, so it’s not a huge deal. Still, this is something
that Printrbot should, and probably will, improve on. And it’s fairly easy to fix
yourself, just reorient that flap to point a bit further upward.
/ So other than that, the one thing that usually comes up with low-price printers like these
is flexibility. There’s two, or maybe three, limitations to what the Play can do. Number
one, it is kinda tiny. I’ve seen Kickstarter printers that are even smaller than the Play’s
10x10x13 cm or 4x4x5 inch build volume, anything smaller than that this might just be too small,
but i think the Play’s build volume is big enough. Well, big enough for me, at least,
i never used the huge build space my main printer used to have, so made that one smaller,
because i, i just didn’t need it that big. Let me visualize the Play’s volume for you
– i didn’t actually print, like a loaf of bread to fill the entire build volume, # that
would have taken way too long, / so i’m just going to use what i have at hand. This
is the size of the build area of the Play, it really doesn’t look that big, but this
is the kind of object that fits inside that build volume. Obviously, this mug wasn’t
printed. Or this failed buddha from my other printer, this is printable on the Play! Look
at that, that fits perfectly. So, personally, i’d be happy to use a printer
that size. Totally fine with me. And the other two things that are a limitation
of the Printrbot Play are that, one, it doesn’t have a heated bed, so ABS and some other plastics
are very challenging to impossible to print, and two, the hotend tops out at 240-ish degrees
Celsius, so the higher-temperature plastics are a no-go as well. Now, PLA prints pretty
well on unheated blue tape, but if you really want one, a heated bed is pretty easy to add
on – you can just stick a heater to the bottom of the aluminum build plate, and that should
be good to about 80 degrees celsius, maybe. The Printrboard, which controls the entire
printer, already has everything you need to add a heated bed, the only other thing you’ll
need to get is a better power supply. The one that’s included is perfectly fine for
the Play out of the box, but doesn’t have the headroom to also power the bed. And that
other thing about the hotend, well, if they do start shipping with the all-metal UBIS,
then you can print just about anything, until then, it still works with PLA, Nylon, any
of the wood- or metal-filled filaments, and, if you have that heated bed, even with ABS.
Though, i guess, the Play is going to be used for PLA 99.9% percent of the time, anyways,
and that’s totally ok. So what’s left to say about the Play? Not
much, actually, when you look at the printer itself. We’ve already talked about the price
a bit, i still think that what you get for your money here is exceptional. It does cost
the same amount for a build-it-yourself kit or for an assembled one, i’ve enjoyed building
the Play, so i’d personally go for the kit again, and would recommend you doing the same
if you like assembling fancy tech and have about four hours to spare. But if you don’t
and would rather skip right to the ready-to-go printer, that’s cool, too, and it’s not
going to cost you anything extra. Printrbot has also promised to publish all
their printer’s design files as Creative Commons again, i’m # looking at you, Brook,
and is manufacturing the largest amount of parts for their printers in the United States
of America. So you’re not just getting some anonymous Chinese Prusa i3 Clone, you’re
actually getting a product that stands for something. I’m not sure if making sense
here, but i’m sure you get my point. Anyways, overall, the Printrbot Play, highly
recommended if you can live with the relatively compact build space. It’s well-built, it
prints nicely, it looks good, it’s cheap, it’s fire-and forget-reliable – what more
could you want? So there you have it, my opinion on the Printrbot
Play, if you also have an opinion about it, i’d be interested to read about it in the
comments below, if you liked liked or disliked this video, leave me a rating to reflect that,
ahm, what else, yeah, ebay links, now if you’re still going to buy some shoddy Chinese 3D
printer instead of the Play, or want to buy anythings else that’s available on ebay,
please at least do so through the ebay links in the video description, since i get a small
kickback from ebay each time you buy something through these links, which helps me keep this
channel running. So, thanks for watching, and thanks for sticking
around for so long, here’s something else by Shakespeare:
Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow. See ya!

94 comments

  1. Great review. I've had my play for about 3 weeks. The upper fan on mine runs constantly, separate from the bottom fan. I had issues with my z rid wobbling until I loosened the coupler and re-tightened it.

    Highly recommend adding a raspberry pi with octoprint and camera for wireless printing.

  2. The only problem is that shipping is a lot more expensive for the play to Israel. The 1405 would cost about 400 dollars with shipping and now the play is over 800 it's a real shame make the Chinese printers a better option…

  3. This is hardly the greated 3d printer ever made.  For less than $399 you can get a prusa i3 kit that comes with a heated bed and can print more fillaments.  Your build volume also wont be restricted to miniature buddha statues…

  4. Another great vid one again Tom. You should review the new PrinterBot Metal Plus. I would be interested to know if it prints as well as this one.

  5. I think you buy a makerfarm prusa i3 comes with a heated 8×8 bed, lcd screen and sd card reader.  Its all about bang for your buck not weather you can stand on top of your printer.
    P.S. grabbing your printerbots unsupported end and twisting it around while saying how flimsy a prusa is… bit of a douche move.
    anyways. all $400 dollar printers and designers of printers could stand to give a bit more respect to reprap

  6. Hi Thomas,

    that's a great review of the PB Play, nice video! As you mentioned earlier you are using a Mendel90 as your main printer, could you tell me which changes you did to the Mendel and why? I'm in the progress of modding my printer and your guides help me out very much! I'm using an leapfrog creatr HS and do consider to change the heated glass plate (maxTemp 95) for an aluminum one or just replace the heater to reach 120C or similar. 95°C is just not enough for some ABS, that I use and I'd love to try out Polycarbonate. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Cheers,

    Marius

  7. Like your new spec's Tom.
    Printer bot really rocks.  If I were just starting out with 3D printers today, I'd get this one.  I paid about the same money to build my first repstrap out of  raw materials from the local HomeDepot. (plus surplus motors and Chinese ebay electronics).

  8. Great review–would have loved to see it printing flexibles though, since that is the main benefit of the Alu extruder v2. I also like the fact that it's $400 both assembled and as a kit. Pbot is really pushing accessibility here, saying "get it as a kit if you like tinkering, but if you're scared to make the leap we will assemble it for you at no extra cost."

    The Shakespeare was a nice touch too 🙂

  9. Thank you!! Nice job!

    ALL Plays have and will ship with the all metal hotend 😉

    Yes, I will post the step files 😉

    The Ubis is good to 275 C, btw. The metal goes beyond 300 C. Firmware adjustments may be necessary.

    Of note: the Alu Evtruder v2 does ninjaflex!

    Heated bed is in the works. Hopefully we can run it with an additional laptop psu… We shall see.

    Second fan (for all metal hotend) is always on.

    And stay tuned for new Printrbot software! Super easy to use! No, really!

    Thanks again,
    Brook

    Ps: I'd love you to review the all metal hotend too!

  10. Btw- we do have a new little hardware add on in the works… Led lights, tiny screen, print button…. Pretty cool when coupled with our new software. More on this later.

    Btw- the software runs in any browser but requires a little chrome app… For now;)

    Brook

  11. This printer is exactly what i need! I've got a really low budget so i was thinking about buying a reprap, but this is a lot better!

  12. I don't understand why they insist on using that stupid hotend design. Even the new metal hotend is like something from 5 years ago.

  13. i have about 20kg of 3mm pla still laying around – could I mount a 3mm hotend to the thing? – otherwise nice review – thank you

  14. I am really excited about this 3D printer for the price alone! $200 less is huge! (vs Simple Metal). Thanks for the very detailed analysis! Very well done!
    Thomas, I can't believe you stood on your desk AND then the Play!

  15. Awesome review. Having short axis' really proves to play a role in print quality. The tantillus is another great example. Having a really rigid printer goes a long way and printrbot sure realized that.

    Nice work @Thomas Sanladerer

  16. Thanks for the review. How does a printer like this work for Ninjaflex or Semiflex? Also as a suggestion to Brooks, can you drill a small hole in the enclosure above the adjustment screw for feed tension so folks can put a screwdriver on it without removing the housing?

  17. I reviewed my last few 3d print orders that I sent out for someone else to do.

    All of the parts I printed could have each fit in this build space.

    I have a bunch of parts I need printed up right now, and only one of those won't fit in this build space (and it should be easy to split into pieces).

    Some may scoff at the build volume, but there is definitely a market for a printer like this.  If nothing else, it can print replacement parts for larger, shittier printer kits.

