Review: The da Vinci 1.0 Pro 3D printer reaches for the higher end

XYZprinting's new device has some good features, but lacks the quality of a professional 3D printer.

When XYZprinting unveiled its da Vinci 1.0 Professional 3D printer in September, it touted the fact that the printer could used third-party 1.75mm filaments and was positioned for "professional use."

The printer also featured new software designed for users of all skill levels to print the more "complex, creative ideas."

What's wonderful about XYZprinting's machines is they're some of the lowest priced 3D printers on the market. The Pro is no different as it retails for $699. At that price point, the da Vinci Pro outperforms many other 3D printers that cost hundreds of dollars more -- at least in theory.

Size and features

At 18.4 x 22 x 20 in., the da Vinci 1.0 Pro 3D printer is going to devour your desktop space. It's the size of a decent-sized cathode-ray television set (if you can remember those) and it weighs about as much one at 57.4 lb.

XYZprinter's machines enclose their mechanics in attractive plastic cases, reducing noise and the smell of melting plastic from an extruder head.

Like XYZprinting's other 3D printers, the Pro uses sealed filament cartridges, which keep track of how much you use. I consider this a drawback because it's like having to purchase ink cartridges from traditional printer companies; you can't reload them yourself. In order to use third party filaments on the da Vinci Pro, you either have to order an open filament reel or print your own reel to hang on the machine.

The da Vinci 1.0 Pro supports both ABS and PLA filament from all sources, allowing users to print more materials. (ABS and PLA are the two most popular consumer-grade filaments.)

The da Vinci allows you to adjust the temperature settings for the extruder nozzle and aluminum print bed; as a result, it can use third-party filaments made of polymers with varying consistencies -- hard, soft or rubbery. It also has an auto-loading filament system that's supposed to ensure it loads correctly every time.

da vinci pro 3D printer Lucas Mearian

The 3D printed octopus.

In addition, the da Vinci features flexible printing preference settings in which users can adjust the printing temperature and speed for optimized print quality.

The Pro has a maximum build size of 7.8 x 7.8 x 7.8 in., which is at the upper end for a desktop printer. It also comes with some convenient features, such as an autoloading filament mechanism and Wi-Fi that supports both iPad and Android devices. (I would also have liked to be able to use it wirelessly with my MacBook Pro laptop, but so it goes.)

Like more expensive printers, the da Vinci Pro has a heated print bed, which helps objects adhere to it and not warp. The aluminum print bed allows for faster heating.

Unfortunately, XYZprinting has had trouble producing print beds that allow users to easily detach printed objects -- they stick too tightly. The Pro is no different. To alleviate this, XYZprinting recommends using masking tape over the print bed surface -- they will even sell you square sheets of masking tape for that purpose. While that's not unusual, MakerBot also recommends using tape with its 3D printers -- I'm still hopeful that someday XYZprinting will upgrade its print bed to a glass or even a replaceable polyetherimide (PEI) bed, which is a common material used in 3D printers.

One particularly cool feature on the Pro is that you can change out the 3D printer head for a laser engraver ($199), which is able to emboss objects up to sizes of 5.9 x 5.9 in. I didn't receive a laser engraver with my review unit, so unfortunately I was unable to test that function.

To change over from the polymer extruder head to the laser engraver, a user simply flips the quick release lever; the engraver head then clicks into the same place and the software allows you to correctly position the head for engraving.

The laser engraver can emboss paper, cardboard, foam, leather, and wood. There are options for different engraving speeds and adjustable levels for use on thicker materials.

Print tests

My standard test for all 3D printers is to make a 6-in. model of the Eiffel Tower; its intricate lattice work is a good test of any machine's abilities. In this task, the da Vinci Pro failed miserably. Simply put, it was unable to complete the task and wound up printing me a bird's nest of filament.

For my second test, I chose something simpler: an octopus with a radius of about 5-in. The printer took nearly three hours to complete the task, and it produced an average-looking piece. The octopus's body and skin surface was nowhere near as rounded, refined or smooth as other printers have produced, but it did complete the task.

Da Vinci Pro Eiffel Tower 3D printer Lucas Mearian

The da Vinci 1.0 Pro was unable to complete a print of the Eiffel Tower.

Next, I set myself to creating the body of a flying drone, which consisted of 11 pieces. The da Vinci Pro completed the task in about 18 hours. I was able to combine similar pieces of the drone in a single print, which cut down on the total print time.

I was impressed with the quality of the overall piece, though as I mentioned earlier, the body of the drone did have an uneven thickness. The drone was 17 in. in diameter and about 5 in. in height, so it was a substantial model. I didn't purchase the mechanics and controller needed to make it fly, but my purpose in building it was to show that it could be done.

da Vinci Pro 3D printer Lucas Mearian

The body of my drone. It was serviceable, but it printed with a skin that had uneven layers. As you can also see, some parts of the body failed to print to specifications, leaving filament speghetti protruding from parts.

Da Vinci Pro 3D printer Lucas Mearian

My drone's central hub, from which its arms extend. The da Vinci 1.0 Pro did an excellent job reproducing the dimensions needed for the model to snap together tightly.

Working with software

One of the attributes of the XZYware for Pro CAD software is the ability to easily manipulate objects along a virtual X, Y, Z axis prior to a print job. For example, the body of my drone -- a hexagon box -- would have required a lot of filler support material if printed open end down, but I was able to flip it in the CAD software to eliminate the need for any support material; this shortened the print job and made for a cleaner build.

da vinci pro 3D printer Lucas Mearian

The XYZware Pro CAD software allows you to easily manipulate objects along an X, Y, and Z axis so that they can be positioned for the most advantageous print.

The da Vinci Pro comes bundled with software that enables you to adjust multiple settings, such as speed, model rafts or support -- nothing new there.

The printer has a "retraction" setting, which allows you ton print objects without any streaking or smudges that occur when the extruder moves across the object being printed. Basically, it's supposed to ensure a glitch-free surface.

XYZprinting also upgraded its CAD and management software, XYZware for the Pro. The printer is supposed to sport a new calibration system that uses "specially designed knobs and detection software" to guide a user in the right direction. The knobs were simple enough, but perhaps my printer didn't ship with the new calibration system because I couldn't find anything intuitive or simple about recalibrating this machine.

Other printers have software that will walk you through either an initial calibration of the print bed or a recalibration through the use of automated software -- this machine does not.

The da Vinci 1.0 Pro is compatible with Windows 7 and above, Mac OS X 10.8 and above, and it comes with a one-year warranty, which is pretty typical.

Bottom line

XYZprinting markets the da Vinci Pro as a high-performance printer, "perfect for designers, engineers, architects, and anyone looking for a user-friendly 3D printer that can print objects at a high volume, professional degree."

But the Pro falls short in print quality. It's not that the quality is bad, but it's not up to "professional" standards. For example, the dozen or so parts that made up the drone body fit together quite nicely, but the skin of the main drone compartment had uneven thicknesses, which made it frail in some areas. With a bit of pressure, my finger would have punched right through one side, while another side was quite sturdy.

da Vinci Pro 3D printer Lucas Mearian

The completed drone contained 11 pieces and was quite serviceable. The parts snapped together tightly and I had every confidence that once propellers and controllers were added, it would have flown.

Admittedly, however, many of my models based on .STL object files came out quite good on the da Vinci Pro, though their surfaces were more coarse and ridged than other, more expensive printers I've reviewed.

That said, the Pro's resolution of 100 microns (0.1 millimeters) is average for desktop printer. In contrast, my favorite fused filament fabrication 3D printer to date is the Lulzbot Mini, which offers a resolution down 50 microns or .05 mm and its model builds were spot on every time. However, the Lulzbot Mini carries a hefty retail price of $1,250. So you're getting what you pay for.

Overall, I think the da Vinci 1.0 Pro falls well short of being a "professional grade" 3D printer. For that, I would expect higher quality prints, the ability to see each layer of a model in the CAD software to ensure print quality and better overall resolution.

It's hard to fault a printer that costs $699 for not measuring up to the quality of printers that cost twice as much. However, if given the choice, I'd likely spend more to get a higher quality machine, or simply accept that this printer remains in the beginner, consumer category while offering a larger print bed than lower-priced machines as well as some additional features.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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