Standard 3D Printers are capable of making complex models from almost nothing. Did you know there are 3D printers that can print two models at the same time? It's impressive.
3D Printers are getting faster, better-looking and more feature-packed. Printers like the AnkerMake M5 and the BambuLab X1 Carbon appeared out of nowhere, for example, with ludicrously fast print times and a well-engineered aesthetic. The Snapmaker J1 is fast and attractive -- it's a printer you would actually want to put on your desk -- but it also uses a few different tricks to maximize output.
- Simple to setup
- Fast and accurate
- Slicer software is poor
The J1 is an IDEX, or Independent Dual EXtrusion, machine. It allows you to print using two separate print heads in one 3D printer. This allows you to print one model in two different colors, one model in two different materials -- dissolvable supports are amazing -- or even two mirrored models at the same time in different colors. IDEX printers have been around for a while, but they're often difficult to set up and hard to maintain. The J1 has made the setup a breeze: The process is mostly automated and its large LCD guides you through each step of the process.
Like all Snapmaker models, the J1 is well made. It's mostly prebuilt, though you will need to add the doors. While the entire machine is enclosed, allowing for high-temperature filaments like ABS, the top is removable, allowing it to work with filaments that need a cooler environment like PLA. I would like to see the lid on a hinge, or a place to put the lid when it's not in use, but having it removable at all is a helpful addition.
Snapmaker is known for its combo machines that combine 3D printing with laser etching and CNC milling. The J1 is its first dedicated 3D printer, so a lot of the concessions the company made in previous multipurpose machines don't exist here. This makes for a better-quality product and lets it focus on improving print quality and print speed.
The print quality is as good as you would expect for a $1,300 printer, but it's not mind-blowing. Several of the best 3D printers would do a better job out of the box, but with a little work and better software, the J1 could likely produce amazing results. I would have liked to see the J1 at around $1,000, but it certainly looks like a premium product.
Where the J1 has a leg up on a lot of other printers is that extra tool head and the speed at which both can be used together. Snapmaker claims a speed of 300mm per second, which sounds impressive but is somewhat misleading. At that speed it should be printing models six times faster than the previous generation of printers, which average about 50mm per second. In practice, however, the J1 prints about three times faster than most with similar settings. That's still quick, don't get me wrong, but it isn't quite what's advertised. There is a way to make this 3D printer even faster, however, by using the IDEX system.
My favorite thing about having two nozzles is not the ability to print different colors, but the ability to print the same model twice. Because the tool heads move independently from each other, they can print two of the same model using the duplicate mode, or the same model but flipped using the mirror mode. I printed a Flexi Factory flexible hand using mirror mode, which gave me left and right hands at the same time it would take to print one.
An even better example is the CNET test print. On the Anycubic Kobra Plus, the test print takes about 6 hours. On the Snapmaker J1, it takes 2 hours and 40 minutes. That's significantly faster already, but with IDEX in duplicate mode, I printed two test prints in an astonishing 2 hours, 40 minutes. If I was printing the test print to sell, I could print 10 in about 2.5 days on a regular machine, or 10 in just 1 day on the J1. That's a massive deal.
3D printing as a hobby is great, but there is a large market out there for the sale of good quality 3D models. The more of these models a printer can make, the faster a business can grow. The Snapmaker J1 would make a good manufacturing tool simply because of its speed.
If I could change one thing about the Snapmaker J1, it would be the software. Snapmaker has used Luban as its slicer for a long time, and while it's OK for the 3-in-1 Snapmaker and Snapmaker 2, the J1 needs a dedicated 3D slicer that Luban just can't deliver. There are a lot of small issues that make Luban lackluster but it is the lack of advanced controls that make it feel unfinished. For example, while I can choose which model uses which nozzle, I can't select parts of the model to color. In slicers like Prusa Slicer, I can manually paint a different color to a model and assign one of the nozzles to print it. This is how you can customize your models. Unfortunately, Luban doesn't offer that, so you can only have separate models in different colors, not parts of the same model.
Thankfully, the software team is aware of this and is actively trying to create profiles for the J1 so you can use it with better 3D printer slicers for more control.
Read more: The best 3D Printer Slicers
While this isn't Snapmaker's first 3D printer, it is the company's first dedicated one and there's a lot to like here. The easy setup and calibration, smooth industrial look and print quality all make it a product I would recommend. It could be a little more affordable -- $1,300 is a premium price -- but the J1 could easily pay for itself if you used it in a business setting.