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CNET First Look
Chasing consumers, 3D Systems Cube 3D printer misses the markThe Cube has some useful features, but with underpowered software and overly locked down hardware, it sacrifices too much usability in the name of consumer-friendliness.
-Hi, I'm Rich Brown for CNET. Today, we're gonna take a look at the 3D Systems Cube 3D Printer. This is the second 3D printer we reviewed here at CNET. First of all was the MakerBot Replicator kind of an enthusiast really hard core hobbyist design system this though is purely aimed to consumers everything from its design to the way you print objects on it all the way down to the software, the system is really focused at being easy to use and kind of simple fun. So, if you're not familiar with 3D printing, the way it works is that this head Deposits this plastic material down here this print surface, prints up layer by layer until you get a solid object at the end of it. The object comes from the 3D design on your computer that you send to the printer to print out. So, what we like about this printer in particular is that it's really easy to use. You can see here is a big drum that contains a neon green plastic that goes here into the head. The drum just slides in really easily, and then to load the plastic, you go to this menu and it washed through the process of filling the plastic in. There's a couple of ways actually to get a design from your computer to the cube. You can plug a USB key into the port here and have the design show up on the menu here or you can connect via WiFi setting your plans from other computer or your smartphone to the printer itself. So, once you have those plans sent to the printer, you navigate through the menu, tell the print and it begins the warmup process. That takes about 10 minutes and it's actually pretty quick compared to the replicator and what happens is this bed and print head here get very hot and that heat is partially what keeps the objects stable on the surface as the print progresses. Now, also helps objects stick is this magic Cube glue and that's unique to the cube. You lay that down on the surface and that along with the heat make sure the objects stays put. When the print is finished, you lift off the plate and set it in the tub of water in order to dissolve the glue. That point, you can take your print off. So, the Cube is actually pretty unique in the landscape of consumer price through your printers and that it is really, really consumer focused device. All the other printers out there in the sub 2000 price range at least are really designed for hobbyist that like to get into software, tweak all kinds of settings. You can even customize the hardware in those models if you want to. With this one, it's really about getting design, send it to the printer, and just cranking it out. So, when you go to use the software for the cube is not a lot of settings you can play with. That means it's simply use, but it also meant you can't correct when something goes wrong in a print. The other thing it feels like 3D system is trying to monetize you throughout the entire process of using the printer. Before you even turn it on, you have to register it at the cubify.com website, and then when you're there, 3 systems really pushes you to pay for plans on the website. You have to pay extra for the glues you wanna replace it. These cartridge are proprietary and they cost a little bit more for volume than you get from other 3D printers. So, as much as this is consumer focused 3D printer, they really do try to push you to consume. Let's say the process of printing in a cube is a whole lot easier than with the Replicator. We never want to have a print slip off from where it was supposed to be glued. We did get a little bit of lifting here and there, but nothing that totally damage the output. So, speaking with output, we have few of it we have printed here on Cube. Some of them came out great, other less so. So, this napkin holder and this little rook design both came with the printer and they printed out perfect. There's really no complaint about the way they look. Now, the plans for these 2 to objects as well as others you'll find on Cubify are more or less designed to work very well with the Cube. That's great, the problem is you have to pay for them. Now, there are plenty of designs out there. They are free, but as you can see from this chair, they don't always come out as well as you want them to. Now, this chair being messed up might be a product to the software and the way it did interpret the design or because the settings really sparse in the 3D system software there's not a lot you can do about it to try to improve it. You could take the design file to an outside 3D design program and try to tweak it, but your results are gonna be guesswork until you actually print one that works. Now, certainly not the case with every free file you find out there and in fact we printed these double horns from [unk] website. You can download the plans there and that works fine. So, 3D printing is still in its experimental stages for consumers and this one is certainly one of the consumer focused devices we've seen. It's also not cheap. It comes at about 1300 bucks. It's not including extra glue, any extra plastic or the designs you may wanna buy for. But because the free plans don't always work as well as you want them to, there's still a lot of guesswork and sort of hit or miss outcomes when you actually print. It's still an expensive hobby, and particularly with this printer, you can find yourself showing at a lot of money in order to keep at it, but overall, this is probably easiest to use device that we seen so far. So, I'm Rich Brown. This is the 3D System's Cube 3D printer.