Rigidbot style printers - My favorite 3D printer of all.
I have three of these printers. A 12 x 16 x 10 Rigidbot Big with Dual heads, a 10 x 10 x 10 Rigidbot 2 and a 10 x 10 x 14 RB2XL. I will soon have a 12 x 16 x 14 RBBR-XL Dual head. They are by far my favorite printers to use and work on. They are very reliable and capable of producing very high quality and precise prints.
Support: Due to a highly supportive community the future of these printers is bright even with Ridigbot proper closing its doors. The customer support in the past was very poor so don’t confuse that with what is available now. The community support is really top notch. The next generation RBR printer is already in development and at the same time providing upgrade paths and spare part for existing machines. These printers will be around for a long time.
Feature: The printers have a very sturdy extruded aluminum frame construction and are easy to upgrade. They come with a very nice (ATX style) 24V 550W power supply. The power supply handles the voltage drops so the board does not have to and the 4 layer board has an advanced heat sink built in so the drivers run cool. The driver chips are A4988 drivers with digital power control so they are quiet and easy to adjust. The main board comes with support for dual extruders. Back drive protection from the motors is built into the board. The build plate is a light weight machined aluminum bed that is very flat. A heated PCB for the bed (up to 100C) is included and has a direct power feed through the main board with firmware control. All the primary cables are high flex cables with locking ends. The included LCD display with a USB port is stock with the best interface menu I have ever seen. It is very easy to tweak the settings and test things out. The compact direct drive extruder has a short melt zone providing precise control over extrusion. A built in part cooling fan is included as part of the stock configuration. High efficiency cooling ducts are available for download and are generally the first print after calibration clips. The mounting block is machined such that it supports flexible filament right below the drive gear. It will handle PLA and ABS and many other filaments in 1.75mm diameter up to about 245C. Nozzles are easy to swap out. I use 0.4, 0.3 and 0.2mm nozzles. Print resolution for the layers ranges from 0.1mm to 0.25mm of thickness with a 0.4mm nozzle. The printers are ready for Raspberry PI control with remote power switching and camera monitoring (not included).
Capabilities and experience: The printers run very quiet. The cooling fan is the loudest part on them. I find the printers to be extremely stable and easy to maintain. Once the bed is leveled (10 min?) it stays level. I get extremely precise prints with a very good surface finish. I can easily hold 0.1mm of tolerance. Once completed the printed parts are relatively easy to remove from the machined flat aluminum bed which is covered with 3M blue painters tape. A sharp pocket knife or a chisel bevel side down will pop a part off the bed. The printer has good speeds but I tend to print on the slower side (40 – 50 mm/s) for precision reasons. When a print does fail it is usually Y direction layer shifts being the exclusive reason so far. Pausing and restarting a print is a non-issue as is changing out the filament mid-print. Printing parameters such as speed, temperatures, motor strength, and others can be changed on the fly through the interface.
Effort and setup: An assembled printer requires about an hour of tuning adjustments before printing the first time. Most of this is checking the Z and leveling the bed and tuning the PID. In kit form plan on spending about 4 hours putting it together and tuning everything. There are very good online assembly instructions. Once you are comfortable with how the tuned printer works it is basically turn it on and start printing. Overnight prints are not a concern for me. Some of my longest prints have been over 55 hours.
Learning: This is a great printer for schools. The construction allows for easy viewing of the parts and how they work. It allows kids to experience and learn about 3D printing technology by allowing access to tweak and maintain the machine and see the effects.
Issues: The main issues I have seen with Rigibots are not leveling the bed properly, improper belt and bearing adjustments, and assembling the extruder too tight causing PTFE and PEEK heat break failures. The next most common issue is un-calibrated filament. Problems with these printers are much easier to diagnose and fix than with other printers I have worked with. Once taken care of the issues are not persistent. My level of frustration associated with these machines when something goes wrong is very low.
Cost: The base 10 x10 x 10 printers start at around $1,000, basically a dollar per cubic inch of build space. With it high end capabilities and precision the printer will satisfy the needs of an exacting engineer but with the ease of use it can be a very nice starter printer for someone just picking up the technology. I have spent about $45 on replacement or spare parts over the last 18 months. The highest cost of owner ship is good filament.
Software and operation: The firmware is open source and Marlin based. There are a variety of slicers that will work with the printer from Cura to Simplify3D. You simply load the sliced file on a jump drive and plug it into the printer USB port. The menu options allow you to select the file you want to print. Or, you can plug in a USB printer cable to the back and run a print directly from your computer. With the PI interface upgrade you can power up, run, load a print, monitor the progress, and control the printer remotely.
To sum everything up good and bad, these printers are a joy to own and use.
A link to the calibration clips that make multi machine precision assembly printing possible:
A link to a post with some print results from an RB2XL:
A link to the community:
A link to the next generation RBR printer and the new customer support hub: