Bambu Lab is new to 3D printing, but the company is already making waves. The $1,450 X1 Carbon, the company's first 3D printer, did so well on its initial Kickstarter -- bringing in around $7 million -- Bambu Lab was able to fund the production of a second, more accessible option, the $699 P1P. While Bambu Lab emphasizes that these are two very different products, the differences between them aren't always obvious.
- Excellent price
- Customizable Case
- Extremely fast
- Unreliable Wi-Fi
- LCD is not up to the job
Bambu Lab sent an X1C and P1P, each complete with an Automatic Material System, for review. I've spent a lot of time working with both machines, and both of them perform well. Which one is right for you will depend on whether you're looking to use a lot of exotic materials, or if you want speed at a good price.
- Fully enclosed
- Hardened nozzle for tough materials
- Excellent build quality
- Over-engineered hot-end
- Wasteful when using the AMS
Head to head
These two printers are alike in some ways, vastly different in others, making a direct comparison difficult. Both of them have the same underlying chassis, the same carbon rods and the same CoreXY design. The term CoreXY is used to describe a 3D printer with a print head that doesn't move up and down, making it more stable and allowing for some insane speed. Both the X1C and the P1P are among the fastest 3D printers I have seen outside of the commercial space, and while the Bambu Lab's claim of 500mm/s print speeds might be inflated, it isn't by much.
Bambu Lab X1 Carbon vs. Bambu Lab P1P
|Print area||256 x 256 x 256mm||256 x 256 x 256mm|
|Print Speed||500mm/s||500 mm/s|
|Nozzle size/type||0.4mm Hardened Steel||0.4mm Stainless steel|
|Print bed temperature||120C||100C|
|Print bed type||Bambu flexible cool plate||Textured PEI sheet|
|AMS (color print system)||Yes||Optional|
|Power loss recovery||Yes||Yes|
|Filament run-out sensor||Yes||Yes|
|Auto bed leveling||LiDar||Touchpoint|
|Filtration System||Carbon filter||N/A|
To give you some understanding of how fast these printers are, the Prusa Mk3s is one of my top 3D printer picks and it can print the CNET test file in 5 hours and 48 minutes. The X1C and the P1P on the ludicrous mode setting -- yes, that is the setting's official name -- can print it in just 1:18. Speed isn't everything, but the end result is a test model that's as good as what the Prusa can produce. Three printers have successfully printed the CNET test model, one of them is the Prusa, and the other two are the Bambu Lab models.
If they're so similar then why is there an almost $750 price difference? It's because of the extras.
The P1P is a barebones printer in comparison to the X1C. It comes with no covers at all, just the bare chassis, while the X1C has a sturdy aluminum frame and glass doors. There are also differences in the print head that allow the X1 Carbon to print exotic materials like carbon fiber filament. This hardened steel hot end can survive the abrasive nature of these materials, whereas the P1P's stainless steel nozzle would grind away.
The X1C also includes an Automatic Material System, or AMS. That's a small unit that sits on top of the X1C and feeds four rolls of filament into it. An AMS lets you print a single model with four different colors, or it lets you use different materials in the same build. It costs $349 separately, so think of the $1,450 as a bundle price. The other big upgrade is a lidar sensor that helps level the bed and detect errors in the first layer. This can reduce failures, and of the 30-plus prints I've done on the X1C, only two have failed.
The P1P has some frustrating cost-saving measures compared to the X1C, which have led to more print failures. The Wi-Fi module and microSD card don't seem to be the same as those in the X1C; they feel both low-cost and nearly useless. The microSD card is essentially the SSD for the P1P, and because the card it comes with is so slow it creates faults in the prints as the 3D printer can't access the information quickly enough. The Wi-Fi is often so bad that sending a file directly to the printer will crash the software, forcing me to restart from scratch.
The X1C doesn't suffer from either of these issues. The Wi-Fi is rock solid and while also having an SD card slot, also seems to have more onboard memory, making it significantly faster than the P1P at transferring files. The X1C also comes equipped with a camera that allows for 1080p timelapse videos, print monitoring via the handy app and even live streaming in the latest update. The P1P can be equipped with the same camera as an optional extra, but I have yet to get it to work correctly.
