Solidoodle Brief Review

Well, the Solidoodle has not met our expectations by any stretch of the imagination.  There were several issues with it, and we still have not been able to print, and the printer is now in a state that it will require significant repair or replacement parts.  Here is a bulleted timeline of the project:

  • We ordered the printer on May 27, 2012, and the ordering site said it would be 4-5 weeks (early July).  The order was billed at that time and not upon shipping.
  • Upon asking twice for an order status in early July, I was told it would ship mid-July.
  • We were then told in late July that it would ship in three weeks.
  • On August 2, I became worried and ordered a 2nd printer since we would not have time to fully test the first printer before ordering a second one and giving the 8-10 weeks lead time that it seemed to be taking.
  • Upon asking again on August 20th, I was told that Solidoodle sent a message to all customers that order fulfillment was quite behind.  Unfortunately, I never received it even though I should have received two of them.  Nonetheless, we were told it would be at least another 2-1/2 weeks.
  • I contacted them back indicating I needed the printer or cancel the order at the end of August.  They “expedited” the order, and we received it the first week of September.
  • The printer arrived with a “deluxe” case that was oddly bent in several places, seemingly for them to try to get it to fit around some poorly installed screws.  Moreover, the design of the filament feed into the extruder could not allow one to print with the cover installed, and even if it could have, the cover would require removal upon any maintenance such as filament changes.  So we threw the extra $100 cover aside and fashioned our own shrouds to keep odors down.  We also had to create a spool holder because the partial one that came with the printer could not be used for anything but sewing thread-sized spools.
  • We then spent two weeks trying to follow the half-written instructions for software installation and printing.  Once we began printing, we noticed that the print job would  freeze at random places in the job.  No help from Solidoodle came, but the forum suggested downgrading the firmware.
  • Upon handing off the printer between personnel to continue troubleshooting, the filament jammed in the extruder (for those people aware of the printer, we did not overheat the extruder causing extruder to melt together – however, even if we had done that, it shows that the extruder was poorly designed).
  • Looking over the design of the extruder, there are about 30 pieces along with a poor design that could cause seizing of the filament easily.  Many of the parts are made from acrylic which is brittle.  The Makerbot Thing-O-Matic’s extruder consisted of one-quarter the pieces and required undoing only two bolts to clean the etruder motor gearing as opposed to about 30 pieces.

In conclusion, we have been waiting and working for four months for a printer that has not printed more than a couple test prints correctly.  Even though the Solidoodle printer was half the cost of the Makerbot Thing-O-Matic and came pre-assembled, we have a working Makerbot, and a Solidoodle that never printed and is in dozens of pieces.

We are canceling the second order and will be looking at an alternative next week.

 

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2 Responses to Solidoodle Brief Review

  1. Matt Hill says:

    Thanks for sharing.
    I’m having an identical experience.
    16 weeks from order to shipping.
    Now after a dozen prints, the filament comes out of the nozzle and curls immediately around the tip, suggesting an extruder clog.
    There are also little bubbles in the extruded filament spaced about 5 mm apart.

    Can I simply remove the metal extruder head, without taking the acrylic pieces apart to soak it in acetone?

    Any suggestions on how to unclog the extruder?

    Thanks.

    - Matt

    • Fred says:

      I have always had the filament curling issue on our Thing-O-Matic. On that one, I had completely disassembled the nozzle at one point, dunk in acetone, and looked at the nozzle under a field microscope and saw nothing obvious that would have caused it. I am thinking there might be a little bit of a memory effect or a correlation to be more accurate between the orientation of the extruder motor (the side of the filament that has the pressure most strongly exerted) and the curling. It seems odd, but both printer have that predisposition (our Solidoodle doesn’t curl as much, though).

      Regarding disassembling the nozzle on the Solidoodle, if you don’t mind marring the finish on the black plastic sleeve that surrounds the brass stem that reaches up from the nozzle, I guess you could do it. For me, I was somewhat worried about reassembling the whole housing with the sandwiched brittle acrylic, but in the end, it was not tough and there is a nice blog post I found that showed good assembly instructions for that extruder (see http://www.soliforum.com/topic/235/extruder-assembly-guide/ ).

      In the end, we’ve gotten past the initial issues with our printer, and I, for one, am happy with it. I don’t like their design for the extruder and liken it to Makerbot’s MK5 or MK6 (which would be a step back for a company that just recently started). I became very happy with the MK7 “Minimalist extruder” mod for the Thing-O-Matic and just found that people have taken that design to apply to the Solidoodle 2. I’ve printed out the parts (see http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:33152 ) and am planning to move to it this next week.

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