    Which is the situation that I am in right now. I bought into a larger kit, and I need to fix the design errors in that kit… and I need a printer to do so.

  18. I've had one for about a week now and I'm loving it. Just ordered a pelican case to take it with me on trips as my job involves training others in the ways of the maker movement. Had to adjust the drive gear right off the bat and still need a good solution for the cable mgmt catching on the back of the bed …. But I'm loving this printer. Nice work Brook and team. And nice review Tom!

  19. If you want a budgt 3d printer I would recommend getting this and buying a LCD Kit from printbot! or a CTC 3D printer!

  20. Tom, … regarding the intro, … don't give up your day job … 8^)

    Otherwise, great review … Just bought the Upgrade Kit …

  21. @Thomas Sanladerer This is stupid, and I feel like a dick for posting this — but hopefully it's helpful: "Gall" isn't pronounced like "Gal". — It should sound like "Golf" but without the trailing "f".

  22. For motor wiring that hangs on the bed, I recommend putting in a piece of piano wire — it will keep it flexing and curling upwards, and it will not drag the wires across your bed.

  23. Please always added English subtitles to your videos. Some people are deaf and when there are subtitles they can understand what is going on specifically on videos.
     
    Other people are able to read English well enough (written English), but understands little (English spoken).
     
    Thank you for your video and your understanding!
    PS
    Thanks for Shakespeare !

  24. Print right out of the box? Not so much.

    As a first-time 3D printer purchaser, I expected this to require a little work to get up-and-running; but after a couple dozen hours of headache (and a fully-jammed/partially melted hot end), I was finally able to successfully print a sub-standard Yoda head. The print quality is worse than most samples from other printers (with both default and tweeked settings), prints are frequently ruined by excess build-up on the hot end nozzle (even after cleaning and replacement), and the print area is smaller than advertised (I can get away with around 90mmx90mm with some very strategic placement in Cura) and much too small for anything practical.

    Am I discouraged? A little maybe, but not entirely. I accept that 3D printing is still at the hobbyist-level of technical infancy, thus my expectations were already a little low from the start. I purposefully bought the lowest-end printer from a reputable manufacturer like Printrbot with those low expectations in mind. Despite my tribulations, I still plan to continue experimenting with rapid prototyping with 3D printers, and eventually plan to scale up to a model with a large enough printable area to be able to print something of a practical size (aside from ornaments and trinkets).

    Greatest 3D printer ever made? For my sake, I hope not!

  25. Help me I'm new to 3d printing and I want something cheaper but good and a nice sized printer bed . Any recommendations ?

  26. Great review…. Made me want to buy one.. BUT… what about the ability to upgrade it later down the line? And one idea…. How about a review on the Buildtak? Seems like a good thing but i want your opinion.

  27. So if the Play is better than the Simple, why is it cheaper?  Is it just because it's a little smaller?  And if price wasn't a major issue, would you recommend the Simple, or is the Play really better?

  28. another great video, i have the red printrbot play.
    for around one month now have had no problems getting great prints from PLA
    different brands and colors. can you please give me some suggestions on how to use colorfabb XT on the play.
    i cant seem to get any good prints. what range of settings would help or would i be better just to get a heated bed.

  29. Thomas, it's funny how you say good things about the X axis backbone being made out of aluminum, which I agree with. But then I don't remember you saying nothing, about the actual weight of the head that runs on the X axis. Which must by enormous: with motor, extruder, hot-end, and that big all metal cap, all adding up to the weight. I would be curious as to how much that whole head thing weights. It must add a ton of opportunities for skips when changing the X axis head roll direction, no?

  30. I know it is silly to say this, but you are incredibly attractive! Aside from that, I am glad you are making these vids, as I am learning a lot about the choices out there from you. I plan on buying one soon.

  31. Tom, are you going to be installing and testing out the print bed extension as well as the heated bed, both for the Printrbot Play?

  32. I recently bought a Printrbot play, so everything worked fine when I ran the test cube print but went quickly downhill, the next print printed flat with lots of problems and then when I try to print it just digs into the bed. The support for printrbot is terrible and only led me in circles. Any help would be greatly appreciated. BTW this is my first printer and I bought it pre built.

  33. Having used this and the metal simple, this is clearly the better of the two. I have upgraded the bed to 100×200 and rocks.

  34. This is Printrbot's best design yet. I'd love to see a scaled up version with a big beefy Play-style x gantry backbone. With the bed size upgrade this printer is amazing and totally pro.

  35. I got the Micro M3 as my entry level printer for $350 but the Printrbot Play looks less like a toy. To me it doesn't matter the different types of plastics an entry level printer can do as long as it prints at least ONE type pretty well. After all it is an entry level machine and if you find that you really enjoy 3D printing then you will be upgrading to a bigger, nicer, machine with more options and if you don't like the hobby you can sell the entry level machine and only take a small loss. If I had seen the Printrbot Play first I would have gotten it over the Micro M3D

  36. I want to buy my first 3D printer, and just so happened to find your video on here. You really covered everything I was looking for in a first time printer. But in your opinion, Would you recommend the $599 version since I'll be creating a product for sale on my website? Nothing major and if I need to do a bigger run of items, I'm sure I can outsource it. But I'd like to have something a bit bigger. But this looks like it's at the top of my list of potential first 3D printer. Would you recommend any others for a first timer. I really don't want to spend hours calibrating. I'm sure that some fine tuning will be needed as it's just the way the technology is but I don't want to die trying to calibrate.

  37. +Thomas Sanladerer Ich habe gehört das du Deutscher sein könntest des wegen schreibe ich meine Frage mal auf Deutsch wo hast du den Drucker gekauft über eine antwort würde ich mich sehr freuen 😀

  38. I looked at this and compassion to one made by protobuilds which is just $200 more and you get dual extruder much bigger area more rigid area with the ability to also double as cnc machine if you wish

  39. Great review! My library has been using the Printrbot Simple Maker kit and we're looking at getting the Play. This answers a lot of my questions about it. Thanks!

  40. I am running into some Z banding issues, could anyone help? I can get more details to whomever can help. Thanks!

  41. Have you had any problems with the all metal ubis 13 and 13s hotend. I have had to replace the hotend 3 times on my play. It keeps clogging and breaking trying to get it unclogged.

  42. Thomas, Do you still think the Play is still one of the best 3D printers on the market today? It's almost been a year since your review of the play. What are it's competitors now?

  43. I'm thinking of getting a 3d printer. I'm stuck between 3 printers, the M3D Micro, The DaVinci jr 1.0, and the printrbot play. i've heard that printrbot play is a very good printer but sometimes it breaks and the customer service doesn't help too much. The DaVinci is less expensivethan all of them but people consider it to be a little inconsistent with printing. The m3d is small but takes longer than the DaVinci and the printrbot.

    Prices:

    printrbot play-400$
    m3d-350$
    davinci-300$

    if you don't know please suggest one

  44. This printer has untethered functionality with an sad card. How is it done? Get started printing, then just disconnect from computer? This did not work for me. It just stopped the print job mid way.

  45. Great vids, Tom. I'm always love your video!! And im agree with you, this is the best 3d printer under 500 usd!
    Can you pls make a video review about Printrbot Plus?

  46. +Thomas Sanladerer, I have the Printrbot Play, and am having trouble with bed adhesion. I'm using PLA and the only success I've had is with the sample filament. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  47. Hi Thomas,

    Love your videos! I purchased the Play after watching your video. I was wondering if you knew how to have the top fan on while printing the 1st layer. Currently, (with M106G-code) I am able to have both fans on, but this results in horrible prints.

  48. Help me! I am confused to buy Printrbot Metal Plus or Play or even simple metal, I have a plan to make income from 3D Printer. Can someone tell me which model is the best?! I see on the internet the Printrbot Metal Plus mainboard is failed or something like that but idk. Sry for bad english, i hope someone will answer me, thanks

  49. Very happy that Printrbot is still doing such good work. My first printer was a Printrbot Simple Metal. It's only after 'upgrading' to a Wanhao Dup i3 Plus for the heated bed and larger build space (yes, some of us do use it!) that I can fully appreciate how good it was as a first printer. I never had a single print quality or print success problem that was caused by the printer, it was always something I did in the slicer, or something I failed to do. Not the slightest hint of ringing or z wobble or anything, just great prints once I figured out what I was doing.

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