Does the speed reduce the quality?
The short answer is no. In the last decade of testing printers I've never seen an FDM printer -- one that uses filament to 3D print -- produce prints of this quality at even half this speed. None of the best 3D printers on the market come close when you tie both quality and speed together. And I mean this for both the $1,450 X1C and the $700 P1P. The quality is hard to describe.
One of the many tests I've done on these printers was to print Bordeaux the Octopus, one of my favorite prints, and a complicated print to get right. Both the X1C and the P1P produced a great print, but it was their similarities that really struck me. The error that you can see in this image is exactly the same on both printers.
Knowing that both of these printers have almost the exact same print quality and speed make it easier to recommend the P1P for most people. If you are going to be printing PLA, PETG or TPU, then save yourself the extra $700 and buy the P1P. You'll save enough to splurge on the AMS unit, and maybe a nice 32GB MicroSD card that isn't awful.
Where the X1 Carbon excels over the P1P is for high temperature and abrasive materials. In my testing, there wasn't a material that the X1C couldn't print. The printer comes with a few rolls of different filaments, one of them a carbon fiber blend. I gave it a try, making small tools and practical prints. The X1C standard software profiles for these filaments were more than up to the task, and each one printed out smoothly.
Which Bambu Lab printer should you buy?
Before answering, it's important to know that either of these machines would be a great buy. These are the cream of 3D printing right now, and will be the template for midrange to high-end printers moving forward. My only qualm, and the only reason I wouldn't buy an entire print farm of these just yet, is that Bambu Lab is a young company with a lot of proprietary software and hardware. We don't know how its customer service, parts service or aftercare will pan out, though I haven't heard complaints yet.
That being said, if you're making cool models for yourself and your friends -- or even if you're running a business making 3D-printed parts for Etsy -- the P1P is a complete no brainer. It's well built, it produces fantastic print results and is priced so competitively it's almost impossible to believe. It's not perfect; the LCD screen is too small for all the information it needs to convey (I hope an upgrade becomes available soon) and the SD card it ships with is garbage. But for everything else, it's a near-perfect machine.
Being able to 3D print your own case may not seem practical, but it is a lot of fun. Bambu Lab sent me the files to print a case with the CNET logo which looks excellent, but people are already making custom builds, like this Companion Cube from Portal by neil3dprints to really make your printer stand out.
So if the P1P is so good, why does the X1 Carbon get the higher score? While the X1C is a product designed for a smaller audience, it is the overall better product. The AMS allows you to print with different materials and colors, while the upgraded enclosure, hardened nozzle and Lidar camera make sure that any model you make is as good as it can get.
The only thing that keeps the X1C from being perfect is the price and the waste. When using the AMS, the X1C purges a lot of material to keep your model looking perfect. Unfortunately it means the waste is often more material than the print. My one failure on the X1C was a skull with a mohawk. The model itself weighed 130 grams, but the waste was over 250 grams. That is unacceptable. Even using PLA, a plastic that is somewhat biodegradable, that amount of waste is untenable. There are ways to reduce that somewhat -- you can purge to the infill or another model -- but you can expect to hear the term "Bambu poop" for a long time.
Aside from that, Bambu Lab has done something remarkable here. In the course of just a few months, the company has radically altered the 3D printing landscape. The dream of 3D printing has always been to rapidly create designs and prototypes at high-speed with high accuracy. While speed has always been relative, the X1C and P1P are truly ludicrous. They even have a speed setting called ludicrous. That's how ludicrous they are. Speed has to be tied to quality though, otherwise it's pointless. The X1C and P1P deliver both of those in spades.
If I had $1,500 of my own money, which one would I buy? I'd go with a P1P and an optional AMS, maybe two -- you can have up to four AMS units on one printer for a total of 16 colors -- or even two P1P printers. I don't use exotic filaments but I print a lot of PETG and PLA, and the P1P delivers an experience better than almost every printer in its price range.